Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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Accomplishments in 2010

A couple of years ago I began keeping track of all my accomplishments throughout the year. I was motivated to do this by Alyson Stanfield who posed a year end question: What did you accomplish this year? Too often I would think back on the year and ask myself “What the heck did I do this year?” Seems we tend to remember those things we didn’t do or the things that went wrong instead of the things that we accomplished.

By keeping track of the big and small accomplishments, I can most assuredly say “Wow, I DID all that!”

So, as we start a new year and with that year end question in mind, here is my list of accomplishments for 2010:

  • Started teaching polymer clay classes, including a 4 week session in my studio
  • Celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary
  • Traveled to Italy
  • Featured interview: Bolton Common’s Uncommon Conversation
  • Started accountability partnership with Sarah L
  • Attended Daniel Pink book lecture, Elizabeth Gilbert book reading, & Maya Angelou lecture
  • Submitted annual sales tax payment
  • Provided polymer clay art demos
  • Attended the Synergy 2 conference in Baltimore, MD
  • Grew my customer mailing list
  • Read 6-7 books
  • Interviewed on Hudson local cable channel
  • Received new wholesale orders and wholesale re-orders
  • Ended sales contracts that were no longer in line with my goals
  • Visited the following exhibits: Tim Burton at MOMA; the Frick Collection (NY); Extraordinary: Puppet Storytelling & Spirit at New Art Center (Newton); Harry Potter at MoS; Charles LeDray: workworkwork at ICA
  • Attended FELA! The Musical (NY), Zakir Hussain concert, Pat Methany’s Orchestrion concert, Stanley Clarke w/Hiromi jazz concert, and Cirque du Soliel’s Ovo
  • Exhibitor: Fitchburg Art Museum’s 75th Regional Exhibit of Art & Craft; Paradise City Arts Festival (Marlboro); Bolton Artisans Guild 7th Annual Holiday Show; ArtSpace 10th Annual Holiday Art Show
  • Documentaries & PBS specials watched: Herb & Dorothy; This Emotional Life; Independent Lens: Young at Heart; The Buddha; The Human Spark; Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child
  • Teleseminars attended: Hiro Boga’s-Sovereignty; Follow the Yellow Brick Road; Healing Internet Hangover; Julie Stuart’s Mapping Your Business; Pam Slim & Charlie Gilkey’s Compassionate Business Review; Think Big, Act Small.
  • Sent my e-newsletter 7 out of 8 months
  • Started mentoring a fellow RBBP class member
  • Started meditating, again

You can see that, in my book, accomplishments are not all business related. There are fun and entertaining things we accomplish, appointments we keep (or finally make), books we read, people we meet, and self-care desires we complete.

What are some of the big and small things you accomplished in 2010? Will this be your year to keep track of all those wonderful, delicious, and special things you do?


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The Polyform Debacle

A few days ago, Polyform Products announced several color changes to their polymer clay line up. Polyform Products produces Sculpey III and Premo! polymer clays along with numerous accessories to use with polymer.

In the announcement Polyform revealed the addition of several new colors to both the Sculpey III and Premo! lines. Along with the announcement of several new colors, however, was the revelation that a number of popular colors would be discontinued, including Red Pearl, Green Pearl, Cobalt Blue, Sea Green, Copper, Zinc Yellow, Frost, Fluorescent Green, Fluorescent Yellow, Fluorescent Red and Glow-In-The-Dark.

The announcement of the pending discontinuation of favorite colors has set off a firestorm on Facebook and elsewhere. One of the main reasons for this is that two of the colors, Cobalt Blue and Zinc Yellow are primary colors used in color mixing and in the creation of many artist’s custom color palettes. These two primary colors are also the basis for understanding color theory and color mixing in Lindly Haunani and Maggie Maggio’s popular and successful book: Polymer Clay Color Inspirations: Techniques and Jewelry Projects for Creating Successful Palettes

I am heartened by the passion of my fellow polymer clay artists in their response to the Polyform announcement. While many of us look forward to seeing the new colors, we are also equally dismayed by the loss of two primary colors. Polyform has stated that “recipes” will be available on their website to recreate most of the discontinued colors. But as more than one polymer clay artist has asked “How do you recreate a primary color?” And given the variability in the mixing process, how will the same color be recreated on a consistent basis?

What disappoints me more, however, is what appears to be a disregard for the customer. Many are asking if a customer survey was conducted prior to this decision. That question remains unanswered. Unfortunately, it does appear that this decision may be based more on sales numbers.

Now I don’t know what percentage of people who buy Premo! are polymer clay artists. Nor do I know how many of those artists buy the soon-to-be-discontinued colors. But it seems, according to Polyform Products, that either there aren’t enough of us or we aren’t buying enough of these colors to justify their continuation.

As a small business person, I understand some of this logic. I, too, have discontinued color designs from my lines of artwork because those designs didn’t sell well or perhaps they sold well initially, but then sales leveled or fell off. I understand that businesses need to keep their product line fresh and maybe an item is discontinued, made available as a special order, or brought back for a limited time only.

But how does a company decide to eliminate two basic, primary colors that are key to the creation of so many other colors? Many have asked if Golden or Liquitex or Winsor & Newton would eliminate primary colors from their lines of paint.

Perhaps we were too complacent, believing that certain colors would continue to be made available. Perhaps Polyform didn’t fully understand the importance of these colors to polymer clay artists. The reality is that Polyform Products risks losing a number of customers should they proceed with their decision to eliminate Cobalt Blue, Zinc Yellow, and several other colors. They risk driving into the welcoming arms of their competitors the customers who have stood by them, tested and promoted their products.

As I posted on Polyform Products Facebook page “…It appears that you may lose many customers, myself included, because of this decision. And while customer loss may not directly impact your bottom line, the opinions of the artists and the recommendations we make when teaching and sharing could have a ripple effect. I ask you to reconsider this decision to discontinue zinc yellow and cobalt blue.”

If you’d like to add your voice to this situation, visit the following sites:

Cindy Lietz’s online petition

CraftyGoat’s blog

Carol Simmons’ blog

Maybe this groundswell of voices will convince Polyform Products to reevaluate their decision.

UPDATE: 11/22/10-Polyform has announced that Zinc Yellow and Cobalt Blue will remain in the Premo! line up. The voices of 100’s of polymer clay artists did not go unheard. Thank you, Polyform Products, for reconsidering your decision to discontinue these two essential primary colors. For more on this announcement, go to Tonja’s PolyClay Corner


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Polymer Clay Santa Claus Ornament Art Class

 

Polymer Clay Santa Claus Ornament

 

In 3 weeks, I return to Ink About It in Westford to teach my Polymer Clay Santa Claus Ornament class. This class is scheduled for Thursday, November 4, 10:00am to 2:00pm

In this class, you’ll learn how to use a burned out light bulb to create a polymer clay Santa Claus ornament. We’ll discuss how to prepare the light bulb for polymer clay, and then create the surface design for, and assemble, a signature Santa Claus ornament. You will also have the option to sand and buff your ornament to a natural sheen using wet/dry sandpaper and a muslin wheel. Fee: $45

Materials: All materials provided by instructor. However, if you have any of the following, please bring them with you: a hand crank pasta machine, pink or flesh tone blush, needle tool or thin knitting needle (1.25mm or 2mm), tiny star cutter (Kemper cutters with plunger).

To register for this class, call Ink About It at 978.392.0321 or stop by the store.

Hope to see you in class!


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It Was A Successful Teaching Experience

On Friday, October 1, I taught the very first polymer clay class at Ink About It in Westford. The topic was Liquid Polymer Clay Bookmarks and Art Tags. It was a wonderful experience.

There were five students in class. Some had worked with polymer clay, others had not, and using liquid polymer clay was a brand new experience to almost everyone. The ladies rocked.

Class started with making art tags using Kato Clear Medium. Some students made art tags and others made bookmarks using this technique. This was followed by learning how to make polymer clay “paper” with translucent liquid sculpey (TLS). The polymer clay paper was then applied to card stock for creation of more unique bookmarks.

Thanks to Lori and Linda at Ink About It for this opportunity to teach at their lovely store. And thanks to Raine, Sandy, Irene, Carol, and Wendy for making class enjoyable.

 

Creative ladies in class

 

 

Raine and Sandy

 

 

Irene and Carol

 

 

Liquid Polymer Clay Bookmarks made in class

 

 

Bookmarks and Art Tags

 

 

More Bookmarks and Art Tags

 

My next class at Ink About It is Thursday, November 4, 10am to 2pm. In this class we’ll make a Santa Claus ornament with polymer clay. More details to come. Here is a sample of what we’ll make in class. Isn’t he a cutie?


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Class Reminder: Liquid Polymer Clay Bookmarks & Art Tag Class

There are a few seats left in my Liquid Polymer Clay Bookmark and Art Tag class is this Friday, October 1, 10:00am to 2:00pm at Ink About It in Westford.

Here is the class description:

In this class, you will learn how to create bookmarks and art tags with liquid polymer clay. First, you will learn how to use liquid polymer clay as a resist with rubber stamps to create art tags. Then we’ll explore how to make polymer clay paper with multiple thin layers of liquid clay. We’ll stamp, color, and embellish the polymer clay paper to create personally inspired bookmarks. You will leave class with several art tags and bookmarks.

And the materials list:

Most materials provided by instructor. Please bring a Staz-On ink pad (black or brown; gold if you have it), 3-4 favorite rubber stamps, scissors, apron, or smock, and basic tool kit. If you have the following, please bring them to class: 3-4 light color alcohol inks (Pinata or Ranger), 3-4 acrylic paints in squeeze bottles (Lumiere or Ranger), Mod Podge or gel medium (regular/soft), an acrylic brayer.

Cost: $40

Here are samples of the bookmarks and art tags we’ll make in this class:

Bookmarks with polymer clay paper
Art Tags with liquid clay resist
Liquid Polymer Clay Bookmarks and Art Tags

You can register for this class by calling Ink About It or stopping in and signing up in person. Hope to see you there!


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Confronting a Wall

As the month of August came to a close, I found myself feeling overwhelmed by all that lay ahead of me this fall. This sense of overwhelm squashed my desire to write on this blog, hence my couple of weeks of absence.

In late August and into September, the Vuelta a Espana traverses the roads and mountains of Spain. This is the final 3 week race in the professional cycling calendar. While all three grand tours (the Giro d’Italia, the Tour de France, and the Vuelta) are grueling events, the Vuelta has to be the hardest. In this race the cyclists will climb mountain roads with gradients of 9%, 11%, and 13%. In some stages, roads have a 22% gradient climb.

You might be able to walk slightly faster on roads that steep than someone on a bike.

Or maybe not.

Hitting a Wall

It was this feeling of overwhelm that hit me a couple weeks ago that reminded me of the riders in the Vuelta. In cycling, it is common to refer to huge, steep mountain climbs as walls.

I realized that I had hit my own wall.

The realization of “hitting the wall” came with both relief and anxiety. It explained why I was feeling this way (the relief.) It also made me confront all the stuff bouncing around in my head (the anxiety.)

Armed with this realization, I decided there was only one thing to do if I hoped to get a grip on the situation. And that was to do a Brain Dump.

The Brain Dump

When I think of doing a Brain Dump, I’m reminded of a scene in Tim Burton’s “A Nightmare Before Christmas.” In this scene, Dr. Finkelstein, the Evil Scientist, throws open his head to scratch his brain and ponder his next move.

Dr. Finkelstein (image from the book "Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas" by Frank Thompson)

Ah, how nice it would be to lift open our skulls, scratch our brains, pick out all those anxious thoughts, and pop everything back together.

Unfortunately, we don’t yet have that ability.

So the next best thing for me to do was to write a list of all the things coming up for the month of September.

Brain Dump

September Brain Dump

Once I wrote it all down, I felt much better. I actually thought “hmm, it isn’t as bad as my sometimes over-active imagination leads me to believe.”

At the top of the list is working in the studio 20-24 hours a week. My intent is to have that time dedicated specifically to making art, though there will be situations where some of those hours will be spent on the business side, such as entering art challenges, photography, e-newsletters, websites, etc. And of course there are other appointments and activities that influence how a week will play out.

Next was listing all those to-dos for the month based on my goals and what I’d already written on my calendar. In trying to get a jump on the upcoming holiday season, I’ve decided to spend 1-2 days on production based artwork. I figure it is better to get this task out of the way first, then I can spend the rest of the time on sculpting heads, making new Spirit Messengers, and learning digital art techniques.

For several items, I have to list out the smaller steps that will help me get to the overall goal. Listing the small steps is something I can easily forget to do. And that makes for more anxiety. It is so easy to say “I have to get X done” and be overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of ‘X’ until you list the small steps.

Other items on this Brain Dump are weekly tasks that have become too easy to overlook these last few months as I’ve focused on new areas for my business. Example: updating the books in Quickbooks once a week now will save me time and trouble later on.

I’m also specifying on my daily priority and to-do list how much time I’ll allot for specific tasks, such as replying to or sending emails, working on my website, and writing on this blog.

I admit that this left brain approach is not always easy to implement when you spend more time living with a right brain focus. Perhaps I could be more creative in how I create my list or my daily priority & to-do list (though sometimes I use different color pens!) More important was to just get it all down on paper.



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Liquid Polymer Clay Bookmarks and Art Tags

The samples for my bookmark and art tag class have been delivered to Ink About It. The class, Liquid Polymer Clay Bookmarks & Art Tags will be held on Friday, October 1, 10:00am to 2:00pm.

Here is the class description:

In this class, you will learn how to create bookmarks and art tags with liquid polymer clay. First, you will learn how to use liquid polymer clay as a resist with rubber stamps to create art tags. Then we’ll explore how to make polymer clay paper with multiple thin layers of liquid clay. We’ll stamp, color, and embellish the polymer clay paper to create personally inspired bookmarks. You will leave class with several art tags and bookmarks.

And the materials list:

Most materials provided by instructor. Please bring a Staz-On ink pad (black or brown; gold if you have it), 3-4 favorite rubber stamps, scissors, apron, or smock, and basic tool kit. If you have the following, please bring them to class: 3-4 light color alcohol inks (Pinata or Ranger), 3-4 acrylic paints in squeeze bottles (Lumiere or Ranger), Mod Podge or gel medium (regular/soft), an acrylic brayer.

Cost: $40

Here are samples of the bookmarks and art tags we’ll make in this class:

Bookmarks with polymer clay paper

Art Tags with liquid clay resist

Liquid Polymer Clay Bookmarks and Art Tags

You can register for this class by calling Ink About It or stopping in and signing up in person.


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Two Heads are Better Than One…

…And ideally three heads was the goal.

At the beginning of the month I set a goal to sculpt three heads per week. I haven’t created any new heads or Spirit Messengers in months and my artistic muse has been a bit all over the place. Of course, just as I set this goal, I started receiving wholesale orders and my schedule became a bit more complicated.

Anyways, I set aside some time over a few days to start sculpting heads. Every time I do this, I realize how much I truly enjoy this form of art. I can get lost in the making of a face and soon an hour, then two hours has passed.

I decided to start with some old heads I formed months ago for a demo. These were large, egg-shaped heads that I’ve kept wrapped in plastic. They have an aluminum foil core covered with a layer of scrap clay and then a layer of Super Sculpey.

I scraped the face off one of the heads, added a bit more clay, reformed the head, and started over.

My inspiration for these heads were characters from Cirque du Soleil’s Kooza The first head was inspired by the character “Innocent.”

"Innocent" (source of inspiration)

I was so happy when I saw how she looked that I completely forgot to take a picture of her sans headsock. The headsock is a baby sock that I found. On this piece, it reminds me of a long ski cap. I’m not much of a sewer but would love to learn how to make her a real hat. Any suggestions?

"Innocent" side view

“Innocent” has also been given the name “Snake lady.”

Now I don’t typically give my Spirit Messengers hair. I’ve always liked that bald, exposed head. But for the fun of it, I tucked a small amount of wool roving under “Innocent’s” hat band to see how this changes her look.

"Innocent" with hair

What do you think? Do you like her bald or with hair? I’m thinking she might actually be hiding a bed-head hairstyle under that headsock.

The next head was inspired by the King’s court clowns. First you’ll see how these heads look when they come out of the oven. At this stage I call them my empty souls.

(One thing I’m learning about Super Sculpey is that it does color shift slightly in the oven unless you cover it with foil. I lay the heads on a pad of cotton batting. If the head isn’t covered with foil, you end up with a slight “suntanned” face and a lighter back of the head. Might also try decreasing the oven temperature too.)

Empty Soul

I’d say this clown is rather excited to have his face now:

Bald Clown Head

And with his hat and hair. (Note-the hair and hat are not yet attached so I had to hold his head and take the picture. And yes, I used the vignette effect here to try and cover up my fingers.)

Clown with Hair & Hat

The Process

Super Sculpey is a flesh toned clay. It is soft, easy to condition and manipulate. I’m a big fan of the Creager’s and have been incorporating some of their techniques for coloring the heads. This involves using soft pastels to add skin tone coloring. I use a combination of small brushes and my fingers to apply the pastels.

Soft Pastels Palette

Then I use paints to bring life to the eyes and to highlight wrinkles, creases, and other areas of shadow, to add lip color and eyebrows.

Paint Palette

In Other News

I am honored to be the featured artist and business this week on two different sites.

On the Right Brain Business Plan (RBBP) site, my business and business plan is featured in the RBBP Spotlight Read about how this course and the business plan recharged my business. I also give some tips for budding solo-entreprenuers at the end of the interview.

Over at Park View Gallery, I am the featured artist on their blog. Check out my interview here and learn about my one guilty pleasure.


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Bubbles!

This week I’ve been working on wholesale orders; one is a re-order and one is for a new customer. Both orders have products incorporating my Bubbles pattern. I created this pattern several months ago and it has been a good seller for me. People have asked how I create it. Below are a few pictures of the process.

The pattern starts with three colors. In this particular color option, one of the colors is a custom made green which reminds me of a D’Anjou pear or a Granny Smith apple.

Three Color for the Pattern

Each color is conditioned and rolled into a sheet. The three colors are then cut and combined to create a Skinner Blend.

Three color blend sheet

To extend the Skinner color blend sheet, I back it with a sheet of scrap clay and run it through the pasta machine again to the desired thickness.

Then the fun begins with creating the bubble pattern using circle cutters. This was a rather tedious process when I first started creating the pattern. Now that I’m used to the process, I can work through it a little quicker.

Here is a finished Bubble pattern sheet:

Blue Bubbles

The pattern is available in 5 different colors. You’ll find it on my business card cases and perfume pens. In MA, these items are available at Five Crows in Natick, noa in Groton, West Concord, and Fruitlands Museum in Harvard, and Jewelry Inspirations in West Dennis. You’ll also find them on my functional art website, Moonroom Crafts.

Bubbles Business Card Cases

Bubbles Perfume Pens


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Took a Leap-Polymer Clay Class Scheduled

Over the weekend, I stared Mr. Fraidy Pants in the eyes and kicked him out. He was really putting up a fight and keeping me from moving forward with my plans to prepare class samples for a meeting at Ink About It.

Once I told him to bug off and wrote down my turn around phrases to counter his negative voice, it was like being set free. I spent over 14 hours between Monday and Tuesday finishing samples, writing class descriptions, and visualizing my meeting at Ink About It.

This morning I spent a few minutes meditating and visualizing, put the final touches on a couple samples and then packed everything to take to the store.

I’m happy to say that I took a leap today, the net appeared, and, after today’s meeting,  I’m on the schedule to teach the first polymer clay class at Ink About It!

And I didn’t even break out in a big, bad sweat.

My class at Ink About It, Liquid Polymer Clay Bookmarks and Tags, is Friday, October 1, 10am-2pm.

Full description, samples, and pictures will be available at Ink About It by the end of August. I’ll also keep you updated here on my blog and on my Facebook Fan Page: Amy A. Crawley Fine Art (HINT: Become a fan. I post almost daily updates on my fan page-new artwork, links, and all around creative goodness.)

Below is a picture of the pieces I took to Ink About It today. The bookmark samples are in the lower portion of the picture.

Class Samples

We also talked about a possible polymer clay ornament class for November or December. Stay tuned!

And Mr. Fraidy Pants? He’s looking for a new gig. Be careful though; he has a sister, Sally Scaredy Pants. Sometimes they like to work as a team.