Today I would like to introduce you to Leah Radlett, one of our Moderators in our Whimsical Sculpting Facebook Group. I am pleased to share her work with you today and share her story and let you get to know her better. I haven’t known Leah long, but I am so happy to have her here and to share her work with you.
About Leah Radlett:
My name is Leah Radlett. I’m a polymer clay artist and part-time librarian who lives in Adelaide, South Australia. I’ve been married to my husband for 20 years and have two children, a boy, and a girl, aged 14 and 12. We also have a sweet kitten Billy who keeps us on our toes! I have many different hobbies, such as reading, playing the flute, drawing, and painting. My faith in God is very important in my life and has led me along many paths, including this one as a polymer clay artist. I love the tactile nature of polymer clay, and enjoy sculpting in a different way, using hundreds of little balls of polymer clay to make my artworks. I am inspired by my faith, the beauty of nature, and the way light can be represented in art.
What’s the History of Your Art & How You Got Where You Are Today?
I’ve always loved art and would prolifically sketch as a child. I used to fill copious sketchbooks with pictures of things ranging from animals and birds; to people and architecture. I would also spend hours creating what I called bubble art, where I drew a picture in ink and filled the entire composition with little circles.
As a teenager, I studied art in high school and tossed up various career ideas, such as being a musician (I play flute) and a librarian. I never considered art because I never felt like I was good enough. In the end, I chose to study to be a librarian. This ended up being a good choice because I ended up with a career as well as a husband!
Fast forward 20-odd years and my life took another direction. In about 2016, I started creating art regularly again. My kids were getting a bit older, and I could get back into the type of things I enjoyed doing in my spare time.
One day, I was reading a craft catalog when I saw polymer clay mentioned. I’m a Christian, and although it may seem crazy to some, I felt in my spirit that I needed to try it. It wasn’t a feeling you get when you want to buy something; it was God prompting me to try something new. The other time in my life I felt something similar was when I met Stephen, my husband. It’s a significant feeling where you know that it’s bigger than you and that God has a plan. That making a certain decision will change your life and you can almost feel God’s plans (so hard to describe).
So I bought some of this polymer clay, which I’d never heard of before that moment. I started out just sculpting little figures with my then 6-year-old daughter. I then moved on to creating jewelry pieces.
I mainly used the slab technique for creating jewelry components and was inspired by polymer clay jewelry designers, mandalas, and impressionist artists. One day, I decided to combine a few ideas together. I wanted to create a picture made out of balls of clay, reminiscent of the bubble pictures I created as a child. I wanted to create an artwork that also had great texture. I used the slab technique that jewelry designers use, but instead of cutting the slab up into different components, I kept it whole as a tile. I created a square of raw clay and added the balls of raw clay to it. Everything stuck together nicely, so I could create the picture organically. The finished piece was a sea scene, and my polymer clay pointillism mosaic technique was born. I was addicted to the process, so continued to make many more.
I still create these pointillism artworks but have also branched out into polymer clay painting. Both of these techniques allow me to express myself through my art.
What Makes Your Art Unique?
I think my artwork is unique in that it is presented like a painting or other artwork that is framed so that you can display it in your home. Most of the other polymer clay works I’ve seen are jewelry designs or sculptures. There don’t seem to be as many polymer clay artists creating 2D artworks, although it is becoming more popular.
I also think my style is unique. I wasn’t aware of any other polymer clay dot artists when I first began making my polymer clay pointillism pieces but have since discovered the incredibly talented New Zealand artist Claire Fairweather. Her technique is quite different, however. She appears to use a mosaic technique using baked polymer clay circular tiles, whereas my technique is much more organic and involves less planning.
Combining the above with compositions often inspired by my Christian faith, and the small nature of my artworks also adds some individuality.
Where is Your Art Created?
I spent many years creating my artwork at my kitchen table. I used a small trolley containing plastic drawers to store my tools and polymer clay. This would be wheeled next to me at the table, then stored in a corner of my family room when not in use.
As I started creating more art, I really wanted a dedicated space for my work. We have a room in a shed in our backyard, and I cleared a space in there that became my work area. I have a lovely big desk, and still have a trolley where I store my polymer clay. I have lots of space for my tools, and the best thing is that I can leave an in-progress artwork on the desk in a container, without having to pack it up each time. I also have a little gallery wall where I can display some of my art and any inspiration I need.
Tell Us About a Few of Your Pieces
I think my favorite item is my 100th polymer clay artwork titled “Gratitude”, featuring a lion. This was a larger piece, 5.9 x 5.9 inches, and is possibly my most time-consuming artwork. I think it took over 10 hours to complete! I wanted to create a statement piece that represented the gratitude I had for my art journey thus far and represented the thankfulness I had to God for starting me on the journey in the first place.
I think my most meaningful piece is “Just hold on”. This is a 4×4 inch artwork featuring my pointillism technique in the background and a sculpture of two hands holding.
A number of years ago, I was going through an extremely difficult time at work (as a librarian). There were many tears! But God gave me a vision of His hand holding mine- holding me up. He wanted me to know that He was with me; helping me in my time of distress. Whenever I feel anxious, the image of Jesus holding my hand has helped me get through.
I created the background from my idea of a heavenly place. The lower part of the background is a bit darker representing what I felt at the time, and the top is lighter. I also created different skin tones on each hand- one representing me (the lighter skin tone) and one Jesus (the darker skin tone). For the upper hand, I also brushed on gold mica powder to give a slight golden sheen.
I have kept this piece as a reminder, and it is displayed in my home so that I can see it every day.
What’s Your Process Like? Tell Us About It.
Before I begin creating a piece, I need some form of inspiration. Sometimes my inspiration comes from a dream or vision I’ve had, and I use that as inspiration to create the artwork. Sometimes, I’ve taken a really nice photo and use that for the design, or I feel like creating an artwork on a particular subject and locating a reference image that I can use as a basis. If I’m using a reference photo, the result often looks quite different, because I’ve tweaked the colours or the composition.
Once I have the idea for the design, I roll out some polymer clay and cut a square base, usually 4×4 inches. I then mark out the design with a needle tool and start mixing the colours.
Then I add the colours either as little balls or smear them onto the design and mix additional colours as I go, depending on what I want to achieve with the design. The end product is then cleaned (if required) and baked. I finish up with a layer of glaze to make the colours stand out more.
What’s Your Favorite Thing to Do with Polymer Clay?
I like creating pointillism and polymer clay painting pieces equally. When I have more time, I like the peaceful feeling of rolling little balls of clay and adding them one by one to form a picture. If I want a less structured and more fluid creative time, I choose my polymer clay painting technique. I like seeing the colours mix together on the base, and I like experimenting with new ways to create texture. Again and again I come back to these two techniques.
Who is Your Polymer Clay Idol?
This is quite a tricky question. There are many artists in the polymer clay world who are so talented.
I think for skill and creativity, I like Joseph Barbaccia. He creates amazing polymer clay artworks that are almost photo-realistic. The finish of his works is so professional.
For pure polymer clay wisdom and encouragement, I appreciate Ginger Davis Allman. With her Blue Bottle Tree, she has provided so much information for all polymer clay artists, from beginner through to advanced. She has also personally given me encouragement with my own art, which has helped me to keep creating the way I am.
As far as meeting another polymer clay artist, I think it would be great to meet Sam Kimberle. We are similar in our approach and have given each other encouragement in our art journeys.
I have taken a number of online classes, and I really like Syndee Holt, Andrea Corpodean and Debbie Crothers. I mostly choose classes based on techniques I would like to learn.
Where to Find Leah:
I sell my artwork through Etsy, and mostly sell already completed artworks. I have taken commissions in the past but prefer to do these just for family and friends. I feel I have much more freedom in creating when I don’t have the added pressure of making commissioned artworks.
I also sell some polymer clay PDF tutorial downloads via my Etsy site on my pointillism and polymer clay painting techniques.
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