About my chosen materials
Polymer (polymer clay / Fimo)
Polymer is an oven-hardening artificial clay that comes in a myriad of intense colours including translucent and metallic shades. It is easily blended to whatever shade you desire, and once cured is tough and permanent.
It is naturally matte but can be sanded to a highly tactile satin finish, or buffed to a deep mirror shine.
Brand names include Fimo, Kato, Cernit, Pardo, Sculpey and many others.
History: This wonderful material has been around since the 1950s. It was created in Germany, initially as a lighter, stronger alternative to the porcelain traditionally used for dolls' faces. By the 1970s it had become a child's modelling material (which is where I first came across it).
Perhaps because of its associations as a child's toy, people can be quite snobby and blinkered about polymer as a medium.
And to be fair, there has been a lot of terribly amateurish (and downright tacky) stuff made over the past few decades. (Tho' you could probably say the same about metals, ceramics and paint!).
However the tide is turning and it is is now gathering recognition internationally as an astonishingly capable and versatile fine art medium.
Over the past fifteen years, polymer artists have "borrowed" many techniques from a variety of other traditional disciplines, including metalwork (mokume gane), textiles (bargello and applique), screenprinting and glasswork (millefiori). The problem I find with polymer is too much possibility, rather than too little.
On its own, I find silver a tiny bit... umm... boring.
But that pared-back simplicity is the perfect foil to the richness and intensity of polymer.
I also love the fiery, elemental nature of working with silver - the flames, acids and hammering make a great contrast to the far more subtle 'hands on' techniques used with polymer.
I have been lucky to get to know a very talented silversmith and teacher locally (Aileen Hamilton of Creative Jewellery Workshop) and I'm learning a lot from her.
So, what's next?
As I become a more competent silversmith, I'm expanding the range of pieces that combine polymer with sterling silver.
And, because my work involves creating hundreds of unique patterns each month, I'm gradually building a bigger business based around them.
In 2017 I was generously given a grant by my local authority (Reigate & Banstead) to buy a heat press which will allowed me to use my designs to print my designs onto a range of pieces including chopping boards, mugs, fabric and tiles.
And then in November 2018 I was lucky enough to be the winner of the Reigate and Banstead Entrepreneur's Academy. I was one of ten local start-ups who bid for a £5,000 grant - presenting to a panel of "dragons" - and I won!
The money is helping me to launch a separate "arm" of my business which will supply ceramic tiles printed with my millefiori designs.
About the millefiori technique.
Polymer is undeniably a modern medium, but the technique I use most - millefiori - has been around for thousands of years.
In fact a bead made using this technique was unearthed at the Anglo Saxon longboat burial site Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, dating to the 6th Century.
More recently the technique was widely used in Venice to create beautiful millefiori paperweights and glassware.
The basic technique involves combining different colours of clay into sticks or "canes" (a bit like a stick of rock). The cane is then elongated, divided into sections, and recombined.
Watch my short video showing the process of conditioning the clay, and making a couple of basic canes.
Repeating this process results (sometimes!) in beautifully complex patterns which have been used as unique decoration for centuries.
A lovely (and frustrating) characteristic of the process is that it's very very difficult to create the same pattern twice, so almost all of my patterns are completely unique and un-repeatable.
About my teaching programme & workshops
One of the frustrations of polymer is how rare it is to meet someone who knows anything about it!
Many people at shows and events will remember making model animals from Fimo as a kid - or with their kids - but hardly anyone knows it as a "proper" art medium.
I find this incredible (and sad!), as it's such a rewarding and versatile material - a combination of the best bits of painting and sculpture.
So one of the driving desires behind DoodlePippin is to let more people know about it, and to encourage people to try it for themselves.
As part of that, I run many classes and workshops. I love teaching and they're always funny and very informal events. People make the most amazingly beautiful things, too.
I'm Ruth. I grew up in Birmingham, went to Bristol University to study Zoology and then on to London to work for ten years as a journalist and editor.
Somehow I picked up a husband (Dave), two children (Charlie and Tom), a dog (Woody) and several random chickens along the way.
I did always gravitate towards clay, from making plasticine creatures as a kid, to wonderully 'zen' 2am solo sessions in a ceramics studio in Bristol in my twenties.
Then there was a long period when "proper" work took over, followed by several rather frustrating years at home with small children.
In 2014, Tom started school and I suddenly had a few hours to myself. I'd bought some packs of clay for the kids but they'd languished on the shelf until a crafty (in both senses) friend tore a polymer bead-making tutorial out of her magazine for me.
I fought the children off, and made some beads. I cured them. I marvelled at them and decided I must be a genius.
I made some more beads... and some more. And then some more.
At that point I should probably have gone out and found a job,
Instead I mucked about at home making bangles and beads, buying an unwise amount of tools, practising and researching endlessly.
I sold my first pieces to friends and, when nobody demanded their money back or threatened to sue me for passing myself off as a jewellery maker, I took the plunge and signed up for a craft fair. It was the beginning of learning curve roughly the same size and shape as Everest.
Since 2014 I have learned a huge amount, made a lot of great friends, and developed significantly as an artist.
In 2016 I was accepted as a member of the Surrey Guild of Craftsmen and my pieces are available year round in their lovely gallery in Milford near Godalming.
DoodlePippin is all about the beauty and life-affirming qualities of colour and pattern.
I'm an artist specialising in "millefiori".
This ancient art form creates beautiful and unique kaleidoscopic patterns in rods of clay and glass.
I make original pieces from the clay - often combined with sterling silver.
I also use digital versions of the patterns to decorate many household items including worktop protectors, mugs, coasters, ceramic tiles, fabric and paper.
Most items are handmade or hand printed in my Surrey studio.