Early opportunity to study polymer with the best of them

In the first half of February, early in my polymer explorations I was fortunate to be able to participate in a week of polymer workshops in Laurel, Maryland in the middle of snow storms. They call it Cabin Fever for a good reason. Workshops, food and lodging all under the same Holiday Inn roof for a week!

For me the biggest draw was being able to study with Jeffery Lloyd Dever for two days. I was not disappointed. I knew I had chosen the right teacher when Jeffrey began his class by saying he would share his process and as we explored our own direction, he would be happy to answer  general questions but not not tell us what he though was best in our own artistic direction.

As it has turned out, four months later I find I have, in fact gone in my own direction. What I learned from Dever was a number of general techniques which I have found useful in my own work. More importantly, I came away with a sense of confidence about launching into this new material with imagination, following my muse and without fear of making mistakes. Along the way I’ve made many mistakes and, I’d like to think I have learned one thing or another from all of them.

During the week I also had workshops with Jana Roberts Benzon, Marie Segal and Nan Roche. Nan’s workshop explored techniques using an extruder. I left thinking that was something I would not have any use for. The irony is that today I use an extruder often  in my work, but not in the way it was used in the workshop. What I learned there was that you never know when your creative direction will take you to a place where a tool or technique you may have been exposed to in the past will turn out to be perfect for something in an unforeseen future.

Though it is possible to learn a great deal about working with polymer clay on the internet, a benefit that could not be gleaned on the web was studying with and personally getting to know some of the true masters in this polymer arena which is so new to me.

 

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Early work in polymer

In the fall of 2013, learning to work with polymer clay had it’s challenges. I’ve had a lot of color theory and color mixing experience. But polymer is different and I made a lot of “mud” before I had much satisfaction in mixing my own colors.

Small, early projects helped in getting the feel of the materials and some mastery of the color mysteries began to come.

ABrooks_Polymer Bracelets-MOS copyI also discovered some wonderful polymer tutorials online. Ones of special note were from Melanie West and downloaded from her Etsy site. I discovered that the wonky ends of a cane from one of her tutorials made wonderfully odd designs which I used on my early bracelets. . . . .

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For the holidays, I began making one-of-a-kind heart pins from the scraps from larger projects. They were, and continue to be popular.

 

Polymer Epiphany!

Having given up my knit wire fine art jewelry over a decade ago, for the last few years, somewhat unconsciously, I’d been longing for a new primary material to work with. Stringing someone else’s beads can be fun, but it gets old after a while! Yet, at this stage in my life, beginning anew? I couldn’t imagine what medium that would be.

Then, Labor Day Weekend 2013, in Portland, I happened into the Museum of Contemporary Craft. It was like coming home. I felt so welcome, so embraced. As I looked at the work in the museum store, it seemed these artists were my people, doing what made me feel complete!

I was about to leave and happened on a display case with several pieces of  jewelry by Cynthia Toops. And BINGO! It was instantaneous! An epiphany! Polymer clay! Here was a material that could offer me endless creative possibilities through my later years.

Into fall of 2013 I busied myself becoming acquainted with the feel of working polymer, learning new techniques, seeking top workshop teachers and online tutorials. In February I went to the east coast to study with top polymer artist, Jeffery Lloyd Dever and others.

Recent months have found me working long hours in my new studio to develop a body of work. But the greatest challenge is and will continue be to find my own unique voice in a field of many well developed, creative artists in this young fine art jewelry medium.

The May 2014 purchase of my jewelry by the Marin Open Studios organization for a gift of gratitude to a major donor is a welcome, early affirmation of my direction.