Seeing the Light: Polymer Illuminations

Seeing the Light: Polymer Illuminations
Diane Dunville, Night Dream, 1998, 4" x 7"

As the winter solstice approaches and the days get darker, the soft glow of an interior lamp is especially attractive.   Translucent polymer allows light to shine through it, inspiring a number of artists to explore the concept of illumination.   Here are several notable examples:


Mood Indigo
D. Dunville, Mood Indigo
1999, 8″ x 13″

Diane Dunville’s background is in illustration but with polymer she moved into the realm of 3D.  Fascinated by glass art, Dunville created a series of lamps during the late 1990’s.   After building a foundation of mesh, Dunville added layers of translucent polymer which were then textured and carved.   The results are a graphic and playful blend of color and pattern which make for bold, decorative surfaces when unlit and cast a colorful glow when lit.

Sperling, Lotus Heron Flambeau 2006

Barbara Sperling, Lotus
Barbara Sperling, Lotus Heron Flambeau, 2006
14″ x 7″ x 4.5″
polymer, electric wire and socket

Nature is almost always the inspiration behind Barbara Sperling’s delicate imagery and intricate cane patterns.   In this wall sconce the frontal presentation of flowers and fish hover on a surface patterned with dragonflies.   Coordinated side panels show flora and fauna imagery formed in shallow relief.  The combination of the floating fish and flowers with the molded birds and cattails is evocative of the difference between land and water.

B. Bishoff and J.M. Syron, Bubble Lamp, 2000
B. Bishoff and J.M. Syron, Bubble Lamp, 2000
62″ x 12″ x 12″, tiger maple, polymer, maple,
electric fittings

Bonnie Bishoff and J.M. Syron make a variety of lamps that combine wooden frames with polymer shades.  Bishoff’s polymer surfaces present subtle, overall patterns that recall the basic, repetitive units of nature, which complement the organic properties of the wood.   Honeycomb, flames, bubbles, sea urchins and barnacles are among her repertoire.   Meant to be incorporated into someone’s home décor, these lamps are understated but highly distinctive.

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.