Sally Boehme has been making jewellery for nearly 30 years using many materials - glass beads, lead crystals, pearls, semi-precious stones, polymer clay, fabric and wire. Often, a unique piece be it a cabochon or bead, will set Sally off on an extraordinarily creative journey.
Sally has published work in Bead, Beadwork, Vogue and WI Life magazines over the years. One of her intricate beaded collars was featured in Vogue magazine, after she was contacted by them for an article, and Beadwork Magazine, which is an American publication, featured her waterfall necklace project. This project was a particular favourite for Sally. She had seen a necklace which had been based on a spiral pattern, and this was the basis of her inspiration. Beadwork is much like knitting and crochet in that it uses lots of stitches, so Sally decided to use a Spiral Herringbone stitch, which created the waterfall effect and was interwoven with leaves and flower shaped details. One string of the main spiral is shorter than the other, causing it to twist on itself into the tight spiral shape. The same principles as when a climbing vine winds its way up a cane because one side of the stem (in the sunlight) grows faster than the other.
Today however, at Ardington School of Crafts, Sally is working with her students to create a kaleidoscope of polymer clay jewellery.
What is Polymer clay?
It's a type of malleable hardening clay in a rainbow of colours and effects such as glitter and mica flakes. It can be moulded and cured (that means baked!) in a domestic oven at just 130 degrees centigrade, so it makes for the perfect home craft. The ‘Polymer’ part of the name refers to its chemical base in polyvinyl chloride, so it is a plastic, but despite the bad press some other plastics are currently getting, it’s interesting to note that Polymer clay models can now be found in many major museums in America.
Why do you like to work in it?
Sally says ‘it’s an addiction! It’s sucked me in and won’t let me go. It’s so versatile, and I have used it for miniatures and for jewellery but it can also be used like fabric or for making handbags’. A Google search reveals some fascinating bags sculpted from this material. Sally goes on ‘it can be moulded over wire armatures for sculpture – the possibilities are endless. Perhaps your only constraint is the size of your oven!’
What are the students making today?
Sally explains ‘today our workshop is called A Kaleidoscope of Colour: Stained Glass Inspiration in Polymer Clay. We use small disks of clay, like buttons, made with little cutters, then we load them into an extruder. The extruder is a simple hand tool that pushes clay out through different shaped disks or dyes; we will take multiple colours, plus black, to create a spiral pattern that appears to be almost impossible to make but in fact uses this quite simple tool and technique. The resulting cane is then sliced and applied to various shapes to form beads, buttons, brooches and more for you to take home. You don’t waste a scrap of clay either, it can be reworked and mixed into other colours for even more effects’.
We think you will agree, the above results are remarkable. The students are delighted with their unique and creative makes, which are ready to wear or to gift by the end of the day.
What is your favourite piece of all time?
Sally thinks for a moment and then confidently says ‘the most recent. I have made a lot of flower canes recently . A cane is like a stick of rock forming a pattern when sliced. I made roses, pansies and poppies and have been able to use these for a whole range of jewellery and buttons’. Sally made a lot of poppies last year which she donated to the British legion to raise funds for the WWI Centenary Commemorative Appeal. The flower canes are made by an intricate method using a pasta machine to roll the Polymer clay very thinly and then build up layers of clay in the right order and shapes to make the flowers. Maybe a workshop for more advanced students in the future!
Sally’s final comment of the day, ‘and by the way, that ginger cake was divine! The cake is always very good at Ardington!’
More About Sally
Sally Boehme lives in a rural area of rolling hills, forest and open farmland which along with her love of art - from Renaissance to Impressionist and post-Impressionist – inspire her work and keep her mind buzzing with ideas. If you would like to join any of Sally’s other courses this year, please take a look via clicking on the button below.