The Natasha bead evolves

Claire Maunsell’s experiments with polymer Natasha beads provide us with some brain teasers to start the week. (Iris Mishly offers an easy-to-follow .pdf tutorial of the basic Natasha technique here.)

Watching the symmetrical patterns emerge is mesmerizing. Beginners are often introduced to the wonders of polymer this way and the technique can make wonderful use of a scrap pile. But, as Claire points out, it leaves you with a squared off brick.

Claire began by pulling on a Natasha block. Bullet forms appeared. “I started in earnest at this point to etch and scratch away at the emerging and disappearing lines, the remains of the original perfect mirror images,” she says. “Then, the corners of the Natasha ‘brick’ began to move outwards, and the bead to shorten – they became propellers and pods and mostly maintained their symmetry.”

Her results are fascinating and she explains her process in detail. Try it! What can you come up with?

  • reply Anita Brandon ,

    Claire has certainly taken the Natasha Bead modality and flown with it. Her work is so lovely and visually interesting at the same time. Her helpful info and insight into the process is much appreciated. The Natasha format was one of my earliest introductions to PC via Elissa Powell and I look forward to trying it out again with Claire’s new twists.

    • reply Deborah Groom ,

      Thanks so much for both links. Like most clayers I’ve done loose interpretations of the Natasha bead but seeing the PDF really filled out the process and showed some elements I hadn’t considered. Seeing where Claire has taken it is an exciting progression.
      I feel like I’ve just had class with great teachers.
      much appreciated,
      Deborah Groom

      • reply Carol Shelton ,

        Cynthia, I keep seeing references to the Natasha (Flechsig?) bead but can find no documentation to show it as the source of the Rorschach bead. I don’t have the PolyInformer Vol. 5, No. 2, in which you and Natasha Flechsig co-wrote an article and I cannot find the article on the internet. I’m sure that glass artists were doing this for decades if not centuries. I know that I learned to make the Rorschach bead in polymer before 1995.

        • reply Cynthia Tinapple ,

          Carol – Right you are! I don’t remember the NPCG article but here’s a link to Natasha Flechsig in Dorothy McMillan’s book

          And yes, I’m sure hers is a modern variation on an ancient technique. Thanks for clarifying.

          • reply Iris Mishly ,

            Thank you Cynthia for including my PDF freebie, this fun game with leftovers is one of my favorites 🙂
            Claire’s beads looks so interesting and so different than the originals!

            tnx again,

            • reply claire maunsell ,

              Thanks so much for the feature, Cynthia! As with almost everything I do in polymer, it is a work in progress!
              Just wanted to point out that this exact process would be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve working in hot glass. The initial swirls with different colors of glass is simple enough, but cutting to get the mirror images is another matter. An approximation would be be possible using fusing techniques (and diamond saws), but it would be very labour intensive. The ease with which one can manipulate polymer is unparalled by any other medium. (Which is why we love it sooo much!)

              • reply Carol Shelton ,

                We polymer artists should neither attach our names to old techniques (such as the Rorschach inkblot) nor attribute it to someone in our ranks. We make ourselves sound as if we desperately need validation for our creativity. We do not. We are exceedingly creative. Polymer clay is a problem-solving medium. It can mimic other materials, doing their work faster and better whether it needs to be stronger, thinner, lighter, more durable or more easily manipulated than the centuries-old traditional materials. We don’t need to build monuments to ourselves. Judith Skinner is our only monument thus far.

                • reply Natasha Flechsig ,

                  Calling it the "magic bead" would be just fine with me, Carol!  

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