Saturday, August 23, 2014

Art on the Farm Workshop-- Expanded Resources and a Special Opportunity

Today a friend asked why I never taught at bead shows. I told her that I don't teach project-specific classes-- I teach techniques and then mentor my students in how to adapt those techniques to their own unique artistic style. In my workshops we talk a lot about where ideas and innovation come from, about new approaches to the art material known as polymer clay and how it can enhance other art media and disciplines. I've been stalled on the book that I want to write because the standard industry model in book publishing seems to be a technique-to-project approach which I personally don't believe fosters creativity as much as it could.

Over the past few days I've been re-reading the self-published workbooks of Hadar Jacobsen, an extraordinary metal clay teacher and artist, who produces her own line of metal clay products. Hadar not only writes about using metal clay and correctly firing it, but constantly updates the technical information on her website for everyone, even if you haven't purchased her books. I've been thinking about her style of making information available and how I could adapt it to my workshops and enhance my students' experience. And as homage to the inspiration that Hadar has been to me, I've decided to offer any student who has already taken my 3-day workshop the opportunity to repeat it at no charge anytime in the future--subject to space availability in the class. Currently, I'm offering my workshops in the spring and fall of each year here in Vermont. I'm also developing a Facebook group for my students that will have updated information on techniques, tips on process and new product reviews.

Sometimes because of the vagaries of circumstance and income, I've had to pass up opportunities for creative advancement, missing out on a learning experience that may have forever altered how I do my art. How I've wished for a patron or guardian angel to help me make that opportunity happen.

So here's what I've come up with to advance the cause of creativity in the polymer universe-- next month I'll be teaching my 3-day intensive workshop at my farm in Vermont-- October 8-10, 2014, called “Telling Your Story in Polymer Clay: Form, Color and Mixed Media”. I'm making a scholarship available for one seat in that class to someone chosen at random from the group of interested people who contact me by September 8 and ask to be included in the drawing. All you need to do to attend is get yourself here and bring clay and tools-- see my website for details on the “Teaching” and “Workshops” pages. I'll have all the coloring materials available for students. If you're a newbie to polymer clay, it's not a problem. This course is about exploring what polymer clay can become in the hands of an artistic, curious person. I've had metalworkers, jewelers and ceramics artists come to learn and none of them had ever used polymer before. All that's required is imagination and a well-developed artist's or crafter's skill-set.

I'd love if you'd share this opportunity on your favorite social media venues and blogs but it's not a requirement to apply. I've included some photos below of techniques we'll be exploring this year's class. Please use the contact button to
e-mail me if you're interested in the scholarship-- I'll post the results, obtained by a random number generator, on September 8th on this blog. If you want to attend and don't want to leave it to chance, I still have a few seats available.

Oceanic Organic beads - polymer clay, crayons,
handmade texture plates

Geomorph cuff - polymer clay, acrylic paint, handmade texture plate

Beads - polymer clay, bamboo yarn, oil paints

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Working in a Series

Working in a series, sticking with a particular theme or focus for your creativity, was something I had little interest in until recently.

I came late to the polymer clay game, having followed all manner of artistic paths throughout my life-- drawing, sculpture, ceramics, textiles and wearable art, papermaking, rug making, knitting, embroidery, upholstery, furniture painting, interior design, jewelry and finally-- polymer clay. Being fairly new to this medium—since 2008 or so-- I have so many ideas and techniques that I want to try, I've never been willing to “box myself in” by restricting my ideas to a particular series. I know I have a very distinctive style and people tell me they can always spot my pieces in any online grouping like Flickr and have come to expect my work to fall outside the box.

So why have I suddenly decided to work on a polymer clay series I'm calling “Earthscapes”? Well, sometimes when we encounter an idea that we really don't agree with our vehemence in rejecting it could indicate that perhaps there is some merit to be discovered. Or even attempt it for the purpose of debunking it. So I began the latter a few weeks ago in my studio, assured that I would bore myself to death by working within one theme only-- textured polymer, layered in various shapes, creating various elements.

After just a few days, what I discovered was that restricting one dimension of your work—in this case to a technique involving stacked layers of organic textures-- produces a cohesiveness over the total body of work while allowing creative expansion into other areas like shape, color and surface.

I'm a real omnivore when it comes to shapes-- I love 'em all! I saw a Facebook post recently about a Matisse exhibit and his fabulous work inspired me to draw several notebook pages of shapes.

Here's a pair of earrings that followed those sketches and subsequent ideas I had.

Earthscape Series - "Walkabout" earrings-- Souffle polymer clay, handforged copper, chalk, crayon
If you leave your imagination open to the world around you, anything can be a source of ideas, including what you're making for dinner.
Kabocha squash sections
Beginning with the Walkabout earrings, my weeks of inspiration in the studio were doubly blessed with the discovery of a new polymer clay, Souffle by Sculpey, with a suede-like texture that takes very well to pencil and crayon embellishment, a consistency that can pick up subtle patterning and the ability to be thinned to an amazing degree in a pasta machine even in the summer's heat. Thank you, Claire Maunsell for the inspiration to try this new product!

Earthscape earrings, in process-- Souffle polymer clay, chalks, acrylic paints

Gibraltar cuff and bangles - Nunn Design copper cuff  and bangles base, Souffle polymer clay, acrylic paint

 Green Darkness necklace in process-- polymer clay, crayons, acrylic paint, annealed steel wire

 Tidepool pendant - Souffle polymer clay, chalk, embossing powder, acrylic paint, handforged bails and connectors
The above piece and the next show very well, I think, how the "Earthscapes" theme and the Matisse-inspired shapes were combined.

 Samuri pendant - Souffle polymer clay, acrylic paint

All in all, my explorations into working in a theme definitely yielded some gratifying results, which are ongoing as I redesign and load up my Etsy site. In our next Art on the Farm session here in Vermont, coming up this October 8-10, 2014, we'll be using this information to inform our studies about shape, texture and surface. Join us if you can, there are still some spaces available-- see my website: for more information.