Featured Maker: Kate Lee Foley - Joyful Polymer Art
Hi, I’m Kate Lee Foley the maker of Joyful Polymer Art. I am very fortunate to live and create in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland, a beautiful place that offers an abundance of inspiration.
My husband and I moved here from Canberra three years ago, after resigning from our tedious desk jobs. While I have always tried to make time to create in some form, my job as a performance auditor kept me very busy. Since retiring I now have the space and time to dedicate to my passion, polymer clay.
Tell us a bit more about Polymer Clay
Polymer clay is a modelling material made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and liquid plasticiser, rather than natural clay minerals. It needs to be conditioned prior to use. This involves kneading the clay by hand or passing it through a pasta-making machine, to break up any resin particles and soften the clay. It can then be sculpted, carved, stamped and textured. It can be used to create sculptures, mosaics, pictures, dolls, figurines, embellish surfaces and stunning jewellery. The possibilities continually amaze me.
Polymer clay is cured (permanently hardened) at temperatures between 110°C to 150°C. This temperature is significantly less than mineral clays, so I simply use my home oven.
How did you get started in your line of business?
I first discovered polymer clay in 2013, though didn’t start fully exploring its potential till 2015, not long after moving to the Sunshine Coast.
I stumbled across polymer clay in an art shop, while looking for something new to try. I had no idea what to do with it at first. Though the more I learnt the more I fell in love. Progress was slow initially and there were many frustrations. It is not a popular medium in the Australian art scene, and it was difficult to find fresh polymer clay of a professional quality. Curing was also difficult to get right, many pieces either cracked too easily or burnt. Eventually I found some great resources and began exploring the multitude of techniques and possibilities.
Tell us about your creative process
The clay comes in a wide range of colours and special effects, such as metallic, stone, pearl, translucent and glow in the dark. I enjoy mixing my own colours and adding pastels, mica powder and super fine glitter. Sometimes I finish pieces with gloss, sometimes I don’t. Cured clay can also be sanded and buffed to achieve a glass like finish.
I apply a variety of techniques and tools from different disciplines including cake decorating and ceramics. I enjoy experimenting with texture, colour and different styles, therefore each piece is completely unique. Generally I work when I am happy and relaxed, which comes through in my pieces. I begin with an idea and then it usually becomes something else.
What inspires or influences you
For me, creating is a journey of learning and self discovery. As a performance auditor, I was continually analysing and critiquing everything, looking for errors, inconsistencies and better ways of doing things. Everything was planned, structured and reviewed multiple times. As an artist, I’ve learnt that if I overthink things almost nothing works, but if I get lost in the moment and create from the heart, nearly everything works. Art should be about the experience, not just the end result.
I draw inspiration from many places, particularly nature. Flowers often feature in my work, as they allow me to explore amazing colour combinations. The natural textures of the Australian bushland and the movement and energy of the beaches, can also be seen in my work. Though continually evolving, I would describe my style as feminine, whimsical and sometimes abstract. There are also many International and Australian polymer and mixed media artists I follow closely, who have encouraged and inspired me to explore a range of techniques and push boundaries.
How would you describe your work?
My work is feminine, colourful and often floral. Currently I am concentrating on brooches and small decorative vases. However in the future, I would like to create wall sculptures and larger vases with soft flowing movement. I would also like to incorporate resin in my work. The possibilities are endless.
Is this a full time gig?
I have deliberately chosen to keep my art as a passion, rather than build a formal business. The money from sales goes towards paying for my materials, tools and learning. This way I can continue to create from the heart and keep each piece unique. If I was doing this to earn a reasonable income, I would need to create duplicate copies of simpler, cheaper items and spend significant time marketing and selling. I feel that this approach would compromise my ability to explore and push my creativity.
What is the best thing about having your own creative business?
Sharing my work with others brings me great joy. It is also a wonderful way to encourage and inspire others to get creative. Working from home is also fantastic!
After much encouragement from family and friends and wonderful support from Makersville, I have recently started selling my work. I don’t currently have a website, although you can follow me on Instagram. I have recently started selling my work through The Handmade Exchange and I had my first joint exhibition in October 2017. A fantastic experience!
A big thanks to Karen and David at Makersville, for your time and energy in promoting my work and supporting many very talented Australian makers.
Where else can we find you?
You can find my jewellery and vases in Makersville in the beautiful Montville on the Sunshine Coast
You can also find me online at: