Monday, March 12, 2012


I had a record album in college by the folk-rock artist Donovan that got played a lot. One of my favorite cuts was 'Atlantis'. It was a spoken narrative about the Lost Continent accompanied by a musical background and I think I've been fascinated by the concept of that sunken watery civilzation ever since.

"The continent of Atlantis was an island
Which lay before the great flood
In the area we now call the Atlantic Ocean.
So great an area of land, that from her western shores
Those beautiful sailors journeyed to the South
And the North Americas with ease
In their ships with painted sails.
To the east, Africa was a neighbor,
Across a short strait of sea miles."

"The great Egyptian age is but a remnant
Of the Atlantian culture.
The antediluvian kings colonized the world;
All the Gods who play in the mythological dramas
In all legends from all lands were from fair Atlantis."

"Knowing her fate, Atlantis sent out ships to all corners of the Earth.
On board were the Twelve:
The poet, the physician, the farmer, the scientist, the magician,
And the other so-called Gods of our legends,
Though Gods they were.
And as the elders of our time choose to remain blind,
Let us rejoice and let us sing and dance and ring in the new . . .
Hail Atlantis!"

"Way down below the ocean, where I wanna be, she may be . . .
Way down below the ocean, where I wanna be, she may be . . ."

This is the time of year when all the clothing catalogs drag out their latest swimwear, probably catering to those who are lucky enough to fly to warmer climes and forget that Mud Season is about to arrive, melting the snow and coloring everything in boring hues of brown and dead foliage. So many artists are thinking beachy colors. I'm rather more a beachcomber than a beach-sitter. I love to explore the tidepools hidden in rocky shores and discover the strange, exotic life living there. I am also enamored of National Geographic specials featuring maritime archaeologists who dig up old ships and their long-lost cargoes. Our very own Lake Champlain is full of 17th and 18th century finds that have been preserved in the deep and icy waters of the lake.

So my artistic mind wandered to a space of “Atlantis meets archaeology” while I was experimenting with a cuff design. I had been playing with a new texture tool from my favorite store, the hardware variety – a threaded bolt. When you roll this over raw polymer clay it leaves parallel lines with depth. You can turn it 90 degrees and roll back across and get a checkered effect. But if you roll up the textured clay after one pass and into a spiral, voila! a faux ammonite appears.

So armed with my ammonites and some little textured pieces I had previously done in black clay and cured, I proceeded to cover a brass cuff from my stash that I had put a basic clay layer on but abandoned. My new idea was to line the inside of the cuff with a colored clay veneer and apply multiple organic elements to the top that would be painted to coordinate with it. I was going for an encrusted, elaborate piece that might have been excavated by Jacques Cousteau and the crew of the Calypso.

I was having fun attaching all the bits and pieces and then realized that I really didn't want to have the brass metal of the cuff showing, since my palette was all in silvers and blues. Yikes-- this was going to be a lot more work than I had planned for. But I was committed so I just kept at it. I had done a previous cuff with a tidepool theme and I dug out my favorite tools for the new cuff.

Layers of paint later-- Stewart Gill 'Byzantia', other metallic acrylics--silver gilders wax, faux ammonites, translucent clay pieces antiqued and patinated, the cuff was finished. It's kind of over-the-top and heavy but it really reminds me of something ancient and highly embellished with the kind of patina only time can achieve. It's really a small sculpture and every piece I do, whether or not I wear it, teaches me something. And having looked up the lyrics of Donovan's song, I remember how much I liked them and the ideas they evoked. Some stuff holds its value, even 40 years later.

'Encrusted' cuff - polymer clay and brass

I'll be teaching a class on polymer clay-embellished cuff blanks this year at ArtBliss in September in the DC area. Stay tuned to this blog for more information on classes.  It's a great event with some fabulous teachers and although we won't be doing anything nearly this elaborate, we will be having fun with color and texture and learning lots about using polymer clay.


  1. egads - this is incredible... it tells its own story... i love that song too, and funny enough, i was down on the beach just saturday at low tide, poking around in the rocks looking for things that may have gotten trapped - like smooth stones...
    christine, this reminds me of when the tide goes out and the sand is covered deep in tiny shells and such... so much detail, so much texture, so much beauty...
    you absolutely blow me away with your vision, your execution and your color sense... it is a strength of yours (one of)... but one i admire so very deeply...
    i love how you covered the inside of the cuff as well... beautiful...

  2. Christine, I really enjoyed talking to you over the weekend about your process, about the layers and paint and what goes on while you are creating (in what seems like a cross between a studio and a lab!). :-) It has such a visual impact to see the finished results of what you are describing....adding layers and embellishments. Your cuffs are incredible. Those that take your classes at ArtBLISS are really in for a learning experience!

  3. Absolutely fascinating - another beachcomber here - I can't come away from the beach without treasure - pebbles, shells, sea glass, bits of driftwood - such an awesome piece, Christine! LOVE it. Oh - and I love that song too...

  4. Those are so cool - love that ring, especially!

  5. Those are really beautiful -- and I had to laugh at mud season because I can tell by Zack's school clothes how muddy the playground is!