Last week I received a gift, a pen, and it impressed me so much that I wanted to introduce you to the artist, Toni Ransfield.
When most of us start working in polymer clay, we become fascinated with the colors and patterns that can be created and we start covering things with sheets of clay. Many of us even make pens. I have certainly made my fair share and so I had a level of expectation and familiarity with what could be accomplished with polymer clay and a pen-making kit. But hold on. Let me assure you that I was merely scratching the surface of what could be accomplished. When I opened the package and saw this pen, my jaw dropped. This is no ordinary work. Toni doesn’t make ordinary pens. Let me explain.
High Quality Polymer Clay Pens
Fine pens are made in lots of different ways. Some click, some have a twist mechanism, and still others have a screw-on cap (like my new pen does). But what every pen has in common is that the tip, cap, band, and any mechanism have to fit together with a tube. It’s the tube that can be decorated in many ways.
Wooden pens have this tube inside of a piece of wood that is then finished. Acrylic is handled similarly. And with polymer clay that same tube is covered with clay, finished, and fitted to the rest of the pen. There are a lot of steps. And it takes quite a perfectionist to create a fine pen of high caliber.
Toni’s pens are top notch. She always chooses a perfect match between a pen’s colors and the color of the metal of the pen. Her workmanship is so precise that there is no gap between the polymer clay and the edge of the pen’s metal. The height of the finished clay is perfectly level with the metal, neither leaving a ledge nor tapering unsightly toward the center band, creating a “wasp-waisted” effect. Her sanding and finishing are pure perfection, and she uses top quality pen parts to make a finished product that isn’t just nice. It’s exceptional. A true luxury item and a work of art.
Toni Ransfield’s Story
Toni began her artistic career in the 1980’s as a studio potter, but she had to give that up when pregnancy made it hard to fit behind the potter’s wheel. Needing something to keep her hands busy, Toni found polymer clay and began, as most of us do, by learning from books and making jewelry and basic canes. She loved flowers and butterflies so she naturally gravitated toward making canes of those and that led to a complete fascination and obsession with millefiori. Soon she began covering everything in sight, and as she raised chickens at the time that meant she covered eggs. She became very well known in a niche market covering special eggs for chicken breeders. Toni was featured and published articles in several magazines, including Polymer Cafe, and won awards for her polymer clay art.
In 2007, Toni and her family moved to New Zealand where she focused on making canes and developed quite a stockpile of flower and butterfly canes. She made so many that she opened an Etsy shop and sold canes to buyers all over the world. Toni also made canes for nail art and sold those to salons throughout New Zealand and Australia, winning contests for her fantastic designs. But then true inspiration struck. She discovered pen-making! She found pen forums online and learned from others and by lots and lots of trial and error how to use her millefiori veneers to create perfectly finished pens. First she started with Slimline pens, then fountain pens and next thing you know, as Toni says, “Well let’s just say I breathed pens”.
Toni moved back to the US a few years ago and now lives in New Jersey. All that caning has affected her wrist, so she’s taken some time off making new canes for a bit, but she has such a large stockpile of canes that she’ll be making pens for a long time. She now works with her fiancé, Ed Street, who fine tunes the assembly and provides photography for her most recent pens. Toni now sells unfinished pen tubes to penmakers and you can find her incredibly gorgeous finished pens on her website at ExclusiveDesigns.com. Visit her site before the new year to get $20 off the price of a pen. (Use the code “20.00” to receive the discount.)
And now, you have to see these pens. Here are but a small sample of the incredible pens that Toni has made. Enjoy!
The top photo is one I took of my beautiful new pen, but all the rest of the photos in this article are the copyright of Ed Street and Toni Ransfield of Exclusive Designz. Many thanks to both Toni and Ed for allowing me to brag about these pens and share them with all of you.
19 thoughts on “The Pens of Toni Ransfield”
Where can you purchase the pen blanks for making polymer clay pens? I have gone to a couple sites and I don’t know what to look for.
To make the very high end pens that Toni makes, you would need the kind of pen kits they sell to woodworkers and lathe users. A good, general site is http://www.pennstateind.com/. The general process involves covering tubes and are part of the kit. It’s fairly tricky to get the level of the clay on the tubes to be the right height as the fittings on the pen. Woodworkers use specific bushings the right size and then lathe the material to match the bushings. For clay, we have to do it a bit differently. It’s a big topic indeed. But Penn State is a good source of the hardware.
Wow my jaw dropped as well. Just absolutely gorgeous.I am new to polymer clay I haven’t even made anything yet. Ha Ha I wonder if I will ever be that good.
Muchas gracias por compartir este hermoso trabajo de las plumas. Están realmente fascinantes, un trabajo excepcional, no solo la buena combinación de colores en los bastones, lo perfecto que han quedado, resultado de paciencia y sabiduría. Yo solo he cubierto bolígrafos Bic con su base para escritorio y con eso me he conformado, tengo mucho por aprender….Saludos cordiales.
Usted puede ver por qué quería compartir las plumas de Toni con mis lectores. Ella toma el trabajo más allá de lo que la mayoría de nosotros.
WOW what else can I say but OH MY GOD they are gorges 🙂 her work is what dreams are made of for me 🙂
As much as I love canes I have so much trouble with them 🙂 arthritis in my hands won’t let me do that kind of work but I am happy with what I can do 🙂 I love making miniatures so I will stick with it but I will check out her site if anything just so I can buy me a pen 🙂
Thank you for sharing your lovely pen and the story behind your pen 🙂
She gives us all something to dream about, doesn’t she?
Yes she does 🙂 I am not one for impulses but I just had to have me one 🙂 and so I bought one and with the discount I was able to afford it 🙂 as I love purple I bought the deep purple rose I think it was called 🙂
I’m so glad. And you’re going to LOVE it. I’m just in love with mine.
Wow, is Toni inspiring! Her beautiful pens, so rich in color, don’t look handmade because they are so well done.
Would Toni do a tutorial or a video? That would be awesome!
Thank you for bringing her work to us.
I think you’re correct about the handmade part. It’s only because I understand polymer clay that I know how much work goes into these pens. She makes it look effortless. I know that she has made a cane tutorial in the past, but some of the pen-making secrets she likes to keep under her hat.
I’ve always admired fine pens, the sort you want to sit down and write a novel with. These are stunning!
And that’s just it with my pen. I keep finding excuses to write stuff. 🙂
Then your pen is a gift to ALL of us. <3
Beautiful work, incredible finishing… thanks for sharing!
That’s just it…this is perfect. If I didn’t know how it was made, I’d never believe it. Like glass.
Beyond gorgeous! She could teach us a great deal about the color subtlties of her canes.
I agree. And next to the fine workmanship, I think that color is one of the hardest things to learn. I mean, we all know what looks pretty, but when faced with choosing the colors for a particular cane or which canes to include in a pen….well…that takes talent and a lot of experience. It would be fun to pick Toni’s brain.
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