Polo in the Park Ottawa

The finishing touches were completed and this special commission was unveiled at the Rotary Club of Ottawa South last week. This sculpture,  “The Polo Player” is being auctioned at Polo in the Park Ottawa on Saturday July 7th.

I look forward to this event all year long. If you’ve never attended, it’s a chance to step out of your usual routine and give yourself a new experience. Polo in the Park Ottawa takes place at Wesley Clover Park on Corkstown Road. Organized by the Rotary Club of Ottawa South, you’ll see exciting live arena polo matches, a hat competition, fashion show, dog agility demonstrations, music, food and entertainment and a great kids zone with rides and games. Tickets are only $20 for adults, kids under 13 are free. Or book a luxurious spot in the VIP pavillion for you and someone special. The beneficiaries of the event are Wounded Warriors Canada and Rotary projects throughout the community. It’s a fun filled day and a great way to kick off the summer, not to mention a great excuse to unleash your “fashionista” side. You can learn more about Polo in the Park Ottawa at http://www.polointheparkottawa.com

Hope to see you there!  Put this date on your calendar right now – Polo in the Park Ottawa, JULY 7TH, 2018  at Wesley Clover Park (401 Corkstown Road, Nepean).

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The “Living History” Mural

I am very proud to finally be able to share with you the unveiling of the St. Marguerite d’Youville “Living History” Mural. It’s taken several months from the initial proposal to the final installation of this collaborative mural, but the results are well worth it. The mural measures 8′ x 8′.  There are over 400 polymer clay relief symbols in this installation, plus the portrait of the school’s patron saint, St. Marguerite d’Youville.

I have to admit, when I was first approached by the teachers at the school to come up with a concept that had to incorporate so many different elements, I was a little worried. The mural had to contain aspects of Canadian history; Indigenous symbols; Religious symbols; the school community; and it had to involve the whole student body of 400+ students at St. Marguerite d’Youville Catholic Elementary School. Oh yes, one more thing . . . it would be done in relief, in my medium of polymer clay. Coming up with a concept that included all of this was not easy,  but like many light bulb moments, the solution came in the middle of the night. Once the concept and all the design work was approved we moved into production mode.

Step 1: Training day with the teachers.

Step 2: Teaching and working with the students to create the symbols. We used Sculpey III in every colour available. We had two pasta machines constantly conditioning  and flattening the clay.  We divided the symbols so that the kindergarden and Grade 1 students created the powerballs and circles; grade 1-2 created the feathers; grades 3-4 created the fish; grades 5-6 created the more complex symbols. We had groups of up to 90 students working in the school library at one time. There were always 3-5 teachers on hand as well as 5-6 senior students helping. The students were fantastic, but I now have a whole new respect for how hard teachers work.

Step 3: All the symbols the kids and teachers made were taken back to my studio where I did quality control . . . cleaning, defining, finishing, baking and glazing. I counted, adding a few missing symbols, sent a few requests back to the senior grades and encouraged some of the teachers to add their own work to the collection as well.

Step 4:  Creating the base of the mural from two 4′ x 8′ wood panels. Designing the shape, jigsawing the wood panels, sanding, priming, breaking the sections down, and painting the wood background.

A big thank you to Paverpol artist, Mary Lou Devine for her help creating and stiffening St. Marguerites habit.

Step 5: Sculpting St. Marguerite d’Youville. This is a life-size relief sculpture based on a beautiful image one of the teachers provided for me. I used “Living Doll” polymer clay for the face and hand. I mixed all the bits and pieces of leftover Sculpey III clay to create a nice grey colour which I used to make the sleeves of her habit. Her tunic and headpiece, however were a challenge. I needed to make sure they would survive curious little hands and remain stiff. For this part I enlisted the help of friend and Paverpol (liquid polymer) artist, Mary Lou Devine. This medium is strong enough to withstand the outdoor elements. Mary Lou stiffened the fabric of her headdress and coated the front of her tunic. After the work was done it had to rest and cure for 2 weeks. The blessed medal is the Crucifix of St. Benedict and comes all the way from the Vatican.

Step 6: Attaching and laying out a pattern for all the symbols around the image of St. Marguerite d’Youville was a process that took two weeks, on and off, and several reconfigurations.

Step 7: The installation. It wasn’t easy is all I can say. Luckily I  had the help of my strong nephew, my patient husband and 3 teachers. Once everything was safely secured to the wall, my team helped me add all the finishing details, we made a few corrections, cleaned up some edges and patted ourselves on the back while taking lots of photos.

In this last photo you meet the whole team. From left to right, Diane, Me, France, Virginie, Principal Jeannie Armstrong, Sylvie and Sister Shiela from the Order of Grey Nuns.

The whole process of how this mural evolved was made into a lovely slideshow presentation. To see the slide show you can click on the link below or copy and paste in your browser.




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It’s All About The Hustle

Screen Shot 2018-04-04 at 8.30.34 PM

It’s going to be a busy month . . . and I love it!

I haven’t participated in a Art Doll Show in years, but I’m super excited to be part of the Quinlan Doll and Teddy Bear Expo in Philadelphia. I’m one of the guest speakers and workshop instructors at this event where some of the best of the best gather for the weekend of April 12-14th. If you are anywhere near the Philadelphia area at that time, it’s definitely worth a trip. You’ll find the largest source of rare one-of-a-kind dolls and teddy bears and meet many of the world’s leading doll and bear artists. The event is run by Susan Quinlan Doll and Bear Museum. You can learn more about the event at http://www.quinlanshow.com 

When I get back from Philadelphia, it’s time to get ready for the Navan Fine Arts Exhibition and Sale. This show has a reputation of being one of the top art shows in the Ottawa area and I’m honoured to have been invited as a participating artist. The event takes place Saturday and Sunday, April 21-22 at the Navan Memorial Centre and Arena on Colonial Road. More information on this event can be found at  https://www.navanarts.com/

A few days rest and then it’s off to the Morrisburg Polymer Clay Gathering. As part of my new role as Ambassador for the Polyform Products Company, I’ll be doing a demonstration and providing some products for these artists to try, but I’m hanging around for the weekend to learn something new as well. Figurative work is my specialty, but many of these artists do amazing jewelry and cane patterns in polymer clay, so I’m looking forward to soaking it all in. The conference runs from April 26 to the 29. I think  the gathering is sold out for this year, but if you want to get more involved with Polymer Clay, this is definitely a group you will want to investigate.

2018 STUDIO TOUR final ENLast, but not least, the first weekend of May is all about a group that is near and dear to my heart . . . The National Capital Network of Sculptors are holding their second annual Studio Tour. Ceramics, wood, bronze, glass, stone, metal and found objects and of course polymer clay – they will all be represented. 21 artists at 9 stops throughout the Ottawa – Gatineau area. You can learn more about the Sculpture Studio Tour at http://www.sculptureottawa.ca

Make sure you circle Stop #3 on the brochure. I’ll be at the newly opened HELLO STUDIOS together with polymer artist Line Labrecque. HELLO STUDIOS is Ottawa’s new creative hotspot, located at 1735 Courtwood Crescent off Woodward. The entrance is at the back of the building. Not only will Line and I have an amazing collection of work on display, we will be running an exclusive 2 day workshop where you can make a Bathing Fairy with me – PLUS the added bonus of two mini-workshops with Line where you will make a jewelry pendant and a ring holder. An amazing value just in time for Mother’s Day.  Don’t forget . . . we’re stop #3 on the brochure – check us out at http://www.sculptureottawa.ca


I’ve got another little surprise I’m dying to tell you about, but it has to wait for the grand unveiling in May. It’s an exciting project and I’ll have plenty of photos to share with you soon. In the meantime, I hope to see you soon at one of these great events over the next four weeks.

Check out my facebook page for photos and updates. http://www.facebook.com/saracinocollection



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NEW! Open Studio Time!

At the suggestion of one of my students, I am now offering Open Studio Time on the last weekday afternoon of the month.

If you’ve ever taken one of my workshops and want to spend some time away from the distractions of home, you can use this time to get some advice on a technique you are struggling with or drop in and share a project you are working on. I’ll be working on my own things and it’s always inspiring to share ideas. I’m also testing some new Sculpey products and ideas and would love your input. Best of all, there’s no charge!

Even if you’ve never taken a class, but are considering it, “Open Studio Time” is also a great opportunity to check out my studio and any upcoming available workshops.

Open Studio Time is between 1:00 – 4:00pm and the first one is Wednesday, January 31st.

Drop in for a creative afternoon. Coffee and afternoon snacks are on me. Hope to see you soon.

729 Vermillion Drive, Riverside South                    Gloucester, Ontario


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Happy Winter Solstice

Père Noël, 28″ tall, Original Sculpture by Maria Saracino. Medium: Sculpey Polymer Clay and Textiles

Did you know that the tradition of bringing gifts in St. Nicholas’ name originated in France? At the beginning of the twelfth century, nuns began leaving gifts in secret at the houses of poor children on the eve of St. Nicholas Day which is December 6th. The custom caught on rapidly in other parts of Europe and was soon practiced by both the rich and the poor. That’s when the custom of gift-giving in December was established. Now some people celebrate the gift giving custom on St. Nicholas Day and others on Christmas Day.

It was around this same time that St. Nicholas transformed from being a young bishop with a dark beard to an old man with a white beard. People began to see him as a version of Odin, the powerful pagan god of northern Europe. The legend says that on December 21st, the Winter Solstice, Odin can be seen riding through the night skies on a white horse. With the blending of these stories, St. Nicholas not only acquired a white beard, but also a white horse for his mid-European visits.

In France there is a St. Nicholas Song they sing called La Légende de Saint Nicolas. This song is about another St Nicholas legend. It’s a sadder one about a butcher who slaughtered three little kids and salted them like pork. Later St. Nicholas brought them back to life. This is considered one of the 21 miracles of St. Nicholas and the reason he is often referred to as the saint of children. If you can get past the gruesome story, it’s a catchy tune. Check it out at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZZqwKZVLbE

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Christmas Nostalgia

Nostalgia is that emotion that stirs up memories from our past. It’s hard to describe the feeling of nostalgia, but you can’t miss it when you have it. The holidays, especially Christmas, stirs those nostalgic feelings more than any other time of the year.

Theorists define two different types of nostalgia, historical and personal. The historical kind refers to feeling good or feeling attracted to time periods of the past, whether you lived in that time or not. The old world charm of the Victorian era is a perfect example, especially at Christmas time.

Then there is personal nostalgia. These are emotions you feel about your life and what you have lived through. Decorating for Christmas is a time when many of our personal nostalgic emotions are stirred. Those special ornaments your children made or the one from your first year of marriage; the cherished heirloom tree topper; the vintage glass ornaments you inherited from your grandparents; they all evoke memories of happiness or even sadness. Just like I used to do as a child, I still love to cuddle up on the couch and gaze at our Christmas tree and all the lights and decorations and let the nostalgia wash over me.

Many of my Father Christmas sculptures have become nostalgic family heirlooms. The piece that  launched my career and appeared on the cover of Lee Valley Tools was purchased by a couple on the layaway plan in 1997. It was the beginning of my journey, but also the beginning of theirs. They see it as an impulsive buy, but one that marks a turning point in their lives.  Shortly after buying this Santa they purchased their first restaurant. The Workshop Santa represents that journey and the success of their business.

Another client has several of my early pieces in her collection including a commission piece acknowledging their Scottish heritage. These have become family heirlooms that are enjoyed by several generations.

I particularly love the commissions I’ve done where something personal has been incorporated into the sculpture. A grandmother’s fur stole, or the leather from well worn gloves. These are beautiful reminders of our loved ones and a legacy for those who are not with us anymore. In this particular piece on the left, I used the fur from the client’s coat, but also the embroidered name on the coat’s lining to create Santa’s bag.

A week ago I received an email from a couple in California, Maryland. They happened upon one of my early pieces at an Antique shop in Fredericksburg MD and snapped it up immediately. It still had my little signature booklet attached. They were able to track me down and I was able to tell them the sculpture’s story. The character is called “Workshop Kris Kringle” and was one of four similar pieces I made in the late 1990’s. The story of how they got it, and how we connected, is now part of the provenance. This connection was very nostalgic for me. It reminded me of the early trials and tribulations of my journey as an artist.

This Christmas when you feel those tugs of nostalgia, share the stories and memories. Remember that our lives are worthwhile, we have value, and life has some sense of purpose and meaning.






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St. Patricks Intermediate School – Polymer Clay Art Project

After spending a week at St. Patrick’s Intermediate School last week I have a renewed respect for teachers everywhere. I had a very unique opportunity to teach sculpting with polymer clay to over 225 Grade 7 and 8 students. Working with teacher, Joan Sweeney, we found a way to combine history, in particular Indigenous studies, and geography with art.

Inspired by the collaborative Thunderbird project at the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health, students created relief sculptures of fish and powerballs in polymer clay. Students also participated in creating the different sections of larger animals, in particular a bear and ducks. We used almost all 65 colours available in the Sculpey III collection. The pieces all came together to form a 4′ x 8′ Woodland Art themed panel. The students were respectful, interested and eager to learn more. One of the grade 7 classes worked exclusively on powerballs that were filled with symbols and the colours of their school.

The panel will hang proudly in the new St. Patrick’s High School Building next year.


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Father Christmas as Art

Weihnactsmann, Christmas Man 35″ x 10″ x 12″

When I first started working with polymer clay and creating figurative sculptures, my Father Christmas sculptures received a lot of attention and subsequently they became the main focus of my art. I paid my dues at Christmas gift shows and for a period of time I also designed and worked with manufacturers overseas to develop a seasonal gift line. I’ve moved in other directions over the years, but Father Christmas remains a recurring theme throughout my career.

Victorian Father Christmas 28″x 8″x 21″

My penchant for history and research, combined with my overall love of everything Christmas makes this one of my favourite subjects. I’m particularly drawn to the old world characters and the subtle differences influenced by culture and georgraphy. It amazes me how they all evolved from one human born in 270AD in a tiny village in Turkey. Since then, every country rooted in Christianity has adopted this character and what he stands for.

What he stands for is kindness, sharing, taking care of each other, tolerance, love and peace. The world needs this message more than ever right now.

For this reason I decided to make Father Christmas my theme at the National Capital Network of Sculptors Exhibit, DIMENSIONS 2017 – the largest, most comprehensive sculptural exhibit with over 150 original works on display and for sale.

As the director of the show, I worried about my decision to show these sculptures with the fear that they would be viewed as more crafty than fine art. Dealing with artist insecurity will have to be the topic of a whole other blog post. In the meantime, with some encouragement from my friends and colleagues, this year I will be showing 4 of my old world Father Christmas figures and I will also be giving a presentation on the History of Father Christmas. I assembled the research I’ve done into a book that tells the story of the evolution of St. Nicholas and explains some of the traditions we practice today. This 10″ x 10″ hard cover book accompanies each original Father Christmas but will also be available to purchase separately in November.

If you are in the Ottawa area, please drop in at DIMENSIONS 2017, October 19-22 in the Horticulture Building at Lansdowne Park. It’s free admission. If you would like more information on my Father Christmas collection or would like to pre-order The History of Father Christmas, please email me at maria@saracino.ca

You can see more of my work at http://www.saracinocollection.com or on my facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/saracinocollection

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Goodbye, My Friend

Today a dear friend, Lizzie Ciezluk passed away. People come into your life for different reasons; for me Lizzie was a good friend, but I also considered her a mentor. She would dismiss me when I said this because she didn’t feel like she deserved the honour – but she did. She inspired me and she motivated me at a time when I was trying to find my way.

I had just started messing around with polymer clay but was feeling frustrated and isolated. I was intrigued by the medium, but didn’t know where or how to take the next step. It’s November 1995 and I’m walking around at the Original’s show at Lansdowne Park. Suddenly I turned the corner and there is Lizzie! It was one of those moments when the sky opens up and the sun shines through. Her whimsical, theatrical boudoir dolls, wild Santas and those hilarious “Bum Bags” decorated her booth. She was flamboyant;  she had neon orange hair and there was a cloud of creativity that swirled around her like clouds of glitter.

She was busy with a crowd of customers, but I managed to speak to her briefly. She gave me her card and told me to call her when the show was over and we would talk art over coffee.

We met the following week in her little cottage home in Gatineau. Her house was like a brick and mortar version of her. I loved being around her. That was the start of our friendship. We shared information and we celebrated each other. She told me about a few groups I should join, encouraged me, and showed me the ropes of setting up a display and dealing with customers. We went on scavenger hunts together looking for some of the unique and peculiar things that stirred our imaginations. Our artist styles were different – maybe that’s why we felt comfortable with each other, there was never any sense of competition. We own some of each other’s work and we’ve even taken classes from each other.

Over the years life gets in the way and we didn’t always see a lot of each other. But when our paths crossed we picked-up where we left off as if no time had passed. Everyone who knew Lizzie has a similar story to tell. Her sweet personality, her passion, her love of life , of everything beautiful, has touched and made an impression on so many people. This is a rare and extraordinary gift.

I’m going to miss you Lizzie. But every time I see someone with orange or pink hair; every Christmas when I pull out my blue star ornament; every time I see a beautiful garden and funky garden art; every time I wear one of your jewelry creations; and especially every time I eat cake . . . I’ll think of you.






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Top 50 Polymer Clay Blogs

It’s a great honour to be selected as one of the top 50 polymer clay blogs on the world wide web. Thank you FeedSpot. You can see the whole list at http://blog.feedspot.com/polymer_clay_blogs/

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