When I first started adapting silhouette dieforming for polymer clay 20 years ago, I explored some of its bigger possibilities by making organic-inspired tiles.
Focusing on the process rather than what they might become, these 3” x 3” tiles gave me a chance to combine textures and shapes at a larger scale than what I was used to in my jewelry designs.
To feature their surfaces and highlight their dimensional qualities, I decided to turn some these sort-of-flat squares into 3D cubes. Built on a rigid cardboard substrate and framed with grout, these bioformed blocks are light and tactile, fun to look at and really nice to handle and hold.
This is actually the first time I’ve published this picture. It’s from an archive of experiments and prototypes that never really get outside the walls of my studio, but are an important part of my work as an explorer in this medium.
Xs & Os Wall Piece
TIC TAC TILE
Were you at the third Ravensdale Polymer Clay Conference in Olympia, WA in 2000? If yes, you would have seen this wall piece displayed as part of R2K's Faculty Exhibition.
I was there to teach a workshop called ‘Polymer Clay in 3D.’ My dieforming had continued to evolve, along with other touchy-feely techniques for creating complex vessels, organic forms, and tactile objects, pushing the limits of polymer as a structural medium.
Using more of the 3” x 3” tiles I’d been making at the time, this 7 x 7 tile grid was designed as a more intentional and conceptual colIection of shapes and colours.
Tracy and I lived on a small island near Vancouver for almost ten years. Beach creatures and other shoreline life provided daily inspiration for my work during that time. Combine that with the dieforming-friendly shapes of Xs and Os, I ended up with this kind of oversized game of intertidal Tic Tac Toe.
Why yell when a whisper will do?
This necklace, part of my White series, was all about turning down the volume on what can be, at times, a very noisy medium.
Rather than feature all the colour or pattern typically found in canework, mokume, or complex blending, I relied on white as my canvas to focus on form and texture, allowing the shapes and their surfaces to come forward.
White can be challenging to work with, but nothing shows off shadows better than the lightest value. The bumps, dips, creases, and crevices of the bioformed beads are highlighted by a smooth buffed finish, and there’s lots to draw you in, despite these beads being almost ‘naked’ in design. Even the fine lines of my custom textured surfaces are given a chance to stand out a little more across the curved surface.
HIDDEN TWIST REVEALED
Some of my earliest Bioforms were built using custom dies I’d made from sheet aluminum. These dies were an important tool for both the designing and building of the forms. But sometimes the tool can become part of the design itself.
For this pin, another piece from my White series, I brought the metal out of the process and into the final product. A ring of aluminum frames the concentric polymer parts: a domed texture, then a higher plain dome, then a small triple twist revealed through a hole in the centre. I connected everything with aluminum tube rivets.
As seen in my White series, a plain sheet (white or not) can be a perfect start for creating elegant and evocative bioforms.
But that doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself to one colour. The decorative colours and patterns in a veneer may be beautiful on their own, but with the added ‘touch’ of Bioforming – well-placed ridges, bumps, domes, dips, pinches, and twists – that veneer will transcend into something more.
I made this Hood Pin to feature a 'Beyond The Blend’ Complex Blend. This is an example of how Bioforming combined with patterning techniques like blending can easily bring new dimension to your work.
Blurred Lines, simple Skinners, canework, mokume, textures… if you can sheet it, you can shape it. With a few simple tools and techniques at your fingertips (including your fingertips), Bioforming can really take a flat veneer to new heights.
Relief Beyond Belief Necklace
RELIEF BEYOND 'RELIEF BEYOND BELIEF'
Bioforming is unique as a technique because it’s both decorative and structural at the same time. Start with any flat sheet veneer, and you can build a one-of-a-kind form, complete with a sculpted, faceted, or textured surface.
It’s also a technique that works and plays well with others. Relief Beyond Belief, our 150-page digital book published in 2011, shows you how to make one bead. The bead I made featured a blended veneer with a mica-shifted grid of Lines. But I also made a collection of other beads using other dieformable veneers, to string together in the full necklace shown here.
Two of the beads were pushed a little further with Bioforming. Can you spot them in the strand?
Red Twist Bead
STAND ALONE SWIRL
As a way to add form and texture to functional or wearable objects, to make touchy feely wall art, to create a minimalist collection of beads, to add a highlighted or hidden component to a more complex piece, or to make beads that play a supporting role within a more diverse grouping, BioForming puts an almost infinite assortment of structural+decorative options right at your fingertips. Literally.
You can also feature an enigmatic swirl all on its own. Because sometimes less is more.
I made this choker bead as a birthday gift for Tracy. She calls it her Kiss Bead.
Long Firefly Twist Bead
This is one of my more recent dieformed beads, but it connects back to the White Necklace I made several years earlier.
Maintaining the shiny bright white with the accent of orange piping around the edge, I wanted to try Bioforming using one of the sleeker asymmetrical shapes in my Insect Die Set collection. This Long Firefly silhouette seemed like the perfect way to frame the flow of a double twist.