Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Thank you, Elise Winters!

Finally! A comprehensive website on the origins, techniques and history of polymer clay. Elise Winters, in addition to her fabulous work, has gathered a distinguished group of polymer artists to contribute information and reminisce about polymer clay. A must read for the polymer aficionado and a great source of information for museum curators and gallery owners. Check out the Polymer Art Archive.

Photo of polymer cane bracelet by Sarah Shriver.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


So we've had two major snowstorms so far - unusual in Boston because we really don't get that much snow (the ocean effect and all). So, I woke up to this:
I got to work and finished this piece, that kinda goes along with the weather:

Then I got sidetracked (a common occurrence with polymer clay addicts) and worked on these:

I think it's time for a visit to Mexico.....

Monday, December 3, 2007

Heard about Trunkt? It's a wonderful showcase of independent art and design. I'm honored to have been accepted into the very competitive jewelry category! Other Boston Handmade artists featured on Trunkt include J.Hill Design, Karalee Designs, and Paper Menagerie. is a very selective site and the jury parameters are strict. Even after being accepted, each and every photo uploaded has to be approved before it's published. Since it is not an e-commerce site, design and artistic merit are what counts. None of that monetary for profit stuff getting in the way!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Today's Projects

Boston Handmade is starting a feature called Workspace Wednesdays where we take pictures of what's going on in our studios. Here's mine, but be sure to tune in to Boston Handmade's blog every Wednesday to see a wide variety of workspaces!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

I Took The Handmade Pledge!

Buy handmade this holiday season! Support your local artisans, artists and craftspeople. Support world artisan cooperatives and fair trade organizations. Take the Buy Handmade Pledge!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Día de los Muertos

Today is November 1 and it is a joyous day in Mexico. Today is the day you honor dead family and friends by partying in the cementary - food, Day of the Dead bread and lots and lots of marigolds. There is nothing sad about this day! Since I don't have any yellow marigolds, here is a beautiful yellow rose that is still blooming in my Boston garden!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Boston Handmade

One of the best things about leaving the corporate world to become a working artist is meeting and hanging out with like minded folks. A bunch of Etsy shops in metro Boston got together to form a kind of guild - we have a blog, do shows, get together for brainstorming, demos and general stitch and bitch sessions. We're all hip and funky and young (at least at heart!). Now all we need is a couple of crafty guys to join up!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Is it really late October?

Originally uploaded by stonehousestudio
It's been so warm lately that I've been thinking about trees and flowers and nature. Because if we keep melting the polar icecaps, we may not have much of the real thing left. Think Green!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

My Studio

I believe that a workspace has a direct effect on your end product. Maybe it's all those years as a travel manager in an advertising agency where I had to juggle ten things at once, but, for me, organization is key. I simply cannot work in a topsy-turvy environment. Very un-artistic, I know. That doesn't mean my studio doesn't get messy, because it does. But the minute I can't find something, I stop what I'm doing and clean up. I also make a point of organizing and cleaning up at the end of the day. Keeping things tidy and in their place is an integral part of good craftsmanship.

My studio is a work in progress. It's not very stylish, but it's functional. I have four workstations, the first being my main table where I work on polymer and metal. It's a bare bones formica student desk - I use the pull-out keyboard tray for storage! Note the two pasta machines, glass and tile surfaces, baskets for on-going projects, a office organizer for veneer sheets and baking tiles, and a lazy susan and wire baskets to hold stuff and tools. On the wall, I have an inspiration board, more tools hanging on a bulletin board and a letter organizer where I keep my silkscreens, transfers and texture sheets. For metal work, I have a benchpin/anvil combination, another benchpin for drilling and a vise. Last, but not least, a task light and good, strong lamp.

My second workstation is for fabrication. I design and string on two beadboards and use multi-drawer hardware containers to store my findings. I sort my finished components in individual plastic bags, ready to be put together. I keep my tools in two pen holders and have a really good light with a magnifying glass. Those containers full of stuff are my polymer of these days I'll throw them out!

The third is a general use area. This is where I polish my polymer work and organize and package my finished pieces. That funny looking thing with the metal rods with ball ends is a dapping block and punch set, used for rounding metal. The tall piece of wood is a bracelet mandrel. I don't have room for them on my main table, so I keep them here. I think they look very sculptural...

My fourth workstation is my business area. This is where I keep my laptop, phone, printer and filing cabinets. Only paperwork ever touches this area.

Finally, bookshelves and a couple of those nasty plastic drawer thingies for storage (my books are slowly finding other homes as I need more space). And, of course, a comfy chair, otherwise my muse simply doesn't show up!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Amazing Skinner Blend

Polymer clay has been around since the 1940's, developed for doll makers and sculptors. Then it was discovered by elementary school art teachers, who liked the fact that it was non-toxic, easy to work and cured in a regular oven - great for kids!

But leave it to an artist to find other uses for polymer. By the late 80's, Pier Voulkus, Donna Kato, Kathleen Dustin, Ford/Forlano among others, were experimenting and developing new techniques in this fascinating medium. These artists were drawn to polymer primarily because of color. Polymer colors maintain their integrity and mix beautifully. Then, in the mid 90's, Judith Skinner came along, and her color blending technique revolutionized the polymer clay world. It's amazing how something so simple can have such an impact!

Here's an example of a two color Skinner Blend. Two triangles, one of zinc yellow and one of metallic silver are folded, matching like color to like color. Then run through a pasta machine, which is used to condition and sheet the clay (image 1) The colors begin to blend, forming stripes (image 2) As you continue to run the blend through the pasta machine, you'll eventually end up a graduated color blend (image 3 and 4)
A three color Skinner Blend of red, blue and yellow will result in a blend of the original primaries plus all secondary colors - green, orange and violet. It's like creating a rainbow with a pasta machine!

Here's one of my necklaces using a zinc yellow and silver Skinner Blend, then silk screened with iridescent acrylic paint.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Daphne Farago Collection at the MFA

The Boston Museum of Fine Arts is currently exhibiting part of a vast collection of 20th century art jewelry donated by Daphne Farago. Comprising 150 pieces of contemporary jewelry by Alexander Calder, Robert Ebendorf, Mary Lee Hu, Sam Kramer, Man Ray, Pablo Picasso, Wendy Ramshaw, Art Smith, and others, it is truly a mind blowing experience - whether you're a jewelry aficionado or not!

Shown are the organic shapes of Art Smith, Jan Yager's disturbing urban landscapes, Alma Eikerman's sculptural forms and Robert Ebendorf's artful use of common materials.

Truly not to be missed! The Daphne Farago Collection is on view at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston until March of 2008. More info at MFA.ORG

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

More on Stresa...

My good friend, clay buddy and fellow "Stresee", Melanie West, has a fantastic blog log and photos about Louise Fischer Cozzi's Stresa workshops. Check it out at Ravens Clay's Blog.

Both Melanie and Nadja are wonderful artists and technicians - see how they've taken Louise's technique and made it their own!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Color Smashing

I just got back from a weeklong polymer workshop in Stresa, Italy. It's a lovely town on Lago Maggiore in northern Italy. A tad touristy at this time of year, but I've learned to tune out tourists (I guess that means I tune myself out, too!).

One of the main reasons I signed up for this rather expensive jaunt, was that Maggie Maggio, color guru of the polymer clay world, would be teaching. Maggie has "smashed" conventional color thinking and come up with new way of understanding color. Color has always been a struggle for me. I have an intuitive sense of color and work from the gut. This is great, but how many times have I mixed a color and had no idea how I got there, making duplication impossible. During Maggie's three day course, I finally grasped what color is about and how it works. You can read more about Maggie's color theory at and look for her upcoming book with fellow color expert, Lindly Haunani.

In a nutshell, Maggie has replaced red-yellow-blue (RYB) pigment primaries with the printing primaries of cyan-yellow-magenta (CYM). Instead of a traditional color wheel, Maggie uses a triangle with yellow at the top point, cyan blue on the left point and magenta on the right point. The bottom of the triangle consists of the Purple Line. The Purple Line, from left to right, starts at cyan blue, to blue violet, purple, red violet, violet red and ends at magenta red. In the center of the triangle you'll find, not grey/black as in traditional theory, but what Maggie calls Mud, a brown with grey tones. Now here is the first "aha" moment: ALL HUES (COLORS)ARE MIXED BY MIXING YELLOW WITH THE COLORS FOUND IN THE PURPLE LINE. Adding white creates a tint, adding black creates a shade. Maggie has divided her triangle into four color families: Rainbow, Rainbow Pastels, Earth and Earth Pastels. To create an Earth color, you simply add Mud to a Rainbow color! Second "aha" moment: USE MUD, NOT THE COMPLEMENTARY COLOR, TO DESATURATE OR TONE DOWN YOUR HUE.

In addition to hues and saturation, a color's value, from high to low, is important in understanding the "mood" of a color. Third "aha" moment: THINK OF YELLOW AS SUNSHINE AND BLUES/VIOLETS AS SHADOW. So a yellow will be brighter, or have a high value, compared to a purple, or low value.

So now we understand color and how to mix them, but how to we choose a palette? Maggie believes we have color preferences, but our "personal" palette does not dictate our "project palette". Fourth "aha" moment: JUST BECAUSE YOU'VE BEEN TOLD THAT YOUR A "SUMMER", THAT DOESN'T MEAN THOSE ARE THE ONLY COLORS YOU CAN USE IN YOUR WORK.

Maggie has a unique exercise to come up with a project palette: Cut out a bunch of magazine landscape photos that speak to the mood and feel of your project. Arrange them into piles that "hang" together - not just by color, but by rhythm, lines, crispness and texture. Take one of the piles and make a collage. Then start mixing the colors found in your collage. You should have at least 8 colors plus mud: a yellow, a yellow green, an orange, a red orange, a fuschia, a violet, a cobalt, an emerald and mud. Desaturate colors by using mud to achieve earth tones. Use a combination of brights and desaturated in your project - this adds depth. You now have a complete palette even though you may not choose to use all eight colors in your project. At left you can see my collage with the polymer clay colors I mixed to match. I can't believe I actually mixed EXACTLY the color I wanted!!!!

Maggie does stress, though, that color sense is exactly that - a feel, a mood, a gut reaction. Color mixing just helps you get there quicker and be able to understand the how and the why.

More about creating polymer clay color scales in my next post!

Note to polymer artists who use Premo: Cyan is Premo's Cobalt Blue. Yellow is Premo's Zinc Yellow and Magenta is Premo's Fuschia.
To mix the colors in the Purple Line:
Cyan = package Cobalt
Blue violet = 1/2 cobalt with 1/2 fuschia
Purple = 1/4 cobalt with 3/4 fuschia or use package Purple
Red violet = 1/8 cobalt with 7/8 fuschia
Magenta = package Fuschia.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

First Thursdays in Jamaica Plain

Every first Thursday of the month, Jamaica Plain businesses along Centre and South Streets host an art walk event featuring area artists. This Thursday, June 7, will also feature some awesome craftspeople from the Etsy Boston street team. Mark your calendars for an eclectic artisistic experience!

5pm-8pm along Centre and South Streets. The Etsy artisans will be at the corner of Carolina and South. Take the T to Green St or the 39 bus.

EtsyBoston Group Show featuring:

Reclaimed to You - Collage art.

JHill Design - paper goods

Amy Olson Jewelry - jewelry

Mck254 - dolls

Stonehouse Studio - polymer art and jewelry

Ambient Design Jewels - jewelry & paper goods

Muchachak - handbags

ZestyB - jewelry & paper goods

Elizabeth Brennick - clothing & accessories

Sunday, May 27, 2007

It's Show Time!!

I love show season! And I say this even though I don't drive and have to lug all my show stuff in a taxi. Try fitting an EZ-up tent in the trunk of a Boston cab complete with snarling cab driver ... you're lucky if you come away with your life. Fortunately, I found Mohammed, a Somali cabby with a mini-van. He's a refugee from war-torn Somalia. He immediately took a liking to me because, not only did I recognize him as a Somali, but I knew a little about what was going on in his country. I just call him and he picks me up. It's like having a private limo!

Shows are quite exhausting. You show up really early and set-up, then have to break it all down at the end of the day. The tents usually have minds of their own. Then there's the wind and the rain. But on a good day, you're outside, interacting with other vendors and customers and basking in compliments (and sales, hopefully!). As a full time artist that easily spends days on end alone in my studio, it's really good for me to get out and connect with people.

I'm keeping it simple this year. Almost every Sunday I'll be at the South End Open Market at 540 Harrison Ave in Boston's South End. I'll be doing a couple of shows in Providence, hopefully one in Mashpee on the Cape and a couple in Charlestown. My website has my complete show schedule.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Stonehouse Studio Featured by Ruby Lane Creative Hands Newsletter

I'm thrilled to have been a featured artist on the Ruby Lane newsletter. Here's the article. Be sure to visit my Ruby Lane store !

"I've always liked working with my hands. I get an enormous amount of satisfaction creating something beautiful or functional out of basic materials – be it a necklace in polymer or a perfect drywall corner.

As a baby boomer, I grew up when artistic talent was not nurtured unless it was patently obvious. So I had my art epiphany later in life than most, but the urge to create is so powerful that I've left my corporate job to concentrate on my jewelry design and polymer art. Polymer clay is my current medium of choice. The depth, texture and versatility of this humble plastic constantly surprises me. I'm also on a mission: to educate my little corner of the world that polymer clay is not just for kids!

I describe my style as boldly organic. I'm inspired by the nuances in nature and subscribe to the Japanese aesthetic of Wabi Sabi – the beauty of things imperfect, modest and humble. To me, a warm jasper pebble is much more interesting than a cold, faceted diamond. I use large stones and lots of sterling silver and vermeil, but I always keep the design clean, sleek and sophisticated.

My polymer work also reflects this organic bent. I love color, and polymer clay is the perfect medium to play with color. It's also amazing in its ability to imitate. Most of the techniques in polymer clay have been borrowed from other mediums – caning (glass), mokume gane (metal), intarsia (wood working), batik and silk screening (textiles). Polymer clay is still in its infancy, but has experienced tremendous growth and innovation over the last few years. I tend to gravitate towards techniques suited to metallic clays: mica shift, mokume gane and translucent layering. I do my own metalwork, but the real star of the show is polymer clay. I've studied under various polymer clay masters and my work continues to evolve.

The name Stonehouse Studio came about after a visit to the Yucatan a few years ago. My sister, who owns a lovely restored hacienda-hotel in Merida, took me to a crystal store to purchase decorative pieces for the hotel spa. The minute I walked in and saw all the wonderful strands of stones, I was hooked. I started making jewelry that very same day. The name Stonehouse Studio is derived from the word Xcanatun, which means "tall stone house" in Maya and is a tribute to the place where I was first inspired to follow my bliss." May 2007 Ruby Lane Creative Hands

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Etsy comes to Boston

From the Team Etsy blog at

Boston street team members have had enough of the winter doldrums and are breaking out for the spring crafting season.

The team met up and brainstormed ideas for collectively promoting Boston craft. ReclaimedToYou, who is helping to organize the team, says, “We had a great Etsy Boston meeting on a Saturday and came up with 2 shows to do as a group in the next few months.” They’re taking it to the next level and bringing it to the streets.

May 4th, Etsy Boston Show & Sale in the South End
Six Etsy Boston sellers will be showing their work in Boston’s South End neighborhood during the May First Friday gallery openings. Location: 35 Wareham Street, 2nd Floor, between Harrison and Albany. Time: 5-8pm. Etsy sellers showing at this event: amyolsonjewelry, ElizabethBrennick, mck254, ReclaimedToYou, StonehouseStudio, ZestyB. For more information please convo ReclaimedToYou.

June 7th, Etsy Boston Show & Sale in Jamaica Plain
Nine Etsy Boston sellers will be showing their work during the JP First Thursdays Art Stroll. Location: South Street Mall, on the corner of South Street and Carolina Avenue. Time: 6-8pm. Etsy sellers showing at this event: amyolsonjewelry, ElizabethBrennick, mck254, ReclaimedToYou, StonehouseStudio, ZestyB, JhillDesign, muchachak, creativelyanew. For more information please convo ReclaimedToYou.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

CraftBoston Report

I'm lucky to live in a great city like Boston that hosts all sorts of fabulous art and craft shows. CraftBoston is one of the premier fine craft shows of the country - right up there with Philadelphia, the Smithsonian and Baltimore. I was particularly eager to check it out this year because of the presence of several top polymer artists.

My friend and fellow polymer artist, Melanie West came to visit and we spent a whole day at the show.

Best of Show, in my opinion, was Ford/Forlano .
This teams continues to amaze me with their vision and their ability to re-invent themselves. It's interesting that when you break down their work by components, there is nothing very special about the polymer work or metalsmithing. But the sum supersedes the parts. Their organic, assymetrical designs are breathtaking.

I was also happy to finally see JM Syron and Bonnie Bishoff's marriage of polymer and wood furniture.
It's a beautiful combination and I'm surprised that more folks haven't tried it.

Elise Winter's jewelry, as expected, was very elegant and chic. She has a distinctive, immediately recognizable style and her booth was mobbed!

New faces, to me at least, were Karin Noyes with her incredibly intricate cane work (I really admire good cane work since I'm so lousy at it myself). .

Another up and coming polymer artist is Judy Dunn . She studied with Kathleen Dustin, and the techniques of translucent layering are hallmarks of her work.

I'm always humbled by the outstanding work at these shows - in all mediums. But it's also energizing and give me the motivation to keep plugging away!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

What's Your Jewelry Style?

Harper's Bazaar had an article a few months back about jewelry personality. Just as we all tend to fit into a certain fashion category, we wear our jewelry the same way. Some of us will match our jewelry to our outfit, some will match the outfit to the jewelry, some will wear whatever the hell they want and some can't be bothered so they eat, live and breathe in the same pair of earrings.

Harper's broke down jewelry personalities into four categories: the Adventurist, the Exhibitionist, the Minimalist and the Traditionalist.

The adventurists will take a piece of jewelry and make it their own.
They'll buy a long chain and wrap it around their wrist - never using it for the intended purpose. They don't care about price - they're likely to mix a diamond with a vintage bakelite bracelet. They can buy a bunch of hippie necklaces at a tourist trap and make them look incredibly chic.

The Minimalist has just a few pieces and is very selective about her choices. The simpler the better. Miminalists love Calvin Klein and sushi. Less is More is their mantra.

The Tradionalist, as the name implies, likes tried and true jewelry designs. They can be simple or ornate, but not in the least trendy. She loves Jewels with a capital J. The more carats the better. Elizabeth Taylor, the Queen of England and the Duchess of Windsor are all traditionalists. Since I don't have diamonds, rubies or emeralds in my collection, so this Art Deco piece will have to do as an example.

The Exhibitionst loves art jewelry. She can't stand the thought of anyone else having the same piece. She likes showstopping, large pieces. She considers jewelry an art form - wearable sculpture. She is strong, confident and brash.

Sunday, March 11, 2007


I'm no fashionista. As a matter of fact, I'm what you'd call a "uniform dresser". I tend to dress the same way, depending on the situation. When at shows, I'm usually in black or wear jeans with a white shirt. I call this my background outfit - it puts the focus on my jewelry - whether the jewelry is on me or on my displays. I absolutely hate shopping for clothes.

Nevertheless, my art and my business is jewelry design/fabrication and I have to keep up with current styles. I subscribe to W and Harper's Bazaar and read them as I would a trade journal. I'm also rather systematic when designing my new lines.

One of my favorite sources of inspiration is to take a designer piece that speaks to me and design around it. This spring, I was particularly taken by Jil Sander's stark charcoal grey suit with chartreuse shirt. The menswear influence is prevalent this season, and I like its severity and sleek lines.

I mixed the same colors in polymer and created earrings with an abstract design and contemporary lines.

And a bracelet with a primitive/ethnic motif.