Friday, February 29, 2008

How the Seeds of Synergy Were Sown

Sorry for the delay in posting, it's taken me way too long to get back in the swing of things after last week! By now, I'm sure you've seen and read about many of the wonderful things that occurred in Baltimore. It goes without saying, although I'll say it anyway, that everyone who's a member of the NPCG owes our thanks to the board members and all of the volunteers for the tremendous amount of work that it took to make Synergy a reality. One of the things that I enjoyed most about the conference was listening to Lindly Haunani tell the story about how the NPCG was born. I'm a bit of a history buff and I loved getting the details from someone who was there from the beginning. And maybe, Lindly can be convinced to share the funny and fascinating talk she presented during the Synergy banquet on her blog sometime soon.

And now, if you're up for a long post, I have a story of my own to tell . . .

Sometimes, the stars line up just so and fate steps in and quietly opens the door to new and exciting possibilities. We're rarely aware of this as it's happening, but afterwards, when we think back on certain moments in our life, we realize just how magical they really were. When I arrived in Baltimore last week, I looked across the room and saw Robert Dancik (that's his gorgeous pendant in the photo) and I suddenly realized the actual origins of this conference.
In August 2006, Judy Belcher and myself were asked to teach a workshop for the Columbus Polymer Clay Guild. While we were there, we had dinner with Cynthia Tinapple and Hollie Mion. Hollie, an accomplished metal clay artist, offered to come to West Virginia and give both of us some lessons. When she arrived a few weeks later, she mentioned an exciting workshop that the Columbus Metal Clay Guild was hosting with Robert Dancik the following week. There were only a few spots left and after reading Robert's class description, both Judy and myself, along with our friend Marcia Laska, decided that we really wanted to attend. Marcia, who is Recording Secretary for the NPCG, had, a few days earlier, recruited Judy to run for President in the upcoming elections. We joked about the fact that Judy had volunteered me to serve as election coordinator several years ago and I had recruited Marcia (sorry, Marcia!) who in turn had recruited Judy. In the event that she ever regretted her decision to run, we made it perfectly clear that Judy had no one to blame but herself!

It just so happened that the weekend of Robert's workshop was also the same weekend that the Columbus Polymer Clay Guild was hosting a workshop with Maggie Maggio (her amazing pendant is shown above). Maggie was staying with Cynthia Tinapple and her husband Blair and they kindly invited Robert, Hollie, Judy, Marcia, and myself to dinner at their lovely home. The conversation during dinner eventually led to all of us discussing how to improve the NPCG. The deadline for entering the upcoming elections was less than 24 hours away and somehow, by the time the dishes were cleared away, we were all gathered excitedly around the computer cheering Maggie on as she completed the questionnaire which would allow her to add her name to the ballot for Vice-President. Afterwards, we enjoyed an exciting, impromptu drumming performance by Blair and Robert. It was a pleasant evening spent with wonderful people and, at the time, that's all it seemed to be.

When I saw Robert again in Baltimore, I immediately thought back to that night in September 2006 and I realized how many things had simply fallen into place during that time. Being a believer in serendipity, it's not a stretch for me to acknowledge that the events that brought all of us together that weekend had a "synergy" of their own. None of us realized that the tiny seeds that were being sown around Cynthia's table that night would grow into an event that would revitalize and strengthen the polymer clay community the way that Synergy has. Thank you Judy and Maggie for nourishing those little seeds so wonderfully!
And, my apologies to Cynthia, Susan, and Alison for breaking most, if not all, of the 30 blogging "rules" that I learned during your wonderful seminar with this one single post.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I'm off to get SYNERGIZED!

I wanted to share the delightful work of mixed media artist Elsa Mora with you before I left. She's a Cuban born artist currently living in California. I'm enamored with everything she's doing. You can read more about her creative process on her blog and you can see more of her incredible artwork here.
I'll be back from the National Polymer Clay guild conference next week and I'll see you then!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Something Fishy's Going on . . .

Tamara, of Block Party Press, is one of my favorite polymer artists. She designs wonderful pieces that have such a fresh, clean style. She recently posted a slideshow that explains a little of her process. Her fantastic designs are available on Etsy if you'd like to see more.

After seeing her fish, I decided to gather some photos together of a few of my favorite aquatic vertebrates made from polymer clay and share them with you. Some of the pictures are a little small but don't blame me!

Here's Leslie Blackford's "Always a Bigger Fish". What a face on this guy!

Jeanette Kandray of Columbus, Ohio started making these beautiful fish when she ended up with an overabundance of flower and leaf canes after taking workshops with Marla Frankenberg and Donna Kato. I have one of these in my collection and I have to say that the picture doesn't really do it justice.

Denise Baldwin has an online photo gallery that's one of my favorite places to visit when I want to look at fun and whimsical art. This fish is actually a rattle and I believe Denise makes some of her sculptures over burned out light bulbs. Her work is divided into several categories and all of it is wonderful. The most recent things showing up appear to be lampworked beads (also very beautiful) so I hope she hasn't decided to move on.

As much as I love fish, I don't think I've ever made one with polymer clay. I'll have to add that to my growing list of things I want to do. At the top? Find a great restaurant when I get to Synergy and have a wonderful salmon dinner with a baked potato and steamed asparagus. It's fuel for creativity!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Inspiration Abounding!

I ran into a photo site yesterday called Every Stock Photo, which is basically a search engine for license-specific photos. It's nothing like Flickr or other photo sites I've visited. This site gathers photos from all over the web, including Flickr, and lists them in one place. You can do a search for almost anything you can think of and hundreds or thousands of images will come up, along with a link to view the photo where it was originally posted. There were just a few images listed under polymer clay but I was totally mesmerized by the shells, fossils, and stones. I see this as a wonderful source of future inspiration. Membership is free and allows you to rate, tag, collect and comment on photos. I've borrowed a few to share with you and I'm linking back to the photo site where I originally found them.

The photo above is avacado and rambutan. I had never heard of rambutan before so, in case you want some more information about this cool-looking fruit, click here.

This was, without a doubt, my favorite photo from yesterday's exploration. The color, the pattern, the texture . . . have any idea what it is? It's a Romanesco cauliflower! Of course, I've never seen one of these in West Virginia but, if any of you live in a real city , maybe you can tell me what they're like. It's almost freakishly beautiful! I don't even care what it tastes like but I'm sure it must be magnificent. I just want to spend hours and hours studying it. Does anyone know if there's a gourmet market anywhere near Synergy next week?

And here's one more special photo that I found just for you. I hope your Valentine's Day rocks!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Fresh from France

I adore Flickr! It's a wonderful tool for those who have an interest in photography or artwork of any kind. I've "met" so many talented artists through this site. One of my newest contacts is Marie Guiderdoni of Paris, France. I had never seen her work until just a couple of days ago and I'm very impressed. Marie has been working with clay for only about three years but I can see that she has already developed a style and voice all her own. She's chosen to concentrate on color exploration and the use of metals and other media in conjunction with polymer clay.

Her work with rubber tubing is innovative and very nicely done. She also incorporates copper spheres into many of her pieces and oxidizes the copper with a blow-torch.

Her rings are a wonderful representation of her skill in combining different metals with the clay. I love the rich color and texture she's achieved with these. Her website is packed with wonderful images of her work and there's lots available on Flickr, as well.

On a completely different note, I decided it was time for a change and got about 7 inches cut off my hair last week. And, after years of begging from my youngest son, I caved in and allowed him to get a mohawk. His style is all about being different and I never thought I'd say this about a mohawk but, he looks really cute! Personally, I'm not feeling all that cute but, I love having short hair. So, in the spirit of change, I decided to add a translator to my blog and also clickable links to different subjects I've blogged about in the past. I'm not sure if this is the best translator available so I hope my tech-savvy readers will let me know if there's anything better out there. If all the labels are distracting or if you find them useful, I'd like to know that, too.

Monday, February 4, 2008

A Little Monday Morning Quarterbacking

I know that the Superbowl took place yesterday. I live in a house that's teeming with testosterone so it's impossible not to be aware of things like that. But, that's not the kind of quarterbacking I'm talking about and, for the record, the next time I'll be watching any "entertainment" provided by the NFL will be a half-time show featuring Michael Vick hanging by his tiny testicles on the fifty yard line.

What I'm referring to in the title of this post is probably what happens to all of us at one time or another. You think a piece is finished and then you look at it again with new eyes and it's just not right for one or several reasons. If you're anything like me, you'll spend a large amount of time analyzing what went wrong. This business card case is a good example of that.

I took this out of the oven late Friday night. Maybe I was just overly tired or I had a momentary brain lapse but, I went to bed thinking it was finished. When I looked at it the next day, I wasn't happy with it at all. I went ahead and took a photo and continued to worry about where I went wrong with this piece. I disliked so many things about it. There were too many circles and they just seemed to be floating. The vertical line formed by the cane pieces was strong but the two pieces in the center near the wiggly stripes were not doing anything to create visual interest horizontally. They didn't even look like they belonged. The big lime green circles had no connection colorwise to the rest of the piece. And, there seemed to be too much "Skinner blending" going on and nothing that was standing out graphically other than the wiggly stripes. Luckily, with this type of piece, it's not impossible to fix some of your mistakes.

I don't think it's perfect but, it's much more pleasing to my eye now with just a couple of additions. The black and white circles helped fill in the gap and added a more bold and graphic element to the piece that was lacking. They also helped to pull those two cane slices that seemed to be floating off to the sides before, into the design, and framed the center cane slice to create more of a focal point. The addition of the flattened lime green pieces did several things. They helped complete the horizontal line, they related colorwise to the lime green circles I had already used, and they helped break up all the circles I had going on.

I don't consider myself a design expert by any stretch of the imagination but, by immersing myself in my mistakes on a regular basis, I've learned a lot. Whenever possible, I highly recommend taking advantage of the valuable learning opportunity that correcting your mistakes provides. This concept is applicable to NFL football players, as well.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Jaw-dropping, eye-popping work!

I know I've been MIA recently. When I get in the claying zone, it's hard to get back into the writing zone. Hopefully, you've missed me terribly! I just had to share the work of Thomas Kuebler with you though. He and his immense talent reside in North Carolina. He spent a decade working in the robotics animation industry before deciding to follow his passion for creating these mostly life-size sculptures. His website is a treasure trove. Be sure and read his bio and "the reason" before you click on his gallery, or "results" page, as he likes to call it. He's a fascinating individual!
"Cletus and Shorty Playing Banjo" is probably my favorite. Each of his sculptures starts with a script or story and he includes this information, as well. His "results" page is divided into categories such as witches and wisemen, beggars and freaks, and charismatic characters. Trust me when I tell you to check out all of them - you don't want to miss a thing here!
I love "Madame Orba", who was born with a slight affliction as a result of her mother's unfortunate dalliance with the husband of a gypsy witch.

This sculpture started with an athletic tape incident in the men's locker room which resulted in "Myron Klinefelter's Revenge". His script is as wonderful as the resulting sculpture.

When asked about his process, this is what Kuebler answers: "Most professional artists have learned and/or developed trade secrets and techniques through schooling, labor, hard knocks and lots of personal expense. It is what makes their work their own. Asking an artist exactly how he/she created his/her art is much like walking up to a magician after the show and asking him to expose his illusions."

Applause for an answer that's probably unappreciated by some people! Not everything is meant to be shared and I, for one, am content to gaze upon the amazing art this man has created and enjoy the fact that it simply "is".