New work 9.25

Hello you all! My studio is a buzzing beehive of activity getting ready for Paradise City in two weeks. Today, rather than many brooches, here are three necklaces to show you. For everything you see here, there are ten new things that will be at the show. Come say hello, booth 207.
Paradise City Arts Festival~ Northampton Mass, Oct. 6, 7, and 8
Or! Come to my open studio Sunday September 30, from 4 – 7 pm, in Santa Fe.

SeaCliff 3, hinged necklace: polymer, acrylic, crystal   Tory Hughes©2012   18″, central element 3″ across.

Papeete Necklace, polymer   Tory Hughes©2012   18″, central element 2.5″ tall

This tribute to Polynesian plant life shows off mokume gane techniques. Papeete is Tahiti’s big city.  Near Polynesia, you lucky creature?  I’ll be teaching polymer in Australia next August and September. Variations on mokume, translucencies and other luscious approaches! Sign up now: please contact Roz Eberhard at the Sydney Jewellery School.  For workshop information, please sign up for my newsletter, to the right of my blog.

And back to the fog-covered, sun-shimmering hills of San Francisco, for another SeaCliff necklace. San Francisco is the home of my heart, my imagination. The feel of the light bouncing off the ocean and bay, the vibrancy to the air, ahh.

SeaCliff 2 hinged necklace; polymer, acrylic, glass, gold  Tory Hughes©2012   19″ central element 2.75″ across

SeaCliff is an ongoing series: in each,  jointed elements hinge in layered translucent colors and iridescent textures. I’ll post explorations as I go along.

Congratulations to Bruce Pepich, director of RAM, who was selected as an ACC Honorary Fellow for his contributions and over 25 years of dedication to fine craft in America! Bruce was farsighted in establishing a major museum collection of polymer art at the Racine Art Museum, from which came the Terra Nova show and catalogue, and the Polymer Symposium last fall. RAM’s acknowledgement of the importance of polymer as an art medium will encourage and catalyze artists for years to come. Become a member of RAM- they are truly a wonder-filled museum.

One last note: whatever your affiliation:
>> Make sure you are registered to vote, and go do it!

See you soon, and more jewelry images to come your way in a few days. Best wishes for all your creative endeavours- Tory

Treasure Necklaces, Dancing, and You!

Ha! Artists live longer with clearer minds: just get out there and dance! This recent article from Stanford, based on a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, writes that

Frequent dancing apparently makes us smarter. A major study added to the growing evidence that stimulating one’s mind can ward off Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia, much as physical exercise can keep the body fit.  Dancing also increases cognitive acuity at all ages.

The table of figures in the article listed these tested activities against a reduction in your mind’s acuity
“Bicycling and swimming – 0%
Playing golf – 0%
Reading – 35%
Doing crossword puzzles at least four days a week – 47%
Dancing frequently – 76%.”

When I get involved in intricate stringing in a necklace, like this newest Treasure Necklace, “Peruvian Spring”, developing those intriguing and always-changing patterns of beads has always felt like puzzle-solving. I love crossword puzzles, especially those fiendish cryptic styles. And since I’m very kinesthetic, making these necklaces has always felt like I was dancing back and forth across the curves of the necklace, improvising patterns and establishing unexpected relationships between colors, textures and shapes. Balance, move, adjust, add, balance, turn, and on and on. Of course my feet are not so involved, but the rest of my body and mind is, and benefits as a result.

My dear artist-pal and dreamer Victoria Rabinowe got me dancing again- it’s brought great joy back into my life. Bead artist Babette Cox gave me her gorgeous silver-enhanced lampworked bead for this necklace.

So why are you sitting here reading this? Go dancing!

Afterwards, come to my jewelry trunk show this weekend, where this brand-new sweetie and others will be available for you.

I’ll have new and special things in my studio that will not be on my gallery shop, so remember, 12-5 Saturday and Sunday if you’re local.

Mambo-ing for good luck, healthy minds, and creative lives for all of us-

Come visit my Jewelry Open Studio May 26+27

Hello all-
You’re invited to my jewelry trunk show this weekend!
Saturday and Sunday May 26+27, from noon to 5pm

Showing at my studio:
• Stunning, shimmering necklaces that arc and move.
• Luminous contemporary brooches.
• Evocative hinged pendants redolent of ancient cultures.
• Witty, engaging postage-stamp brooches.
• Colorful, playful beaded necklaces.
I’ll also be selling objects, vessels and artists’ books.

Summer’s Day Jewelry Show and Open Studios

Saturday and Sunday, May 26 and 27, from 12 noon to 5pm

1519 Upper Canyon Road, Santa Fe

Visit our leafy oasis and art complex,
and take time to chat with us and see what inspires us.
Shop for jewelry
and objects
that express your personal style.

Bring your friends and have a day out.
There’ll be cool refreshments and bonbons; please carpool if you can.
Please join us under the cottonwoods for a magical summer day!


RAMalicious! New Work for Terra Nova Exhibition

Here! For you:
Detail from my SeaCliff series, new work made specially to wear and take along when “Terra Nova- Polymer Art at the Crossroads” opens at RAM in Racine Wisconsin this Friday. This peice: polymer in various techniques: larger elements are pin-hinged together.
Excitement around the Terra Nova Exhibition, RAM’s Polymer Symposium, as well as the Polymer Collection and its inclusion in Ornament Magazine and American Craft Magazine, has been building steadily for the past several months
I’m one of the ‘boundary breakers’, the featured artists, and for me it is a celebration indeed, after All These Years of working in polymer. You don’t need to hear how many years anymore.

Racine is definitely The Place to Be this week.

People are coming from around the US and abroad to participate, ogle, shop at the excellent RAM store, and connect around a love of what is possible in this medium.
This pivotal event marks polymer’s recognition as a valid and valuable art medium, and establishes RAM as a museum to be watched. The catalogue is stunning by the way, bring yours for signing if you are coming to RAM.
The RAM staff is outstanding to work with. They sparkle with the genius of a small museum with a clear vision and unified goals. You’ll definitely be hearing more about them and this unique museum!
I fly out tomorrow, to present an evening program for RAM staff and docents. Then I teach a two-day immersive overview class ‘Holy Polymer, Batman!‘ – their brilliant title,  before the big Opening Gala Friday night. Saturday and Sunday we’ll be at the Polymer Symposium, held at the Frank Lloyd Wright “Wingspread” home.

I’ve been deliciously immersed in my studio for the last week, working on this new series.
SeaCliff is a reference to an area of San Francisco,
my personal candidate for ‘Most Beautiful City in the World’.
This series is meant to be light, colorful, sparkling, rich, and full of exuberant energy. Here’s an image of that neckpiece. Photo courtesy Penina Meisels who also did the photos for the catalogue.
This recent work finally lets me carry forward approaches
that I began 20 years ago: and unite them with all I’ve learned and developed in the last couple of decades working in polymer and mixed media.

I’m happy with the result, and thrilled to feel that creative momentum moving in me again.

Presaging the late-night conversations sure to take place in the next few days, a number of us have already gotten involved in fascinating, substantive discussions about Beauty, Content, the nature of Craft, Technicians and Artists, the role of polymer in contemporary art and fine craft, and the differing agendas of people working in this medium.
I feel like I am in college, full of anticipation and excitement about what is ahead. Hope you can pick up the buzz through your inbox!

How rich, how exciting!

I hope to post while there, although our schedules are very full of wonderful, provocative events and dialogues.
Please come, and stay tuned.

Watershed events mean things are different in a big way from here on out.
Buckle up!

Talk to you in a few days- Tory

Santa Fe Standards Necklace

Santa Fe Standards is a polymer necklace reflecting my experience in northern New Mexico. The finished necklace costs $720 and exhibited in August 2011 at my Souvenirs Show in Santa Fe.

Santa Fe combines layers of culture and belief as varied and obdurate as the rocks that shape this area. Color, pageantry, enigmatic emblems, deep beliefs, the crossroads of ideas, desires, goals, tradition and innovation- all overlay each other upon the landscape.

How to create and tie these diverse elements together?
A fat, square cross would be a good size and shape for the polymer elements. This shape evokes many aspects of life here: the impact of faith of all kinds, the big, historic intersection of trade routes and highways, this area as a place of transformation -even New Mexico’s map edges into this same shape, go figure. So this shape will be the basic element.

These were the first three polymer elements I gathered.
Imitatives and related techniques were my choice for this necklace: here’s imitative turquoise and a secret technique of mine. Further on you’ll see other stone and natural materials. To learn how to do these imitative techniques, please go here to my DVD shop
Those seemed too typical on their own, so I made and added other elements to introduce more color and to begin to reference different aspects of New Mexico. The black and white piece is patterned by embossing a commercial wooden object, so I will be replacing it by one I patterned myself.

This is a more satisfying combination. However, the colors don’t have this area’s warmth to me.
Looking at an earlier necklace of mine I found a color range I like. Here’s my  older necklace added in as color pallette:

I made a few elements in this saffron color range and added them to see the color balance.

I liked this color selection better. Time to move on: the Third Direction is Take Sustained Action, now that I’d started with what works.
First I made a black and white piece with my own patterning.
Next I detailed out the crosses, to add materials and imagery that would refer to specific aspects of my experience of Santa Fe
I added four silver nail heads to the red ‘jasper’ square, for the traders from four corners of the world that come here.
I inlaid ‘coral’ onto the larger light turquoise square for my own artistic development here, since this is one of my favorite combinations and such a natural in inlaid native American jewelry.
The black and white element here replaces the one I’d made using a commercial embossing, and to me whispers of contemporary ceramics in this area.
The darker turquoise cross with the hammered silver spiral is for the spiritual seekers of all kinds who come here, learn, and stay or move on.
The white cross is a reference to Spanish Catholicism and its impact on this area.
Upper left is a ‘sandstone’ fragment with the inlaid turquoise fiery sun motif of Zia Pueblo- the symbol and New Mexico itself. I wanted this version to be a bit old and mysterious in appearance, so made it darker and shadowed.
That large amber cross-shape with my Maori inset is because I like the colors, and because one of my goals in this series is to finally get around to ideas that have been in my head for years.
I have suggested often to personalize the imitative techniques by using non-traditional colors and textures with them. This amber colored ‘turquoise’ has been nagging at me for ten years. At last
Next step was deciding how to string these.
I decided to use just the nine larger elements. I knew that I didn’t want to hang them from a central point, like all the crosses on chains one sees here in the galleries.
Each autumn for Fiestas de Santa Fe, the banners of New Mexico’s original families are hung around the Plaza, and I liked the similarity of intention and place.
I was inspired by these hanging banners or standards that many cultures use to identify their lands and communities.
A different attachment was in order.  To preserve the integrity of the square cross shape I filed a shallow groove, and added tubing across the top to carry the beadalon along.

Once the elements were ready to go, with the tubing safely glued into its channels, I could string the pieces.
I wanted a bright silver, so the tubing and the beads would enhance each other. Four double-holed silver plaque beads from my stash supported three strands of narrow silver tube beads, with three cross-shapes on each strand.

Here’s a detail of the stringing and the double and triple strands, becoming one strand before the catch.

And here’s a detail of the catch itself, which I fabricated from more imitative turquoise polymer and two of the bright silver cube beads:

Here’s the finished necklace, again in a rough studio process shot.

These images are for you to track the development of an idea.

A Happy Artist KEY:
Remember that art develops as you work on it. Very very rarely for anyone does the finished peice look precisely like what was sketched at the beginning. Allowing yourself to respond to the moment is a part of mastery.

I am happy with this piece and it has a nice presence for the show. There is more I’d like to do with this idea, but this version is finished.

A favor: If you would like to comment on this post, please add your comments here, at the bottom of the blog itself.
Many of you write very eloquent and thoughtful comments, but then email them to me and no one gets to see them

Next time post: I lived in Paris for several years as a teenager. Of course I had to do a Souvenir piece about Paris. But the Paris I’m most fond of is not the grands monuments and the museums, but the big gardens, the golden architectural details, that Parisian sense of style and feminine lightness. There are many pieces to make about Paris. Here’s the first one:
It’s called ‘Au Printemps, Paris’ and some of you may know why.

Coba Necklace: Yucatan Talisman R+R

This Coba necklace, a polymer+ mixed media assembled piece using metallic applique techniques to conjure Mayan iconography, was made after a magical, haunting trip to the Yucatan years ago. I’m fixing it up to exhibit as part of my Souvenirs exhibition. My friend Tania’s wearing it here.

Coba is an ancient Mayan city in the heart of the Yucatan. The Yucatan jungle is short and dry, unlike the lush moist canopies of tropical jungles.

That thick, irregular leafiness and the unexpected presence of ancient fragments inspired me once I was back in my studio. This Coba necklace is my talisman: an object that connects me to the ideas, feelings, and abilities of my experience there.

Mixing media is the perfect approach to create talismans. By incorporating different media, we stitch together realities, histories, and magic, while we combine different materials and objects.

To ready Coba for display in this show, I updated my construction techniques, re-applied the gold, and added materials and elements I didn’t have when I originally made it. I’ll show you, and I’ll briefly discuss how the original was made.

Here’s an old photo of the original and its condition before I fix it up:

Poor thing. Big issues:

• The metallics- faded and some bits were missing.
• The beads- some are missing, overall selection needs refining and rearranging to better express what I wanted.
• The commercial clasp was long overdue for personalizing.


1. Photocopy Coba for a quick, real-size record of what I started with, to refer to later as needed.
2. After clearing an open space on a textured white cloth, I cut the stringing cords and slid the beads off, keeping them in order as much as possible.

3. I touched up the metallic areas–  three ‘gold’ acrylic paints with metallic powders mixed in to add rich depth to the gold. When I first made Coba, this rich range of metallicized acrylic pigments wasn’t available. Now there are quite a variety of effects and materials to choose from. Metallic surface techniques are covered in this DVD.

These spacer beads are a good example of ‘metallic appliques’. I metallicize sheets of polymer and then cut them into tiny shapes, pressing them gently onto the underlying polymer to adhere. I like the richly textured surface I get, and also appreciate my ability to create exactly the imagery I want by using this process.

Snail, Turtle, Armadillo and Crab

These four spacer beads do much more than carry multiple strands along. The four animals shown hold up the world in the Mayan cosmology. Tiny gold balls on the top of each spacer are the Mayan counting system, from one to four. The style of golden textured decoration is similar to that on the carved architectural facades I saw. For the Bead Shapes DVD, which includes spacer bead approaches, go here.

Let’s chat briefly about the central pendant itself.
This is an assembled mixed-media piece that uses polymer to physically and visually integrate the non-polymer elements. From the top, and lowest in the layers:

a large abalone tablet, thin, with rounded corners. There is a hole in the top of it, notice, allowing a split ring that holds this pendant onto the doubled beads above.
• the polymer layer that sits on the abalone and supports the metal element at the bottom; covered with metallic applique and ornamented with real scarab beetle wings: these are a pair of Victorian cufflinks, and I took one apart to set the wings on each side of the eagle, then left one in its prong setting above the eagle.
an antique metal brooch, with granulation and filigree, and a three-dimensional eagle head that clutches a double tier of long oval bells in its beak. The brooch I found at an antique show in New Hampshire years ago, and kept for the right occasion.
All were baked together, then glued with the right glues for their media after baking.

4. Next I restrung the entire piece, originally four strands of beads, in three layers. Now I’ve added a new strand of beads to the outside curve to enhance that dense leafiness. I changed out older beads that either looked tired or were no longer right for my aesthetic goals. I recreated the original pair of doubled knobbed brass dangles on either side of the central pendant.

5. To do this required double, triple and quadruple strands of beads. The number of strands needed to be added or dropped depending on their position along the overall drape of the necklace.

Here’s a detail of the multiple strands merging and decreasing:
This meant careful attention to the number and shape of beads used, the cord chosen – I always use some form of nylon-coated braided steel cable, like Beadalon, and I appreciate the color range now available, another option not around when this necklace was made.

And I use crimp beads. I find crimp beads quite effective when they are the right size for the cord and quantity of strands I am crimping together.

Here’s an image of several sizes of crimp beads. See the detail below also.
Look at the size of them when crimped onto the cord, compared to the size of the cord. The bright silver bead fits best. The thick nickle does not hold onto the doubled cord, but is appropriate for the six strands of mixed cord sizes I added all the way in the left of the photo.

Crimping also requires beads whose holes are big enough to slide over the crimp beads and hide them. Or crimp beads which when crimped are still pleasing and congruent with the necklace.

6. I fabricated a polymer exterior clasp over the commercial barrel clasp by baking a textured green polymer, slicing through the middle of it after baking, and adding gold paint to enhance the embossed surface. This thicker clasp is also easier to manipulate.

7. The redone piece is now even more like my memories of the Yucatan jungle.

Next time, Black and White in a different approach to polymer construction and surfaces.

Have fun, and see you soon-


Tahitian Flora Sketches and Polymer Mokume Gane

Update – Studio work for my Aug. 1 show:
My theme is souvenirs of places I have visited, in real life or in my imagination. Today:

Papeete, capital of Tahiti: Floral fecundity.

In a grand and intriguing gift from the Universe (thanks!) I went to Tahiti several years ago with a small group of wonderful people.
Someday I’ll tell you the story, it’s pretty remarkable, and goes to show that all of our life experiences are part of the Big YinYang. All are personal perceptions of good and bad, embraced by change. Never a dull moment, as my friend Katrina says.

Back to art: For this necklace, I want to convey the lush, opulent  abundance of the flowers at the Papeete municipal marketplace. I want to make a souvenir for myself, and translate my impressions into a material object.”Flora” is its title until I know if it will be as I intend.

In Tahiti outrageous plantlife abounds everywhere. Hibiscus blossoms the size of dinner plates, bright blue water lilies crowding the canals, thick green fern fronds unfurling six feet tall in dense bamboo groves, enormous ginger and protea, be still my heart.

One of a kind pieces are often like this. We have a good idea and a bunch of faith, and then we plunge in.
Art is a practice, and a damn funny one for all its intensity.

So first things first. Five simple directions:
Intention, check: as above.
Start with what works: I want to use Mokume Gane, for opulent magical patterning with variations and layered color combinations. I’ll try opaque colors with a hint of pearl for this project. Check.
Schedule: heck, I need to get 15 necklaces made in six weeks. You do the math. Let’s go.

Mokume Gane is an prolifically rich and fascinating polymer technique.

1. With a rough idea for the feeling of the piece in mind, I sketched and cut out a selection of possible shapes for mokume gane elements. I make different shapes when I draw then when I work in polymer, enabling a different design approach. This inspires  – and reminds me – that there are many many more ways to do something than what has always worked in the past

2.Gathering them onto my work surface, I brought together polymer clay bodies that felt right: rich light colors, varying translucencies, pearlescents and opaques.

3.  I made a range of sample mokume combinations of colors and impressions. Some I like, some I don’t.  Some will be wonderful for brooches but are not exactly what I want for this necklace. These fragments approach the rich colors I want, but I need lots of volume, and less translucent layering.

4. These fragments were more like what I wanted, so I laid them on a pearlescent lavendar polymer, and made a trial element for Flora. Liked it well enough to proceed.

5. Here’s the pearlescent lavendar I mixed, and the color swatch for the layers of mokume gane  so that I could duplicate the pad and make more of the same patterning for additional elements.

6. The sample single element; I like it, will make the rest of the pieces and will finish the necklace, but it does not look like the feeling of the Papeete flower market, so right now, I’m calling this necklace ‘Flora’ rather than ‘Papeete’ and will continue to experiment with materials and approaches that translate my sensory experience of the  market into a solid object. This isn’t wrong or bad, I like the necklace. Just not quite what I have in my mind.

7. The group of six finished elements. I made a slight cup shape in each one before baking, pressing the back of my knuckle gently into the polymer clay, then baked them cradled in that shallow paper cone you see above.

In future posts, I’ll figure out how to attach these six elements into a durable and wearable necklace, adding beads and construction details. We’re not done yet!

8. Detail of the shallow cup shapes. Rather than have flat cutout shapes like the paper sketches, I wanted more dimensionality and life, since these are referencing blossoms.

9. Mokume gane usually results in supplemental usable fragments. Way cool, a bonus to play around and make new pieces. Here’s a few partially finished elements – fragments laid on curved supports- that will be mokume gane broochesat the gallery shop in the very near future.

That’s it for Flora right now. I’ve got other projects to do and explore while this is percolating along.

10. Next post:

In this post, kinda like a movie trailer, I showed you the Flora progression as a fast and constant flow. However there were detours here and there, when the process was ebbing instead of flowing.
In one of them, I fixed up an early favorite of mine, and in the next post I’ll take you through restringing and rejeuvenating my  ‘Coba’ necklace from 1994. I’ll be putting this in the show as well, because it is one of my favorite translations from “sense of place” to wearable art.

Where have you been that you’d like to translate into a wearable form? Why?

My best wishes for all your creative endeavours!