Polymer clay enables new creativity

By Melissa Hirschl

Kyrene Corridor resident Mary Mauritzen calls herself the PC Goddess--and, no, she doesn’t use lightning bolts to fix her clients’ personal computers.

The acronym stands for polymer clay, a medium Mauritzen employs to create the most delightful one-of-a-kind treasures imaginable.

A pliable, man-made material that bakes in the oven, colorful polymer clay is a medium that lends itself to just about anything the mind can conjure up.

In addition to the hundreds of hours she has spent perfecting her skills, Mauritzen has become something of a local celebrity--she’s been on Good Morning Arizona twice, demonstrating how she creates her copious line of imaginative jewelry, switch plates, pins, key chains, letter openers, fan pulls, cheese spreaders and even vases with this versatile medium.

Having honed her technique for several years, Mauritzen discovered the craft when her teenage daughter was working with fimo clay.

“At the time, she says, “I was working with ceramics and thought, ‘Wow, you don’t have to have a kiln and you don’t have to wait a week to see if your work came out properly; all you do is bake this clay. I should try this.’

She joined the Arizona Polymer Clay Guild after meeting a member who was conducting a demonstration at Arizona Art Supply on how to cover pens using the process. She says she “was hooked right there,” and hasn’t stopped working with the medium since.

Using rubber stamps, texture plates, oil paints, powders and acrylic paints, Mauritzen designs whimsical and colorful works of art that can be worn as jewelry or used as home décor.

For example, she’s transformed Altoid Mints containers into beguiling artistic boxes that are conversation starters.

“The sky’s the limit with this medium,” says Mauritzen. “You’re just bound by your imagination. Plus, you can never get bored with it; if you get tired of using one technique, you can switch to another.” Mauritzen has also fashioned her clay over wood and glass, which she says makes an excellent mold. The only caveat, since polymer clay is baked in an oven or toaster oven, is that the item being covered must be able to withstand heat.

Versatility is one of the key reasons the artist is so enamored with the process; she’s transformed it into pieces that imitate semi-precious stones such as jasper, turquoise, coral and amber, in addition to leather, and even ivory bone.

“Sometimes, when you’re experimenting and playing with techniques, you create the most amazing things,” she says.

“I have hundreds of little ‘artifacts’ that are part of my work in progress. Eventually they become part of other art pieces. You can also manipulate the clay so it resembles the delicate glass ‘lampwork’ beads you see in so many bead stores.”

Mauritzen also creates cabochons (flat-backed jewelry pieces) that she embeds into the clay for an unusual touch.

“I can take a real stone and stick it in the clay and use the clay as a cover for letter openers and cheese spreaders for example,” she says.

“Just about anything can be embedded into the clay, such as beads, wire and even glitter. I even wrap pens in polymer clay for those who want a truly distinctive writing instrument.” 

Mauritzen says most of her inspiration comes from glass, which she tries to emulate with her clay.

“I love to see how people react when they pick up my pieces and find out how light they are, she says. “This is a terrific technique for earrings which you don’t want to be too heavy. I like the translucent type of effects of the clay more than anything, since they are so much fun.

“You can layer all these different elements on top, which creates the glass effect, and gives a real ‘artsy’ look.”

Mauritzen says the most accomplished artist who has inspired her is Irene Semanchuck Dean. “I think she’s unbelievable,” she says.

“In addition, I think highly of PC artist Kathleen Dustin, an author who is very playful and earthy. She makes all sorts of multi-textured items, such as wall clocks, wall art, purses and even sculpture.”

To get a glimpse of Mauritzen’s distinctive artwork, you can visit Textures Gallery in Scottsdale, where she is currently consigning some of her work. The address is 4223 N. Marshall Way, Studio 1, Scottsdale. Phone (480) 423-0888.

You can also call the artist at (480) 329-1389 for information on classes she teaches around the Valley.

For more information on the Arizona Polymer Clay Guild, contact Elaine Langsner at (480) 905-3661 or go to www.AZPCG.org. The group currently meets at the Via Linda Senior Center in Scottsdale.