Encouraging Constructive Criticism

Yesterday I posted observations about an organically inspired necklace. Beautifully done, it still had room for improvement and I mentioned my thoughts on that. It felt rather odd to do so. Our community doesn’t really spend a lot of time talking about the missed opportunities in our art work. Usually we praise (and usually deservedly so) the work of our fellow artists which certainly helps bolster confidence and enthusiasm in the artist. But how much does it help them improve their work?


A week or so ago I had a great Skype conversation with Christine Dumont of Voila (see the interview/article on Voila in our latest magazine issue). One of the very unique things about her site is that members get constructive feedback on work they submit in their gallery. Much of the Voila concept is built around ways to help polymer artists improve their work, not just receive confirmation that they are going in the right direction. I think this is a concept we all need to embrace further.

The hard part of with working more constructive feedback into our conversations is that most of us have not been through the training and educational experience of art school or other exposure to critical commentary on our heartfelt work. But in an artistic and educational environment, constructive criticism is a major part of the learning process. Not only does it help to hear other people’s opinions and ideas about how to improve what you do, but honing a critical eye through observing the work of others can help you more readily see ways of improving yours.

I would certainly love to see more of this kind of exchange in the community.  Do you think you have a thick enough skin to hear people express what might be done to improve your work so you can learn and grow your artistic skills from it? And can you give others helpful and supportive advice on opportunities you find in their work? If so, perhaps try including small suggestions in your conversations about other artists’ work. And try Voila if you haven’t already done so.

Organic Cohesiveness

Nature inspires the art of many of us but how often can you say the entire piece reflects the aesthetics of Mother Nature?

beatriz Cominatto_c

This piece by Beatriz Cominatto is striking not only because of its unexpected and yet still elegant choice of forms for a necklace but because there is no true break from organic construction anywhere along the piece. We are looking at vines twisting down to mature open pods presenting their treasures. From the focal forms all the way around the neckband the piece reflects the shapes and organization of nature.

There are, however, minor breaks from authentic organic here–one that really makes the piece and one that is a departure that could be seen as a missed opportunity.

First the interior of the pods and seeds are metallic–this isn’t a natural version of seed pods but it works because it puts emphasis on the ‘treasure’ aspect of the organic forms, mixing our sense of what treasure is with what nature holds as its most precious gifts. This juxtaposition is what takes this form being just a direct translation of seed pods into something with instilled meaning and added beauty.

The other break from nature is in how the vines are twisted. They are very uniform. This is not normal in nature–not unheard of but not as organic as we usually encounter. A slight variation in the plaiting of the vine forms would have added to the organic theme and interest of the piece. I think it can be helpful to stop before completing a piece and ask if it can be pushed just a little and in this case, it probably could have been. The trick is to know when to stop pushing it. And for this piece, its final form is actually a decent stopping point.

What do you think? And how do you feel about a blog post that both praises and presents constructive criticism of a piece like this?

Beatriz Cominatto hails from São Paulo, Brasil. You can find more of her work on her Flickr page and her website.

The Answer for When Things Get Tough: Make Good Art

When was the last time you heard a really good, inspirational talk? I am a bit of a Neil Gaiman fan so I couldn’t help but listen to this. Now I can’t help but share it: Neil Gaiman’s address to the University of  the Arts Class of 2012. http://vimeo.com/42372767

NGaimanThis is about creative work and the challenges of living a creative life–not specifically about polymer or visual arts even, which is great. I think we get so involved (obsessed, perhaps?) in our polymer world that we forget there is inspiration in all kinds of creative corners that can push us in ways we don’t expect. This is not typical subject matter for us but the unexpected and the unusual is needed to keep our minds and ideas about what we do and why we do it fresh and clear.

Thanks to Lisa Rapp (Our reviewer for the All-in-One CaBezels in our most recent issue of The Polymer Arts magazine) for sending it my way via the PCAGOE forum.

Working on the Edge

Centering or working inside the edge or frame of a piece is a common approach for applying imagery and pattern. This will help to convey a feeling of calm and/or restraint. But what if you want something more dynamic?

purpleluggageTry working on or off the edge. It adds excitement and movement by bringing into question the boundary of the piece. In these lockets by the Philippines’ Jennifer Cruz,  the artist situates her antique looking flower canes so they sit just at the edge or break off the surface’s boundaries. It gives you the feeling of something that continues on beyond the confines of the form, that the images you see are only part of a larger picture. This translate into a feeling that there is much more to the piece than what you are seeing. Touching or running off the edge creates tension (the good, exciting kind) and draws you to examine the teetering or incomplete imagery further.

dustin_layered_fragYou don’t actually have to stop at the edge though. Playing with the boundary of a form by continuing into the outside space can also make the work more dynamic. This Layered Fragment brooch by Kathleen Dustin is a wonderful example. The internal imagery itself doesn’t run off the edge but the line does as it is visually continued with the use of wire.

How often do you work with or beyond the boundary of your pieces?

Jennifer Cruz was also featured on the lead page of the “Polymer to the Rescue” article in the present Summer 2012 issue of The Polymer Arts magazine. Go here to get your copy: www.thepolymerarts.com/Subscribe.html

Does the Polymer World need another Blog?

This was something I went over and over with myself since the magazine was started. There are a lot of fantastic blogs out there. Do we need one more? The answer for me was, only if it can continue to do what The Polymer Arts magazine is trying to do–increase the polymer artist’s pool of ideas, introduce them to new sources of inspiration and grow their knowledge of artistic concepts that aren’t as commonly discussed or taught in craft periodicals and books. Can this be done in a blog? I think so!

I do want this to be fun and very community focused. We learn so much from each other. We are also very widely spread out so if we can centralize some of the more important and inspiring information and artistic ideas, it would really help the community keep growing. Cynthia Tinnapple’s Polymer Clay Daily is already doing this–posting different styles, approaches and aesthetics from within our community and presenting it in short, intriguing posts that keep our image of what polymer can be from being limited to the most popular and active artistic styles. (www.polymerclaydaily.com)

This blog will also be daily but we will not be covering the same kind of ground as Cynthia. Certainly we will be sharing a lot of art but with an aim to it being a learning opportunity, asking why it works as art and why it is considered accomplished, breaking down the reasons it draws our eye or engages up our imagination.

For example, to the lenext-after-this-Jasmyne Graybillft is a piece by Jasmyne Graybill made in 2001. It’s a pie tin with forms and strips of highly textured polymer made to look like an alien mold. Now, how many of us have looked at mold and thought, I want to emulate that?! We may not, for obvious reasons, be drawn to mold as a thing of beauty but altered to be representative of the organisms without the unpleasant colors (and odors, one would assume!) we can appreciate the texture and pattern that comes organically out of a natural process, even one as instinctively repulsive. The simple blue palette here takes nothing away from the intriguing surface that we feel drawn to examine closer. So, this piece works because it shakes us up our idea of beauty as well as making many of us polymer artists wonder … how did she get that texture!

In addition to educational and inspiring posts on art I also want to be able to get out timely information about new products and changes in the industry/community as well as have discussions related to the in-depth information in The Polymer Arts magazine with occasional news about the magazine and how you can help contribute and support it (which is in turn what will be supporting this endeavor.)

I would love to have comments, ideas and input on what you would like to see in a blog dedicated to educating and helping polymer artists grow their skills, their business and the joy they find in their art. I heartily invite offers for guest posts and information on new art, products, publications, techniques, tips, and news related to our industry. You can always write me at sbray@thepolymerarts.com.

Keeping Polymer Green

2012-P2_CoverMedWebIf you haven’t gotten your hands on the latest issue of The Polymer Arts magazine, you really should. Not just because we put it together but because the contributors and artists in this issue bring up a particularly relevant and little discussed topic … how do we as artists who work with a plastic material create and contribute to our world in a responsible green manner?

Here is an excerpt from the Editor’s page that sums up some of the sentiments relayed throughout the magazine.

“Some people will say that as artists, we have a social responsibility to enact change, to be role models and influence the people we reach  because we have that unique power to effect people personally. It is pretty amazing to think that what we do can be so influential. Even if you are not making a huge philosophical statement with your pretty earrings or charming sculptures, you are touching people. But does that mean we as artist have a greater responsibility than most people to be environmentally aware, to be guardians of our society and how we treat the earth?

“I would say no. We are responsible but not because we are artists. Yes, we can show people through our imagery and our reach how the world is, how it has been, how it could be, and how we think it should be. Some artists will choose to do this. That’s wonderful. But some of us just want to bring a smile to someone’s day or make them feel beautiful. Very grand and noble causes. So no, I don’t think we are burdened with a social cause because we choose to create. I think we are responsible because we are human. We are concious, sentinet beings who can literally change our world and we need to take responsibility as guardians, not of the earth (she can take care of herself) but of what we do while we are here. I think as people who want to add beauty to the world, we are generally more sensitive to seeing beauty destroyed. The thing is, these days it’s easier to make something beautiful than to save the beauty that already exists. But if we want to live in a beautiful world, we need to do both.”

You can get your copy of the most recent issue on our website at: http://www.thepolymerarts.com/Subscribe.html

And do let us know what you think of this issue by leaving comments below. Be heard! 🙂

When is it Polymer art?

painted2SmThere was a very interesting discussion on two related posts on Facebook back in February. It basically came down to whether a piece should be categorized as polymer art if the polymer has been painted or otherwise works as a ‘canvas’ rather than being the bulk and carrier of the design and artistic impact. This pendant by by Susan Waddington of Polydogz is polymer and paint( http://polydogz.com/Gallery1/Polymer-jewelry) There is no doubt she know how to work with polymer but the impact is from the color and design of the paint. So … is it polymer? There was quite a heated discussion about that and categorization of polymer in general on the Feb. 17 2012 Facebook post here.

That brought up a thought on my end … if you paint with polymer, is it a painting or a polymer piece? This owl is a painting, posted as a response to tPC painitngSmhis discussion on Facebook on Feb 21, 2012 where the paint is 100% polymer. Obviously a painting and more two-dimensional than polymer usually is but … how would you categorize it?

When it comes down to it, it really doesn’t matter to the casual viewer but in juried shows, galleries and periodicals, this categorization can be the difference between a piece of work getting in or not. So … as we start off on this blog, I thought I’d bring up this discussion again. What are your thoughts? (You can see where the discussion went by clicking the Facebook post links embedded in this post.)


First things first …

Before we get this blog going live, I will post some of the more popular posts from our Facebook page. These posts, along with all future posts, will be available in both this blog and on Facebook so you can access the same great finds, tips, tricks, and news on whichever site works best for you.

Happy claying!

%d bloggers like this: