G'DAY FROM DOWNUNDER
Meet Jewel Lewis:
G'day everyone! This month's feature artist is Jewel Lewis from New Zealand. Jewel has been working with polymer clay for a long time, over 20 years in fact, so in my book that makes her a 'veteran'! Her story is fascinating, so read on:
Jewel and her family live in a rambling two-story house in the beach suburb of Sumner in Christchurch, New Zealand. Along with an extensive family of cats, dogs and frogs, the house also contains Jewel's vast stocks of materials. As a self-confessed hoarder (and what self-respecting clayer isn't a hoarder?), these materials now occupy outbuildings as well.
Wish Dishes and Worry Beads - 1985
The original stables are totally lined with old biscuit tins - six or seven hundred of them at last count, all sporting some very intriguing labels, such as 'Merv Sticks & Chicken Bones'. The labels are there because for the last few years, even Jewel hasn't been able to recall where a particular item is stored, but I expect only she can decode the labels without looking in the tins.
A teeny tiny dolly - 1975
Having mastered many crafts, Jewel has found her real challenge in producing things in the one-inch to one-foot scale. Most of her work is done in Fimo, even down to the tiniest twigs and flowers. This is necessary, she says, "to enable the exportation of 'natural looking' works through stringent customs checks."
Teddy Bear Buttons
Thousands of tiny teddies have passed through her hands, along with just about every other character you could imagine. Although now famous for her character moulds, she started out on her polymer clay journey through the exploration of "millefiori," after receiving an old cylindrical money bead. Fascinated by the pattern, she challenged herself to reproduce it in Fimo. This was the beginning of her work in patterned canes.
Over the years, Jewel has become quite skilled at creating intricate millefiori, with a complicated cane taking up to two days to make. "Nowadays," she explains "I can reproduce a sketch exactly in a cane, but in the early days I never knew quite what I'd made until a cane was finished." Millefiori buttons are probably what Jewel is best known for, with her Ladybird Buttons being included in the book "Artists At Work" by Pierrette Brown Ashcroft and Lindly Huanani.
"Gordon" - 1999 - Polymer Face
About her millefiori work, Jewel states, "When I first saw The New Clay by Nan Roche, I was amazed to see the Smithsonian canes from the 1st century B.C. In my naiveté, I had thought cane faces were my own invention! I started doing millefiori back in 1976 and made the original blue daisy cane that Eberhard Faber photographed as a 'how to' project in their book of 1986 - 'New Fimo Modelling Ideas'. This was the first time the millefiori technique in polymer was published. I am quite proud of this and I could add that they paid me $500 for it!"
"Dramorne" the Dragon Keepers Worry Beads - 1980. Each scale is a mini dragon picture.
In addition to millefiori, Jewel creates miniature figurines and her character moulds, mentioned earlier, using Sculpey, Fimo and resin. Completely self-taught, she has shared her knowledge for the past 20 years, teaching classes in her "Red Shed", a converted 100-year-old stable in her backyard.
Of teaching Jewel says, "I especially love taking novices for millefiori. When they see the samples, they nearly go home again, declaring it too difficult for them. They are not reassured when I tell them I teach 5-year-olds how to do it. When they finally cut their first cane, they scream with delight as they see it has really worked and they have a lovely millefiori picture!"
"Grandmother" - 1996
Jewel is never short of inspiration and feels, like most poly clayers, that there is "never enough time!" She says, "I wake up thinking of things to make" and of course the "miniature housework" takes precedence over the real thing, which proves Jewel certainly does have her priorities straight!
See more of Jewel's work at: