Friday, February 24, 2012

Book Review: Enlightened Polymer Clay

If you're an experienced jewelry artist hungry for new techniques and new ideas for using polymer clay to make unusual jewelry, Enlightened Polymer Clay should satisfy. The author has a delicate touch with clay, rolling it out super-thin and making eeny-weeny shapes (porcupine quills, tiny tendrils, etc.) and even shaving it in thin slices that are overlapped to make authentic looking flowers, leaves, and other organic shapes.
Rie Nagumo teaches different techniques such as mokume gane, canes, image transfers, bead shaping, layering clays in unusual ways to make unique beads, color mixing, and more. Her jewelry samples are truly unique; I own most of the published books on polymer clay and in this text I have found several ideas that are brand-new to me.
As others have noted in previous reviews on, this book is not especially geared toward the novice polymer clay artist. Thankfully, there are TONS of books already published with detailed descriptions and photo demonstrations of the basics, and this slim 72-page volume does not repeat much of this information. It is assumed that you already know how to condition polymer clay, form and shape it, roll it out evenly, bake it, etc. And the really basic jewelry skills such as beading, crimping, etc. are assumed.
The first half of the book provides full-page, full-color photos of the finished jewelry with brief descriptions. To learn how to make each piece, you turn to the second half of the book where instructions with excellent color photos and diagrams are provided. An accurate color chart of Fimo classic colors is also included, which is very helpful. Basic instructions with small photos briefly cover conditioning, shaping, color mixing, baking and finishing techniques as well as flattening, rolling, layering, mokume gane (she calls it wood grain patterns), and transferring images.
All of this information is covered very quickly in four pages with very small photos, followed by one page demonstrating how to make a silver ring using fine silver clay. Since the descriptions are brief and the photos are small, I can understand why some reviewers have criticized the book for not providing more in this section.
The instructions for making the jewelry projects in the book begin on page 41, with text provided in a recipe format and some very good line diagrams for some steps. The instructions are well written but very brief and to the point. One note of caution: the text is in small print, so a magnifier may be necessary for some readers!
Altogether I find this an excellent resource; perhaps not the best book for beginners who need help with the basics, but very well suited to intermediate level polymer clay artists who are tired of buying books that repeat basic information already found elsewhere. The author is obviously a very creative and original jewelry designer with a unique aesthetic who shares new ways to be creative and artistic with clay. For this reason, I'm happy to give this book five stars.
Happy wrapping (and clay-ing),


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