Friday, November 1, 2013

Bonnie Bishoff Master Class

'400 Polymer Clay Designs: A Collection of Dynamic & Colorful Contemporary Work' was where I first met Bonnie Bishoff. Taking numerous trips through this goldmine of artwork by Polymer artists of the time her work stood out to me as something so innovative and stunning that I never got tired of looking at the pieces featured in this book. That was 10 years ago, a long, long time in the medium of polymer clay, we've come far since then but Ms. Bishoff still reigns Queen of the polymer veneers she artistically applies to her Husband J.M. Syron's exquisitely crafted furniture and home decor that are museum quality functional works of art.  

'Under the Sea' -  3"x4"

   Just this past month I got to meet Bonnie in person at our first Master Class of the new year at my local guild PAPCG. I wasn't sure what to expect as this was my first time taking a class in PC as I am a 'teach yourself' sort of artist but I was very glad I signed up for this. It was a long class (6 hours) but they seemed to fly by and I was so happy to know that Bonnie would be back the next day for our regular monthly meeting where she shared so much more of her wonderful techniques. 

 Bonnie demos translucent techniques

    Watching her create some of the canes she uses in her wonderful works was entertainment itself; like a magic show she turned a block of translucent clay with a bit of color added into clouds, swirls, ocean waves and more! It was fantastic to see how she creates depth in her pieces and not only that but to have her so generously share them with us. 


What is also amazing to me is how I spent 13 hours there over two days and only came home with three small pieces completed, which I really didn't like very much. So I set about for the next month to work through the things she taught and give myself time to grasp and improve. I was having difficulty mainly because my clay was sticky which took a lot longer because of this, but I eventually got the hang of it and produced a few decent pieces.   

Here's my three I did during the two days. 

Day One

 The Log Cabin and trying out my translucent canes over a skinner blend of gold and green. I really didn't like these very much but I'm not going to hate myself for my first tries.

   I did this landscape the following day, it was ok, but I knew I didn't have the kind of canes I needed to make this work to my satisfaction.

Day 2

 My re-do of this one I like much better using a skinner blend for the background and different shapes for the trees it elevates it to a higher level. I love trees and never can seem to make them to my satisfaction, but I like this second try.

My second attempt of the Log Cabin went a bit differently as I decided to think outside the box and instead of round or square, I made an elliptical shape log cabin square. Instead of the traditional red 'hearth' center, I went with gold foil. Adding this though made sanding prohibitive so this was the only one I did not smoothly sand and buff but rather tried out my newest favorite product, Renaissance wax.

So those were my re-do's for two of them and I went to make a re-do of the translucent canes over a background with this barrette but forgot to add that layer before putting in the oven. I decided to see how thin I could get it and if the colors would show through. They were dark with not much contrast to begin with. I was working very closely doing this with my glasses and magnifiers on and being that close you don't see the contrast problems as easy, oh well mistakes are learning tools!

And with this one I think a learned a new technique! along with managing to get the translucent canes really thin over a baked surface.

Bonnie Bishoff -  Birch Tree in Winter

When I saw this sample of Bonnie's work in trees I was in love! I love, love, love birch trees, probably because of the stark black and white bark which is very unique among trees and I love black and white! When I saw this an idea immediately came to mind to try something to emulate the birch using an old ivory/bone cane I had at home, and when I got home that's exaclty what I did.

It took three tries to work out some issues, but I think by my 'mistakes' I know what to do now. I have to think up something to make the improved version on but that will come, I'm sure. Meanwhile here are my three tries, Birch Trees in Autumn, not too bad I think for an old ivory cane with a few alterations.

I decided to try out another tree theme. Bonnie had a few samples of other trees and this is my version. I made a rather unique skinner blend cane so that I could get two looks of leaves from one cane.
   More lessons learned, my swirly canes are too large for this small application which measure about 4"x6" and my deep blue skinner blend with silver flecks from foil hardly show through but I'll know what to do and not do next time! 

Here is a close-up of one of the swirls, I like how this came out, the depth is really awesome.
And this is my variation on the swirls and cut and switch.
My last piece is the one shown at the top of this post, I just had to have my try at the fish, especially since I had made some canes, not knowing we were doing fish, but from brightly colored ones and just had to try them out. Here are some of my canes cut and thinned, ready for shaping into fish and applying. This piece has 5 layers yet is still micro thin.

Slices of cane used for Under the Sea
Fish laid out on top of mica shift brushed skinner blend
Fish inlaid, wave swirls and bubbles
Baked , sanded and buffed!

 So glad I got to meet and study under this wonderful artist and lady! 
 Thanks Bonnie!








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