Leslie Blackford’s polymer woodland birds perch just the way they should but there’s something definitely wacky and endearing about them. Pictures of the flock she created at a Philadelphia Guild workshop demonstrate the point.

One wears a crown, another a cowboy hat. One smokes a cigar, several have outlandish plummage and cheeky grins. It’s easy to identify the birds but hard to put your finger on why they’re so appealing. While Leslie’s style can appear deceptively simple and childlike, students soon realize how difficult it is to accurately capture an essence and then veer into fantasy with polymer.

Leslie grew up in the woods of Tennessee and Kentucky with a botanist father helping her identify, study and appreciate the wildlife. The shapes and characteristics of each species were clearly imprinted in Leslie’s head. Maybe it’s her understanding and kinship with animals that startles us and makes us stop in our tracks.

  • reply Christine Damm ,

    What I get about her style is that it is totemic– she captures the essence of the animal, it’s little hidden life and personality. I adore her work!

    • reply Lynda Moseley ,

      Leslie’s interview for StudioMojo has been my favorite so far, and I love seeing this new family of work. She really brings her figures to life for us.

      • reply Melinda Hayes ,


        • reply Sue Sutherland ,

          There is something magic about Leslie’s hands and she is able to share that magic (I personally think it is magic pixie dust) with her students. I have several of her bunnies that keep me company at my desk. They never cease to bring a smile. Her classes should not be missed!

          • reply Lenora ,

            These are actually the work of the students – not Leslie.

            • reply Cynthia Tinapple ,

              Really? Oh my….well then it’s a tribute to her teaching ability.


            • reply Martha Aleo ,

              Leslie is a wonderful teacher and she was a big hit at Clayathon. I couldn’t match each bird with a name, but I remember that Barb Kunkle made the cutie you featured in the post. It’s one of my favorites.

              • reply Peg Harper ,

                Leslie can charm the birds out of the treetops and fantastic critters out of shy, self-conscious sculptors. I’ve watched her coax students in Clay Carnival classes into trying something they’d never do on their own and especially not in front of a group. She’s a sprite with a glint in her eye and lilt in her soft voice that you just can’t resist.

                • reply Barbara Kunkel ,

                  Cynthia is correct that Leslie is a great teacher. I am thrilled that my little bird made in her class was featured on PCD. I must give proper credit to Leslie — she did make the crown and then donated it to my sculpture because she felt “it just needed that little extra bling”.

                  Peg Harper described the “Leslie effect” so well when said that
                  “Leslie can charm … fantastic critters out of shy, self-conscious sculptors.”


                  • reply Rhet ,

                    Good work, Barbara!

                  • reply Wired hearts | Polymer Clay Daily ,

                    […] that the birds I attributed to Leslie Blackford on¬†Wednesday¬†were made by her students. All the more reason to take a class with Leslie! The bird featured in […]

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