03 December 2021

Featured Artist: December 2021

The December edition of pcPolyzine features polymer clay artist, Samantha Burroughs!

Samantha Burroughs is a polymer clay artist originally from South Africa. She moved to Australia when she was 11 and currently resides in Perth. You may already be familiar with her from her online tutorials, Jessama Tutorials. 

We wanted to learn more about Samantha and here's what she shared with us:

pcPolyzine: How did you get into polymer clay?
Samantha: Well, it's actually a rather long story. I grew up beading thanks to a little bead store down the road in South Africa. 

It was when my family and I moved to Australia in 2011, that I started looking for beading supplies online. It was in one of those stores that I saw a polymer clay section.

I have to admit that I wasn't interested at first, but my mother encouraged me to look into it. We ended up adding a few blocks of Kato polymer clay to the cart and well, the rest is history.

If it wasn't for my mother convincing me to try it out, I don't think I'd be where I am today. She has always been a big influence and supporter behind my work.

pcPolyzine: How long have you been working with polymer clay?
Samantha: It's coming up on almost 11 years now. Most of the first five years were spent trying out just about everything I could think of. Canes, mokume gane, sculpting, faux, mixed media...you name it. I've probably tried it out at some point or another.

Of course most of what I made back then wasn't that great, but it was what I learned that counts. The freedom to play around and experiment was wonderful. Every now and then I'll go back to the pieces I made and give them a revamp now that I know what I'm doing.

pcPolyzine: How do you come up with an idea for a projectdo you plan it or just start working?
Samantha I'm terrible when it comes to forming an idea and sticking to it. I'll always get distracted by a different idea. So I've learned to just go with the flow. I'll start out with a very rough idea or sketch and just work from there. Sometimes it's a disaster, but more often than not, it turns out better than my original idea.

I know this method doesn't work for everyone, but for me, the freedom to challenge boundaries and try new things is what I love about this art form. 

pcPolyzine: What inspires you to create pieces in polymer clay?
Samantha:  Most of my pieces are inspired by the natural world. Plants, animals, landscapes, weather, the ocean, it's all so beautiful and is more often than not, what influences my work.

Instrumental music is also a big part of my creative process. I often will listen to classical music while creating. It often prompts ideas and thoughts that would otherwise have never occurred to me.

It also makes the tedious parts of my work more fun as nodding to my favorite tune is better than sanding in silence.
pcPolyzine: What's your favorite piece or project you've made in polymer clay?
Samantha: I have a lot of pieces that compete for this place, but my absolute favorite would have to be my first successful attempt at creating faux labradorite.

It's not my best or most complicated work, but it's certainly the one that gave me the most fulfilment when I finally got it right.

I worked on the technique for three years on and off before I got it to the point where I was happy.

It's still the piece that I'm most proud of and I'm not sure that will be changing anytime soon.

pcPolyzine: What are your favorite (or most important) tools you use when working with clay?
Samantha: Obviously my top tools include a tissue blade, a ceramic tile, and a pasta machine. These are the basic essentials when it comes to working with polymer clay.

However, I do have an unusual favorite and that would have to be a heat gun. Not a craft heat gun either, an industrial heat gun. I use it for so much:
  1. Heating the ceramic tile in winter to make working with clay easier.
  2. Heating and semi baking clay so I can create crackles.
  3. I use it to cure translucent liquid clay into beads. It creates a wonderful glossy finish on the pieces.
  4. I use the lower heat setting to quick dry paint, alcohol ink, and other mixed media. 
Those are just a few ways I use my heat gun.

pcPolyzine: Do you have any advice for new artists to polymer clay?
Samantha: Don't be discouraged when you don't get it right the first time. Many say that practice makes perfect, but that doesn't mean you have to just stick to trying one technique over and over again. Sometimes it just doesn't want to fit. I tried sculpting for a long time and it's just never really worked for me.

Try to dabble around in as many different techniques as possible. Watch and read as many tutorials as possible. Soak in everything and don't be afraid to try new things. You'll fall in love with one technique or many and it will just flow from there.

Also, don't let other artists' perfect pieces intimidate you. More often than not, they have been working with polymer clay a lot longer than you. Don't think that they don't make mistakes, too. No one wants to show off their duds. I have about three big boxes full of them and it's still growing. It's normal to have flops.

However, my number one tip for said failures is to NOT bake them. Once you've baked the clay, it's almost impossible to reuse it. You may still end up with a lot of scrap clay, but at least you can use that.
  1. Try sculpting your own texture stamp.
  2. Use the scraps to create shape templates.
  3. It can be used as bead cores. Wrap a colorful veneer around it and you'll never know that most of the bead is scrap clay.
  4. Use it to practice techniques such as crackle. That way if you over bake the clay, you only wasted scrap and not the good stuff.
And those are just the ways I use the really ugly stuff. If you have colorful scraps, such as cane ends, you can try a wide variety of techniques that will recycle it into something you can wear. If you're looking for ideas, I have a bunch on my YouTube channel Jessama Tutorials. 

So don't be afraid to mash up your duds into scrap clay. You'll use it more than you think!

pcPolyzine: Any final thoughts for our readers?
Samantha: As I've said before, don't be afraid to experiment. As soon as you constrict yourself to rules and regulations, the fun and excitement goes out the window.

This of course is my personal point of view. I've never been one to follow rules or let others dictate how I use the polymer clay and neither should you. This art form has endless uses and has so many wonderful effects just waiting to be discovered. So have fun and play around. You never know what you might come up with!

pcPolyzine: Samantha, your jewelry is beautiful and we love your tutorials. We are excited to share your work with the pcPolyzine community. Thank you for taking time to share with us!

To connect with Samantha and see more of her work, check her out on Facebook, on her website, at her Etsy store, and especially on her YouTube channel!


Patricia Bearden said...

Awesome advise! I'm still so nervous to play around to see what I end up with. To afraid I'll just make more scrap clay! I need to learn to play more and worry less! Thank you so much for all you do for the polymer clay community! Keep up the awesome work!

D’Anna said...

Samantha is one of my favorite PC artists! So generous with her talent with all the free tutorials. Thank you, you kept me sane during lockdown.

Unknown said...

Samantha is why I started and kept working with polymer. Her Tutorials are descriptive and easy to follow. Congratulations

Anonymous said...

When first starting out with polymer clay I methodically followed Samantha’s tutorials from her website from learning all the fundamentals and endlessly watched her YouTube Channel videos. I consider her my most consequential mentor because she taught me how to finish my work well and I credit her great teaching skills for making my work better.