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.

Progress Not Perfection: Clayathon 2022

Clayathon 2022, which took place online from February 19 through 21, was a smashing success. I’ll write more about Clayathon in the coming weeks, but if there’s one take away, it came from our guest artist Loretta Lam who presented six hours of content, guiding us through her creative process: Inspiration, Process and Intention on Saturday, Color, Pattern and Form on Sunday and Veneers, Finishing, and Assessment on Monday.

Learning design principles and consciously integrating them into my work has never been easy for me, which brings me to something Lam mentioned during her workshop, and I paraphrase, if you are having a hard time grasping a concept, acknowledge the possibility that you might be fighting it.

Part of the on line chat discussion during the workshops dealt with the question of how long you have to work at something in order to learn it. We are all familiar with the claim that it takes 10,000 hours to achieve mastery. But during the discussion, Artsy-Sciency recommended a Ted Talk by Josh Kaufman, that gives a different point of view. I’m not going to repeat what Kaufman says when you can learn more by watching the video here.

One thing that struck me was that Kaufman repeated something that Lam touched on during her presentations at Clayathon, and which I firmly believe is true.

The major barrier to learning anything new is not intellectual, it’s emotional.

Clayathon Goes Virtual

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Normally, the articles I’ve posted after the annual Clayathon conference are heavy on photographs.   But this year, we took Clayathon online because the pandemic made gathering at the Stockton Seaview an impossibility.  None of us had ever hosted an online conference before.  There was a lot to learn!  In the end, we went for three days and had more than 300 people in attendance via Zoom from all over the globe.  That’s 300 people at one time watching our guest artist Carol Blackburn in two live streams from London each day and our end of the day presenter Syndee Holt, live each day from San Diego, California.  That’s an 8 hour difference for those of you who are wondering. Carol shared a screen in Zoom with her work surface.  Everyone got a clear view. People could ask questions in the chat box.  After Carol’s demos, there were pdf handouts for paid registrants

Pit Crew including
Meeting of the pit crew

In the middle, we had presenters from the Eastern Standard time zone:  A panel discussion with Lindly Haunani, Laura Tabakman and Kathleen Dustin on the impact the pandemic has had on their art,  a live tour of Kathleen Dustin’s studio in the woods of New Hampshire and a presentation by Loretta Lam on her book (which I highly recommend) Mastering Contemporary Jewelry Design.  In the afternoon, we had breakout rooms in Zoom where people could mingle, socialize and trade ideas. 

My work station

None of this happened by accident.  We’ve been planning virtual Clayathon 2021 for months.  We had great people on the crew.  For more information, go to our web site where you can read all about Clayathon.  Be sure to visit the shop where you can buy art from many of the teachers who taught workshops in the days before and after Clayathon.

Clayathon in full swing with screens and screens of participants
Valentine’s Day morning.

Transitions: Mary Federici

South Jersey Clayathon started in 2005 as a small weekend get together for a group of people from different walks of life united by their love of polymer clay. It has grown to one of the preeminent polymer events in the US, last year attended by 130 people. I have been going to Clayathon since the beginning and am involved with the plans to take the event to a virtual platform in 2021 because of the pandemic.

You don’t attend an annual event all those years without making friendships. So we were all devastated to learn of the death of Mary Federici on September 20th. She never missed a Clayathon.

Hamming it up at the first Clayathon. Arlene Groch is in the front, Emily Squires Levine is left. Mary is at the rear.
Mary at Clayathon 2019

Mary was always good for a laugh. A typical story: one year when she was dating a plumber, she brought a length of heavy pipe to Clayathon that she used to whack the hell out of hard bricks of polymer to soften them for conditioning. “My persuader,” she called it.

We will all miss her.

Coming Together at Clayathon

Polymer artist Lindly Haunani is currently in the hospital with multiple severe injuries she suffered in a car accident last week. She is going to have a very long, painful, expensive recovery.

Lindly was scheduled to teach a class at Clayathon which started yesterday.  Her friend and collaborator Maggie Maggio is flying in to teach Lindly’s class for her.

The Clayathon participants have planned some extra conference activities in support of Lindly.

Watch the Creative Journey Studios website here   for exciting news about Sue and Ellen’s ambitious long term project, “52 Weeks for Lindly”.

Most importantly, Cynthia Tinapple has created a Go Fund Me page for Lindly here. Please support Lindly’s Page on your social media and email it to your contacts, and make a donation if you can.

New Earrings (Ugly Cane School Part 3)

I have pretty much exhausted my supply of ugly canes, but I think I have put them to good use.

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These earrings are what can happen when you chop up ugly canes in a mini chopper.  (I found one like this  at a thrift shop for $6.00) and add a few lumps of contrasting clay for interest.

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Another example

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So I have all these components that I plan to take  with me to Clayathon to play around with and try new combinations for earrings.    I have also been experimenting with making my own clay cutters with this kit I got on Amazon.  I will post a tutorial and a review in the future.

I’ll have a  lot to keep me busy!  Clayathon starts February 12 and goes until February 20.  A week of polymer bliss with Kathleen Dustin as this year’s guest artist.  It just doesn’t get any better than that.

 

No Work and All Clay

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Clayathon logo by Robin  Milne

Clayathon starts in a few days and it won’t be too soon for me.  The hotel where we hold it was sold last year  and ensuing renovations meant we had to move Clayathon from February to April.  Nicer weather but too long a wait!  Fortunately, Clayathon will return to its February time slot next year and make that dreary month seem a little less miserable.

Here are some pictures from last years’ Clayathon.

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Experience the Golden Age of Swaps at Clayathon

We are having a bit of polymer history this year at Clayathon.  I have donated the items I received years ago in polymer clay swaps for Sherman Oberson to curate.  Some items will be auctioned off.   But everybody will be able to see the collection of polymer pens, beads, canes, jewelry and more made in the late 1990’s.   Most of the work is primitive by today’s standards and most of mine is downright ugly, but the learning curve was higher in those days than is now. Many swappers included notes and cards with their stuff sharing what they did and how they did it. None of this would have happened without the Internet.

 

Polymer Clay didn’t  come into its own  as an art medium until the advent of the Internet.  Before then,  polymer artists found one another pretty much by serendipity.  A few of these artists founded the National Polymer Clay Guild.  The National Guild started holding conferences.   But as the Internet came into its own, more and more people started surfing, found one another, and connected.

The most popular polymer site in those days was Polymer Clay Central.  This was back in the mid to late 1990’s before Leigh and Stephen Ross took over the site from Arlene Thayer.   (I  was not able to find a screen shot on The Wayback Machine because it only started tracking the site in 2000.)

People flocked to Polymer Clay Central for information, news, and to participate in swaps.  It worked like this: Someone would volunteer to host a swap, decide on a theme and would post a call for participants in Polymer Clay Central.   People would sign up and make items according to the theme-one for every participant-and mail them to the host or Swap Meister along with a small amount of money to cover postage.  The Swap Meister would sort through everything and send each participant a box filled with everyone’s creations.

Leigh Ross recalled the excitement of receiving a swap box: “Swaps were sometimes the only way that we could actually see, in person, someone’s work besides our own! I remember the excitement of opening the “swap box” when it arrived in the mail, and the joy of seeing others who were as crazy about polymer clay as I was!”

Here are some of my favorite things from the swaps.  There will be more at Clayathon.

 

You can see many more swap pictures on Polymer Clay Central here and here.

Cry Havoc and Let Slip the Dogs of War at Clayathon

I am cleaning out my workshop for two reasons.  The first one is to clear out things I will probably never use like all that novelty yarn that looked so pretty at the time, and all those unopened stamp pads that I acquired from various rubber stamping conventions,  goody bags and sales too hard to resist.

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These items and many others are now packed in bags on my workshop  floor, ready to be taken to Clayathon for the Junque Table.  This is my second reason for clearing things out.  Because clearing out your workshop is so much easier if you know that your former treasures will find new life with someone else.

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The Clayathon Junque Table is a time-honored Clayathon tradition and the brainchild of Sherman Oberson, a serious collector of Junque, oddities, taxidermy and various art supplies.  Sherman invites Clayathon attendees  to sort through their supplies and bring anything from the “unwanted” category, the “no longer needed” category,  and the “OMG what was I thinking? category” to Clayathon where he and his crafty pack of  minions sort through everything,  The really desirable or costly items go into the auction.  The remainder go to the Junque table and are covered by a white sheet until the moment when Sherman whips the sheet aside, bellows,“Cry Havoc!,’ and let slip the dogs of war!” and retreats to a safe place while frenzied Clayathoners pick the table clean.

Here are some other things I am bringing for the Junque table:

 

Clayathon runs from April 4 to April 11 at the Seaview Resort in Stockton, NJ.   It’s sold out,  but I will be posting pictures.

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.

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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.