Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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 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


The American Craft Council Show Part 2

Here are 10 more artists from the ACC show with stunning work.

John Christopher Borrero:  John is a mixed media/found object artist.  He creates paintings, illustrations, and sculptures inspired by mythology, archeology, anthropology, and theology.

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Carol Owen:  Carol is a mixed media artist who creates altered books, spirit houses and shrines.  She is also the author of the book Crafting Personal Shrines.  I first discovered Carol’s work through her book and find it very inspiring.  It was wonderful to meet her and see her work up close.

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Virginia McKinney:  Virginia creates sculptures and vessels from earthenware clay and fabricated steel.  The idea of home or a dwelling is a recurring theme in her work, often being presented with quirky personalities.


Kimberly Willcox:  Kimberly creates what she calls “3-dimensional objectes from transformed materials.”  Many of her pieces are influenced by the human form.  Several of her sculptures are kinetic.  Please visit her web site to see her awesome work.

Laura Peery:  I first saw Laura’s work here in Boston at the Craft Boston show.  She makes these lovely decorative teapots from porcelain clay.


Christine Kaiser:  Christine describes her work as being created from “hardwork, decent tools, and time.”  Her mixed media pieces are fairytale-like and humorous.

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Christina Goodman:  Christina creates delicate handpainted minatures and jewelry.  She draws inspiration from landscapes by Giovanni Bellini, Lorenzo Lotto, Jan Van Eyck and utilizes 14th and 16th century gilding and painting techniques.


Reina Mia Brill:  I fell in love with Reina’s work when I first saw it on Polymer Clay Notes and it was a joy to see her work in-person.  Reina creates fantastic knitted wire sculptures that bring a smile to your face, followed by a giggle.  As Reina says, she “illustrates a world of childhood memories and experiences” from wire.

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Thomas Wargin:  Thomas is a sculpture whose pieces begin as sketches that are sculpted and then cast in bronze and aluminum.  Thomas says his work represents the merger of man into the modern world.  He draws inspiration from Michaelangeo, Da Vinci, and Picasso.



McNally Instruments:  Bob McNally “had a dream” that people would learn to play music on an instrument that anyone could play…even those with little musical training or ability.  Out of this dream was born The Strumstick, an instrument that reminded me of a guitar and a ukele.  Strumsticks incorporate a combination of diatronic scale and drone tuning.  I don’t completely understand what that means but when you play the Strumstick, it sounds really good!


Phew!  And those are only artists from half of the show.  If you ever have the opportunity to visit the ACC show, I encourage you to do so.  Wear a pair of comfy shoes and buy a bottle of water to stay hydrated.

I hope you are inspired by these artists.  I know I am.


The American Craft Council Show Part 1

The American Craft Council (ACC) shows started in 1966 as a way to present outstanding works by America’s leading craftspersons to the public and to the trade.  The ACC show in Baltimore last month exemplified this standard with over 700 artists in various media including basketry, ceramics, fashion, fiber, furniture & lighting, glass, jewelry, leather, metal, mixed media, paper, stone, and wood.

The ACC also showcases a variety of upcoming artists in new programs, such as:

Searchlight Artists: Emerging artists are artists nominated by leaders in their field who are given the opportunity to exhibit their work for the first time at a national craft show.

School to Market: ACC invites undergraduate students in craft and materials studies programs to curate an exhibition of their work at the show.

New Wave Craft: 300 artists in the “new wave craft movement” were invited by ACC to apply to the show; 15 were accepted.

GreenCraft: Artists who use eco-friendly materials and/or techniques at ACC and who posted “GreenCraft” signs in their booths.

Craft4Kids: An expanded, new category that features artists making clothing, toys, and other accessories specifically for children.

I had limited time to visit the ACC show; however, I did pick up a few business cards and postcards and will share the first 7 artists with you today.

Jung Yeon Choi: Jung is a Fiber Artist and was one of several Searchlight Artists featured at ACC.  This piece featured at the show is titled Uninvited  and is made from organza, wire, and paper and is dyed and sewn.  Uninvited measures 15′ by 20′


Joh Ricci is a basketmaker and sculptural fiber artist.  She uses knotting, crochet, and netting to create delicate sculptures that are created around hand carved bases or gourds.  Joh calls her form of expression “both tedious and time intensive with a hypnotic rhythm to the process.”


James Borden of Timeshapes creates clockwork sculptures made from walnut, cherry and “other Minnesota hardwoods.”  These were definitely eye-catching as James had several pieces suspended from the ceiling at ACC.  Yes, I wanted to say “My time must fly when you’re having fun.”


Karen Smith creates fiber jewelry that combined metal, fiber work, and gemstones.  These were truly small, wearable sculptures.  Unfortunately she does not have a web site.

Chase Deforest Hosewares gave me a chuckle.  Talk about inventive.  As a longtime basket maker and avid gardner, Chase decided to merge these two interests to create a basket with a garden hose.  Using zip ties and the coiling method, the first hose basket was created years ago.  In addition to baskets, products now include a pet bed, a patio chair, and chaise.


Pat Kazi is inspired by fantasy world that finds it origins in her childhood in Maine.  She uses stoneware or porcelain clay to create animals, warriors, sorcerers and other figures in her fantasy world.  Her sculptures are adorned with antique findings, jewelry and clothing.


Andy Rogers is a ceramic artist inspired by “untouched areas around us.”  This inspiration includes seeds, pods, bulbs, and pollen spores.  He uses a mix of clays to achieve his desired look.  They are rich in texture and color.

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Tomorrow: 10 more artists with stunning work.

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Synergy Review Day One-Craftsmanship

Karen and I flew down to Baltimore on Wednesday.  I surprised myself at being able to pack everything into one carry-on bag.


After settling into our hotel room, we ventured over to the Baltimore Convention Center to check-in, get our “welcome” packet, and catch-up with a few people from our local guilds.  Dinner that night was at the hotel restaurant which quickly filled with Synergy attendees.  Here we met Alison Lee of Craftcast and chatted with Susan Lomuto of Polymer Clay Notes, Libby Mills, Jen Doiron, Diane Villano, and Sharon Mihalyak from the Southern CT Guild.

Day One: Craftsmanship

Day One of Synergy focused on Craftsmanship.  My first seminar was with SL Savarick who presented on The Polymer Clay Jewelry Studio.  Seth discussed aspects of fine craftsmanship and design, questions to ask ourselves regarding our work when entering the art/craft market, and provided a series of demonstrations on creating light, durable forms.

synergy08kdustinpresents.jpgThe guest speaker for the first general session was Kathleen Dustin.  Kathleen presented on the history of polymer clay up through the 1980’s with an emphasis on beads as that is where many of the leaders in polymer clay made their marks.

After lunch we visited the teacher fair and talked with Dayle Doroshow who is already planning her 2009 workshops at Gwen Gibson’s La Cascade Retreat Center in Southern France.  We also met Kim Cavander, Laura Tabakman, Laurie Mika, Maureen Carlson, and caught up with Jana Roberts Benzon.


Before the afternoon sessions began, a panel discussion was presented.  The Thursday panel discussion, Hallmarks of Craftsmanship was moderated by Jeff Dever and featured art historian and polymer clay artist Rachel Carren, polymer clay artists Donna Kato and Sarah Shriver, and the host of Craftcast, Alison Lee.

Some great quotes and thoughts from this panel discussion included:

Imperfection is the nature of handmade art.
Don’t be apologetic.
Workmanship of Risk.

My afternoon session was spent with Robert Dancik who discussed Cold Connections for Polymer Clay.  This includes things like rivets, bolts, and tab closures.  The use of cold connections opens up a whole new world of possibilities and creativity when it comes to problem solving how to connect non-polymer items to polymer clay.  Glue may not become obsolete in my studio, however, with what I learned from Robert, I hope to use it less frequently.

synergy08hollymcollection.jpgBefore taking a dinner break, we wandered through the Synergy Gallery which featured Holly Mion’s fantastic collection of polymer art as well as wonderful polymer art for sale by our fellow Synergy attendees and items for the live and silent auction.  Dinner was down at the Inner Harbor at a Tapas restaurant.  And then it was back for a final session with Katherine Dewey on Molded Armatures.

Katherine’s seminar was a bit more technical than I was prepared for.  She gave us a very detailed handout on creating inner “skeleton” (my term) armatures and two-part molds.  By this time my brain was on overload.

Being the Lost devotees that we are, Karen and I hurried back to the hotel to catch the last 40 minutes of the show and to rest before getting up the next day for Day Two of Synergy.

Tomorrow: Synergy Review Day Two-Business