"I draw most of my inspiration from nature. Some comes from the behavior of the materials as I work with them. There is also my love of containers, secret compartments, and multi-use objects… things that are more than they appear to be… which can come into direct conflict with my desire for my artwork to be self-explanatory…"

Before finding her proper home in Vermont, Sarah grew up in Maryland near Washington DC. She spent her childhood summers with relatives in other parts of the country: hanging out in the ceramics department of Purdue university in Indiana, crafting scale miniatures with her grandmother in Tennessee, etc.

"I remember once, back before digital photography, someone seeing prints I had of pictures of my grandmother’s room boxes and asking why I’d taken a bunch of pictures of rooms — having no idea that they were miniatures!"
1/12 scale miniature wabi by Sarah’s grandmother Jean Gamerstfelder.
"My grandmother is to blame for my addiction to polymer clay, having introduced me to it before I was old enough for school, though not for my preference for a Belgian brand rare in the United States… It’s just so versatile — I’ve had pieces mistaken for real leaves, stone, leather, paper, etc."

Over the years she has learned mostly through experimentation, purposely developing techniques different from those already being used so expertly by so many artists.

Throughout her childhood and teenage years she used polymer clay for small things like jewelry and miniatures, and dabbled in other media for miniatures, such as basketry and painting.

Dome by Jean Gamertsfelder, baskets by Sarah Machtey.
"The first time a piece of my artwork was bought by a stranger, I was 16. It was a miniature watercolor painting. What made the sale so encouraging was that the buyer was a professional whose miniature oil paintings I had admired for years!"

In her twenties, she continued making jewelry and began creating slightly larger items, such as boxes. She also worked in a florist shop. To this day she still does the flowers for most of the weddings in her extended family.

Then she went to the other end of the size spectrum, getting into natural building:

Earthen wall sculpted by Sarah Machtey in a strawbale home in Ithaca NY.

Needing to be continuously designing and working with her hands, even during the times she couldn’t be working on a building site, she turned to crochet.

"I love being able to continue creating things while I’m sitting on an airplane, in a waiting room, etc. When I go too long without making anything I start to go a little nuts."

Always on the lookout for ways to reuse discarded materials, she learned to upcycle plastic bags into ‘plarn’ and to work with aluminum from cans. She got the basics from internet research and then began experimenting.

Steampunk top hat of aluminum tabs crocheted together with plarn (aluminum tabs are much more comfortable in hot weather than most materials appropriate for steampunk).

The sheet metal from the sides of aluminum drink cans is thin enough to work with tools intended for paper crafting; for most uses, it needs to be strengthened by embossing.

Sarah has taught workshops on cutting and hand embossing aluminum cans and weaving and sewing tabs at the first two steampunk festivals in Springfield Vermont, and at the Gallery at the VAULT.

Sarah’s desire to create her own custom tools for working with some of these other media has lately pulled her back into working with polymer clay again.

The creation of Sarah’s original sculptural polymer clay work, from wearables to displayables, combines artistic and technical craft, careful and time-consuming attention to detail, and many original techniques.