Friends and Family in Polymer Clay
by Maureen Carlson
Book Review by
Cindy Pack

Friends and Family In Polymer Clay by Maureen CarlsonIf I had to sum up this book in one word, it would be amazing! If you are a doll or figure maker, if you've ever wanted to be, or if you just love looking at beautiful clay creations, put this book at the top of your list!   This is one of those books that you will see something new in each time you pick it up. There is so much information and detail in this book that I'm sure it will become a classic!

As you can tell,  I really enjoyed this book!  I like the fact that Carlson speaks in layman's terms.  As a reader, I never felt like she was talking down to me.  She lets us know that it takes practice, but that we can do it, too!

In her introduction, Carlson explains how she began to make characters and how she learned what was important for making a sculpted doll or character in clay.  Carlson explains that the book has three focal points:

I have found since reading the book I have really begun studying features on people and noticing the differences between people's faces.

Chapter One is "Understanding the Basics."  If you have several books that explain the basics and think you may skip this chapter, think again.   Carlson has new information in every one of her books. This one is no exception. I also liked the fact that if she can't give full details about something, she gives a source or a book so that readers can find the information.  For example, Carlson doesn't give detailed instructions on making doll clothing, but she does list sources where the reader can find information on making doll clothes.

The next few chapters teach the reader how to understand the features of the face.  Carlson shows in a step-by-step fashion how to begin making a character, give them facial expressions, and make them express emotions.

Chapter Five explores body proportions and caricaturing the body.  Carlson teaches construction methods and proper proportions for body parts.  She also explains the challenges that come from working with photographs of people.

Chapter Six is "Simple Cartoon Impressions and Using Accessories." In this chapter Carlson gives a step-by-step project for a cartoon character and its accessories.

This chapter also has instructions on how to make an overstuffed chair. I love this project! Carlson shows how versatile the chair can be and gives plenty of examples.

Chapter Seven is "Almost Real Caricatures: Capturing a Likeness."  I love how Carlson's  directions are so clear, and every step is accompanied by a photo. Her writing style is so relaxed that I felt as if she was talking directly to me!

Throughout the book are pictures of real people who Carlson is caricaturing. She explains exactly why her figures look like the person, or, in one case, why it doesn't.

Chapter Eight is "Turning Caricatures Into Dolls, Four Easy Shapes."  Carlson demonstrates how to turn a caricature into a doll with patterns that can be expanded or reduced to fit any  project. She gives a material list and step-by-step photo directions.   She also shows how accessories can add so much to a doll, and she gives step-by-step instructions for making wonderfully realistic looking doll shoes.

Chapter Nine focuses on "Problems and Solutions," and at the end of the book Carlson lists a large number of resources.

On the back of the book, Carlson sums up her feelings: "It is such a thrill to focus in on the picture of a well-loved person, to concentrate on capturing that person's essence, and then to hold the little replica in your hand. Looking back. Perhaps smiling. Slightly whimsical. Almost real enough to talk. You'll have to do it to know what I mean."


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