15 Feb 2009

Artisan of the Week, Elaine of Tooaquarius

Morning all! We have a fabulous artisan to feature today. I admire this ladies work so much. Having had a go at making polymer clay beads myself I know just how hard it is to make such beautifully crisp designs. Elaine, of Tooaquarius, has mastered the skills needed and creates some of the most lovely beads I've seen. Her talent deserves to be celebrated.

1. Could you please introduce us to who you are and what you do?
Off-line I'm Elaine Robitaille but on-line I've been Tooaquarius for quite a while! It was a play on a birthday based name - 2 Aquarius for being a 2nd month, Aquarius - and the fact that I'm often simply *too* Aquarius. I began working with clay in my final semester of an IT program in college and I haven't stopped since. I often kid that I haven't gotten out of the honeymoon stage yet but it's sappily true.

As far as my craft goes I work with polymer clay - a medium originally marketed for children - to make millefiori designs, a technique borrowed from glass beadmakers where a design is built up of logs of glass and then stretched so that the logs lengthen but the design shrinks. I slice and apply these canes to beads, vessels, boxes... pretty much anything I can pop in the oven and bake. I sell the smaller items - canes for other clay artists and beads - online and the rest offline.

2. What led you to take up your craft?
When the jewelry making bug bit at the end of high school I had some crazy fun making daisy chains and seed bead items. As time passed I found myself making more wire and chain pieces and incorporating larger glass and stone beads. They were also very expensive on my college student budget! I decided I would start making my own
focal beads and as I had a newborn and a teeny little suite, I figured I would go with clay rather than a kiln and torch.

Fast forward 10 years, I make jewelry to showcase the beads instead of the other way around.

3. Which part of your work do you most enjoy?
Designing is my favourite part. Drawing was my first love and my approach to design allows me to combine that and my interest in technical aspects. I get to pull themes from photographs and fabric samples, flower gardens and fairy tales, and mix it up. I have almost as much fun making my colour recipes,tools and shapes as I do deciding on the patterns.

4. Which part do you find hardest?
Finishing work is an ongoing challenge. Properly executed, it makes stunning pieces but it's a dull task and so tempting to take short cuts!

5. Where do you hope to be in 1 year’s time?
Safely ensconced in my new office-studio in a small town about 500 km from here! Business wise, I'd like to keep up the slow but steady trend: a few more wholesale accounts, steadier sales on-line, a bigger show or two, another class and perhaps another couple of articles pitched.

6. What is the best advice you have ever been given?
Since I can't remember any advice I've been given once I'm asked I will repeat a quote I read on the Happiness Project blog: The days are long but the years are short. In addition to telling me to value my time it's also helped me with my patience and to adopt a one step at a time process. I often see fellow crafters rushing to become big names, sell large volumes and stressing out about it - I think I'll enjoy the process.

7. Could you name artisans sites/shops would you recommend are worth a visit?
There's an impressive and awe inspiring amount of fabulous art and craft out there so I'll offer a sampling of clayers I adore:

Kathleen Dustin
Colleen Downs
Elise Winters
Bettina Welker
Anita Sterling-Winthrop

8. What is your favourite sandwich filling?
My favourite sandwich filling was perhaps the toughest question as I love sandwiches! The humble sandwich can be made so many tasty ways. I'll stick with my first love though and say cheese is the best filling. Grilled, toasted or open faced.

Thank you for sharing with us Elaine. I totally agree with you about growing your business at a slow and steady rate. It grounds you and make sure that you business is on steady foundations. If this article has wet your appetite then you can see much more of this talented ladies work on Flickr, Etsy, Artfire, and in her collaborative shop with the artisan Carolyn Jordan claychicks.

Written by Lynne of Hyperloop Hoops and PiratePixieCrew.


  1. Fabulous beads - I was so engrossed inspecting them and trying to work out how on earth it was possible to make the canes I almost forgot to read the article!

  2. Excellent profile!

    Tag--you're it! Details on my blog:)



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