Layl McDill’s artwork features breathtaking colors and designs

By Kelly Terpstra,

Bright and vibrant colors adorn Layl McDill’s artwork.

Dark turquoise and raspberry fuchsia are just some of the hues that jump out at the people looking at McDill’s mysterious polymer clay sculptures.

McDill, who hails from Minnesota, brought her work focusing on the ancient technique of millefiore, to the Charles City Art Center on Friday.

“It’s exceptional and it’s intricate. It’s extraordinarily beautiful,” said Jacqueline Davidson, Arts Center director.

Millefiore is the Italian word for “thousand flowers” and features distinct patterns and designs with vibrant colors typically seen on glassware. Since the late 1980s, millefiore has been used in polymer clay.

McDill can take a tiny piece of clay and stretch it into something much larger or slice a multi-colored tube of clay several times and repeat an elaborate pattern.

“It’s still kind of a lost art form,” said McDill, who has shown her art all over the country since 1994.

McDill has won numerous awards for her expertise. She won first place at the Glen Ellyn Art Fair in Chicago last year, and has been praised for her work in places as far away as Kentucky and Florida.

Whether it’s an elaborate piece such as a sea dragon, a mermaid or a whale, McDill’s art is eye-popping and focuses on dazzling colors that bring complex visuals to the forefront.

“Color has always come really naturally to me,” said McDill. “I loved coloring with my 64 crayons. It started with that.”

In addition to bright blues and dark reds, McDill has another go-to color.

“I also love orange — you really get that power with that,” she said.

Many of McDill’s pieces have an ocean or water-inspired theme.

“I’m very connected with that underwater — it’s so mysterious,” she said. “I was obsessed with snorkeling.”

McDill, who grew up on the prairies of Wyoming, said her artwork is ever evolving with basically no boundaries. 

“If you come up with a rule, figure out how to break it,” she said.

McDill will be back in Charles City on Saturday, Sept. 29, to teach a class and help participants learn some of her techniques, working with oven baked clay. The class will be at 3:30 p.m. and all supplies are included. For more information, call the Charles City Arts Center at 641-228-6284.