I bought a book last week called “Clay Techniques to Dye for” by Donna Kato, Leslie Blackford, Kim Cavender, Judy Belcher, and Debbie Tlach. With the exception of Debbie, I took classes from all of these ladies about 3 years ago at a polymer clay event in Las Vegas, so it’s fun and inspiring to see their work in print. The book is a compendium of techniques for coloring clay with products that are primarily used in the scrap-booking and paper crafts world such as alcohol inks and embossing powders.
I was particularly inspired by Leslie Blackford’s little animals sculpted from translucent clay colored with Tim Holtz’s Distress Embossing Powders. So I rushed out to get translucent Premo and ordered a variety of the embossing powders. With supplies finally on hand, I began making these little fetishes each of which is colored with a different powder (although some of them are so similar to each other that it’s hard to distinguish among them).
My original thought was to make an outrageous fetish necklace. But after looking at a book that my sister Shelley has on native American fetishes, I see that they were also kept in roles other than adornment. Some even had their own fetish homes in decorated pottery. I may make mine a home in a gourd. The jury’s still out. It would be ideal to be able to take them on and off necklaces as the “spirit” moved me but I haven’t figured that one out yet.
The animals in the top picture are, left to right, bobcat, prairie dog (my favorite), river otter, squirrel, and mouse. Bear cub, raccoon, fox, badger, and rabbit star in the second photo. And there are more waiting to be born and hatched!
By the way, I found some super mini brads that are star shaped and come in a mix of metallic finishes: antique gold, antique bronze, silver, and black. I’m using them as little “signatures” now on my sculptures. Also I suppose that I should mention that I’ve antiqued the totems with Burnt Umber oil paint after protecting the polymer clay with a water-based matte varnish.
But I haven’t explained the title! After a tad bit of research I discover that amulet, talisman, fetish, and totem can all describe little animal sculptures – it just depends on the use their owner puts them to. Amulets are typically worn or carried and talismans are typically carried – both are for protection. Fetishes are meant to draw the spirit of the animal to aid in the owner’s purposes of the moment. Totems represent a long-term desired and/or felt connection between the animal spirit and the totem’s owner.