Layl's Silly Milly Art

Layl McDill’s Artist Statement

Layl has been working in polymer clay since 1993 when she started adding it to her mixed media sculptures and quilts. After experimenting with the millefiori technique for about 5 years she decided to move into working with clay almost exclusively.

You can follow Layl on Facebook on her public profile page and see what sorts of things are crawling out of her clay pile on a daily basis. (You don't have to have a facebook account to check it out)

Layl also has a blog and gallery website at
Or follow Layl on Twitter at:
Layl also posts lots of pictures on flickr.

If you have any ideas or comments feel free to email layl at

View Layl's Resume

Below are Layl's Artist Statements 

One Page Statement:

When I was about 13 years old I decided never to grow up. I was still building villages and amusement parks for my “Smurf” collection and I refused to stop and become a “normal teenager”. Today, at this point in my art career I find that when my art is most like what I made as a child I am most excited to create it.

Polymer clay has become my medium of choice over the past fifteen years. The swirling of colors to mix an endless array of colors is something I never tire of. And then to build these colors into a millefiori cane is always a challenging puzzle that will keep me obsessed until the cane is stretched out and sliced to reveal the tiny picture I have created. The pile of these canes and other scraps soon become creatures of all types.

Recently I have rediscovered my love for stories. Many of my pieces have story-like titles and my newest work has started to incorporate a whole story into the piece. I like to let these stories emerge through the art first- letting the expressions on the characters and their surroundings tell me the story. I try to look for magic in everyday occurrences and objects- constantly trying to hold on to that wonder that I remember from childhood before I knew what things were really for and the meaning of things.

I love to create sculptures that have multi layers in the way the piece is viewed and perceived. The visual effect comes from the tiny pieces of millefiori that cover a sculpture- at first you see the over all sculpture but as you look closer you see images making up other patterns- skunks, turtles, fish, cats, bugs and so on- you feel like you can never see it all. I also try to achieve multi layers in meaning and story by using symbolism that can be either personal or universal. Every time you come to a piece I hope that you see and experience something new.

150 Word Statement

Layl lives and creates in Minneapolis with her two daughters and husband. In 1999 she and her husband, Josh Blanc, opened their studio/showroom Clay Squared to Infinity in North East Minneapolis. Here she sells her work and Josh makes and sells tiles. She does many festivals through out the year and teaches polymer clay classes around the Twin Cities area.

Layl’s polymer clay sculptures and millefiori canes (called “Silly Millies”) are now well known by the polymer clay community. Her work has been featured several times in PolymerCAFE’ magazine, including a four page “Artist’s Profile”. Her sculptures and canes have also been in several books about polymer clay. She sells her work at galleries and consignment shops around the country. Her whimsical creations end up in private homes, dentist and doctor offices, coffee shops, dorm rooms, and many other places that can use a little fun!

One Page Bio

Layl McDill grew up in Gillette, Wyoming where she began creating things at a very young age. Here first “story boxes” were doll houses and even an entire “Smurf Village” in the basement. . Out in the wild west most of her exposure to art were cards and stickers in the local gift shop and western paintings and bronze sculptures. She learned a variety of different arts and crafts techniques in 4-H, everything from dough art to taxidermy. This exposure to trying different techniques gave her the confidence to venture into any technique she felt the whim to try.

When Layl was 17 she saw modern art for the first time on a family trip to Washington DC and New York City. She was extremely excited about the endless possibilities of mixed media when she saw pop art that used everyday objects and oil painting and whatever else. Suddenly her creativity was unleashed, art was more than just painting and drawing. She could make ANYTHING! Her senior year of high school was spent making numerous sculptures that were both 3-D and 2-D at the same time- a lot like pop up sculptures that are always popped up.

After a year of creating an attic full of sculptures she decided to be more practical and choose a major that had actual job prospects. She majored in illustration in art school at the Columbus College of Art and Design with plans to write and illustrate children’s books but the mixed media materials she used in the community outreach programs she taught continued to intrigue her. Layl did illustrate three books for a small publishing company in Columbus, Ohio but the restraints of working on a flat surface were too frustrating.

When Layl found success selling her art at arts festivals even when she was still in art school she began to realize conventional illustration was not her real love. She found she could actually make a living making what she really loved to make. Layl made “Story boxes”, “Story Quilts”, “Story Scraps”, “Story Vests” made of fabric, found objects, and polymer clay. Over the years polymer clay has become her dominant medium. In the past few years she has worked primarily in clay creating series of work that tell stories about her life as a mother. She still uses mixed media objects as accents and enjoys working with kids using her collections of found materials. Even though she is not creating the work herself it’s exciting to see a pile of stuff transform into creatures, settings and to see the stories come to life.

Layl now lives and creates in Minneapolis with her two daughters and husband. In 1999 she and her husband, Josh Blanc, opened their studio/showroom Clay Squared to Infinity in North East Minneapolis. Here she sells her work and Josh makes and sells tiles. She still does many festivals through out the year and teaches artist-in-residencies and after school programs.

100 Word Statement

My earliest memory is of playing with play dough and now here I am playing with clay for a living. The millefiori process of stacking colors together to form a cane that can be sliced to reveal a tiny design or picture never ceases to amaze me. I use these tiny slices to construct larger sculptures of whimsical women and animals.

Sometimes it seems that these women and creatures just climb out of my piles of polymer clay. I hope those that experience my sculptures can feel some of that childhood magic that I feel as I play with my clay.

Very Basic Bio

Layl McDill has been a working with polymer clay since 1994. Layl shows and sells her art at arts festivals and galleries nationwide and at Clay Squared to Infinity in Minneapolis. Her work can also be found in numerous books and publications.

Polymer Clay Artist Statement

When I first started using polymer clay in 1993 I only used it as an embellishment to my fabric and mixed media sculptures but it wasn’t long before I began working only in polymer clay. I am mainly obsessed with the millefiori technique because it is always challenging and exciting. I build pictures in colored clay that are about the size of a large paint can. The colors go all the way through and you can see the picture on each end. I then stretch this “cane” out until everything is about the diameter of a quarter. I call my millefiori canes “Silly Millies” and enjoy the idea that they become parts of other arts creations. I sell them to people all over the world so I love the idea of my fanciful slices of clay ending up on all kinds of things.

I have been working full time as an artist since graduating from Columbus College of Art and Design in 1993. My degree was in illustration but I ended up mainly selling my work at arts festivals and galleries. I love to travel all over the country and set up my fanciful world of polymer clay creations. I also love to demonstrate the technique and watch people’s jaws drop when they realize how it works. Creating canes is always like magic and I love sharing it with my customers and collectors.

4 sentence statement

Layl McDill creates “Story Scraps”- tiny fragments of stories yet to be imagined. These story art wall sculptures are made primarily of polymer clay using the ancient technique of millefiori. Each piece is full of whimsy and imagination with animals and figures celebrating all aspects of life. Layl’s work evokes a feeling of wonderment that connects to children of all ages- bringing everyone a feeling that the world is full of discovery and endless possibilities.

Layl McDill
Artist Statement 2014

         Once upon a time each of us was a little kid. Everything was nonsense. We tried to figure it out. We wondered about everything. We wondered what was in the cupboard, the drawers, and boxes. We wondered how the calculator worked, or the dishwasher or a watch. We wondered what our stuffed animals did at night. We wondered what all the symbols at on the top row of the keyboard were for. We wondered what it would be like to live in a tree, underwater or in outer space.
        For me making my art helps me keep this magical doorway to wonderment open. I am drawn to imagery that sparks that feeling of unknown and mystery like cupboards, drawers or placing everyday objects (like a keyhole, a lollipop, a chair etc.) in an incongruent setting (a flower, a fountain, a fish etc.). I like to create metaphors such as "Just think How Books are Like Bird Houses"- are they? I leave you thinking they are but you get to come up with your own reasons why.
           My technique and materials are also very mysterious. I use primarily polymer clay with the ancient technique of millefiori. Tiny images that cover every surface of my sculptures inevitably make the viewer wonder “How did she do that?” And even though I have been doing it for twenty years it still seems amazing that I can create a tiny picture can be inside a chunk of clay. I also like to incorporate found objects and my own colored pencil sketches. Often I will start with a mysterious object found at a thrift store or a sketch and let these be a starting point on an artist journey where I have little idea of the outcome.
            As I am creating I am asking all kinds of questions that entertain my imagination and when the piece is complete the viewer can start asking questions: "What happens next?" "What do all those magic potions do?" "Why is there a puzzle piece in the cupboard?" "What kind of vegetables do they sell at an underwater farmer's market?".
But once surrounded with my seemingly nonsensical world you start to recognize reality. When I created "She Made it Look Easy to Control the Rhino Puppet Show" I didn't figure out that the Rhino was my husband until the piece was nearly finished. There is something universally comforting in seeing your struggles made light of or mirrored in art. Or sometimes it is the celebration of something wonderful like in “She Knew all The Best Ways to Deliver Word Kites”- I look at this piece and it makes me think of all the wonderful reading teachers I have known.
Some people come to my work thinking it is great for children but I really make my work for adults. I make it for everyone that loves to revisit that feeling of wonderment, magic and mystery that we all had as kids.