When people think of polymers, they think of earth clay pots and hard ceramics. However, far from rigid, polymer clays are extremely versatile and can take on many forms. Carpinteria-based artist Jeanne Carr works plasticine-based polymers into a myriad of forms from her signature handbags to her new experiments with polymer leathers.
“I love the forms that I can make,” said Carr. “Each one is different from the other so they each have their own personality or statement. Everything comes out different with polymer clays, things never come out exactly the same even if I use the same mold.”
Although Carr has only been working with polymers for a few years, she has been a crafter her entire life. She has worked in every kind of media—from fabrics to painting—and for about 10 years she’s been making jewelry, that was until she encountered a set of beautiful earrings that were made from a strange and unfamiliar material. When Carr discovered they were made from intricate layering of polymer clay, she was immediately intrigued by the material’s versatility.
“I bought books and started playing with it and trying different things,” she said. “I looked online at YouTube tutorials and found a couple of seminars. Even now, I just keep learning all the time. There are so many things you can do with polymer, it’s incredibly versatile. I am constantly amazed and inspired.”
Carr has since become well-versed in the medium even as she continues her journey as a self-taught artist. She remains fascinated by the endless directions one can take due to the flexibility of polymer clay. “You always learn from your mistakes and you learn from everybody, every teacher,” she noted. “Createalong.com sells supplies, but they also make videos teaching you how to use veneer surfaces to make jewelry or cover surfaces and they have so many things like paint, chalk, stencils, etc. The possibilities are overwhelming. You can do impressions with molds and you can shape it. There are polymer clay magazines with more mind-boggling stuff that people are doing and it’s all over the world. I can’t wait to sit down and try some of that stuff.”
Carr’s work is creative and relaxing, but most of all it is different every time she sits down to make something new. “The product itself is so versatile, you can do so many things with it and push it in so many different directions,” she said. “I’m always amazed by the possibilities that come from putting the shapes together and manipulating them.”
Carr never shies away from experimenting with her polymers. Recently, she has been toying with incorporating polymers into unlikely objects like accented bowls and handbags. Carr’s polymer handbags are unique, beautiful and, most importantly, they’re a statement. “They’re wearable art that is durable, fun and water-resistant,” she said. “I use my blue one all the time because it goes with everything.”
For the Christmas season, Carr began making polymer Santas modeled after a wood carver in Wisconsin who passed away. “He did these beautiful simple Santas so I decided to honor him by trying my hand at it,” she said. “Since I make them out of clay, each one has its own personality and comes out just a little different from the other ones. Each Santa has a different size and shape.”
Carr tries to make work that will spark “some kind of connection and interest with people,” she said. “Not something that I intentionally put out there, but something that people feel from it.”