top of page


To be inspired by beautiful tribal art, its colors and shapes seem easy, however to use that inspiration and create your own vision in your own style, this is where the talent is needed. Today’s blog is about one of those talented ones, yet again.

American polymer clay artist Shelley Atwood has been dreaming about living near the desert for some time, to feel its connectedness to the earth that is such an intrinsic part of life. “There is some kind of mystery in this wild land that evokes, oddly, the ‘free man in Paris’ feeling,” says Shelley about the place close to her heart.

Then Shelley followed her dream and moved to Alpine in Texas where she lives now in the high desert mountains. The flora and fauna are often prickly or, at the very least, highly textured over there.

“I like lots of texture and clear definition in my designs. My designs are derived from ethnic and paleo-archaic art, with strong pre-Columbian and tribal influences. There’s a sort of post-hippy era influence as well,“ describes her style Shelley and continues: “I try to trigger that emotional/psychological connection to the earth found in the most ancient or primitive of cultures. I want my art to both celebrate and honor the earth.”

We all know that fascination by textures and shapes, however not a lot of us chooses to make their own texture plates and other supplies to make jewelry. Shelley has her own approach: “Over the years, I've accumulated a drawer full of homemade polymer texture plates which I've carved or impressed into both raw and cured clay. I've also sent my designs away to have stamps made from them. I make my own silk screens which gives me the opportunity to use my own designs on my pieces. I tend to like the earth tones, but occasionally venture out of that palette when a new one sparks my interest.”

Now we have covered an inspiration and tools, so what about the process itself, Shelley?

“The creative process is a struggle for me, a struggle and a joy. The joy comes from watching a piece morph out of a blob of clay into the final product. Sometimes I know from the beginning what I’m going to do with a particular piece, but more often than not I just start playing around with different components, or start sketching. It’s a sensory process rather than conceptual, organic rather than structured. There’s a tension between the half-formed idea and any vision of the final product, and an inertial resistance to starting. I have to give up on the concept of the final product and immerse myself in the process. I think my art comes from hands rather than my brain.”

Her lovely work can be admired on her Instagram and you can even see Shelley working and making beads on this video.

bottom of page