All posts by Rachel Carren

I cannot remember a time in my life that I wasn't interested in looking at art, talking about art and the making of art. In 1990 I earned a Phd in art history at the University of Maryland. My first experiences with polymer clay were in 1992, but I consider my real work with the medium to date from 1999.

PAA back on track

After a too long a time out for technical and life issues, PAA will be back up and running very shortly. All content remains, but aesthetics will have been refreshed for a whole new look. Thank you for your patience and please keep coming back to this page.

Remembering Gwen Gibson

Gwen Gibson, Kabuki II Bracelet, 2002
Polymer, Lazertran image transfer, gold acrylic paint


Gwen Gibson’s contribution to polymer art was deep and far reaching as an innovator, teacher and accomplished artist.  Gibson was a pioneer in the evolution of surface techniques as related to polymer. Her background in painting and textile arts enabled her to apply many of the skills and techniques from those fields to her polymer work. As one of the early explorers of paint and polymer, Gibson initiated many to  the process of silk-screening. Her “tear away” etching technique enables a shadowy image transfer that can be highlighted with pigment.

An unerring sense of design and attraction to strong graphic  patterns quickly became distinctive elements of Gibson’s style.  Her aesthetic influences often derived from ancient cultures.  Ethnic and Asian motifs are often present in her work. Jewelry as well as larger objects such inro style containers and wall hung layered panels were all part of her artistic repertoire.

As a teacher and friend to many, her gentle, funny and creative spirit was a continuing inspiration.  She will be much missed.



Catching Up: Summer 2013


Cormier, Dan, Videojuegos Pin, 2012

Dan Cormier, Videojuegos Pin, 2012, 3″ h x 3″ w
polymer, aluminum, steel rods and pin findings


It has been a while, so here are some current “happenings” related to polymer art.

Read a synopsis of “The Broken Telephone Project” conceived and orchestrated by Dan Cormier and Tracy Holmes in the upcoming issue of Ornament magazine (vol. 36. no.4).   Cormier first presented this take on a well know communications game at the IPCG’s Synergy 3 conference in Atlanta, GA in March, 2013.  The article written by Cormier leads the reader through from conception to realization.  Eight artists participated:  Cormier, Cynthia Toops, Meredith Dittmar, Kathleen Dustin, Sarah Shriver, David Forlano, Celie Fago and Maggie Maggio.   Continue reading

Seeing stars: Kathleen Amt

Amt, K: Zodiac game detail

Kathleen Amt, Zodiac Game, detail, 1992
polymer, cloth, paper, elastic, metal
overall opened:  11 1/4″ W x 28″ L x 1 3/4″ D
game board:  10 5/8″ W x 12 1/4″ L


While unfamiliar to many today, Kathleen Amt was a notable figure in the early years of polymer art.  During the late 1980’s and 1990’s the Washington D.C. area was an important hub of polymer discovery.  Amt was very much a part of the local polymer community, which among others also included Kathleen Dustin, Nan Roche, and Lindly Haunani.

Amt initially stumbled upon polymer.  As the director of the Arts and Crafts Center at Fort Belvoir in northern Virginia from 1980-1987, she was looking for family friendly materials when she came across the original white version of Polyform’s Sculpey.  However, it was not until she happened to meet Kathleen Dustin in the fall of 1988 that she realized its potential. Continue reading

Transcending Technique


Cynthia Toops, Constant Comment, 1997
micro mosaic -polymer, sterling silver
1 1/2″ h x  3 1/4″w x  1 1/4″d

Since the first Terra Nova symposium in Racine, WI in Oct. 2011, there has been persistent chat about the future of polymer art.  The last 25 -30 years have been exciting as artists focused on exploring the properties of the medium.  What could polymer do and how did one do it?  While expertise in these areas will continue to evolve as artists resolve problems, technical innovation is no longer the driving objective.  So what now?  Continue reading

Team Work

Dayle Doroshow and Sarah Shriver, Tribal Circus, 2011
polymer, fiber and leather cording, 3″h x 18″ l x 1  1/2″ w
photo: Richard K. Honaman, Jr.

Judy Belcher and Tamara Honaman’s new book,  Polymer Clay Master Class: Exploring Process, Technique, and Collaboration with 11 Master Artists can be used as a “how to” book, however that is not its main attribute.  Lots of publications tell you how to make something through carefully written text steps and accompanying photos, but Master Class goes beyond that and examines the creative process itself.  Unlike the others, this volume offers an opportunity to read “between the lines” along the path of creating. Continue reading

Shifting Scale

Laura Tabakman, Woven Brooch, 2012
polymer, steel wire, 1/2 ” x 1 1/2″ x 1″

Using comparable materials and a repetition of form, Laura Tabakman has explored a similar idea in two very different ways with decidedly unique results.   One piece is about mass and containment, while the other is all about lightness and movement. How is it that similar materials handled by the same artist can create such distinctive and yet coherent results?

Continue reading

Terra Nova Accolades

It has already been a bit over a year since the ground breaking show, “Terra Nova: Polymer Art at the Crossroads” opened at the Racine Art Museum.  The show received lots of positive attention and brought many visitors to the museum over the course of its run.   One year later, the accompanying volume, “Terra Nova: Polymer at the Crossroads”, designed by Jeffrey Lloyd Dever and his team at Dever Designs has won a Continue reading


Rachel Gourley, Doodle Series: Bamboo.  2012
polymer,  approx. 25″h x 1″w overall

Here is some new work from Rachel Gourley.

What is intriguing in this series is Gourley’s juxtaposition of polymer components and nature.  Her concept, which is realized through a photograph, explores the idea of what is real and what is not.  Has nature morphed into something strange and new or are portions of the composition something else all together?   Being removed from reality, via the window of the photographic picture plane, only serves to enhance the illusion.

Animal Magnetism: Polymer as part of the pack

Margaret Maggio, Tit for Tat:
The Fable of the Fox and the Stork,
1997, polymer, 12″ h

July and August bring the “dog days” of summer.   The original reference was celestial and was related to when the Dog Star, Sirius, within the constellation Canis Major, was at its brightest.   Perhaps some still think of summer that way, but the Racine Art Museum is currently exhibiting two shows that focus on all kinds of animal imagery -including dogs- from their permanent collection.   Continue reading