Sunday, February 22, 2015

Creating a Library of Textures and Forms

I hope you don't mind a little reprise of a former post... this one is about building a collection of forms and textures that can be used to make an endless variety of bead styles... enjoy!

Over the years I have been building a library of hand formed and hand carved texture plates, molds and stamps. I thought I would share a bit of my process and some of my latest designs...

Using Found Objects

Most of my stamps and texture plates are created by hand carving. But I sometimes create them from found objects found in nature or from among other sources.

Here is a collection from my beach combing finds in Jamaica several years ago, along a few other odds and ends. In the example at the bottom of the image below, I used a tiny pottery shard (shown in the upper right corner of the image), smoothed by the ocean, to create numerous flower and star fish designs on clay stamps.

Drawing and Carving Designs 

As someone who loves to draw, I especially like drawing my own designs directly onto clay. I make a lot of stamps using this carving technique. Some of the sources come from my journeys to the southwest and to the mounds of the midwest, in addition to studies with a Hopi teacher, other studies of native culture (primarily Ojibwe, Algonquin, and 6 nations), and my own sketch journals.

I will often make several impressions of my initial carved design, both "innies" and "outies"...

In the example below, I used a carved tree design, and a wood grain texture on the back from a texture plate (shown below in "Making Molds").

In the following example, I used a carved tree ring cookie bead to create a texture plate, then from that I made several stamps in various sizes.

Building Textures on Thrown Forms

To get a nice spiral base, I threw several forms on my pottery wheel, fired them, made reverse impressions, carved onto these, then over several more rounds of making impressions, carving, and firing, I evolved the spirals into multi-layered textures. These form the basis of my "Fossil Spiral Hoops" and other designs.

Making Molds

I often make molds of my own carved designs. Depending on what I am trying to achieve, in either silicon molding compound or porcelain. Porcelain gives me a more rigid mold - good for when I want a highly detailed and precise form.

The top part of the image below is also an example of a texture plate made into a mold. I form a textured slab from the plate, then carve a design on top of it.

Combining Textured and Sculpted Elements

The real fun happens when I get to combine several elements to create completely new designs. Here are a few examples...

Making Blank Forms

I sometimes make "clay blanks". Then I make molds and later add texture to them. This is a simple process of paddling,  pulling and smoothing clay.

Here are a few examples of added texture and sculpted details to clay blank forms to create my signature leaf and feather styles. I also made molds of some of the resulting textured / sculpted forms.

Building a Library

Though I haven't counted them, I probably have over a hundred hand formed / carved texture plates, stamps and molds, all of which reflect my own unique style. You can build your own library that reflects YOUR style. It does take time to develop, but start with simple impressions from found objects, then move own to layering and building complex forms of your own invention. I think you will find it a very rewarding experience.

Finished Beads and Components

Finally, here is a brief tour of a few beads and components made from the above techniques. Some of these are available in my shop at Starry Road Studio.

© 2014, Karen Totten. All rights reserved. All work in this post is copyright protected. 


  1. very interesting and inspiring technique. maybe you could do an on-line class on the method. I would definitely be there!!!

    1. I might think of doing a tutorial some day - thank you!

  2. Love your beads. What an excellent idea to collect a library of forms and textures! Thanks a lot for sharing.


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