In the final part of my Polymania blog post I share with you my experience of learning from polymer clay artist Donna Kato.
Sunday was the final day and the workshop started at 9 am instead of 10 am – mainly because the tutors worried about the time and how long we can use the ovens for. So we had to make sure we arrived in time – thankfully the traffic was not bad on a Sunday morning.
Unfortunately Emily fell ill on Sunday and wasn’t there to help, but Cara recruited two lovely ladies, Fiona Abel-Smith and Angela Smith, to condition all my clay! Not only did they condition all clay, but they actually laid it out on poly pockets and marked which piece was to be used for which part of the project. This made it very easy for me to work.
My table with canes. – copyright Helen White
Donna’s projects were two pretty, big and rather chunky rings – I don’t really wear rings and certainly not chunky ones. Most rings won’t fit me unless I make them myself. My hands are often either claying or doing other things, so I don’t wear rings unless I go out on special occasions. My engagement still doesn’t fit (my fingers are skinny, unfortunately the rest of me isn’t).
Anyway I digress. Donna’s impressive rings were both made using the same components. And making those components obviously takes a long time. I have never been taught by Donna before – but I have her books and she kindly signed both for me. I often struggled to follow her instructions in the book, because I am never sure how big the canes are and how much clay you really need. So it was really a revelation when she showed us her caning technique. The secret to the way she works is simple: keep it small. Her canes don’t require as much clay and they are indeed small – great for storing, easier to assemble and reduce. Her way of creating skinner blends is also really easy. Donna’s teaching style can be described in one word: fun. She is a funny lady and she is very patient – didn’t mind people taking photos and it was good to listen to her explanations. It’s one thing learning it all from the book, but actually seeing her in action is another thing. I have bought one of her own CraftEdu tutorials ages ago and really should find the time to crack on with it.
Donna Kato – copyright Helen White
As you can see I took a few photos to show you Donna in action and her beautiful canes. I like her approach to clay. While she was teaching us all she talked about her horses and why she loves claying and prefers it to lampworking.
Donna conditioning some clay. – copyright Helen White
All the canes for the rings required skinner blends, but some of them were created in a slightly different way. She showed us how to reduce each cane. The components for the donut ring were: a bull’s eye cane, an elaborate triangular cane, tiny bull’s eye canes and a leaf cane. I also added a tiny jelly roll cane.
Some of Donna’s neat canes – copyright Helen White
Time was ticking though and we all had a tough time keeping up and finishing our pieces. Before lunch she showed us how to create the donut shape and assemble all cane components, insert the grommets and assemble the ring.
After assembling the donut beads they went into the oven and we went to lunch.
Donna showing me how to reduce one of the canes – copyright Helen White
The finished donut ring – copyright Helen White
After lunch we continued with ring number two, which was created differently. It’s a nifty design which allows you to change the top which is glued onto a big popper. So you keep the same ring band but you can take the ring off and change it for a different design. I bought lots of grommets and one bag of these poppers of Donna so I can make another one with different colours and canes. Donna also showed us how to make a zipper cane which forms the band on the bottom of the second ring.
The finished domed ring – copyright Helen White
Time really flew by, and I even managed my migraine with strong painkillers. At the end of this weekend all participants came away with a goodie bag, lots of beads, a beautiful pendant, a lovely statement necklace and bold impressive rings.
Workshop certificate – copyright Helen White
I think we finished at about 5 pm and started packing up. I managed to buy some extra clay and tools from Penny Vingoe of Clayaround so I have now some Kato clay to play with. And because I was so busy I forgot to ring my husband to ask him to pick me up. This meant he arrived at about 7.30 pm! In the meantime I helped Cara, Bettina and Donna to tidy up the room and pack away all ovens. And finally I got my photo with all tutors and myself – courtesy of Cara’s husband.
Group photo: Cara Jane Hayman, Donna Kato, Helen White, Bettina Welker – copyright Helen White
All in all this was a very productive and enjoyable weekend.
There were only a few things I didn’t like:
- The room was too hot, which made it sometimes unbearable to work in and might have contributed to my migraines.
- Though all projects were lovely – they were time consuming to create and it felt like being rushed to get it all finished in time. It was a bit like a marathon. I think maybe projects which take half a day and more time to play with techniques and socialise would be nicer.
- Being stuck at the same table for three days isn’t so great. I would have loved to get to know more people in the room. Some of my FB friends were sitting in different groups and I could only briefly talk to them.
- Maybe doing the bead swap as part of a get-to-know-each-other on the first day would be better.
- In hindsight I should have stayed in the hotel – the reason I didn’t was really a financial. I was lucky enough to be able to pay for the workshop itself. Driving back and forth from Cardiff to Bristol each day not only took it out of me, but also my poor husband, who had to do this every day. He should have got a discount at the toll bridge!! Staying in the hotel would have meant to be able to socialise more with the other participants, because this is really one of the reasons why you go on a workshop like this.
I think if I attend another workshop I would opt for a two-day one.
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