Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Beyond the Blend

My marathon week of claying finally came to an end and I am recovering at my mom's house in Pennsylvania. I darted out of the Synergy gala dinner just before the live auction, which I heard was a lot of fun, and drove back to Damascus, Maryland to get ready for Dan Cormier and Tracy Holmes' two-day workshop called Beyond the Blend. Dan is a very analytical and precise kind of guy and he has spent much of the last two years working with clay blends in the pasta machine. He has come up with an interesting method for achieving complex, predictable and repeatable results. He also likes developing tools and introduced the SHARK, a device for limiting the spread of clay in pasta machines. It helps when you want to make a narrow blend or just a narrow strip of clay. Griffin Cormier was there as well, running around in his jammies, and he kept us all entertained.

I can't say enough about Rob and Wilma and Devon at Artway Studio/Polymer Clay Express. They gave the students the run of the store and instantly provided anything we needed for the class.

I'll be offline for awhile. I'm driving my mom down to North Carolina for a big family reunion and probably won't be blogging til I get back to Canada around March 8. Unless, of course, you want me to show photos from my cousin's 50th wedding anniversary.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Synergy, Day Three

My first seminar of the day was Christi Friesen's Art Jewelry Designing. She gave each attendee a pen and a little booklet called "doodle your way to amazing wonderfulness or: how to design art jewelry without hardly trying," and encouraged us to scribble and doodle everywhere we go, even in her lecture. She showed how her inspirations lead to doodles and then to more detailed designs for her elaborate jewelry, although she said her finished pieces often vary quite a bit from her sketches. Then she told us her techniques for assembling her unusual shapes.

Jana Roberts Benzon gave a very detailed demonstration on how to construct her breathtaking dimensional caned pieces and showed how dimension catches light, creates shadow, and results in interest and intrigue. To make it easy for everyone in the room to see what she was doing, she had a video camera pointed at her work surface and sent the image through a projector onto a big screen. I also liked her outfit and the little elf condoms she was wearing on her fingers.

During the afternoon gathering, Tim McCreight got 200 grownups to play with little pieces of paper. His interactive presentation was called Design Decisions: Good, Better, Best, and he started out by challenging us to improve upon a design he put on an easel. Seth Savarick and Donna Kato were forced to do this in front of everyone. Then the people at each table arranged their pieces of paper and talked about their design decisions. Fun.

My last seminar of the conference was Karen Woods "Unconventional Polymer." I was feeling a little sleepy but Karen's amazingly energetic presentation woke me up and kept me fascinated all the way through. She had so much information to share that she talked a mile a minute and ended up quite out of breath. She showed us real items borrowed from other artists and lots of pictures of unusual and different ways of using polymer clay. In addition to looking outside the clay world for inspiration, she told us to "take a class in something you don't want to do," such as basket weaving or mosaic tiling or some other skill that might possibly suggest a use in clay.

Kudos to all the people who put Synergy together. It was a wonderful experience for me, and everyone else I talked to seemed very pleased as well.

Synergy participants at the end of Day 3

Friday, February 22, 2008

Synergy, Day Two

Miss Carol Duvall got the day off to a rousing start with her keynote speech, Television, Polymer Clay and Me. Her tales of the early days of her career were hilarious, and her description of the craft items that didn't make it onto the air (think of cute things made of feminine hygiene products!) were priceless. The whole thing turned into a love fest with members of the audience thanking Carol for her contributions to crafting in general but especially for introducing polymer clay to the public. Many in the audience first heard of polymer clay through Carol. At the end of the speech, all of the artists who appeared on her show gathered for a group photo.

Next the Vendor Fair opened: so many goodies and too little money to spend. Kato Polyclay introduced their new colored liquid clay; Alumilite Corp introduced their new Amazing Mold Putty and Amazing Casting Resin; Robert Dancik introduced Faux Bone; and there were lots of books, videos, tools, Art Clay Silver, and of course, polymer clay for sale.

An afternoon panel discussion chaired by Jeffrey Dever tackled the tough topic of "Inspiration, Originality and Infringement." Is imitation really the sincerest form of flattery? The consensus seemed to be: in order to learn, you must first imitate, but you don't have to sell it! Take the time to develop your own voice, your own style. Use techniques, not someone else's design. The panelists were Elise Winters, Thomas Mann and Dan Cormier.

My afternoon seminar was about the Juried Craft Show Circuit. Louise Fischer Cozzi gave us helpful information about applying to shows, what kind of photography we need, what is required in a booth - lighting, signage, displays, flooring, etc. I didn't know you had to pay extra for electricity!

Later in the day there was time for vendors to give demonstrations. Melanie West showed us how to cover her cuff bracelet blanks with clay.

Finally, after grabbing a quick sandwich, it was time to learn how to blog! Cynthia Tinapple (center in photo) of Polymer Clay Daily led the presentation assisted by Alison Lee of Craftcast (left) and Susan Lomuto of Polymer Clay Notes. I think I still have a bit to learn.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

I'm not worthy!

The Gallery

Oos and Ahs filled the room when the Artists' Gallery opened at Synergy today. After looking at so much of this work in books and online, it was a delight to finally see it in person. After a few minutes, though, I suddenly felt overwhelmed by the beauty and craftsmanship I was seeing and blurted out, "I'm not worthy." Based on the hearty laughter that followed, I wasn't the only one feeling this way.

My day got off to an early start with Lindly Haunani's seminar on Eccentric Bead Shapes. Actually, I think Lindly is more eccentric than her beads, and she was lots of fun.

Next Judy Belcher and Maggie Maggio welcomed us and Kathleen Dustin spoke about the history of polymer clay.

Jeffrey Dever chaired a panel Discussion on Hallmarks of Craftsmanship with Donna Kato, Rachel Carren, Sarah Shriver, and Alison Lee.

Nan Roche gave a seminar on Fine Finishing and demonstrated proper methods of sanding, drilling and buffing. She also talked about the chemistry of polymer clay and explained why it behaves the way it does and how knowing about the chemistry helps us handle the medium properly.

My long day ended with Kathleen Dustin's seminar on earring design. Her ideas for making earwires an integral part of the earring design were very helpful.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Savarick class, Day Three

Dateline: Damascus*

Intrepid international blogger Cynthia Blanton was felled by a sniper's bullet while reporting from a clandestine meeting of the ASPCA.** Not really. I just WISHED someone would shoot me. During the afternoon of the third day of class, I developed a wicked case of food poisoning and became overly familiar with the toilet facilities at the Artway Studio. I totally missed the last two hours of class which apparently had something to do with tassels. In my fevered condition, the only use I could think of for tassels had nothing to do with polymer clay.

I had planned to photograph everyone's finished projects, but I was too sick and besides, nobody finished anything. The class was really about process and technique, so we were intent on learning as many different methods as possible. My approach to workshops is to siphon every last drop of information out of my teacher's brain and worry about finishing things or having the most original design when I get back home. I'm hoping the class participants will send photos of their projects when they finish them.

The highlight of the class was learning the source of Seth's Secret Sauce (aka S3), a magical liquid he uses to smooth clay surfaces. We are sworn to secrecy, so the only way to learn about this wonderful formula is to take one of his classes.

I'm glad I had a day off between class and Synergy because I'm still recovering. Tomorrow will be a full day of seminars, speeches, panel discussions and the opening of the gallery of artist's work. Most of my clay heroes are here and I can't wait to see their work in person.

* Damascus, Maryland
** American Society for Polymer Clay Addicts

Monday, February 18, 2008

Savarick class, Day Two

Whew, I'm pooped. We had a full day of vessel construction in class today, and I was so busy, I didn't take any photos. Each student is trying to make three vessels with different shapes and features. Each one requires multiple layers of clay, so we switched back and forth between them, working on one while another one was baking. Seth Savarick, the instructor, is a computer jock as well as an artist, and he makes good use of the computer for designing objects and silkscreen patterns. In addition, he prints out useful templates for measuring and marking components of the clay pieces. Because each layer of the vessel builds upon the prior one, it is critical to make the "foundation" layers as precise as possible, and the templates help with that process.

Tomorrow we learn how to make lids and bottoms and apply decorative veneers....

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Seth L. Savarick's class

Today was the first day of Seth L. Savarick's 3-day class at the Artway Studio called Inner Spaces/Outer Voices, Creating Personal Containers to Wear or Carry. Seth makes a variety of beautifully finished, gallery quality inro, lockets, minaudiere and vanity purses. Most of us were expecting to see tiny little vessels, but his are actually larger than the photos on his website suggest. We began with a discussion of his design process, learned how to properly leach and condition clay (I thought I knew how, but he taught me some things), and then we began learning a variety of ways to make core forms, the shapes around which he builds the vessels.

The teaching facilities at the Artway Studio are quite good. In addition to a long room with our work tables, there is a lecture room with an overhead mirror, the kind you find in cooking classes, and a variety of chairs, including some tall ones towards the back of the room. Smart. I think everyone had a good view of the demonstrations. And of course, any supplies we needed were instantly available in the store.

Tomorrow we start building vessels.....

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Snowflake Cane Ornament

Sandy, one of my guildmates at the Southern Ontario Polymer Clay Guild, taught us how to make snowflake canes and apply them to glass ornaments. This is a "disc" ornament. It looks like a flattened glass ball - sort of a flying saucer shape. I put slices of the snowflake canes onto a thin blue sheet of clay, cut out a large fluted circle, and applied it to the back of the ornament. I wrapped it around to the front a bit so it will never come off. Then I put some iridescent flakes inside. Fun.

Friday, February 1, 2008

More on BOH stoppers

I received a nice note from Louise who linked me to her blog where she shows another method of improving Bottle of Hope stoppers. Scroll way down to see her method.

I forgot to say "Thanks" to Georgia (aka iggy) for her suggestion about the tiny rubber bands.