Meet Zuda Gay Pease, polymer clay artist extraordinaire. This Illinois grandmother of seven designs polymer clay creations that are a visual, tactile feast. Although some of her most popular items are her pendants and brooches, she also produces clay-covered tins and pens, votives and ornaments. Zuda enjoys music, reading and art as well.

Zuda’s basic clay working skills go back as far as she can remember. “I was always able to roll a smooth ball and an even snake,” she says. “When I made things out of my play dough, people knew what they were.” She worked with salt dough and other homemade clays for quite a number of years before polymer clay arrived in the area where she lives. That was 12 years ago, when she bought her first batch of polymer clay.

“I started doing research on the Internet and most of what I know I learned from the generous polymer clay artists who share tutorials online, and from the few books I’ve read…and lots of experimenting.” That tradition of sharing polymer clay knowledge is continued through a flower veneer tutorial in Zuda’s photo gallery, located at

Zuda says that all of creation inspires her. “I love color. I love flowers and trees and leaves.” Indeed, that love of nature and color is prominent in all of her work.

When she first creates a pendant, Zuda begins with a color or color combination that she has been mulling in her head for a while. “When I made sunflowers,” she says, “I wanted to see what would happen if I mixed yellow mica powders with translucent clay.” She then mixed yellow translucent clay with a coppery brown to produce a special blend for petal cane. “Cane,” she explains, “is created when you put clay, glass or even candy slabs and/or snakes together to make a design that runs through the length of the roll. A jelly roll cake is an example of a simple cane; you get the same design throughout the entire jelly roll. Each slice looks the same.”

Zuda flattens a ball of clay into a base for a flower, then inserts two wire bails into the base near the top for stringing so that the pendant can become part of a necklace. She cuts petals off the petal cane and manipulates them by hand to form the shape she desires, then attaches them to the pendant base in a floral shape. Then she works on the center of the flower. “Sometimes I use a button, and sometimes I use balls of clay in coordinating or contrasting colors.”

After checking for foreign particles, such as stray hairs, Zuda places the flower pendant on a bed of fiberfill in the bottom of an aluminum pan and covers this pan with another of the same size. She bakes the pendant in her table top convection oven and then allows it to cool, which hardens the pendant.

Despite Zuda’s painstaking attention to detail, sometimes the results are not what she hopes for. “I know what to change the next time,” she says, emphasizing how each clay creation represents new learning.

Zuda says she rarely has plans, and that she is entirely a fly-by-the-seat-of-her-breeches kind of gal. “As long as I am able and the Lord is willing, I will be creative in some way and be a blessing to others in some way.” She adds that she is “holding on for the ride” and is going to see where it takes her.

To learn more about Zuda Gay Pease, visit the following Web sites:

Etsy shop: ZudaGay
Blog: Clay in the Hands
Photo gallery: Zuda Gay Pease

© 2008 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved. Please note that the image in this post is owned by Zuda Gay Pease and is used with permission.

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