I am a huge fan of creative challenges. I find that they enforce creative discipline that leads you to levels. By making yourself create every day, you get much better at facing the blank canvas and pulling an idea out of the depths of your creative wellspring. The 100 Day Project is a creative challenge started by Lindsay Jean Thomson where participants do something creative every day for 100 days. In 2018, I made a different veneer each day. But in 2020, with my travel plans canceled due to the pandemic, I felt that it was a perfect chance to do a more comprehensive and challenging project. That’s when the Polymer Clay Vessel Project was born. Each day for 100 days, I challenged myself to make a container or a vessel out of polymer clay.
See the Vessels
If you followed along, you were likely just as surprised as me about each day’s project. I generally didn’t plan ahead and was not sure what I would make until I sat down at my work table. You can see all 100 vessels on my Instagram, but if you want to see them isolated in a set, the best place is to view them on Flickr.
Lessons from Polymer Clay Vessels
As I’ve found with other daily challenges, it can be quite difficult to fit creative time into your day. You still have to take care of loved ones, do your chores, and make a living. Some days I’ve had a lot of time to devote to making a complex and interesting project. Other days, I’ve had to dash off a simple project just to get it done and “on the books”. But every day I’ve learned new things. Here are some highlights (so far).
- Almost each day I experimented about something. And not all things worked. So some days were pretty rough.
- Construction is separate from design, and sometimes the construction is the most formidable part of what I’m doing. Thinking it up and making it happen are different skills.
- With only a single day to get it done, I can’t always devote time to both the decorative aspects and the design/shape. That’s why you’ll see the same shape or decoration over and over.
- Procrastination is a problem. The struggle is real.
- Things went better when I started earlier in the day. But that wasn’t always possible.
- The hardest part is NOT coming up with an idea. It’s coming up with an idea that’s able to be done in a day and with the constraints of materials, skill, effort, etc.
- Conditioning and sheeting the clay is time consuming.
- Conditioning does not require mixing.
- Fresh clay is wonderful when working large.
- Each day’s scraps can easily be combined with more clay to be part of the next day’s project. No clay is wasted.
- Cernit feels quite soft to work with, but if you let it sit a while it will stiffen right up. This makes it perfect for creating self-supporting vessels that are far larger than you’d think was possible. Try pinch pots!
- Neatness matters.
- Clean up your work space each day. Otherwise you spend more time picking junk out of your project than you spend making it.
- Sanding can be very rewarding, especially if you aim to shape instead of shine.
- You have no limit of good ideas. If you don’t believe me, you need to do a project like this. You will, however, have a shortage of ideas that are easy enough to do in the time that you have.
Here are all 100 days in one large photo. I did try to take all photos in a square format to make the final mosaic easy. Yes, I knew from the first day that I would finish.
What Was the Biggest Challenge?
As I mentioned above, it’s easy to assume that the biggest challenge in doing this project was that of coming up with the ideas. That’s not the way it actually worked. We are all idea machines and there is inspiration all around us. If anything, I had too many ideas that I wanted to try. And yes, I still have ideas that pop into my head. (But I’m relieved that I don’t have to try them.)
You see, the biggest challenge for this project was emotional. I knew I was going to finish. I made up my mind to do it. And the only way that I’d quit would be if the pain of making a vessel was worse than the pain of knowing that I didn’t finish my goal. And honestly, that would have been way worse.
Was it hard to stick with it? Yes. Very. You know that feeling of coming home from a long, horrible day at work to a dirty kitchen and the knowledge that you have to figure out something for dinner? That. Except that I couldn’t pile everyone in the car and go to McD.
But there were many days that I hated every. single. minute. of what I was doing. How could there not be? But most of the time it was fine. I lost myself in the explorations and the journey. I was learning things. I got much, much better at some things. It was amazing. I recommend it highly. I really do.
- I mostly used Premo and Cernit, often mixed together.
- Only six projects have glass in them. The rest are free-standing. Day 5 covers a metal egg.
- One project has a foil core (day 64).
- Day 19 includes wire to support the black clay.
- Days 65 and 66 feature a metal insert to hold incense.
- Day 98 decorated a metal cup.
- Most days I used a glass a metal form during baking and removed the item after.
- 65 days used nothing but polymer clay. No paint or powders.
- 14 days featured crackle effects from my Crackle Compendium tutorial.
- The smallest vessel was 1 1/2″ high (Day 76) and the largest was 7 1/4″ high (Day 100).
- 11 projects were made of a single color.
Did I have a favorite? Absolutely. I love Day 64 the most and Day 93 is a close second. They seemed to have come from an emotional space inside of me. The others were more like I had an idea of a finished product and I was just a technician making it.
I disliked several of them. Days 73, 77, and 78 were particularly unloved.
Would I Do It Again?
Yes. In a heartbeat. I am a HUGE fan of constrained projects like this. By putting a limit on what you make, it makes it easier to come up with ideas. It helps hone your focus so you don’t get overwhelmed with options. And I think that 100 days is a good lenght. It’s long enough to get into a rhythm and to feel like you really accomplished something.
I probably won’t choose such a difficult subject next time. It just took too much time to make a vessel each day. I have no idea what, though. I have until next April to figure it out.
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