Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Perfection = Predictable = Boring! The Artist's Mark

It feels great to be back in the saddle!
pattern assembled from scraps cut from the kaleidoscope cane

I've touched on this before. We create art because we have something to say, something that can best be said visually, not verbally. The viewer of our art completes the creative act by responding to the art. One thing that can derail this interaction is boredom (there are other things which I'll talk about another time).

For many, anything predictable is quickly glossed over. The brain likes to be engaged, and when it can predict the outcome or the continuing pattern or the next step it yawns and moves on.

Why is it, then, that many artists struggle so hard to make their work perfect?!

In any work of art it is the unpredictable colour, the unfinished line, the hint of something partially erased, that intrigues and makes the viewer stay a little longer, savoring incongruity.

In polymer clay, perfection can be achieved and repeated ad nauseum by a well-built machine. Why would we want to turn out art that looks like it was made by a machine?

The mark of the artist is unique to that artist and distinguishes a piece as hand-crafted, unique, special. That's why I've named my new studio The Artist's Mark. It's to remind me to remember to let my individuality be an integral part of my work, and to leave it visible so no one can mistake it for 1 of 100,000 produced in a factory.

I'll be demonstrating Kaleidoscope Caning at an art event at ARCAC this Saturday evening. There is very little exposure to polymer clay out here on the east coast of Canada, and I hope to stir up some interest. I've developed a palette for this cane that I call Wine Country. It is rich and elegant with a deep metallic colour that I call Madeira Wine colour, a soft, pale neutralized green called Celadon, a deep woodsy dark green called Deep Woods Moss, a soft white called Ivory, Black and a soft yellow called Sunshine.

If you would like the formulas for the all the colors in the Wine Country palette, leave a comment at the end of this post and I'll make it available at no charge, either via email or in the blog if there are enough requests.

Here are the beads that will be assembled into a necklace and bracelet to auction off at the event on Saturday.

extruded cane slices on co-ordinated spacer beads

beads ready for backing, then second curing and finishing

canes ready to tessellate

Hollow focal bead for the necklace, slightly irregular, definitely hand-crafted!
I'll post a picture of the necklace and bracelet when assembled.


  1. Love the luscious wine red with the pale celadon. I would be interested in these recipes. A good red is often elusive.

    1. Hi 3circlestudio, thanks for leaving a comment. Here are the colour formulas for the Wine Country palette: (these are Premo colours):
      Madeira Wine: 16 parts alizarin crimson + 2 parts copper + 1 part ecru + 1 part black + 1 part translucent + 1 part pearl
      Deep Woods Moss: 6 parts green + 7 parts black + 2 parts white + 1/2 part cad red + 2 parts translucent + 2 parts pearl
      Celadon: 3 parts Deep Woods Moss (above) +4 parts ecru +1/2 part cad yellow + 4 parts translucent + 4 parts pearl
      Ivory: 48 parts white + 1 part cad yellow + 1 part burnt umber
      Sunshine: 3 parts cad yellow + 1 part ecru + 1 part translucent + 1 part pearl

  2. You're welcome, Laura. I'll be posting the completed pieces today. These colours are really beautiful together. If you make something using them I would be happy to show your work in follow-up post. Just email some pictures to me at

  3. Hi Vickie. Glad to have you back, missed you. These beads are really beautiful. Thanks for the recipes. Jay

    1. Hi Jay, thanks for stopping by and, especially, for your kind comment. I'll be working out some new ideas to blog over the next little while.

  4. oH ! que oui I would like the recette. Just love that green.

    1. Bonjour Louise. La recette et en haut, apres le commentaire de "3circlestudio". J'aime le vert aussi! Enjoy!

  5. Hi Vickie,
    I read the following article a while back.
    American ceramic artist and painter Toshiko Takaezu: You are not an artist simply because you can paint or sculpt or make pots that cannot be used. An artist is a poet in his or her own medium. When an artist produces a good piece, that work has mystery, it is alive.
    Not sure where I read it and I hope I quoted it correctly. The post you made about the artistic perfection was great and said so much. I hate the assembly line look. If you have ever seen machine made canes, you know what I mean. All exactly alike. Exactly.

  6. Hi Vickie, The above Simon Potter is me, Jay. That is a Google tag I use, but don't know how it got here. I'll have to watch that in the future.
    Sorry, Jay

  7. Thank you for writing this artical, you gave me the big push to do my polymer clay /art/ with more confidance.
    thank you

  8. Hi, Vickie! I’m very late to this blogpost but love what you say about artists and their individuality, which I found really encouraging. As someone who works in a very organic way and rarely knows what result I’m looking to create until it appears, your words definitely resonate with me. I had previously become disillusioned with my work as a result of seeing ‘perfect’ clay products online and, naively assuming that they were entirely handmade, felt that my own work didn’t match up. It’s only recently that I discovered that there’s a huge array of machines and tools and moulds etc, which are used by many people to produce such results! While there is decidedly a market for this type of work it’s just not ‘me’, so it’s back to doing my own thing now. Thank you !