Thanks to a sweet deal on Groupon, I attended the “Intro to Polymer Clay” class at Clay Squared to Infinity with my friend Sara. Located in “Nordeast”—the artistic center of the Twin Cities—Clay Squared to Infinity is equal parts tile showroom and creative studio.

The raw, gray warehouse walls provide the perfect neutral backdrop for the ecclectic samples of clay-covered teapots, vases, buttons, and beads. I spent an evening here with about twenty other students in exploring the basic techniques of color blending, pattern making, and project completing. My discoveries about the world of polymer clay were numerous…

Rolling out “blankets”

Fun & simple vernacular
Forget big, unfamiliar, technical terminology when it comes to working with polymer clay. To create a Kandinsky-esque design (see above), we rolled “worms” out of our “canes” of clay, then wrapped the worms in little worm “blankets,” then cut squares from our multi-colored worm “loaves.” To achieve the effect of “fluffiness,” we formed “bacon” strips from our clay. No joke.

So many surprises
An element of mystery characterizes all of the methods we tried in class. There was really no way of knowing exactly what we’d end up with. The magic happened when we took a razor blade to our layered loaves to reveal the miniature designs inside. Some were dazzling, some were disappointing, but most were useable in way or another.

I chose a frame as my final project—and notice the multi-colored “worm” beside it here.

Projects galore
We learned that you can cover just about anything with clay to achieve a finished project—anything as long as it’s bakeable at low heat (275 degrees Fahrenheit). Wood works. Glass works. Metal works. Some sturdy plastics work, such as the kind used for switch plates and ballpoint pens (to avoid an epic mess, be sure to remove the ink barrel before baking).

My project for the night? Applying the results of my mixing and rolling and cutting to the surface of a wooden picture frame.

Practice makes presentable
I laid out the little sliced rectangles upon my frame. When it looked fairly decent, I picked up the rolling tool. That’s when things went horribly wrong. My cute little round worm shapes morphed into mush, a lumpy and ugly mish-mash of mush.

Imagine barf topped by green olives with pimentos (I applied green and orange clay circles in hopes of redeeming the most unsavory background). Barf—yep, that’s what it looked like. My final project was not at all presentable and exactly why you’re not seeing a photo of it here. Believe me, you should thank me. I have no regrets about destroying the thing as soon as I got home.

Despite having nothing to show for it, I loved the experience and am willing to give it another try. Sometimes a person just needs to enjoy the process as the prize. There are no losers among courageous creatives!

What I Did This Summer

A number of months have passed since my last post, but I wouldn’t say it’s been any kind of lazy-days vacation; I’ve continued to enjoy my adventures in creative discovery and dabbling. Here are my top 5 artistic memories from Summer 2018:

Writers Workshop at Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts – For its third year, Banfill-Locke hosted its writers workshop, this time around the theme “Tending Your Word Garden.” Through three breakout sessions, plus a collective reading at the end, I enjoyed fellowship with other writers, tested out some new techniques, heard some great work, and shared some of my own attempts from the day.

Art-a-Whirl – Wow! WOW! How did I not hear of this event before? Throughout Northeast Minneapolis, hundreds of art studios open their doors to the public. I didn’t take to the streets but spent all of my time in the Northrup King Building where floor upon floor is devoted to the making and selling of art. Before the next Art-a-Whirl next spring, I hope to go back to Northrup King on a first Thursday for a mini Art-a-Whirl.

“Loving Vincent” movie – I’m not sure how I came upon this film, but it was available at my public library and ended up being worth the watch. The storyline takes place a year after Vincent Van Gogh’s death and delves into his fragile mental health and strained relationships. But most fascinating is the fact that the entire movie is an oil painting in motion!

Crochet Along for a Cause – Led by Breann of Hooked on Homemade Happiness, hundreds of crocheters, including myself, are making “chemo caps” for people in cancer treatment. Every week for 14 weeks, Breann releases a pattern that we all try our hand at making in the colors of our choice. It’s fun to see all the different renditions posted on the group Facebook page.

Scarf selling at Banfill-Locke & Etsy – I finally got the ball rolling! Over the past several months, I’ve also crocheted dozens of thick and cozy infinity scarves—and now they’re officially for sale. The gift shop at Banfill-Locke is now carrying a few of these pieces, and my new Etsy shop, “By Hand by Barb,” is open for business. Watch for more products to be added over the coming months as I continue to claim my place and share my voice in the world of art!