Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Ten on Tuesday: Places to *Find* "Found" Textures

In the world of art, it seems that people are always referring to "found" things-- "found" objects, "found" images, "found" textures. Found textures can be especially useful for the polymer clay artist, as the medium is so receptive to texture. Using found objects for texture appeals to the modern impulse to reuse/recycle/"repurpose" whenever possible-- and whatever is "found" is usually dirt cheap (or even free)-- so it's an appealing concept all around.

But-- have you ever wondered where these things were found in the first place? The beauty of the "found" is that you can happen upon it almost anywhere. All you need is an open mind and the willingness to experiment. If you need a little push in the right direction, keep reading.

Ten on Tuesday: Ten Places to Find "Found" Textures (and Tools)
(Each place is followed by some possible things you might find there and potentially use to texture polymer clay. There's no real rhyme or reason to the ordering of these items.)

1. The Kitchen.
meat tenderizers, forks, dish gloves (the "traction" patterns, especially), cheese grater, colanders, paper towels, sponges, hard foods (pasta, hard candy, nuts), cut/pressed glass (drinking glasses, bowls), trivets, fridge magnets, food packaging (deli boxes, mesh bags, jars with interesting textures), silverware patterns, candy molds, cake decorator tips, cabinet hardware.

2. The Toolbox.
screwdrivers, screws, nails, sandpaper, nuts, bolts, hex tools, keys. Almost any tool will have some sort of texture-- possibly several. Look from all angles.

3. The Great Outdoors.
leaves, ferns, twigs, bark, stones, nuts, cut wood, seashells, garden art, bricks, snail shells, pine cones, tire treads, pet collars and ID tags, fencing materials (whether wood, wire, cast iron, etc.).

4. The Bathroom.
hair clips/barrettes/pins, medicine bottle caps, toothbrushes, combs, make-up brushes, hair brushes, perfume bottles (especially those with raised or indented patterns), safety pins, cabinet hardware, cut/pressed glass containers. Also check deodorant, shampoo/conditioner, lotion, and make-up containers for possible interesting textures.

5. The Home Office.
bubble wrap, paper clips (as they are or bent into new shapes), pen/marker caps, erasers (for carving your own small stamps), mouse pads, coins (domestic or foreign). Some older hardcover books even have textures impressed upon the covers-- but I wouldn't advise trying to use a book for a texture unless it's has no real (or sentimental) value, as the clay could possibly color or damage it.

6. The Closet (or Chest of Drawers).
textured buttons, zippers, soles/treads of shoes, belt buckles, belts (especially those with a more detailed texture, such as braided or stamped leather), drawer pulls, clothes hangers. Some fabrics (lace, for instance) also have enough texture that they can be used as a texturing tool. However, it would be best to try this technique with old garments that are past their prime-- not your favorite, most expensive blouse or your great-grandmother's wedding gown.

7. The Jewelry Box.
textured beads, medallions, brooches. Even clasps can potentially have interesting textures. The box itself may, too.

8. The Craft Closet/Corner/Room.
bits of lace or rickrack, fabric scraps, stamps (not quite "found", but not necessarily bought to use with clay), buttons, zippers, leather tools, beads, cords, wire (that can be bent into "brands"/"stamps" of your own design), scissors, marker caps.

9. Yard Sales / Thrift Stores.
These can be great sources for cheap, unusual items with great textures. Kitchen gadgets, toys, costume jewelry (textured metal/glass), and all sorts of odds and ends. Just keep your eyes peeled and your fingers crossed!

1o. The Waste Basket.
Yes, that sounds a bit odd. (g) What I really mean is this: give things a closer look before tossing them. Ask yourself if there's any possible use for the item-- any unusual texture. If you think there's a chance (and the object isn't filthy or too hard to clean), it's simple to press it into a sheet of scrap clay and see what happens. Possible waste basket rescues include the following: used-up pens (and their caps), disposable food packaging (like deli boxes or glass/plastic jars), broken toys and gadgets. (Take apart old watches or timers to find all kinds of interesting bits and pieces.)

Remember, while you're looking for textures, that raw polymer clay can be sticky and often leaves a residue on whatever it touches. You'll want to thoroughly clean objects after using them as texture tools. Some surfaces may be more difficult to clean than others, and raw clay can stain or otherwise react badly with certain materials (fabrics, finished wood, some plastics). Consider the possible after-effects before putting polymer clay on anything valuable. It is also generally recommended that kitchen tools-- or anything else that comes in direct contact with food-- be dedicated to clay/crafts only, once you use them with clay. Use your own judgment, but try to err on the side of caution.

Here's a related post I wrote last year: Texturing Tools and Other "Found" Goodies.

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