Inspiration: How to Get It.



Sometimes children get crazy notions into their heads. I had a friend who swore that there was a city called ”Random” in upstate New York where contest winners were picked. (“Winners will be selected at random.”)

My personal crazy childhood belief was that every song had already been written, and that it was impossible to compose a totally new song. I know now that this isn’t the case, but I could not imagine that anyone could invent any new music beyond that which already existed. It had all been done.

But I also know that there were times in popular music history (for one example), when all music started sounding the same until a visionary or a visionary movement came along and blew up the paradigm. Until someone shakes things up, we get mired in the same old same old. It takes a a new way seeing and hearing to move upforward. And openness and a willingness to explore. If you want a concrete example of this has happened in the past, watch the segments on David Bowie in Apple TV’s documentary 1971: The Year That Changed Everything.

It can seem impossible to come up with a fresh design that works on all levels. We have all been subjected to brutally over-designed fashion masquerading as something new. As for me, I have been struggling the past few weeks with trying to come up with some new earring designs that are unhackneyed, original, and my own.

Where are you supposed to get inspiration? Everyone recommends searching Pinterest, but I have a problem with that. I don’t think it will help my cause to look at countless pictures of earrings. Sure, I can copy someone else’s designs. But without getting into the moral/ethical dilemma copying debate, (a topic that I think has been done to death and needs to be put to rest, ) after I have learned a technique, why on earth would I want copy someone else’s work? I want to be more than a technician. That’s the goal. So the question becomes where to find inspiration.

Picasso is known for saying that good artists copy and that great artists steal. What does this mean? Does it mean that great artists commit copyright infringement? I don’t think so. Let me explain. Two artists who ”stole” to great effect were Antonio Gaudi and Elsa Peretti. How did they do it? Here’s a clue: Polymer artist Kathleen Dustin says that part of her job as an artist is to pay attention.

Gaudi and Peretti paid attention. Here are two videos that show how they did it.

How many of us truly pay attention? I am going to start working on it.

Martha Makes a Slab

My friend Patty asked me if I wanted to participate in a craft fair with her. I said yes even though I don’t do many of these, and don’t even know if we’ll be accepted. I went into my workshop and pulled out a bunch of earring components I made a couple of years ago.

Bletch! I didn’t remember them being so ugly! I threw them all away before I took pictures. Good riddance. I decided to try my hand at slab making. Here’s some pictures.

Start with a slab
Add squares and cut strips
Add red dots
Blue slices look sloppy so out they go.
Get out the extruder!
Add dark blue snakes and some simple canes
Cover with parchment paper and smooth over
Cut out shapes. I’m also experimenting with making my own cutters. I’ll post more on this in the future.
Shapes
Baked shapes. Earring maybe?

Syd Carpenter

I went to an exhibition at Rowan University Art Gallery a couple of weeks ago to see an exhibition called Earth Offerings: Honoring the the Gardeners, that featured the ceramics and mixed media of Syd Carpenter

Mother Pin Transitions.
Clay, graphite, water color, rototiller blades.
Farm Bowl with Chicken.
Stoneware

Press here for more information on Syd Carpenter and the work in this exhibition which closes on March 26, 2022. If you can’t make it in person, you can take a virtual tour by video here.

A Trip Down Memory Lane in Polymer Bracelets.

The other day, I pulled the bracelets pictured below out of a cabinet in my workshop (where they have been gathering dust since before I started blogging, some time back in the Mesozoic era.) I realized that most of the teachers and artists who inspired the pieces might not be that well known today. So I’ve included some links in case anyone is interested in checking out artists like Tory Hughes or Gwen Gibson, or any of the other polymer pioneers no longer with us.

Sources: Chris Dupouy Creating Your Own Antique Jewelry: Taking Inspiration from Great Museums Around the World, Gwen Gibson, Tory Hughes, Polymer – The Chameleon Clay, Margaret Regan, Pier Voulkos

There’s no better source for the history of polymer clay art than the Polymer Art Archive.

.

Clayathon Online 2022

A lot of planning went into Clayathon 2022. We had an incredible team of volunteers who worked together seamlessly, who supported one another, and made it happen. With registrants exceeding 450 this year, I was concerned about how we would handle them all on a Zoom meeting. But there were no problems. Everything and everyone came together.

The sense of community was palpable. Although most Clayathon registrants came from the United States and Canada, a number of registrants from Russia, who came to us via polymer artists Juliya Laukhina and Olga Guseva, joined us. It seems surreal in light of recent events that less than two weeks ago we were together online sharing tips, techniques, and talking about our personal histories and sources of inspiration.

From Juliya’s presentation
From Olga’s presentation

Donna Kato and Anna Ko of the Van Aken Clay Company dropped by to show off some exciting new products. Their video just went live on YouTube and here’s the link.

Wendy Moore joined us live from Australia where, aided by Kathleen Dustin and Cynthia Tinapple, she educated us on the history of Samunnat in Nepal, which is an organization dedicated to empowering Nepalese women who have experienced violence or abuse to become financially independent. One of the programs Samunnat sponsors is teaching women to make and sell polymer jewelry. You can support this wonderful program by buying some of this jewelry for yourself. More information here.

The Gathering grew out of an interview of polymer artist Debbie Jackson by Cynthia Tinapple after the murder of George Floyd. Debbie issued a call to action and assembled a group of 14 polymer artists, 7 white and 7 black. They met weekly on Zoom to have hard, unflinching conversations about race, society, and the impact it had on their lives and art. In October, 2021, they opened a group show, Truth Be Told, at the Two Villages Art Society Gallery in Contoocook, NH. For the exhibit, each artist chose a word that she felt related to the topics discussed in the conversations and created a piece of polymer art around it.

Several of the Gathering artists joined us online at Clayathon to discuss the exhibit and their contributions to it. It was a moving, challenging presentation.

Syndee’s New Tips and Tricks

We ended Clayathon on a lighter note with an entertaining presentation by Syndee Holt on what’s new on the polymer horizon and what’s trending in general.

I wrote about Loretta Lam’s incredible presentations in last week’s post. If you are interested in purchasing her jewelry or her book on jewelry design (which I heartily recommend,) press here.