Posted by: cassymuronaka | July 21, 2010

The Grove and Grove polymer clay sale

Polymer clay was a snowball that really began rolling down the hill in the early 1990s, picking up very fine artists along the way. Every one of us who fell hard for polymer clay during that era can point to the work of one or more artists whose influence fed and directed our own development in using the medium. The husband and wife team known as Grove and Grove were among that group for me.

The day before Independence Day of this year, Michael and Ruth Anne Grove scheduled a sale of their jewelry, books and literally thousands of polymer clay canes. This was an event that probably ran below the radar of many people because it occurred on a holiday weekend.

The sale was held at their home in Berkeley, California, and I am sure that I was not the only one who was chomping at the bit to go, but could not.

The Monday before the Grove and Grove sale, I attended the monthly meeting of the Orange County Polymer Clay Guild, where I moaned and whined so pathetically and loudly about having to host a family barbecue, instead of being able to zip off to Northern California, that that two guild members who were going took pity on me and agreed to keep me in mind as they pawed through the old treasures of canes, books and finished jewelry. Another guild member called my home and offered information on how to get in touch with Michael Grove personally, as she had done.

The Groves were masters of the “step blend,” a time-consuming process of blending color that is not employed so much anymore because the blending technique that Judith Skinner developed for use with the pasta machine is so much easier and faster.

But It’s a mistake to forget about the step blend, and I never have stopped using it for certain projects. Despite the tedious mixing and layering of gradated individual strips of color, this technique is one of the marks that distinguished the early work of Steven Ford and David Forlano, under the name City Zen Cane, as well as Ruth Anne and Michael Grove.

Some of my favorite Grove and Grove work was their intricate masks. Their precise cane work and blends also were visible in their fabulous, exotic fantasy bugs and flowers. Many people were fans of their jointed pins featuring loopy, limber ladies with fashionable faces.

The OCPCG guild members who flew to Berkeley for the day were Diana Hirsch and her sister, Donna Stern. My marching orders to the siblings had been to throw their bodies over any intricate feathery cane blends that the Groves might be offering during their sale. I didn’t think I’d be as interested in the face canes that also were being sold.

I was wrong. Diana and Donna returned with three suitcases of strategically-packed clay, books and jewelry. They offered me a selection not only of some beautiful step blends, but an astounding variety of face canes that the Groves had produced.

The end result was that my checking account took a slightly bigger hit than I had originally intended, but I have no regrets. Ownership of some of the majestic productions of Ruth Anne and Michael Grove is a humbling and uplifting experience. Their work retains all of the power it did for me when i first viewed it.

That is not always true of the older work of other artists. When you review books that were published ten to fifteen years ago on a subject that was just beginning to fight for acceptance as an art medium, a lot of the jewelry now looks very dated and primitive. Some artists were just starting to develop what would become longer, far more evolved and complicated careers with polymer clay. And the variable and chameleon qualities of polymer clay were just beginning to be explored.

The old, precise work of the Groves was so far ahead of where other so many other artists were then treading with polymer clay that it still looks contemporary. It holds its own with what is emerging today from a far larger circle of extraordinarily talented polymer clay artists.

Ruth Anne and Michael Grove stopped working with this medium a long time ago. I find it ironic that after all these years, I am getting starting to get new ideas from some of the very old things they produced.

I’ve only made one face cane in all my years of working with polymer clay. But after spending a couple of weeks mooning over these exquisite Grove and Grove face canes, I may have to take another crack at it.



  1. great reporting and coverage, Cassy! Inspiring! thanks, lady!

  2. Thank you for sharing these items from Grove and Grove. They Influenced my work for sure. I would have loved to be able to be at that sale. Just to meet them would have been wonderful.
    It was fabulous to see all these designs.

  3. I am so glad you both really enjoyed the story!

  4. […] Cassy Muronaka’s post about her treasures from the recent Grove and Grove sale grabbed me in the first sentence, “Polymer clay was a snowball that really began rolling down the hill in the early 1990s, picking up very fine artists along the way.” […]

  5. Fascinating, thank you so much. I’m fairly new to polymer clay and it’s interesting to read a little about its evolution.

    • You’re welcome!

  6. What a great opportunity for us, the geographically less fortuned (israel!) to know more about that special sale, thank you for sharing your and friends adventures, wish i could be there too…


    • I’m really glad you enjoyed it, Iris. It was so nice of Cynthia to point it out to all of her overseas readers.

  7. What a great article.They were one of my early polymer clay heroes. I even got the chance to chat with Michael at an art show a long time ago. I got the chance to view a full wall of their astounding masks. He shared his design thoughts and goals. His words and their beautiful work were so inspiring.

    • Thanks so much, Desiree.

  8. Thank you for taking the time to post the article and pictures. I was floored by their work and was disappointed when they announced they would stop work to care for a sick relative. Then their website disappeared. Do you know if they are still working as artists?

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