Positivity, Beauty and Love

berlin-9Before I talk about this gorgeous mural, I want to ask those of you reading this to bear with me on what has been a bit of hard morning here in the US as I have a small request. But don’t worry, I am not going to get political. I simply want to send out, from my little tiny corner of the world, a message of positivity. It’s a message I think we as artists are particularly capable of sending out in a myriad of effectual ways. I believe this is the only thing worth focusing on right now in what is sure to be an unforgettable time. What about it will be so unforgettable is what I hope you and I can influence.

Last night, Americans saw a shift in our belief in and an understanding of our country and what it stands for. There are a lot of angry, depressed and confused people, not just here in the States but all over the world. Everything I’ve watched and read indicates that the unexpected US presidential election results was primarily a vote against something rather than for something but it has left us in a precarious place.  For those of you despairing of the outcome, there are a few things to keep in mind.

The president is not the American people. He is just one person and we are millions. The president is not a dictator and does not have the kind of power to do many of the things Trump has said he would do. So let’s not panic or the panic itself will become part of the problem. Let’s take control of and influence what each of us has access to. And what we have access to, primarily, is our talent and each other.

As artists, writers and creatives in general, we have, collectively, a tremendous amount of influence. The creatives in our world monitor and voice our emotions. They color the atmosphere of our world. And right now, all of you, whether you are an active artist or simply a supportive admirer, can make a difference in how the US moves forward and how the world is effected.

No, we will not be able to shore up stock markets or end bigotry in any kind of immediate and dramatic way but that is not how change actually happens. Change happens in a series of infinitesimally small steps. Like an earthquake, tiny small shifts and pressures build up until the plates cannot stand it any longer and releases the pressure all at once. This is what happened yesterday. We now have the opportunity to create the right kind of change by applying the right kind of pressure in this atmosphere where people are looking for answers. We can be the pressure for positive changes.

So I want to ask everyone reading this to do a very simple thing, something that we all have the power to do and can collectively use to make truly positive changes in what has been, for a while now, a very divided and emotional time, all across the world. I want to encourage you to put out nothing but beauty, compassion, love and positive messages right now. Set aside anger, disappointment, depression and even your fears for the time being in order to do and say kind and positive things.

It is extremely important that negativity not rule the day. So use your network, your influence, your exposure and your creativity to help bolster the atmosphere of our global community. Don’t desert or admonish family or friends for supporting the other candidate or for sitting out the election. Instead support what you believe in with charitable donations, volunteering, vocal support, and your art. Create beautiful things so the world is just that much more lovely a place.

I’ll do my part now by sharing a bit of beauty. This beautiful Starling mural by artists Collin van der Sluijs and Super A is on an apartment building in Berlin. The collaborative work was created for the “One Wall Mural Project”, a project that aims to highlight the diversity of the many neighborhoods of Berlin by enabling artists to create these huge murals, thereby spreading a message of cohesion and beauty throughout the city. Take a look at this post on Colossal to see it in more detail. It is amazing.

It’s too bad we can’t all create 137 foot tall murals to be seen by thousands of people daily, sharing beauty and inspiring others along the way. But we can do our small part to contribute to a positive solution rooted in love for everyone. Will you join me?

 

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Select a piece of your artwork and give it to someone who could use a little more beauty today. Do this for them and for yourself. Being kind and charitable will enrich your day as well as the day of the person you gift the art too and, hopefully, that has a rippling effect through many, many people.

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The First Polymer Pioneer?

Sigrid-Smolka-coverOn the last page of the Winter 2015 issue, we have a very, very special Muse’s Corner article. It was brought to us by Anke Humpert, who had the good fortune to connect with a polymer artist who may very well be the first published polymer pioneer, unknown to most all of us. The reason we may not recognize the cover of this book, or the author, is probably that it was written in German. Which makes sense since that is where polymer clay was invented and first produced commercially. But how have so few of us even known of dear Sigrid Smolka?

Here is the thing that so shocked Anke (and, later, myself) when she first found out. This book was published years before Nan Roche’s seminal book The New Clay. Now, we aren’t talking 3 years, or 5, or even 10. This book was published 17 years before, not too long after the clay actually hit the market. Isn’t that amazing?

All on her own, Sigrid developed techniques and processes that we will all find familiar and common today. I guess that really shouldn’t be a surprise. The clay can leads us to obvious conclusions even now. But it was just so early on and she did this all on her own and so hidden from the rest of us. But not anymore.

You can read Anke’s whole story about Sigrid Solka in the Winter issue. Get your copy ordered, if you haven’t already, so you can read this and all the other wonderful contributions your fellow polymer artists shared with you in this issue.

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In Memory of Tommy

InMemoryOfTommy

 

We interrupt this week of happy couples to remember a different kind of love; that for our dearest friends, some of which are a bit on the furry side.

Our pets can be such an amazing and important part of our lives. I know of many stories where people pulled through very difficult times because of a loving animal or were even saved due to their diligence. But, mostly, they help us get through the day with their simple, uncomplicated love; loving us for just being ourselves; just for having them as part of the family. They can teach us a thing or two about love!

This story is a simple one, but I think it probably echos the experiences of all too many pet families. It comes to us from Gayle Thompson and, like Monday’s story, shows us how precious the ones we love are, even when they are not still around. The image here is of the very special pet Gayle tells us about, which I thought was pretty neat.

 

In Memory of Tommy

My story is about a dog. Yes, a dog that stole my heart!

His name was Fuzzy’s Tomahawk, and he was a retired racing greyhound. I was a foster for a greyhound group, and I was supposed to be keeping him for about a week until he was sent ‘up north’ to another group that would find him a forever home. From the moment he came into my house, he acted like he was at home. He was never nervous like other fosters, and he was the total opposite of the dog I was looking for. He was such a happy, playful boy!

The greyhound group got together to say goodbye to one of our volunteers that was going back home to the UK. She wanted to see this foster dog that I just couldn’t stop talking about, so she came by my house after the get together. When she saw him – and my interaction with him – she said, “Gayle, How can you let him go?!” I knew then, she was right. I wanted him with me.

I called the leader of our group praying that this dog had not been spoken for by an adopter. Foster parents get first choice in keeping their fosters, but I didn’t want to disappoint anyone that had picked him out. Luck was on my side! He was not spoken for! So, he stayed home with me!

I called him Tommy, and he was the light of my world. I took him everywhere with me. Then, when I had him for only about 18 months, he developed internal bleeding and could not be saved. It was very fast and devastating to me. I held him as he took his last breath; something that is hard to ever forget.

About two years later, I was inspired by a greyhound print that I found online. I contacted the artist and asked if I could use her design in my work. She agreed. So, I created the attached picture that I call “In Memory of Tommy”. It has his coloring, a halo and angel wings.

 

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Just Add Mint

???????????????????????????????Here is an example of a love story that someone thought no one else would be much interested in. But, I can’t imagine anyone not finding this touching; if for no other reason, than to remind us of the hope we all should have. Debbie Crothers shares her amazing rough and beautiful beads and her once rough and now beautiful love story. And when you’re done brushing the tears from your eyes, go see what other luscious things this polymer explorer has been up to on her Flickr photostream.

Just Add Mint

I was 30 years old and had just come out of a terrible relationship.  Two and a half years of my life had been invested, and I was planning on marrying this man.  It certainly wasn’t the world’s best relationship.  He could be so charming when he wanted to be.  I think I held onto those moments and tried to forget all the bad times.  Huge mistake.  Two years into the relationship, I found out he turned to heroin – what!!!; how could I not have seen that; how on earth could I not know?  Believe me, I had no idea.  He was the world’s best liar and manipulator, and you know what – it was apparently, all my fault!!!  We tried to get help; we tried to fix things; we tried to make our relationship work, but there was no way it was going to.  He left town, and I was left to deal with the financial mess, the “drug people” who came looking for him and the thought that I must be a horrible person to make someone turn to drugs.  My life was shattered, and I was an emotional wreck.  The nightmares started, the stress started and the depression began.  Life was hard, but I had to keep going.

The story moves on to about six months later; still nightmares, still financial stress and definitely not looking for a partner.  I was having drinks with my sister and some friends.  Her boyfriend, Colin, had been trying to match-make me with his best mate, “Mint”, in Perth, but I sure as hell wasn’t ready to get involved with anyone – or so I thought.  Anyway the phone rang.  Colin answered it, spoke for a while, then handed the phone to me and said “Deb, there’s someone here who wants to talk to you.”  I took the phone and said “hello.” A beautiful, calm voice came on the other end and said “Hi, just wondering if you’d like to marry me?”  I was a little surprised, but stayed calm and said “sure, where shall we have our honeymoon?” To be honest, the rest of the conversation is a bit of a blur now (well, it was a long time ago), but all I remember is this beautiful voice that filled me with a sense of calm and made me feel safe.  Crazy, I know, because I didn’t even know the guy – had never even seen him before.

I wanted to meet him, and he wanted to meet me, so he arranged to come to Geraldton in a few weeks time.  We decided to have drinks again at Colin’s unit while waiting for Mint to arrive.  I remember when he walked through the door – I can still picture it now.  He said his hello’s to everyone, and then came over to me.  He smiled at me and shook my hand, and it was a moment I’ll never forget.  I was excited and nervous all at the same time.  I knew this was a good man, and I loved the way he made me feel.  We all spent the night talking and laughing, and then when everyone else had gone to bed or gone home, we still sat and talked – it was like we had known each other forever.  We met up again the next night, and that’s when we decided to have children together. We even chose the name of our first son – Red.

That was December; we moved in together the following July, got married in September and had our first son, Red, in February.

20 years on, we now have 3 beautiful children and a wonderful life together, and I still get excited every afternoon when he comes home to me.

He is my love story.

 

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Do it Again

Sonya-Girodon-2-Description2The one article in the Winter 2014 issue of The Polymer Arts that seemed to greatly affect both the readers and the participants in the creation of its writing was the piece by Anke Humpert, “1,700 Pieces of Jewellery“. If you haven’t read it, you really need to. Anke developed a game based on limitation and a challenging process rather than a single challenge concept, and she invited several dozen artists to participate in her first run of it. That alone is a reason to read this; perhaps, in order to get ideas about developing more in-depth challenges for yourself or for your guild.

The thing that struck me, and I’ve had numerous comments back from readers on this and it obviously struck the artists that participated, was the step that required the participants to re-do the piece they made for the challenge. Yes … after the participating artists completed their piece, Anke asked that each of them make their piece again with changes and adjustments that came about from an evaluation of the initial piece. There was something about being given that bit of instruction, or, as I’ve been thinking of it, permission to start over and try again, that was a key illuminating moment for most of the artists. I know for myself, I plan on doing that exact thing when I get into the studio here shortly, maybe even making the same piece 3 or 4 times to see what I come up with. Many of us make just one piece, and then after that attempt move on, especially when it doesn’t work; when really, we could learn so much from trying to create a better version; to evaluate our work with a purpose; to see if we can create the improvements considered in that critique.

The image here is Sonya Girodon’s two pieces and her evaluation notes. There are more comparisons, notes and comments in the article that will get you thinking. Would you be up for challenging yourself to re-do a piece in this fashion as well?

 

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Innate Creativity

002Today, I’m going to get a little chatty. And, I hope you’ll have the patience to read this because it has bearing on what you might get out of this blog as well as on the idea of play.

If you read this blog regularly, then you know I will often aim to break down the reasons why a piece works, what I think the artist might have been doing or the intention behind the choices in color, form, line, etc. This kind of analysis intellectualizes or breaks down what is often an innate, instinctual, and/or playful process. Analysis and playing would seem to be on opposite ends of a creative spectrum, but they aren’t. They are actually two aspects of the process that goes into creating successful art.

In art school you have design concepts drilled into you, and you spend what seems like half your time analyzing and critiquing the work of others based largely on these concepts. You are also, however, pushed to play and experiment, to break down boundaries and take chances by putting yourself and your experiences into your work. What I didn’t really realize until years after art school is that I rarely ever thought about the concepts I had learned. I didn’t need to. They were ingrained in me through all the drilling, through the critical discussions and the regular analysis of other work. The insistence to break boundaries and take chances was, on the other hand, something I was quite conscious of. That seemed odd, but it worked. I could push myself to create fairly successfully without really thinking about why I made the choices I made. I just knew.

If you have been working artistically for a while, you have probably experienced at least a bit of this in the skills and techniques you have learned from constant practice; those things you no longer even think about how to do. Maybe its creating Skinner blends or knowing how to neatly reduce a cane. You’ve done it so many times you can do it without thinking, and your mind and fingers are freed up to ponder and create as your inspiration dictates.

This is why I repeat, rehash and reword the concepts of design over and over in these blogs; not because I want to take the fun and mystery out of creating, but because I want you to know it from hearing and seeing it so often that you never have to think about it. I really hope that hearing these ideas until they are ingrained can help you with your design choices, with finding the solutions to unsatisfactory outcomes, and with freeing you up to express yourself in beautiful, well-balanced and very personal ways, all without consciously considering the concepts. My hope is that all this talk of design just lives there in the background as you create, giving your child-side plenty of room to play and be curious.

So this weekend, I leave you with these thoughts and also encourage you to check out one of our communities consummate players, Deb Crothers who has been going nuts lately with these grunge beads of hers. You can see them develop through the photos on her Flickr site. You may also want to read some of her recent blog posts on why she doesn’t sell her work any more and her thoughts on the importance of play, which is where I saw these luscious square beads you see here. I think you will enjoy her sentiments.

Now its time for me to try and get some creative playtime in. I wish you lots of successful playing this weekend!

 

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The Many Mistakes to Perfection

We’ve spent over a week looking at very finely executed and finished work and I thought we ought to stop and remember how those artists got to the point where they could complete work like we’ve seen. Their work wasn’t always perfect. It’s not likely that their work is always perfect now. Getting to that point takes time to be able to do that level of work at all and then we all still have our good days and bad days. Plus there are those wonderful times we try something new. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But we try, and eventually, we get it right. Eventually we get it perfect.

52aa574e677fdcb3921c02544d5172ab

 

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Influencing Polymer in Print

For those of you who may not have heard through our newsletter and postings on Facebook by others involved, next month in Malta, myself,  Marjon Donker and Saskia Veltenaar (From Polymer To Art) and Béa Picq (Polymère & Co) will be conducting a presentation and discussion on polymer art in print–what is available right now and what we as a community might want to see in the future. We would like to make this a chance for you to have your say about what you like, don’t like and want to see more of in books and magazines so we created a survey for that purpose. Not only is it short and fun and will get your voice heard, you can also win one of three magazine packages that will include a $10 gift certificate to anything from The Polymer Arts and a digital magazine issue of your choice from both From Polymer to Art and Polymère & Co.

And yes, if you took the survey through the newsletter, before I heard from the other ladies about wanting to add their magazines to the prize offerings, you will get the whole package if picked.

To help us with this presentation, get yourself heard, and to enter for a chance to win one of 3 magazine packages, click on this link!

If you are unfamiliar with either of the other magazines, they are both complimentary to what we do in The Polymer Arts, focusing more on project tutorials and some basic techniques and information, great for beginning to intermediate artists. From Polymer to Art is in English and Polymere & Co. is in French, but is available in a digital format so you can copy text from it into Google translate to read it.

 

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What Your Customers Are Buying

Edit to Post:

It’s almost funny how the posted quote image here not only highlights the issue of copying but is, as it turns out, a derivation of someone’s words (unattributed in the image as you might note.) I was able to find someone who gave Rebekah Joy Plett the credit for the quote so I could give credit but then Tracy Holmes sent me a Facebook post she found from the artist on this and the original words. I am posting Rebekah’s original words here but am not taking the prior quote image down because it is the link to this post for the email notifications (which will allow people to come here and see the correction) and so that you can help notify others of the misappropriation. If you see the second image below, please let the post person know about the original quote posted by Rebekah here: http://goo.gl/kRCxD7.

Okay here is the actual original quote:

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And here is my original post:

I was going to make this a short and sweet post today, just a good quote to give you a little something to consider. But there has been quite the conversation online about a subject that this quote poignantly highlights. So first, read this nice little letter to the potential customer. The sentiment is fantastic.

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Words by artist Rebekah Joy Plett … “You are buying a piece of heart, a part of a soul …” Great words, not just for the buyer to hear but for the creator to consider as well. Are you actually selling part of your heart or soul? Or are you selling someone else’s?

Yes, we are touching on the subject of copying here as well as giving credit. Over at the “Ask Harriete” blog, there is quite the conversation going on the subject and I have had several people ask me where I stand or what I think about it. Since I too have been having a lot of conversations concerning this subject in the last couple months, I actually have quite a bit to say but not in the same vein as what Harriete is discussing.

My conversations have primarily revolved around how to clarify what is stealing due to the upcoming release of an article in the Spring 2014 issue of The Polymer Arts. The article is titled “Stealing Talent”. Linda Stiles Smith bravely agreed to interview a number of artists for me , artists who teach and/or publish and regularly have their ideas appropriated–sometimes copied, sometimes worked by others into their own original pieces.  In an effort to try and clarify what it means to copy and how to properly use what we learn from each other, we created a summary of what the artists interviewed said. Here’s a bit of a sneak peek that will also give you a chance to chime in on the subject since there isn’t a response option in a magazine:

Rules for Giving Credit
1. Do not teach a class or tutorial that someone else has developed presenting it as your own.
2. Do not directly copy someone’s design and call it your own – for any reason.
3. Do not copy and sell printed images or materials, tutorials, books, techniques of another artist.

I also chimed in with a few thoughts of my own. Here is the abbreviated version:

As for when to give credit, consider whether what you are using is design or technique.

Design is the art. It belongs to the creator.
This includes the choices one makes about form, color combinations, line, pattern, etc., as well as the combination of these choices. So, you do not copy someone’s designs—that is their art and their voice as an artist.

Techniques are like tools in your tool box.
This is the how-to aspect of working in the material. You don’t need to list where your ‘tools’ originated when you sell something, but if you are teaching or posting your work you have an obligation to say where you your ‘technique tools’ came from. It would be unfair to keep aspiring clayers from being able to access the original source and it repays that artist for giving you the tool to work with.

I know this last paragraph has the potential to create some controversy because I do not say you do not have the right to teach or use a technique that another person has created. In the legal sense, you can. There is no copyright on technique (See rules 1 & 3 above as well). The gray areas comes not with someone using a technique but in HOW they use.

If an artist develops a technique and always applies it to a flat round pendant, someone making a square pendant would still be copying. However, if you see an artist apply the technique only to round beads and someone else uses the technique but creates square beads, most of us would recognize that it’s not quite stealing the design. Why? Because we recognize that creating a round bead requires a different technique than creating a square one and would likely require a variation on the application of the original artist’s technique, requiring different design and aesthetic choices. This doesn’t work for the pendant application because there is no difference in how the technique would be applied if all you are doing is choosing another shaped cutter.

Now, I in no way advocate taking someone’s work and just changing one aspect so you can call it your own. It doesn’t work that way–its still not your own. Read the quote above again if this concept of when it is not copying is unclear. If you are not making something that is of you–if all you are doing is borrowing from others–you aren’t making art, you are just reproducing and what you create is not that much different than any commercial product. If you are not making your own work, you are not giving your buyers the one thing that makes your work so much more valuable than a mass produced product … that little bit of yourself that imbues an object with meaning and personal connection. That is what buyers are paying for when buying art and handmade work. Don’t cheat your buyers. And just as important, don’t cheat yourself.

 

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