Hidden Jewels Workshop with Carol Simmons

A few weeks ago, I attended my first ever polymer clay workshop with Carol Simmons in Nanaimo, Victoria BC. It was an amazing experience! I haven’t made it to my local guild meetings, so I’d never actually met another clay artist in person. Thanks to modern technology, I’ve never had a dearth of information; there’s always one new blog post to check out, or an update on a Facebook group. That said, it’s quite an experience to look across a room and see a bunch of people bent over pasta machines and hearing clay jargon flowing freely.

Most people will be familiar with Carol’s work: she does lovely kaleidoscope work and these beautiful mokume gane pieces in jewel tones. I got to attend her Hidden Jewels workshop. And it was so fun!! I’m now obsessively hunting for other clay workshops I can attend in and around Washington state.

Back to Carol’s workshop, the main project we worked on was making a domed pendant with a jewel toned pattern. Here’s the ones I made, aren’t they pretty?! I can’t believe I made this, from scratch, with my own texture to boot. I still need to work a little on my finishing, but Carol shared lots of tips on how to do that without distorting the pattern. This took a lot less sanding that I usually need. We used a Foredom buffer to polish the piece as a part of the workshop, and I finished up at home with my Jooltool and some Renaissance wax to add the final touch.

Domed pendants made during Carol Simmons' mokume gane workshop in Nanaimo
Domed pendants made during Carol Simmons’ mokume gane workshop in Nanaimo

I really liked how well the workshop was laid out! There was no sitting around and waiting for anything. While the first stage was baking, we were working on the next; by the time that was done, we were ready to use it. There was also wonderful food arranged by Paula Beltgens to go with all this. My biggest regret at the end of the workshop was that I couldn’t go to the kaleidoscope one in Vancouver that was on the following weekend. Especially after I saw some of Carol’s pieces in person! I really hope I get to attend that sometime soon, and I’d love to do her master cane workshop!

I came back from the workshop with my head exploding with ideas! I got back on the late ferry from Victoria at 9.30 pm, but stayed up that night till 1 am, trying out a new texture plate. I cleaned up my work surface of all other canes and colors and pulled out my mica clay and started playing. All of that madness resulted in these beauties (if I do say so myself!).

I really love paisleys. It’s a very popular design for henna decorations and works well there. Some of the sample veneers that Carol showed us were like sheets of silk with the shimmering colors and delicate thickness. They reminded me of the cheery silk sarees I’ve seen in India (like this and the ones here), many of which have beautiful paisley patterns. Once my mind made that connection, I knew I had to try a paisley pattern. So I did!

GIANT paisley pattern veneers sliced super thin using my Lucy slicer
GIANT paisley pattern veneers sliced super thin using my Lucy slicer

I knew a giant paisley would make a giant sheet of veneer and that would be impossible to make into beads. I knew that, but I still couldn’t resist! And now I have 4 inch square paisley patterned sheets that I don’t quite know what to do with. But they sure are pretty! I did make another pattern with what I thought were tiny shapes but are actually quite big! I couldn’t get more than one paisley on the first few beads I made, so I got bugged and made a giant bead! The pattern is pretty clear, but I’m not sure what to do with this one either. It’s much larger that what I usually wear.

Smaller paisley patterned pieces
Smaller paisley patterned hollow beads and post earrings

Paisley patterned hollow beads and earrings

Fun random fact: where I’m from, the paisley shape is referred to as “maanga” which means mango! The shape does look like a skinny mango doesn’t it? I didn’t realize this was the same as paisley until a couple of years ago. (When I was searching for a good picture of a silk saree with these patterns, I found this page that had some details on the origin of the name “paisley”. Did you know that Paisley is a town in Scotland?!)
I’ve always loved mica clays the most (they’re so SHINY!) and now I have so many things I want to do with them!! Carol shared some tips on mixing custom mica colors and showed us many many sample color chips. The light blue you see here is a custom blue color that I like so much that I used it in all my stacks. I’m still on the quest for a perfect red pearl, but in the meantime I found Tina Holdman’s color recipes in the Mile High Polymer Clay guild newsletters. The April 2013 newsletter in particular has some lovely pearl recipes.
I’m off to go experiment!

9 thoughts on “Hidden Jewels Workshop with Carol Simmons

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