Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit

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A Good Day For Balloons

The fourth cat head that I sculpted last fall has received his new body. This cat spirit messenger is inspired by our youngest cat, Pippin.

Tabby with Balloons

Tabby: A Good Day for Balloons is made from polymer over a foil and wire armature. His whiskers are Beadalon stringing wire. The balloons are made from air dry clay. His blue chair is polymer over a cardboard and foil armature.

Sealed inside the chair is this quote from Mary de La Valette:

Blessed are the animals
for they shall lead us back
to our lost innocence.

Tabby: A Good Day for Balloons makes his debut this weekend at the Paradise City Arts Festival (3/19-21) at the Royal Plaza Trade Center in Marlboro. I’m in booth #432. Stop by and say ‘hi.’


Darwin-Part 2

First, a brief summary. Darwin, originally named Hybrid, has a head that was my first attempt at sculpting cat heads. To me, he looked more like a cross between a cat, a rabbit, and a horse. However, he was still destined for greatness in the form of a new animal spirit messenger. You can read about my process in creating his body and how he got his new name here.

When we last saw Darwin, he looked like this:

Darwin-core polymer clay body

Feeling a little naked, I think.

I left some of the wire uncovered thinking that I might change the angle of his arms and legs. However, I quickly learned that in order to do just that, I should not have covered his shoulders or neck or hips. Repositioning him now would be like moving a super model bound tightly in vinyl. Ain’t gonna happen.

So, I covered the exposed wire and started to make Darwin’s clothing. Yes, I made clothes for Darwin from polymer clay. I traced his trunk, arms, and legs to make patterns and then “cut” the pieces from the polymer fabric.

It was starting to feel like an art doll version of Project Runway in my studio. Only I didn’t have Tim Gunn telling me to “make it work.” (Though I did hear him in my head….)

Here is the finished version of Darwin. More information on this piece follows the pictures.


Darwin-side view

After Darwin was clothed, I realized the area between his waistline and his crotch was rather large and blank. (You could say he has a very high waist.) So I sewed a sporran for him to wear around his waist. A sporran is Scottish Gaelic for “purse” or a pouch. It is a traditional part of Scottish Highland dress, usually worn as part of a kilt ensemble. It functions like a pocket on a pair of pants.

Darwin’s sporran is made from felt with whipped stitched edges and a tiny button sewn on the flap to secure it.

In Darwin’s hands is his field notebook. The notebook opens and contains scribblings and pictures of the curious creatures he has found on his travels.

Darwin’s base is made from air dry clay applied over a box. The air dry clay went on a bit lumpy and I used this to my advantage to create a “dry earth” surface. The air dry clay was painted with several shades of acrylic paint and sealed. The wild flowers (star leaf species) are polymer.

Darwin is attached to his base with a small amount of apoxie clay. Including the base, Darwin is 13″ tall.

Inside the box I placed the following quote from John Muir. Mr. Muir was a Scottish-born American naturalist and explorer. He is credited with promoting the cause to make the Yosemite Valley into a National Park. He founded the Sierra Club in 1892 and served as its President until his death is 1914.

This grand show is eternal.
It is always sunrise somewhere:
The dew is never all dried at once:
a shower is forever falling, vapor is ever rising.
Eternal sunshine, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming,
on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn,
as the round earth rolls.

Note: It is only as I write this that I realize the curious connections in this piece. When I made Darwin’s pants, I knew they had a creative plaid pattern. That is what prompted the idea for the sporran. When I gave him the name of Darwin, I knew he would become an explorer. That prompted the field notebook. As the piece came together, including the “dry earth” base, it all felt very serendipitous. I chose the quote from John Muir because I knew he was a great supporter of nature and the environment. It was only when I looked up his biography that I learned he was Scottish. Ironically, Charles Darwin was English, a naturalist, and studied at the University of Edinburgh.


Darwin-Part 1

Last fall I started sculpting cat heads. My first attempt resembled a cross between a cat, a rabbit, and/or a horse. You’ll see him in the picture below, left front.

Now I knew this little hybrid head would someday be used in a sculpture. He hoped so too. The question was, how would the muse see fit to use him in a piece of art.

Before leaving for Synergy, I sketched out an idea for hybrid head and started to construct a body for him.

Hybrid Sketch

His head is approximately 1.5″ in length. If I wanted him to be 12″ tall, he would need an 8″ body (1.5″x8″=12″).

Determining Head & Body Dimensions

The first challenge I would have with this piece was his head. His head was sculpted months ago and I used a thin eye pin for his future neck armature. However, to make the body I envisioned, I needed to decide how to attach the 16 gauge wire that would become his core body.

Attaching Wire to Head

I decided to drill a small hole in the base of his head near the original eye pin. I wrapped the top portion of the wire with small strips of foil and secured the foil to the wire with hot glue. Then I attached the foil and wire neck to his head with hot glue.

Next I began building his body with foil and masking tape over the 16 gauge wire. His arms were added and the bottom portion of the wire was bent for his future feet.

Darwin-Foil body

At this point, memories of dissecting frogs in Biology class came to mind. Poor guy!

Once the body armature was complete, a layer of scrap clay was added to form more of the body. Hands, feet, neck, shoulders, and portions of his arms and legs were added.

Darwin-core polymer clay body

During this process, I decided to give this fellow a proper name: Darwin (the missing link.) Given his hybrid head and oversized hands and feet, Darwin seemed like an appropriate name. I wonder if his namesake would’ve found anything like this creation on the Galapagos Islands.

Next: Darwin completed and fully clothed!


The Beebles Are Coming…

I’ve been offline these last few days as I am getting ready for the Paradise City Arts Festival, March 19-21, at the Royal Plaza Trade Center in Marlboro. I’m looking forward to exhibiting at this location because it will introduce my artwork to a new customer base and it is less than 30 minutes from my home!

My goal this week is to post some of the new work that I’ll be bringing to the show.

Introducing the Beebles

The Beebles made their “soft” debut at a small art show last December. It was a good place to present them and gauge customer reaction.

At that time, their working name was “Bulbies” which many people found hard to pronounce. (A frequent mispronunciation was “bubbies.”) The name wasn’t a success but reaction to these tiny sculptures was positive.

My inspiration for the Beebles is the Japanese netsuke. Netsuke are small sculptural objects or toggles worn to suspend objects hung from the sash of the kimono.

In my interpretation, the Beebles are formed over used nightlight bulbs. This is my way of upcycling an item that would end up in the landfill. Beebles, therefore, are good for the environment and a great way to start your art collection!

The Beebles


Synergy2-The Banquet

In 2008 I missed the Synergy banquet due to illness. I vowed that would not happen this time around. This final post features pictures taken on the night of the closing banquet.

Before we sat down for the keynote, dinner and the auction, everyone gathered for drinks, a book signing, and conversation.


Janice Abaranel and Sandra McCaw

Libby Mills and Karen Ottenbreit

Quassia, Diane, and Helen (CT Guild)

Libby, Janice, and Me

Dayle Doroshow and Carolyn Skei

Even the Food was Artsy

Around 6:30 the doors opened to the “Mirror Room” for the final event.

Lisa Pavelka introduced the IPCA’s secret handshake:

On one side of the banquet room:

All Eyes on the Head Table

And the other side of the banquet room:

Alison Lee of Craftcast was our keynote speaker. Alison shared one of her favorite books, Mike and His Steam Shovel as a reminder to take on a challenge, to think creatively, and develop alternate solutions. (This also brought back memories of watching Captain Kangaroo and listening as he read this story.)

The banquet ended with Tracy Holmes leading a rousing auction of wonderful polymer artwork.

Synergy2 attracted over 175 attendees representing several countries including:

  • The United States
  • Canada
  • The United Kingdom
  • The Netherlands
  • Spain
  • Israel
  • The Czech Republic
  • Germany

New friendships were formed and old friendships were reestablished. Synergy2 truly represented its theme of Exploring Connections.

For more thoughts on Synergy2, visit these blogs:

Iris Misly at Polymeri Online

Janice Abarbanel at Exploring the Art of Polymer Clay

Susan Lumoto at Daily Art Muse

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Synergy2 Days 2 and 3

Synergy Day Two

The day begins with continental breakfast and then it is off to another day of seminars. On tap today: Immaterial: Repurposed Possibilities with Jeff Dever, Ten Trends with Cynthia Tinapple, and Collaboration as Inspiration with Loretta Lam and Ronna Weltman.

I was looking forward to Jeff’s seminar and was not disappointed. Several key points standout: Think Differently, Plan Ahead (when using materials other than polymer), and Seek Inspiration. My head is buzzing with ideas and possibilities for using what I learned in creating future sculptural work.

In Ten Trends, Cynthia shared her predictions for the future of polymer in four areas: cultural uncertainty, manual competency, social activism, and new media.

And in Collaboration as Inspiration, Loretta and Ronna shared how their artistic friendship started and how it has grown over time into a collaborative relationship.

The Purposeful Marketplace

The panel discussion on Day 2 focused on selling in today’s marketplace. Speakers included Robert Dancik, Tamara Honaman, and Lisa Bayne from Moderator Jeff Dever opened with an intriguing question: Is selling a form of validation? Is selling for everyone? This was followed by another curious question: How do you define recognition?

Hmm, certainly questions that are worth some thought. Other points from this panel included:

  • Feedback-who do you get feedback from and how do you integrate the information
  • Pitfalls-overextending yourself and not staying true to your vision
  • Creating a buzz-use social networking, blog, write press releases

Self Expression

Robert Dancik gave a lively presentation on Self Expression in the afternoon. Always inspiring, Robert started with the following quote:

Technique is what you know, expression is who you are.
-Michael Tracy, Artistic Director Pilobolus Dance Company

From here Robert shared ways to move out of left brain thinking and into right brain thinking, including:

  • working with new materials
  • changing your format (eg: small scale or large scale)
  • limiting your resources or color palette
  • letting your self feel things

He also reinforced what we all know to be true: ‘seat’ time improves creativity and artistic expression and to listen when something pops into our heads (and to write it down or record it.)

Synergy2 Day Three

The final day of Synergy always seems to go by quickly. Seminars are reduced to two during the day, the gallery and vendor fair close early, and the event ends with a banquet and auction. If there is time, a visit to the American Craft Council (ACC) show is also an option.

My final two seminars are The Impressionable Critique with Barbara McGuire and Mix and Match with Maureen Carlson.

In The Impressionable Critique Barbara explains how a critique can be conducted using the elements of design and the principles of design. These same aspects may also be used by art show juries. Barbara reminds us of two things:

  • to use the elements and principles of design to critique our own work, and
  • to focus on one aspect at a time when improving our work because focusing on too many areas at once creates overwhelm

Barbara shared her personal artwork to discuss issues that may come up in a critique (e.g. underdeveloped concepts, skill, edges and frames, unbalanced elements) and provided critiques of artwork brought in by fellow artists.

Maureen’s Mix and Match seminar was quite fun. Maureen explained the various modeling materials available to artists, including moldable wire, cloth/fiber, air dry clays, powders/fibers, and two-part epoxy resins. Samples of various products were shared which gave us the opportunity to feel and play with the various materials. Once again I left a seminar with a head full of possibilities and ideas for future work.

Clay Manufacturers Forum

The final panel discussion at Synergy2 was a clay manufacturers forum. Moderated by Seth Savarik, the panel included Iris Weiss from Polyform Products, Gerlinde Karg from Staetdler, Germany, Donna Kato for Van Aken/Kato Polyclay, and Lisa Pavelka and Bettina Welker for Viva Decor/Pardo Clay.

Clay Forum

Viva Decor/Pardo Clay is the newest player on the block. Pardo has been available in the US for about one year. It is made with beeswax, comes in jewelry clay and artist clay, and, instead of the usual block format, Pardo is extruded into ball shapes. There are six balls to a package and the package is recyclable.

Other tidbits from the forum included:

  • Polyform products are shipped on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays to stores to (hopefully) keep the clay from sitting on a loading dock through a weekend
  • Fimo should be kept in a cool, dark place to maintain quality
  • State of California law is stricter than German law regarding the manufacturing of polymer
  • By law, polymer clay products (plastic that is hardened in an oven) cannot be labeled “not for children”
  • Kato clay has one mixer that is used for all colors from white to black
  • Staedtler proposed that guidelines be developed for shipping and storage of polymer clay

Next: The Banquet

More impressions of Synergy2 can be found on the following blogs:

Kelly Russell’s Beadfuddled

Heather Campbell’s The Purple Door

Julie Eakes

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Synergy2 Kick-Off Event and Day 1

Synergy2 Kick-Off

It is hard to believe that two years have past since the inaugural Synergy event sponsored by the International Polymer Clay Association (IPCA). This past week I was in Baltimore taking in the fun and excitement of Synergy2 Exploring Connections.

I took my laptop with the intent of writing a synopsis each night. Right; that obviously did not happen. I got as far as writing two and a half sentences. Fatigue tends to set in early after a full day of seminars and socializing. So, instead of an “as it happened” update, I’m giving you a review of what took place during the conference.

Ford and Forlano

Synergy2 kicked off with a presentation by Steve Ford and David Forlano, better known as Ford and Forlano (or City Zen Cane in their early days.) Ford and Forlano have collaborated for over 20 years. In this presentation, Steve and David shared how their working relationship began, how it has evolved, and how they’ve maintained it over the years. They agreed that it is like a marriage with its ups and downs. Not only is this collaboration significant for the length of time they’ve worked together, but since 2006, they’ve worked separately with Steve residing in Philadelphia and David in Santa Fe.

A slide show accompanied their presentation which showed the evolution of their work. It was amazing to see the transformation of their art and the growth and development of their style. 

After their presentation, Charm City Cakes presented this amazing cake in honor of the IPCA’s 20th anniversary. It was quite tasty.

Synergy2 Day One

On Thursday, the seminars started. I attended seminars by Nan Roche (Inspiration from Scientific Imagery), Lisa Pavelka (Build Your Brand), and Barbara McGuire (Incredible Lightness of Learning). In between the seminars, two presentations were scheduled.

Collecting Polymer

The first presentation “Collecting Polymer” featured Elise Winters and Bruce Pepich. Elise is a pioneer in polymer. Bruce Pepich is the Executive Director and Curator of Collections at the Racine Art Museum (RAM) in Wisconsin. Together Elise and Bruce are working to debut a permanent polymer art exhibit (the Polymer Collection) at RAM. Elise and Bruce shared how this dream exhibit became reality. Bruce shared pictures of RAM, explained the museum’s philosophy, and discussed his exhibit aesthetic.

As with many artistic endeavors, money is needed to make bring this event to fruition. Please take some time to read about Bruce and the museum here, read about the collection here and here, and then consider making a donation in support of this exhibit here.

Intentional Evolution

In the afternoon a panel discussion was moderated by Jeff Dever and featured Rachel Carren, Bruce Pepich, and Kathleen Dustin. The panel discussed the evolution of polymer and how to push the medium to the next level. The pertinent points I took away from this panel were to:

  • increase the public’s exposure to polymer via education
  • view polymer as an alternative material that is used as a medium of expression versus technique
  • improve polymer’s credibility as a medium
  • have a vision and direction when using polymer
  • cross-pollinate polymer with other media
  • refer to the medium as “polymer” (and remove the word “clay”)

For more impressions on Synergy2, check out Libby Mill’s blog and Polymer Clay Daily