Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


Art Retreat

I spent this past weekend at Klay Karma 2007, a polymer clay retreat sponsored by the Central Massachusetts and New Hampshire Polymer Clay Guilds.  Inspired by the Southern Connecticut Polymer Clay Guild’s Clay Connection retreat in 2004, we embarked on our first retreat in 2005.  KK05 TilesAnd we must’ve done something right because we sold out the 2007 retreat in about two weeks.

What happens at a retreat?  At the Klay Karma retreat, the goal is to enjoy your time working with polymer clay in a stress-free environment.  We open the weekend with a Friday night activity that encourages people to get acquainted with the other artists in a non-competitive situation.  And then the demonstrations begin and continue through the weekend.  The demonstrations are mini-lessons in various techniques that our fellow artists have developed or discovered while working with polymer clay.  It is a great way to share information and to prime the creative muse.

We also have door prizes and a raffle on items provided by our sponsors.  Vendors, such as Polymer Clay Express and Boston Clay Works, also join us for the weekend.

But the most important aspect of an art retreat is the gathering of friends sharing their work and inspiration.  I had the honor of creating a mosaic framed mirror that was given away in a special door prize drawing.  The  1″ square mosaic pieces were created by each attending artist and then applied to the wood frame surrounding the mirror.  KK07 MirrorIt was amazing to put this piece together and view the talent of each artist.  I wanted to bring it home myself.  It seemed appropriate that Diane V from the SCPCG won the mirror as it was SPCG who inspired us to pursue our first Klay Karma retreat.

What I will remember most about this retreat was the laughter that could be heard throughout the weekend; the smiles on people’s faces; the ooh’s and aah’s as people shared their work, and the hugs people gave each other upon arrival and departure.

An art retreat is another great way to find inspiration, connect with other artists, make new friends, and to get reacquainted with old friends.  It is a great way to honor yourself and your art away from family and all the daily responsibilities of our home lives.

Mary Q dragons Mary Q’s wonderful dragons.

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Diversions Along the Way-Finding a Voice

Sometimes it takes a while to find your voice in art; to find your style.

After what I deemed a “failure” at not being able to sell my art doll necklaces I found myself making other jewelry items that I thought would sell; bracelets, pins, earrings.

I took a number of wonderful workshops with several pioneers in the polymer clay world.

  • Kathleen Dustin who shared her image transfer technique and how to create depth of surface with translucent clay.
  • Nan Roche who shared various surface techniques and her loop-in-loop and braiding technique.
  • Gwen Gibson where I learned about more about image transfers and how to make necklace inro boxes and tile bracelets.

I loved each of these women’s style and art.  They were sharing with their knowledge and very inspiring.  Yet, after the workshops, when I’d put together a piece of jewelry something just didn’t click with me.  I found the work tedious.  I made too many mistakes.  Or I just didn’t like the results.

Somewhere along the way I learned about handmade wine bottle stoppers.  I bought a few components and gave it a try.  Here was something relatively simple to put together where I was able to use various techniques in polymer clay and it caught my customer’s attention.

Ah ha! 

Something happened when I made the stoppers.  I could make them with relative ease, I could make multiple pieces in designs that I enjoyed, and they were well received.  With the wine bottle stoppers, I answered some important aspects in starting an art business: make something you like, make something that can be reproduced (if doing production work), and make something that satisfies a target market.

As much as I loved the art dolls, they would take a back seat for a while.  The popularity and production of the wine bottle stoppers became a priority.  I had found a voice, a style in my art that I had to follow.  I would develop a line of functional art.

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Art Date-Russian Icon Museum

Another way to get the creative juices flowing is to schedule an art date for yourself or with a friend.  An art date can be as simple as meeting for lunch (or treating yourself) or attending workshops together.

Today I went with a friend and fellow artist to a gem of a little museum in Clinton.  Verjik and I are members of the Bolton Artisans Guild.  Verjik is a painter, specializing in watercolors.  She also works with beautiful materials to create hand and evening bags and precious gems and beads from which she makes necklaces and earrings.

The museum we visited was the Russian Icon Museum which showcases Russian icons collected by Gordon Lankton.  The icons are from Mr. Lankton’s personal collection; a collection that started in 1989 on a business trip to Russia. 

The artwork is simply stunning.  Simple and intricate details of saints and religious events painted onto a panel covered with gesso, plaster and glue.  Many icons are accented with silver, gold leaf, or beadwork.  The beauty of the icons is enhanced by their worn appearance.

Some of my favorite icons were the triptychs and folding panels.  They gave me some ideas for presenting art dolls or perhaps the creation of a secret hiding space.  They also piqued my interest in combining different mediums into one piece of art.

After a stressful start to the day, a visit to a quiet museum was just what I needed.  I came home refreshed, focused, and inspired to push my creative muse even further.

St. Nicholas Triptych     St.Nicholas



The Doll that Inspired a Round Robin

The Soul of Art is Inspiration -Ginia Davis 

It is always interesting what happens when a group of artists get together.  About two weeks ago I met up with two artist friends, Judy and Karen.  We met at the local Border’s Books to talk and share our newest creations.

Judy shared what she had created in a recent Michael de Meng workshop.  Karen shared her newest beaded jewelry creations.  And I shared some of my art dolls.  We ooh’d and aah’d and asked questions about process and inspiration.

A comment was made about one of my art dolls; how well he(?) fit into one’s hand.  It was somehow comforting to hold the doll.

Karen asked if we were familiar with “talking sticks.”  She explained a little about this Native American tradition.  Oddly, when you held this particular doll, it did look like you were holding a microphone.

Over the next couple of days emails went back and forth about how much fun it was to get together, how great everyone’s art looked, and when we would meet next.  Karen directed us to online information on talking sticks.

And then it happened.

We started referring to that art doll as the talking stick doll.  We started talking about how we should all make a talking stick doll and share what we make the next time we meet.  Ideas started coming left and right. Then it was suggested that we have our own talking stick doll round robin.

The energy that flows when you gather with fellow artists is contagious.  Many of us work in solitary environments so meeting and networking is important.  Not only do we support one another but by gathering we inspire each other.  Someone might have a suggestion to a problem with a piece you’re working on.  Someone might offer an idea to make a piece of art even better.  Someone might have resources for materials. And sometimes one piece of art can inspire you to create something even more meaningful.

Our first round robin meeting date is later this month.  We set some initial parameters to get us started and will refine the rest as we go along.  We’re all looking forward to create the first component and trading them.  I’ll let you know how everything develops.

And it all started with a simple art doll.


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Art in Science

Science and art belong to the whole world, and before them vanish the barriers of nationality. -von Goethe

The 2007 Owlstone Photography Competition winners and finalists were recently announced.  This photography competition takes place at the University of Cambridge Engineering Department in the United Kingdom and is sponsored by Owlstone Nanotech.  All 2007 participants are students or alumni of the engineering department.

Among my favorites is this image of “Fat Free Fibers” taken by engineering student Kerstyn Comley.

Pig fat cell

Can you guess what this is?

To see more of the student entries, click here.

To see the alumni entries, click here.


Art, Doubt and the Target Market

Ever since I “put my butt in the chair” and started making art dolls this year, I’ve wondered why it took me so long to do it.  Several thoughts came to mind: fear, doubt, lack of confidence.

It isn’t as though I dropped the art dolls entirely after the Balombini workshop.  As with many polymer clay artists I started out by making jewelry.  Cute little bunny pins and carrot shaped earrings, patriotic red/white/blue earrings and pins, special pins for the nurses I used to work with.

And art doll necklaces.

Lacking confidence in my own sculpting skills, I used store bought push molds, crafted the bodies, and strung the dolls on buna cord or satin cord.  They were different for sure.  But not big sellers.  And that led to self-doubt and a lack of confidence.

What I didn’t know of or understand when I first started selling my art is the concept of the target market.  Who do you want to sell to? Who will buy your work? What are their demographics? 

You mean there is a “target market?”  You mean I can’t just sell my art because it is cool, different, unique, whimsical, (fill in your own adjective here)?

Not entirely. 

When you start selling your art you should think about the demographics of the people who may be interested in buying your work.  Who is currently buying your work? Are they male or female?  What is their age group and income level?  Where do they live (urban, suburban, or rural)?  How do they pay for your work?

Had I given this some consideration early on, I might have been better prepared to market the art doll necklaces. By defining who was buying my work and who I wanted to buy my work I would’ve realized that those first selling venues weren’t the most appropriate.

Doubt and a lack of confidence are not unfamiliar emotions an artist may experience.  A lack of confidence may come from being told you can’t do something or that you don’t do it “well enough.”  Doubt can also come from this or because of past failures.  If you’re feeling either of these emotions because your work didn’t sell well, consider who you’re targeting with your art.  Perhaps it is time for a change, a time to take a chance on a different venue, or different demographic group.

“To be able to doubt is a blessing; but to despise oneself is a curse.”

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The Find

Have you ever been inspired to create something only to find you lack the tools or materials?  Has something ever caught your eye while on a walk and you think “I should pick that up and make something with it”?  Have you had these thoughts and then decided not to pursue the idea or item only to regret your decision later?

I have.

Yesterday, however, I decided not to follow that pattern of thought. 

For the last couple of years I’ve entertained the idea of making a bicycle topiary/sculpture for our garden.  The only thing I was lacking was the bike; a used, old bike. 

And yesterday the opportunity presented itself. 

An old bike, leftover from a garage sale, was propped against a tree with a “free” sign next to it.  I drove past it.  It looked perfect; a woman’s bike complete with a headlight, fenders and padded seat.  And pre-rusted to boot!

I drove to the bank and returned to where the bike stood.  I had to make a decision.  Welcome the opportunity and take a chance or drive away and possibly regret my decision.

The bike came home with me.

Old Bike

The bike is a single speed Starjet CBC which was apparently an off-brand bike manufacturer in New York.  The chain guard has the word “Deluxe” on it.  The seat post tube has a sticker on it that rates the bike as BMA/6 Certified. And on the top tube someone put the name “Ginny” with an old label maker.

It reminds me of an old Schwinn bike I had as a kid.

I’m learning that creating art is about making choices, finding an opportunity (or being presented with one), and taking chances.  Art is about pushing the envelope, following your desires, and maybe falling flat on your face.  (Perhaps art really does imitate life.)

I’m excited about bringing the bike home and what this project will involve.  I’m happy that I took a chance when the opportunity presented itself.  Since immersing myself in art as a business, I’ve learned to grow as a person; to try something new, to take a chance, and to gain self-confidence and a sense of independence.

It will be interesting to see where “Ginny” the bike leads me.

Celebrate your independence on this 4th of July!

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Elio-The Original Inspiration

My love of art dolls and desire to create art dolls started in 2002 when I took a workshop with Laura Balombini.  I  met Laura earlier in the year at the Paradise City Art Festival where she was an exhibitor.  I was intrigued with her dolls and sculpture.  As we talked about polymer clay she told me about a workshop she was offering later in the year at her studio in Maine.  I signed up that night when I got home.

I found myself getting excited as the workshop drew closer.  This was my first three day, away from home workshop.  And it was wonderful; a small workshop (5 students plus Laura) with individual and group instruction.  What I enjoyed most about the workshop was Laura’s approach.  She provided general tips and techniques and then encouraged us to follow our own voice in creating our dolls.

I made two sheets of clay for the body; a skinner blend of purple and gold clay and a multi-color blend of red, fuschia, ecru, orange, yellow, and green clays. When the two sheets were presented side-by-side the multi-colored blend won out.  With the bodies curing in the oven, we started to work on the doll heads.  While others in the class created heads that had human characteristics, I decided to make a cat head complete with whiskers.  Instead of hands, my doll was given paws.  By the end of the workshop Elio had been born.


Now I’m not sure what caused me to make that crazy color blend.  Those weren’t “my colors.”  There must’ve been something in the freedom of the class that made me want to experiment with new colors.  And it is possible that the colors prompted me to make a cat head instead of a human head.  (I’m also a cat-lover and owned by two cats so perhaps they sent me a subliminal message.)  But the point is I allowed myself the freedom to follow my own voice, to let the piece take me on an adventure instead of me trying to control it.  Letting go in this way is not an easy task.  It can be scary.  It can be exhilirating.  And it is something that I still battle.  Remember, I made my first art doll, Elio, in July, 2002.  I didn’t return to art dolls until this year.

Elio was given his name sometime after the workshop.  I can’t remember how it came about.  (Funny how that happens in my art work; things “just happen” and sometimes I find the meaning later.)  He has adorned my studio all this time, reminding me of how much fun it is to make art dolls.  Thank you, Elio, for being my original inspiration.  Thank you for bringing me back to an art form that I love.  And thank you to Laura for encouraging your students to follow their voice.