Gift #832: Experiments in clay

Since February I’ve been participating with Art Bead Scene’s monthly challenges.  Each month they post a painting and then you design jewelry pieces inspired by the artwork.  The only stipulation is you must use an art bead, which for our purposes is a bead made by hand on a small-scale by and indie designer.  Since I don’t have many art beads on hand, I’ve been making my own for most of the pieces I’ve designed.  It’s added an additional level of emotional complexity resulting in jubilant delight when my ideas work or meltdowns when they don’t.  I’ve been working mostly in clay, since that seems more accessible and safe compared to soldering, shaping precious metals, or firing ceramics.

Now, this is the artwork that we had to inspire us this month.

May ABSIt’s called “Untitled” (not very imaginative, and kind of a cop-out) by Augustin Lesage, who lived during the early 1900s.  He had several experiences while fighting in World War I that convinced him he should be a painter and his artwork was quite formative to the genre of modern art.  This particular piece was in process from 1926-1954, which is an incredible amount of time!

I must admit that abstract art does not thrill me.  I prefer realistic art of a natural history tone.  However, I did like the mix of colors in the painting though and the design reminded me of butterfly wings and bird feathers.  (I know, I know.. what doesn’t remind me of those things!)  Conversely it also looked like a kaleidoscope.  I decided wings and feathers might be an easier springboard for inspiration.  I’ve long admired clay cane beads that give the illusion of butterfly wing scales, so I thought I’d try experimenting with clay to get a similar look.  Now please bear in mind that I’m completely self-taught and know very little about clay.  I tried reading some tutorials online for this sort of thing, but they just made me confused.  So I just sat down to play one afternoon.  From the little I could grasp from polymer clay artists, I knew I should start with thin rolls of clay… I picked several colors that coordinated with the painting.


From there on it was just a freeform experience.  I twisted the rolls together into a flat rope, then flattened, and repeated a few times.  And this is what I got:

image Holy smokes!  It was like magic!  I was completely mesmerized by the clay at this point.

image Doesn’t it look like a slice of agate?  Well, as pretty as that was, it’s too big to use for jewelry, so I worked with it some more and made a ton of beads.  I made quite a few rounds and some flat pendant pieces to capture the cool striated effect.



The rounds I’m absolutely fascinated with – I love staring at the variation in them.  As I worked the clay further, the contrasting colors all mellowed out to green.  I think this says something very interesting about color theory.  Since green’s my favorite color, this wasn’t a problem.  I pressed some leaves to use as pendants for other projects and then tried my hand at some geometric cane.  this involves wrapping a rope of clay with a strip of thin dark clay, reducing it down by rolling, then cutting it up, stacking the pieces, and repeating.  I ended up with these weird squares looking like cracked glass – this would look really neat with different colors of clay.  I’m not sure what I’ll do with these, but they are a bit reminiscent of butterfly scales.


I was planning to show the jewelry pieces I made, but the post is getting long and I have a gauge swatch to figure out for my knitting (I have hobby-related ADD) so we’ll keep today on bead making and I’ll show the finished pieces later this week.  Stay tuned…

Blessings to you,




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1 Response to Gift #832: Experiments in clay

  1. What fun ! Love your ‘agate ‘ look to these . Beautiful colors ☺

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