Brian Froud was a fundamental part of my childhood. His whimsical drawings and fanciful characters filled my soul with a joy like no other, his books are magical compendiums that tap into my imagination and ignite my soul fibres. Not a single one of his fantastical drawings disinterest me, they are an exact expression of the imaginary lands in my head. Someone got me, someone understood.
I’ve always loved fantasy creatures. Faeries, sprites and goblins alike. The magic, the wonder and the curiosity took hold of me when I was small, and I seek it out wherever I go to this day. As a child I would draw my own creatures and prescribe unique, far-fetched names just as enchanted as the sketches themselves.
But I always remember the frustration I would feel when drawing creatures inspired by Froud’s work because although I’ve always loved scribbling, it never quite satiated the magical itch within, and never quite filled my soul to the depth I knew possible. But I had no idea there was any other medium out there! I knew of painting, which isn’t really my thing, and that was that. I believed that to be the extent of art forms available to me. Until this year.
At the beginning of lockdown, when stuck inside with nowhere to go, I turned to YouTube as a pastime. After endless mindless videos I somehow stumbled across a video by Anthony, the guy who runs Ace of Clay, and my life hasn’t been the same since. He’s a skilled polymer clay artist, whose sculptures are full of charm and magical allure.
“Erm, what the hell is polymer clay?” I hear you ask.
I had no idea of its existence beforehand, so if you’re wondering what on earth it is, I feel ya. It’s a type of oven-cured malleable clay that many amazing artists use to make unique, charming creations ranging from earrings and incense holders to dolls and sculptures. Pretty cool, huh?
Before discovering polymer clay, I knew that people created things such as jewellery and sculptures and whatnot, but for some reason I always believed it all to be mass produced by big machines and therefore out of my reach. I never considered the possibility that I could make these things myself, only buy them to add to my magical collection of quirky ornaments.
Fast forward a few months and I’m currently creating my very first polymer clay troll, and you know what? I’ve never been happier. When you discover something that sets your soul on fire after what feels like an eternity of never quite scratching the itch, your life lights up. In the last couple of months I’ve made mushrooms, a tree wizard, a mandrake and more. And it feels like I was supposed to do this, destined to channel my imagination and innate love for fantasy into these bizarre, whimsical creations. And I’m pretty good at it, too, if I do say so myself. It just feels right, I can’t explain it.
I have a number of Brian Froud’s faerie books, but I recently got my hands on Trolls, a wonderful book in which Wendy Froud (his wife and fellow fantasy artist)’s clay creatures feature proudly. Wendy is a doll artist herself, often bringing her husband’s sketches to life in the form of clay characters and puppets, many made for Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal (ugh, dreamy). Also known as The Mother of Yoda (yes, she sculpted the well-loved Star Wars character), Wendy’s talent is immeasurable and I am endlessly inspired by her work. Her creations are now the epitome of success for me.
I joined Ace of Clay’s Facebook group dedicated to the art of polymer clay, where we all share our musings and encourage each other with such delight that even the smallest of triumphs is celebrated with unmatched energy and genuine enthusiasm. I’ve never found people who share my passion for this kinda stuff to the extent that these fellow clay artists do. So it’s a real joy to be a part of. It feels like I’ve found my tribe.
But I will always thank Brian and Wendy Froud for my connection to the Fae. Without them, I wouldn’t have a brain full of goblins and a heart full of fantasy. And for that I am forever grateful.
I’ll soon be setting up an Etsy shop for my clay creations and I am absolutely buzzing about this endeavour. Watch this space!