Author: Kathleen Dustin
Kathleen received her Master of Fine Arts degree in ceramics and sculpture from Arizona State University in 1979 and has been a professional artist since that time. She was introduced to polymer clay while a student overseas in 1972, began working with it in small ways again while living overseas in 1981-2, and then began working with it more seriously to make jewelry in 1986. She taught the first workshop in the US on using it as a fine craft medium in 1987 and wrote the first professional article on it in ORNAMENT Magazine in 1988.

The Early Development of Polymer Clay Bead-Making: Part Five

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In 1987, at the Torpedo Factory Art Center in the Washington, D.C. area, I taught my first workshop on polymer bead-making based on the simple techniques I had developed.  On the advice of an artist colleague, I submitted a short article to Ornament magazine.  Published in 1988, my article was entitled “The Use of Polyform in Bead-making.”  (my usage of the word “polyform” reflected my misunderstanding of the generic name of polymer clay at that time.) The article briefly discussed the material and its properties, described the millefiore techniques and displayed images of my own work. A significant effect of my

The Early Development of Polymer Clay Bead-Making: Part Four

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This is Part Four of the speech delivered at Synergy: the 2008 National Polymer Clay Guild Conference held in Baltimore, Maryland in February 2008.  The entire speech will be publish in serial form in five parts on Polymer Art Archive . In the Washington, D.C., area also in 1986, where I was working as a ceramic artist, I was given a necklace of Pier Voulkos beads displaying the “painting” technique. (The necklace had been acquired from Julie: Artisan’s Gallery, in New York City.)  I had been introduced to polymer clay while studying in Lebanon in 1971, and immediately understood the concept of

The Early Development of Polymer Clay Bead-Making, Part Three

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This is Part Three of the speech delivered at Synergy: the 2008 National Polymer Clay Guild Conference held in Baltimore, Maryland in February 2008.  The entire speech will be publish in serial form in five parts on Polymer Art Archive . In 1984, Pier Voulkos conceived of simple millefiore designs based on some limited experience with glass-working in art school and her first beads tended to be spheres on which thin slices from a hand-formed millefiore cane were applied to a base color and then the clay was again rolled by hand into a spherical bead. Her early canes even included mask-like

The Early Development of Polymer Clay Bead-Making: Part Two

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This is Part Two of the speech delivered at Synergy: the 2008 National Polymer Clay Guild Conference held in Baltimore, Maryland in February 2008.  The entire speech will be publish in serial form in five parts on Polymer Art Archive . The Earliest Polymer Bead-makers Many of these American artists first became aware of the polymer brand Fimo in the early 1970s, but it was Victoria Hughes who was one of the first to see its potential as a jewelry medium. In 1971, while living with her family in France, an art teacher introduced her to the product.  She began making little

The Early Development of Polymer Clay Bead-Making: Part One

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This is Part One of the speech delivered at Synergy: the 2008 National Polymer Clay Guild Conference held in Baltimore, Maryland last week.  The entire speech will be publish on Polymer Art Archive in serial form. Polymer clay developed initially for making dolls and puppets but it wasn’t until it was embraced as a bead and jewelry-making compound that it blossomed into the movement we see today.  Although polymer clay was initially developed in Europe, its use for making beads on that continent appears to have been limited to isolated cases at most. It was not until the 1980s that