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Sandy Pflug might sound familiar to you, as she recently shared a wonderful tutorial on our Society membership platform. Her art skills are incredible and her way of creating the tutorial and sharing own knowledge as well. Let’s get to know Sandy more in today’s blog post.

“I live in Ontario, Canada, and recently turned 61,” starts Sandy talking about her life. In her early adulthood she obtained a bachelor’s degree in fine art with a Studio Major, however, upon graduation she did not pursue a career in the arts. “In fact, I rarely did any drawing or painting for several decades and focused on other creative pursuits such as yarn and paper crafts, needlework and gardening.”

In her late 40s, Sandy was introduced to polymer clay: “While browsing in our local library I ran across The Polymer Clay Cookbook by Jessica and Susan Partain. At the time I was an “at home” mom always looking for new creative media to explore with my young daughter,” says Sandy who started making little food charms together with her daughter.

This story actually happened to many of the artists we write about! The children usually move on, but parents stay fascinated by the never-ending amount of possibilities that this material provides. Sandy later learned more from books and online and from making jewellery. Then she switched to the fairy world. “I eventually sold through local craft shows and a couple of shops. A pragmatic decision to diversify my inventory a few years later led me to creating some ”fairy” portals which have become my mainstay ever since,” she explains.

“I have really enjoyed the return to a more sculptural approach which was where I began working with polymer clay. Through this type of “low relief” work, I have gradually awakened the technical skills that had unfortunately languished after my years in art school. I also like the challenge of incorporating symbolic references, often requested by the customer, in a meaningful way for an integrated design. Together these design elements are intended to suggest what may lie within or beyond the portal.”

For creating such portals, Sandy tries as often as she can to experience the restorative powers of nature through activities like gardening, hiking and exploring the woods surrounding the lake where her family has had a cabin for over fifty years. “Typically, I strive for balance between realism and whimsy creating textures, form and colour that are rooted in nature but also allowing myself some creative freedom to make alterations if I feel they better serve the overall design,” says Sandy about her style.

As most of her artwork is made in three-dimension, she has been discovering how best to build a core or armatures. “In this case I began with a tinfoil core for the mushroom cap, a foil and wire structure for the frog and a wire support for the chimney. Wire also provided a way to secure the frog and chimney to the piece by embedding the wire ends into holes in the mushroom and cementing it with liquid clay or adhesive,” explains Sandy her process.

Sculpey Ultralight was applied as a base layer of clay over the foil cores and also to shape the mushroom stem around a small glass jar adding volume but less weight than with other polymer clay. “I used coloured clay to finish each of the components and create the smaller details working with mid-tones which were then shaded and highlighted with chalk pastels,” she adds.

Chalk pastels are a staple in Sandy’s artistic process as they allow her to further define form and colour prior to curing. ”I also often use mica powders, acrylic and heat set paints, and inclusion such as glitter in my work,” shares Sandy more about materials she likes to use.

Finally, the base under the mushroom stem was created over a thin disk of wood bulked up with some tin foil before covering it with clay. “Of course, I used repeated curing cycles throughout the process so that details were preserved. The final sculpture measures approximately 20 cm in height,” she adds.

Over this year, Sandy has been inspired to learn more about the role of fungi in the natural environment, foraging for mushrooms and mushroom cultivation. “I’m certain that this subject matter will continue to be a part of my repertoire in the future,” says Sandy. We can’t wait to see more of her artwork with such precise and well-thought execution and wonderful details. Well done!