Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


Historic Interpretations

On Sunday, March 2, during a lightly falling, fluffy snow, Brenda, Laura, and I drove to Peabody. A few weeks earlier I had received an email from the Artists Foundation announcing a call for artists from the Peabody Historical Society regarding a future exhibit. The exhibit, “Historic Interpretations: Artists Interpret the Historic Collection” asks interested artists to create a new work inspired by a chosen historical artifact from the Society’s collection.

This sounded like a wonderful, unique challenge; one that the three of us were all likely to accept.

Arriving at the historical society, we were presented with two binders full of pictures of the historical artifacts contained in Osborne-Salata and Gideon Foster Houses. Artists were invited to look through the binders to choose at least one historical artifact. We were also encouraged to walk through both houses to see the artifacts up-close.

Choosing one artifact would not be as easy as first thought!

Artifacts in the Osborne-Salata and Gideon Foster homes included period clothing, signs, furniture, sculptures, lamps, wallpaper fragments, and pictures. Our minds were a bit overwhelmed with choices and possibilities.

I narrowed down my choices to two items: a bas-relief wooden sign featuring three faces and an eagle overhead and a wallpaper fragment.

As we walked through both houses checking out the items we were considering, I found myself drawn to the wallpaper fragment. It was the first item that caught my attention in the first binder I opened. And I know well enough that I should go with my first choice.

So that is what I did.

Here are pictures of the wallpaper fragment:

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What drew me to this artifact was the shape of the wallpaper fragment. I believe the open ended aspect of this artifact presents a wonderful challenge. So many ideas for what I could create started to come to mind the longer I looked at this piece. I thought about recreating the design in polymer (challenge #1 as I rarely make cane designs in polymer clay.) I considered the shape of the fragment; curvaceous and feminine.

And then I learned more about the history of this wallpaper fragment.

The wallpaper fragment is from the early 19th century and taken from the Bell Tavern located at the corner of Washington and Main Streets in Danvers.  The Bell Tavern is where the Minutemen gathered before traveling to Lexington. Hanna Webster Foster wrote a novel, The Coquette or The History of Eliza Wharton, which is a fictionalized account of the death of a socially elite Connecticut woman who dies in a room at a roadside tavern after giving birth to a stillborn, illegitimate child.

The tavern where this happened? The Bell Tavern. The character Eliza Wharton is based on the real-life Elizabeth Whitman who died at age 37 after giving birth to a stillborn child.

Who knew all this history could be contained in a wallpaper fragment?

What else would this fragment tell me if it could talk?

And how will this information influence and inspire the piece I create?

The mind boggles. I can’t wait to get started.


Synergy Review Day Three-Design

On Saturday, our last day at Synergy, I woke up with a cold;  a scratchy throat and irritated sinuses.  Oh Yipee!  On the way to the convention center we detoured to Walgreens for Zicam, cough drops, and water.

The third and final day of Synergy focused on design, with a special emphasis on personal style.

My morning session was with Robert Dancik whose presentation was titled Dancing to Your Own MUSEic.  Robert began his presentation with a “cognitive shift.”  That is, he created a setting that required us to move ever so slightly out of our comfort zone.  When this happens, you, in essence, shift from left brain to right brain.   And it is in that shift from left brain to right brain where we find our creativity; our muse.  Robert also presented on various ways to stimulate the muse and on developing what he calls an “emotional alphabet.”  Audience members also shared their experiences in finding the muse and in experiencing artistic “blocks.”

The guest speaker on Saturday was Jo Lauria, contributing writer of Craft in America. Unfortunately, between seminar overload, fatigue and my cold, I decided to skip this presentation and spent some quiet time people watching, drinking tea and enjoying chocolate chip coffee cake.

Because this was the last day of Synergy and the Gala Banquet was scheduled for the evening, the afternoon sessions were moved up, starting at 11:45 am instead of 3:00 pm.

The first afternoon session was spent with Karen Woods who presented on Unconventional Polymer.  This was a wonderful session spent admiring and discussing the artwork of fellow polymer clay artists who have taken a less than traditional approach with polymer: baskets, vessels, sculpture, tesselation, origami, and mixed media.  And then we enjoyed viewing other mediums that many of us look to for inspiration such as fiber and quilting, porcelain and ceramics.

The final panel discussion was renamed an “interactive presentation” with guest speaker Tim McCreight who presented on Design Decisions: Good, Better, Best.  And interactive it was as each of us created designs using small pieces of paper guided by Tim’s initial model.  The purpose here was to view a design (Tim’s model) and then consider ways to improve it.  When you look at your design and how you came to that final product, consider that you are making a decision in context or “in the moment.”  Informal critiques were also conducted on our paper designs. 

My final session at Synergy was Gwen Bernecker’s Design 101.  Gwen is an architectural engineer who now designs jewelry from silver clay and polymer clay.  This session was a mini-introduction to design and briefly covered topics such as visual elements, the purpose of design, line, color, texture, shape and form, and focal points.

There was a two hour window between the end of the final sessions and the Gala Banquet.  By this time my throat was feeling worse and my sinuses decided to behave similarly.  I decided not to attend the Gala Banquet which featured Cynthia Tinapple as the keynote speaker, honors for the NPCG founders, and a live auction.  I’ve heard that the banquet was quite nice.  Cynthia has graciously shared the slides from her speech here.

My day ended with dinner at a lovely turkish restaurant, Cazbar, on North Charles Street, followed by packing and repacking of my suitcase in anticipation of our travels home on Sunday.

Synergy was truly a ground-breaking event for the National Polymer Clay Guild.  I believe most of us came away with renewed energy for our chosen medium and momentum to make our art excel in craftsmanship and design.

Kudos to the organizers of Synergy and to all the presenters for their energy, enthusiasm, and sharing manner.