Stepping Outside the Box

JLDever Black install 101714 smA major theme of the weekend in Racine was the idea of stepping out of pre-set boxes. There were a whole range of ‘boxes’ being discussed including our own personal boxes we put ourselves in as artists. Because of those conversations, I wanted to bring up the piece by Jeffery Lloyd Dever that was exhibited in the Racine Museum of Art’s (in)Organic exhibition running through February 1st, 2015. This was already shown on Polymer Clay Daily last Friday, but since I had the luck to be part of a conversation with Jeff about this piece, I thought it was worth showing again and sharing some of his thoughts.

This piece really pushes beyond Jeff’s usual presentation in that it is all black. Completely absent are the glowing gradations of color, the fine lines and the back filled spots that he is so well known for. While standing around after a full day of discussion already, the conversation turned to flaws, and Jeff stated that no one seemed to see the flaws in his work because of all the varied detail. He felt that distracted viewers from the imperfect line or the errant fingerprint. This naturally brought up this all black piece of his since those elements were there to distract. Was it harder to create and finish this new work because there were no visual distractions? He said no, that the limitation of the palette was really quite freeing.

What he wanted to know in turn was whether the work was still recognizably his. We gave him a resounding “Yes.” He seemed surprised. He had worked outside his own still fairly roomy box by abandoning his colors and his details and even working with new forms, and yet, we still could see him in it. Why is that?

My thought on that question is simply this: When an artist is working with their own authentic voice, when they’ve gone through long periods of exploration and discovery, the knowledge and experience they’ve gained over time flows out into their work. I see Jeff’s signature in the cleanness of the shapes, the fluidity of their connection, the sparseness of elements so that they each have space enough to be seen individually and, of course, the organic source he constantly returns to in the forms and compositions he chooses. It may have felt quite different for him, but for us, it is still uniquely Dever.

 

 

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Hearts and Love For Others

You may have already seen the post on Polymer Clay Daily about this but its a wonderful project and I think as a community, this kind of thing is exactly what we have and can do that other crafts may not be able to manage because we have such an inexpensive and accessible art form.  I think we should really push to grow this kind of charitable and hope-filled work.

The project being talked about is the Sammunat Nepal project. It helps the women in Nepal who are in in dangerous and traumatic situations of abuse and violence through support, both short and long term but primarily through the development of skills that allow them to reestablish themselves in a new community. The creation of handcrafted items is a huge part of this. Polymer is a huge part of this. How wonderful is that?

This project is in need of a building to work out of. They have been moving around but without the stability of a permanent location, some efforts are diluted and I’m sure there are some things that simply can’t be done without it. Ron Lehocky, the maker of these wonderful hearts you see here (you may have seen his article on his Heart Project heart pins made from donated scrap clay in our Summer issue of The Polymer Arts) is really boosting the fundraising efforts for this location by offering to match donations up to $2000. Are you up for helping? It wouldn’t take much. Just click here to help (scroll down; there is a donate button on the left side down a bit.)

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To read more about the Sammunat Nepal project, go to http://acolourfuljourney.com/blog/

And if you can’t help in this fashion, do consider giving a little love to others who need it in any way you can this Valentine’s Week. A gift of your artwork to a friend or even near stranger (which would make it really special!) who is having a hard time right now would be a particularly wonderful way to spread the love.

 

 

 

Retro Blend Gone Wild

So, if you haven’t heard about (or seen) the latest community craze, you may want to check out Bettina Welker‘s pixelated retro blend cane and all the creative work that has come out of it. It really took off after Cynthia posted Bettina’s work and the link to her free tutorial on Polymer Clay Daily.

Here is just one take-off on the use of this as a base and accent for these beads by Polymeramoi.

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To see a wide variety of applications for this technique, check out the busy Pixelated Retro Blend Flickr group formed just to share this very thing.

 

Synergy Presenters Announced

Synergy, the one and only keynote polymer clay community conference run by the IPCA, is set for March 2013 in Atlanta. Information on presenters and programming is starting to emerge.

Yours truly is honored to be one of the presenters and panelists. I’ll have presentations on the new idea for a central polymer clay online knowledge library with Maggie Maggio as well as a workshop on turning your love of polymer into publication opportunities. I have also been asked to be represent The Polymer Arts magazine (I’m not sure who else would have … I think my cat might feel she has a thing or two to say on the matter!) on a panel on craft publications where we’ll answer questions and, I hope, get the kind of input from you, the community, that can help direct the content we publishers will be offering you in the coming years.

The real draw though would be just the wealth of information, the insane level of creative brain waves that will infuse the conference, and the chance to meet truly huge names in our scene such as Christi Friesen, Judy Belcher, Lindly Haunani, Cynthia Tinnapple, and Jeffery Lloyd Dever — all of whom will be presenting and teaching workshops.
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To Vary One’s Style or Not …

Bettina Welker has been quite busy of late. This Spring she was featured in The Polymer Arts’  Creative Spaces (Spring 2012) issue with a peak into her studio. You may have seen her very nice Pixelated Retro Blend Cane bracelet on Polymer Clay Daily. She recently completed a tutorial on her intriguing Jellyfish earrings that you can find on CraftArtEdu.com. And recently on Polymer Clay Diaries this beauty was posted.

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All of these pieces have very different elements and I would not have guessed they were all Bettina’s. But whereas some artists work in a very narrow and much perfected style, Bettina explores the material, approaching it from a variety of aspects. There’s nothing wrong with that. Some of us get more intrigued with the possibilities than anything else.

And there is nothing wrong with sticking to and constantly evolving a particular style or approach. I do think it is a great idea for every artist to do a little of both. If you  spend a lot of time exploring, try taking something you have really been intrigued with and really testing it, improving it and trying a variety of variations. This kind of approach is necessary if you want to get into wholesale or brand yourself as an artist. If you work primarily with one technique or style, try out a few new ideas every month or two. Even if you don’t get into the new work, its amazing how stretching your creative muscles can help you improve and expand the area you prefer.

Outside Inspiration: Soutache in the Extreme

 

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A couple weeks ago, Cynthia posted a piece on Polymer Clay Daily about faux soutache done in polymer clay by Olimpia Corvino.I had just been perusing an actually soutache artist’s site a couple days before but couldn’t find it at the time. Well, it was an Etsy store and here is the piece that drew me in and had me investigating.

 

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This piece by Miriam Shimon is titled “Once Upon a Time” and is a Bead Dreams 2012 Finalist piece. Obviously! Well, I didn’t see the rest of the competition but this just blew me away. If you are unfamiliar with soutache, it is simply a narrow and flat decorative type of trim used with drapery or clothing, usually to hide a seam. Not dissimilar from flattened ropes of polymer (hint, hint!) As demonstrated by Olimpia, there are such possibilities in terms of borrowing form, flow, and detail, for a polymer artist to borrow from this bead and fiber art form.

And, besides,  it’s just so darn pretty to look at.

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.

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