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Polymer Clay and Mixed MediaChristi Friesen has built up quite a following. If you hang around polymer clayers for long, you're bound to meet some of her die-hard fans. Ya know, the ones who have all her books, take her classes, frequent her website, AND participate in her Yahoo group.

I'm not one of those people.

I like Friesen's humorous writing style. And I love her attitude towards making and selling things inspired by her works — one of the most generous artists in polymer clay from that standpoint.

But I'm just not that into her artwork. Mixing beads and jewels into clay sculpture doesn't really appeal to me, and that's what most of her books have focused on. To each her own — beauty is a very subjective thing. But for that reason,
Polymer Clay and Mixed Media— Together at Last is the first of Friesen's books I've really read.

And the reason I was drawn to this one? I like incorporating mixed media items, especially found objects, into my art. So when Polymer Clay Daily mentioned this book together with Friesen's steampunk work, I got curious. Looking around Friesen's site, I really enjoyed her recent works — steampunk-style pieces that incorporated things like metallic gears. In fact, these were the first of Friesen's pieces that I really, really liked. And that's the reason I picked up the latest book. (A poor reason as it turns out, but more on that in a minute...)

Mixed Media Techniques

Happy Place ATCFriesen starts with a few clay basics (more are at the back of the book), then jumps right into the mixed media tips. I really like that she lists which items you can use before and after baking. Her list included a few things I might not have considered — things like hemp, raffia, and paintbrush bristles. It also seems like a handy list to help brainstorm your own additions. She's very good about encouraging experimentation: if you have some other material you want to add, try it (with the proper precautions) and see if it will work.

Right after her section on what materials to use is a section on how to use them. Her suggestion for how to attach porous fibers to polymer clay was new to me and very handy. I believe she's covered wiring beads (vs. gluing them) in her previous books, but it's also a worthwhile tip — one I certainly could have used in my earlier clay days.

The Projects

After her brief intro, Friesen jumps into the projects. Now let me say first that Lisa's right. The project photos on this book's cover don't help sell them. The largest photo has an out-of-focus section that is poorly cut out. It bugs me every time I look at it. The other photos are too small to show much detail.

Thankfully the photos inside are much better. Her many step-by-step photos are clear and helpful. And the projects themselves are a lot of fun. Some of my favorites:

  • Thistle Pin featuring paintbrush bristles
  • Grapevine Wreath featuring raffia
  • Porcupine using a broom for quills (ah... so that's what brooms are good for?!) :-)
  • Dragon frame using a fork for a spine
  • Cracked acrylic paint background
  • Assorted face hearts

Porky the Permed PorcupineI honestly wasn't prepared for how much fun I'd have creating these projects, even though they're not in my typical style. And I think some of the projects grew on me. Even though I'm not a caner, I am really eager to try the cane-covered turtle and starfish projects. The fact that the projects are pretty quick and easy makes them fun to try, even if they aren't your normal style. And of course, Friesen's humorous writing style adds to the fun. I mean, what's not to like about step-by-step instructions that tell you to take a chocolate break?

She has some neat extras too. Her eyelid chart may be my favorite part of this book: it demonstrates how the placement of the eyelids can completely change a sculpture's expression. It's a handy guide for those times when your sculpture ends up with a frightened expression and you want to know how to fix it.

I think die-hard fans of hers will like that many of these projects are complementary to those in her CF Sculpture Series. If you liked Dragons, you'll enjoy adding this book's "Thor's Dragon-Serpent" to your collection. There are also several projects with jungle and sea-life themes to match her Welcome to the Jungle and Under the Sea books. Fans of Friesen's will also like that this books is 160 pages long — more than 3 times longer than those in her CF Sculpture Series.

That "more of the same" aspect that her fans will love is my main complaint, though. While she does have a few really clever ideas (like the forks and broom straws), many of the projects seem very similar to her other work. She's always used lots of beads and precious stones in her work, and this book seems to focus heavily on those techniques too. It makes the "together at last" portion of the title seem a bit overstated.

Since I first read about this book in a post about Friesen's steampunk work, I was disappointed it didn't include any steampunk projects. There are a few metal projects mixed in (like using the forks), but it wasn't to the extent I'd hoped. (She does have a free steampunk heart tutorial on her site if you're interested.) Nor did I feel like there was much focus on found or recycled objects.

Still, it's a fun read with lots of clever ideas. There's a decent range of mixed media, and the projects are really enjoyable to do. I love that Friesen encourages trial and error, experimenting and improvising. She shares basic ideas, then lays the groundwork for the reader to do more projects on their own.


  • Cons:
    • A little heavy on the bead and precious stones projects (Friesen's usual style) and light on the metal and found objects projects. If you're hoping to create the cool steampunk stuff like Friesen's doing now, you won't find those instructions in this book.
  • Who It's Good For:
    • These projects are easy and well-illustrated, so polymer clay beginners should be able to jump in and have good results.
    • Folks looking to start including other media in their polymer clay work will find good tips here.
    • And any CF fans will, of course, enjoy this latest addition to the collection.


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» Review: Polymer Clay Mixed Media Jewelry by Shirley Rufener from CraftyGoat's Notes
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Thanks for a glowing, objective review of Christi Friesen's latest writing. The subjective on us 'fans', not so much. But when listing our fanaticism-though I prefer zeal and friendship-you forgot the 2008 Polymer Clay Cruise and the 2010 Ireland trip. ;-)

Thanks for the comment, Shaun. Zeal & friendship it is, then. :-)

A polymer clay cruise is one of my dream trips. But wow -- I hadn't seen the info on the Ireland trip. I'm sure that will be amazing, too. Here's a link for any of the rest of my readers who haven't heard about it (look for Ireland BeadVentures, towards the bottom).

i agree about the lack of use of found objects. it was disappointing. i actually skimmed the book for the pictures and decided it wasn't worth the read. disappointing since i had already bought it. also, i don't find her fun style fun at all. i like just the facts. maybe if i had gotten to know her better at ipca, it would have helped.

Gerri - Have you read any of her other books? I think that "fun" style comes across a little better in her self-published series, where she also includes sketches, etc. But I'm sure it's not for everybody.

I'm so sorry you had to miss part of the retreat. I will say that I came away from IPCA a lot bigger CF fan. I was impressed with how down-to-earth and friendly she was. And the constant demos at her table -- it was always crowded, so I didn't get in on any of them, but I was impressed that she did them.

i haven't read any of the other books, just articles in polymer cafe...with the same "fun" style. to me it came off as unprofessional. but personally, i really liked her. and i couldn't believe how generous she was with her time. there would be no way i would be able to demo non-stop. and she was always in a happy mood! that's great. so i am a bigger CF fan too. i didn't get in on any of the demo's either because sculpting isn't my thing. but maybe i should have given it a try.

btw, i like this "follow up on email" feature of your comments. for my blog, you end up getting EVERY comment, not just the ones that are directed towards you. this is much better.

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