A new appreciation

March 25, 2014 , In: Clay, General, Inspiration, Metal Clay, Metalsmithing

I had the great privilege of spending the better part of my week last week with award-winning artist Barbara Becker Simon.

Screen Shot 2014-03-17 at 3.13.04 PM

Barbara is loads of fun. She is an engaging, knowledgable, and patient teacher and she takes great care to ensure that every student in the room is successful, regardless of his or her experience level. We hosted two workshops with her at Roadhouse Arts, and I was able to multi-task so that in addition to serving as a co-hostess, I got to be a student!


Although I dabbled in polymer clay years ago, I was never very good at it. The first workshop last week was all about creating faces in polymer clay so we could create molds to use with metal clay. Since I have never been good at literalism – seriously, I can’t draw a round circle to save my life – the idea of creating anything resembling a face seemed a little far-fetched to me. To my great surprise, Barbara’s expert tutelage walked me through a process resulting in a little polymer creation that actually looked a lot like a face!


I have to tell you I have a whole new appreciation for the work of the clay and polymer artists who are part of the AJE team. The careful, painstaking effort required to make the polymer model clean and crisp enough to cast a mold was maddening – my friend Gail literally had to make me stop or I would have worked that poor little man to death! I take my hat off to all of you ladies – there’s an extraordinary amount of finely detailed work that goes into what you do.

In the end, I wound up using my second mold to cast a PMC silver face (it’s supposed to be Don Quixote), which I then modified and recarved to create a partial mask for a ring. It has yet to be fired, so I don’t even really know if it’s going to turn out, but I like how it’s coming along. I also carved a bronze bangle in the second workshop last week, but again: waaaay more work that I was prepared for. It too still needs to be fired but as I was setting up to take the photo above, I noticed there’s a whole section that needs to be “groomed” and fine-tuned – my heart just sank. There’s already an entire day in that piece!
Last week was wonderful – I loved Barbara, and I loved her take on art and life and teaching. But I also learned there’s a reason why I am so drawn to metal and hammers and torches, and why I merely dabbled in polymer and metal clay all those years ago. It’s because they aren’t my love… but I am deeply grateful all over again for the artists who make them such amazing mediums in the first place and for the ladies on this team who elevate them to art.
So that’s what I’m learning these days – what about you?
Until next time –


Francesca Watson

Francesca Watson got bit by the jewelry-making bug in 2008, when she and a few girlfriends took a simple stringing class at a local bead shop. Now, she is co-owner of The Makery, a working and teaching studio and gallery in the Texas Hill Country outside San Antonio where Francesca creates and teaches metals, wire and enameling full time, and indulges an emerging interest in mixed media. She and her husband Nick have been married since 1989 and have one grown daughter.
    • Shel
    • March 25, 2014

    Francesca, your faces look awesome! I'm especially in love w/your Don Quixote!! I do hear you though, I'm the same as far as the appreciation for polymer and metal clays – not my thing – but definitely have the utmost respect and true appreciation for all those talented enough to create such beautiful works of art!!

  1. Reply

    I love your face!! I bet it was a wonderful class!

  2. Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing this! It's great that you learned something about your creative preferences too… it's always good to confirm that we're doing what we really love. — Julie

Leave a Comment