Clayathon: Another Look

Lindly Haunani arrived at Clayathon on President’s Day and informed us that  Tory Hughes had died of ovarian cancer the day before, on  Sunday. Tory was just 59.  Not everyone at Clayathon was familiar with her body of work.  She was one of the first to develop polymer imitative techniques.   and to get on the video bandwagon.  She made a series of polymer videos that are still in circulation. But she was more than a pioneer;  she kept pushing herself and growing as an artist and teacher.  Her work kept evolving.  Cynthia Tinapple interviewed Tory in 2013,  and you can watch the video here. To learn more about Tory and her work, visit the Polymer Art Archive, here.
Sherman Oberson runs a great auction. Here he is with his assistants.


There were a number of  old-school polymer  pieces for sale at the auction (which raised more than $3,000.  A big chunk of it went to  Ron Lehockey’s Heart Project.) An anonymous donor contributed a number of items by City Zen Cane, Grove and Grove, Pier Voulkos, Kathy Amt and others.  Here are some pictures.  I wish I had taken more.

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And Sue Springer came through again orchestrating a collaborative mirror project. (She did this for the first time at Clayathon 2014)  The finished mirror, which was also auctioned off, went home with a very happy person.


And finally,  Cynthia Tinapple came to Clayathon this year and made a great video of the highlights.  You can watch the video here.    And if you want to learn more about  pioneering polymer artists and their work be sure to check out the Polymer Art Archive.

In The Sanctuary

I did something a little different this week.   I attended the Wednesday night In The Sanctuary series at the Fleisher Art Memorial where my figure drawing teacher   Bernard Collins joined  DJ Razor Ramon and artist/activist Priscilla Anacakuyani for a collaborative spoken word/live painting/music  performance.



Bernard and DJ Razor Ramon.  Bernard read-rapped-sang his poetry while Ramon kept the beat.


Bernard and Pricilla painting.



5-4Bernard invited a member of the audience to come up and sing.  Her strong dynamic voice to everyone by surprise.





The rear of the sanctuary.



To read more about Bernard Collins and his work press here.




The Big (Blog Hop) Reveal

It’s time for the 8th Bead Soup Blog Party Reveal! Here is what I made from the beads my parter Marta Grabalowska sent me. Her blogs are and

My bead soup was not my typical color palate and I consider that a good thing! I realized that I had some pink seed beads in my stash that I thought I would never use. They were almost identical to the ones  in the soup. I mixed them with  beige and tan beads of a similar value  and threw in some turquoise  beads to make a bead crochet pattern. I used the remaining beads as embellishment.


The copper clasp holds the rope closed. I beaded around the focal cameo and went for an asymmetrical look. I am very happy with the result. Thank you Marta!!!

Here are some more pictures.

Thank you Lori Anderson for making another great beading experience possible!! You can find a list of all the participants on Lori’s blog.

Still Claying After All These Years

Clayathon time is here again. I will pack up my stuff and head to beautiful Galloway Township NJ and the Stockton Seaview Hotel where I will meet new and old friends and have a chance to play with my clay for as long as I want.    Clayathon is a friendly gathering of creative people who enjoy playing and claying together.  Clayathon  can be a time to set goals and try new things, or  a time to make birds.  Lisa Clarke has attended most of the Clayathons and written about them.    Robin Milne designed a great logo for this years’ event.    And Arlene Groch and her team of volunteers have made Clayathon one of the best clay events of the year.  


Want more?  Here  are some past Clayathon posts from this blog.

Wall Street Journal Flames Burning Man

I read an interesting column in the Wall Street Journal last week. In “The Dead-End Cult of the ‘Burning Man’  Real creativity has nothing to do with antics in the desert, ”  Holly Finn  dismisses Burning Man as  a waste of time and opines that groups are fine for barn raising but that events like Burning Man only serve to infantilize the creative process. Even though I have never attended Burning Man, I wondered what  it was  about the event that caused  Finn to view it with such disdain.

todd's art carBrushingBurning Man 2006

For the uninitiated, Burning Man is a weeklong festival held every year in the Nevada desert. Attendees cast off the routine of their daily lives, wear zany costumes, party, meet other people and explore alternate means of self-expression. They are encouraged to volunteer on artistic and technical projects with other attendees, using whatever creative skills they might have. Burning Man also endeavors to create a safe space so participants are willing to try doing things they have not attempted before.  They might help to  build a giant wooden puzzle, collaborate on a mural or  construct a stage for drummers and dancers. They might even try drumming or dancing themselves.

Finn quotes noted  innovator and inventor Saul Griffith as complaining that his friends who attend Burning Man borrow equipment from him, don’t return it and don’t say thank you. I wouldn’t like that either.  But Finn claims that Griffith’s real problem with “Burners” is that most of them are creative for only a few weeks of the year, not 52. Does this burning problem keep him up at night?   I don’t know.  But his  friends seem to have some  creative ways of acquiring free stuff.   Maybe they don’t even go to the festival.  But I digress.

Finn asserts that innovative ideas come from individuals, not groups.  It’s hard to disagree. (Although Bell Labs might be an exception.)  But should we dismiss Burning Man simply because the 50,000 people expected to attend this year are not going to discover a cure for cancer, produce another Pietà, or find an economical way to save the Space Program by the  end of the festival?

Why are 50,000 people planning to attend Burning Man this year anyway? The answer is complex, but I speculate that some of them would like to expand their personal and creative horizons and are hoping Burning Man might help. Should they ridiculed?  Maybe.  It’s hard to get past some of those costumes.   But pitied and dismissed? Not so fast.

Most people I know are not able to create fearlessly. They have a voice in the back of their head telling them they have no business trying to make an innovative work of art or the next iPad.  Even if they manage to push through this fear,  they  still have to get their ideas out into the world.  If they can do that, then they have to deal with criticism, constructive and otherwise, and the ever-present  potential for failure.  All of this can make one feel extremely vulnerable, which not many people can handle.  Add to that  a corresponding lack of control over the outcome.  Talent and hard work might not be enough to carry the day.  Van Gogh proved that cutting off your ear is no a guarantee of success, at least in your lifetime. Let’s face it, in our society, being an innovative artist, inventor or entrepreneur is risky and not everyone has the stomach for it even if they have the desire.  You can be a mediocre plumber, teacher, lawyer or mechanic and still scrape a living together.  It’s easier to hide in one of these roles than making peace with vulnerability.

At the same time creative souls can’t help but be drawn to like minded people, hence the group art events and community art groups. For some people,  the stimulation and feedback they get from participating improves their work and sets them on a new path. Not everyone has the chance to explore or test his or her creative passions when they are first sparked.    Community art groups and events can provide a launching pad for these people. For others,   participation in art groups will always be a social event  with learning and creativity put on the back burner.  I  concur with Finn’s observation that community art groups and events can lead to participants losing their individuality and  moving in lock step with the group instead of  searching for their own voice.  But for some, events like Burning Man  can be a place to dip their toes in the water and open themselves to new creative possibilities

Finn maintains that infantilization in groups causes people to shirk responsibility for their actions, and argues that  this infantilization at its worst  is destructive, giving  the London riots as an example.  We have seen this sort of thing religious happen with cults and fundamentalist groups, but if I could pinpoint what caused the London riots, I would be a highly sought after consultant.  Alas, I am only a middle aged woman with too much time on her hands.  Even so,  I don’t think we’re likely to see  fired up members of the Burning Man cult destroying cities anytime soon.  For one thing, the nearest city is a long way from the festival.  Besides, most of the people  who go have day jobs. Do you know how much it costs to attend Burning Man?  I’d wager that some of them even take showers.

And while I agree that groups are rarely on the cutting edge of innovation, it’s also true that new ideas do not spring fully formed from the mind of the inventor or artist (Ok, ok  Mozart, make a liar out of me). A seed has to get planted and gestate. I don’t pretend to know how this happens.  (If I did, I  would  I would be that highly paid consultant I mentioned earlier.)  Do I need to remind you that manure makes a good fertilizer?

One of Burning Man’s strengths might cause its biggest problem: it strives to be accessible and inclusive. That means it is going to attract a lot of Yahoos who think they are at a rave and behave badly.  As for the criticism that the  festival goers don’t  produce any significant work during the festival, isn’t that like shooting fish in a barrel?  The festival only lasts a week and the works created there  are not meant to become icons in the annals of art history; they are supposed to be temporary.  One of the festival principals is to leave no trace of the festival on the landscape after it is over.  And with 50,000 people in attendance you can’t expect everything produced to be quality.

But that is not the reason events like Burning Man can make a contribution although, like so may other things we do to “improve” ourselves, the results don’t show right away.  The goal of Burning Man  as I understand it is to help participants find the means for self expression and to help each individual connect to his or her  creative powers.  This is a solitary exercise even though the festival is so big.  Some people will use Burning Man as an  excuse to party in the desert for a week (although I would prefer to party in an air conditioned venue without sand in my crotch).   But others will choose to go on this solitary journey.  A  few will continue on the journey long after the festival ends.   What’s wrong with that?

Artistic Collaboration with Cats

My Feline housemate and sometimes artistic collaborator Plumpton told me about Henry.  Plumpton often helps out when I am  beading or working with fiber.  These collaborations don’t always go smoothly, but Plumpton has never sought another collaborator.  That should mean something.  Shouldn’t it?