Last week I went camping. While away I didn’t check the news. I had no phone calls. And no mirror. For a week it was just me and my family. On the way home we decided to drop in on a relative for a visit. It was then that I suddenly saw what we were wearing and realized my daughter had not combed her hair in days. Then I realized I hadn’t combed my hair in days either. It’s not that we didn’t have time! It just wasn’t important.
The syringe is my go-to form of metal clay for many techniques and applications. Not only is it great for setting cubic zirconia (smaller than 3mm) but also for creating texture and pattern.
One of my favorite uses is creating a filigree-type tree of life. I also use as a fill in for seams or gaps that may appear when creating dry construction pieces. Using steady pressure and a moist brush for smoothing will make a smooth join.
Holding the syringe – Avoid a death grip!
It is important to hold the syringe in a way that is comfortable for you. My recommendation: grasp the syringe barrel using four fingers of your dominant hand and place your thumb on top of the plunger. The “wings” of the syringe will rest on top of your index finger. Use wrist movements to guide the direction of the syringe.
To trim or not to trim the tip:
The amount of the tip you cut off will determine the size of the line to be extruded. The more you cut, the large the line. It can be useful to have multiple length tips available for a variety of uses. Be sure tips are on a syringe and kept moist in a cup of distilled water or a syringe saver in between uses.
When setting a cubic zirconia, I use the syringe with no tip at all. This creates the largest possible line and allows me to perfectly form a mound for the stone to be set in. I push the stone in until the syringe clay is nearly level with the crown (the top, flat part of the stone.) When the clay is fired and shrinks, it grasps the girdle (widest rim of the stone) and secures it. Note:
To achieve a complete and unbroken line of syringe clay, always hold the syringe tip approximately one-half inch above your intended design and use consistent pressure of the plunger. Control the placement of the syringe with your wrist movement. A moist brush is great for adjusting the placement of the line after it has been extruded. To stop the flow of syringe, lightly touch the tip to the surface you are applying it to. Tip: I recommend checking to be sure the syringe line is securely attached to the surface you are embellishing. If applying to a clay shape, a little moisture may be helpful to ensure the contact is secure.
Drawing with the syringe:
For filigree use of the syringe, draw your design on paper and tape to a piece of transparency film. This will allow you to use the syringe to trace your design. Allow it to dry completely, turn over and apply another layer. Once this double-layered filigree is dry, you can then use the syringe to fill in the seam/gap on the sides using the syringe. For drawing on a clay slab, simply draw your design on the dry shape and apply syringe as you trace your design.
Teva is a PMC Senior Instructor, as well as the creative force behind TevaJane®, Timeless Earth Collections. Her work has been featured in publications such as “Nashville Arts Magazine” and “Metal Clay Artists” and on loan as an exhibition to locations such as Purdue University, Franklins’ Gallery 202 and most recently Brentwood City Library. In 2012 Teva began teaching at the prestigious William Holland School of Art. While her skills as a designer and jewelry maker have been practiced and developed through the years to create her art, the vision and creative imagination for her art and nature is the same today as that little girl collecting stones in rural Tennessee at the age of seven.
This article is a reprint. To see the original article click here. Over the years Ann and I have heard from so many artists how her article changed their lives. Read on and heal your “artself”.
My studio has always been an active working space, more of a workshop where things are made than a quiet space for inspiration. I’ve never needed a girly-girl space because I was a “Serious Working Metalsmith” and my professors, teachers, smithing friends all had, for want of a better description, tool shops. Everything creates grime!! To me having a clean space to do enameling meant one square foot of clean tabletop.
I used to do casting production runs. If you are not familiar with that, it’s often making one hundred of one thing in a week, after which of course it was a really dirty workshop. But I never questioned it. My work was fulﬁlling and proﬁtable, and I loved it. And so it went for 40-plus years and several different studios.
Viewing a Crafthaus exhibit, Studio Sanctuaries, created by Pat Morrow caused me to contemplate and reevaluate the space where I spend so much of my day. I felt it had become divided between the computer desk, bookkeeping, and fun-interacting with friends and the overstuﬀed, chaotic workshop side. This was something that had been bubbling up in my thought process and banging at the door of my conscious awareness for some time. The struggle between the messy “get to work” side and the computer “play” side ﬁnally crystallized into a thought. I had been disrespecting myself, my work- er self and my inner self, my whole self.
We all get busy and have to make choices on what we can spend our time on. Even though I’m very active in the art community, I had obviously been making the choice that everything else was more important than me taking the time to order my life, my art, my being, my whole self, my Artself! It was a cathartic moment! Oh, my poor studio, my poor Artself!!! Looking around, I realized that my Artself was in chaos. Was that what was inside my head? My soul? Certainly not! Where was the calm and serenity I knew I possessed in my inner being?
Buried somewhere under the chaos of too little time and too many commitments?
I decided to excavate!
Taking out my little calendar/year planner, I scanned for empty days. For the next two months I wrote in “Clean my Studio” on every empty day, even the weekends. My ﬁrst step in taking back my Artself was simply by penciling myself in!!! I looked at all the junk stuﬀed under my jewelry and glass benches and realized a trip to buy plastic drawers was in order. I took measurements and shopped for days until I found a size and style that would ﬁt the most number of drawers. I felt it was a guilty plea- sure…shouldn’t I be working???? Just that little bit of shopping for plastic was somehow comforting and rewarding and ﬁlled me with anticipation! In came the new drawers!
No matter how many ways you re-arrange your stuﬀ, it’s still Your Stuﬀ, your baggage from life. When you take out each piece of junk/treasure one by one, memories are conjured up. As you go through your stuﬀ, all kinds of thoughts spark in your mind, emotions are triggered, and the re- ally good experiences are released to enjoy all over again. You kind of get reacquainted with your art life. But I also realized that the artsupply hoarder in me needed help. I enlisted my hubby (and photographer) Howard. I mean really, how was little old me going to get that new butcher block table from Ikea put together? Who else would help me let go of bag after bag of stuﬀ that I had been holding so dear for so many years? In came the new tables!
I still have my ﬁrst bezel rocker from college, and the ﬁrst stone I cut there… it was fancy lace agate. I remember each and every stone, like the time I picked up turquoise nuggets oﬀ the ground in New Mexico… I still have those. Was I saving those to make into jewelry, or was I keeping them as a treasured memory? As I went through my boxes of precious stones, my mind began to wander contemplating their beauty. It’s a funny thing about gemstones: Buddhists say they are a life form be- cause they grow… ever so slowly. I like that. If you could reincarnate as a stone, which one would you choose? Would you be in a state of eternal bliss if you were a diamond? You would have eternal beauty but not be able to move and perhaps only think a thought every millennium. Hmmmm… the Artself inside me wonders about that. This is also known as creative procrastination, something I’m good at. But it’s time to delve into the next box of stuﬀ.
Found objects, fake found objects, old game pieces, fake old game pieces and plastic ﬂies! What was I thinking? I guess that was all left over from my recycled jewelry phase. I never really connected to that concept very well, but I sure had a good time collecting stuﬀ. Now I have a big box of stuﬀ. I determined that it all had to ﬁt in one small storage box because I hadn’t touched it in years. But who knows when I would need some of it? Better to hang onto just a little bit. I can’t quite let that past go. Not the plastic ﬂies.
Another box. Full of glass sheeting. When I started making lampworked beads in the early 90’s it was hard to get rods in many colors, so I strip-cut glass and melted that instead. And a frit maker! A giant piece of pipe welded to a backplate with a pounder, a heavy thing that probably hastened my arthritis, but after all, you couldn’t get frit back then either. Did I really need to keep that stuﬀ?? Out it went.
And tracing paper. I guess I never could ﬁnd it when I needed it because I had dozens of old pads of it squirreled away in diﬀerent places. Out went all of it, save one. Airbrushes. I have one in every ﬂavor, but I had sold my compressor with my sandblaster. Yet I still love airbrushing – how could I ever have put them away? In came the new compressor!
Books. On every possible art subject. I have a voracious appetite for process. I don’t read ﬁction. I would rather curl up with a copy of how to build your own forge, or how to take yourself oﬀ the grid by becoming an electric power station. I kid you not. There is actually a book on that. Barring WW III, I probably would never use these books again. Into the back of the SUV they went. By the time I was done, the whole back end was full. Now, you can’t just throw away books, that’s not right. Instead I snuck up to the library late at night and ﬁlled their book deposit to the brim. An anonymous donation to Fairfax County Libraries. They would ﬁnd good homes for the books.
Maybe the books more than anything re-introduced me to the curious artist I had been. When did I have time to do all that stuﬀ? I was quite surprised by all the various journals and scrapbooks I had accumulated over the years. I didn’t realize it but I’ve always written down my thoughts while drawing jewelry designs. I’ve left sooooo many notes to myself! And now I can say hi again to my Artself. Gee, some of those drawings could beneﬁt from further contemplation. I saved the promising ones and tossed the rest.
Files. Files going back decades. Twenty-year-old business ﬁles. Seriously, Artself? That’s just taking up space. Out they went. Many, many old portfolios. A dozen prints from Lithography 101 class. They all had to ﬁt in one large portfolio folder: it was me or them. Out the rest went. Silkscreens. Really? How many did I need? And frames for canvas. I had hoarded those. I would never live long enough to stretch that much canvas. Out they went.
For over two months I focused on getting rid of old ideas and accumulated stuﬀ. Trash can after trash can, I tossed stuﬀ that had become artistic baggage. The Latin word for baggage is impedimentum. That was something that struck a chord with me back in high school but has really come full circle into my awareness now. The Roman Legions moved slowly with impedimentum. Apparently, so did I.
At the end of the cleaning I had released my-self from a whole lot of baggage and created a lot of space in my head and in my studio. Now it did need a little bit of a girly touch. In came the silk wisteria. I also realized that I had been fussing for years about the studio’s lighting but had not given myself time to do anything about it. In came the new lights. My past life had a practical ﬂoor covering. In came the new carpeting, purple no less. Finding the ﬁrst stone I ever cut reminded me of the charts of minerals on the walls at college. Ya gotta love Google. In came the original charts, but laminated this time!
Now I smile every time I see the old charts on the wall over the modern equipment. A nice touch. Old and the new. Peace inner and outer. Kind of a joining if you will, of the Artself I am now with all the art I have done in the past. It is amazing how much what you have and see around you controls your thoughts and feelings. Study a problem in jewelry construction and then look around your studio with that in mind…each thing your eye falls on sparks a diﬀerent solution. The ebb and ﬂow of ideas so often seems to be based on what you are seeing. Now I was seeing one continuous whole.
I don’t think it was just the cleaning, dusting and vacuuming that made such a change for me. It was picking up every single thing I owned as an artist and either owning it or letting it go. Claiming it as still my stuﬀ or saying to some things, “you are not my stuﬀ anymore.” It was truly liberating. Do I miss any of my old stuﬀ? Not one single thing.
Years ago I used to own an art rubber stamp company, and one of the stamps I created really celebrates the way I feel now: “Welcome to the State of Bliss. No baggage accepted.”
I still don’t clean up every night, because I like to ﬁnd my tools and work pieces exactly where I left them, so I can get straight back to whatever current idea I was working on. It’s like a bookmark for me. And I love having a home studio where the dogs and I can go anytime day or night to pick up where I left oﬀ,in process and inspiration. It’s so right for me, my Artself, and I.
ANN DAVIS is a pyrolytic artist who loves to melt things until they look like jewelry. “If it’s a torch I own it, if it melts I’m there,” Ann was infamously quoted as saying. She got her first box of matches when she was 5 and never looked back. She has spent most of her artistic life eluding definition.
Editor’s note: The alternate title for Ann’s article was “How to Enlarge Your Studio Without Moving”. Yes…that is her metal clay kiln in her bathroom!!! Her kiln is happily in her studio now. While this image is really funny and a lot in Ann’s article shows her sense of humour, the big point she made was about healing your “artself”. This is has been an amazing realization for many people who have read her article–that the art stuff in our studios could be holding us back. That these things are full of memories, represent a different time in our lives or remind us of the money invested. Thank you Ann for sharing your journey with us! ~Jeannette Froese LeBlanc
With such an organised studio, I asked Linda if she was as organised as she sounds when she’s in full on creative mode. “I am very organized, that is, there is a place for everything, and I can generally grab what I need, because I know where it is (or should be),” she explained. “However, when I am in the midst of a project, tools and materials may not be put away right away. When things begin to pile up, I make the time to clear the decks…put everything where it belongs, so I can begin again to work with greater efficiency (and mess it up again). I do love walking into the studio at the beginning of the day and seeing that clutter. It is a reminder of how immersed I’ve been, and I kind of treasure that first impression. That aside, too much can be, well, too much, so I will start the day by rapidly placing everything in its own niche. This is a kind of meditation, a reminder to pace myself as I begin to work.”
She continued, “My studio is in a long room, the entrance to which is my main jewelry reference library for the studio. I’m a book person, preferring to learn from books, rather than videos. Actually my true preference for a learning experience is workshops, and I’ve taken a number of them over the years. At this point in my career, there are few classes that I feel I need to take, and would rather work things out on my own, when necessary. My books include: jewelry books including contemporary, ancient and ethnic jewelry, design books, ornament books, illuminated manuscript books, jewelry making books, monographs, naturalist books etc. Also on those shelves are components for future boxed pieces.” (Images“Vernalia Brooch Case”)
I think that browsing her library would be pretty relaxing but I asked Linda what she does when she needs to relax. “Read, garden, walk, take naps, knit/crochet, go to movies, spend time with friends, write, draw,” she said, although with so much time spent in the studio, it’s hard to imagine when she gets time for relaxing!
I was really interested to find out about Linda’s creative process. Her pieces are often complex with a strong story so I asked if she did much planning before starting work. “I do plan each piece. For the major pieces that will include an enclosure or box, there is a great deal of engineering involved in order for the piece, generally a neckpiece, to rest in its enclosure properly,” she explained. “For the jewelry itself the complexity of sketching involved depends on the type of jewel. For a neckpiece and earrings, I do a complete drawing, including simplified rendering in colored pencil. For finger rings, the drawings are limited to the shape and design of the shank, with other elements worked out as the piece progresses.” (Images: Sketch and piece “Astonishing Vistas”)I asked Linda to tell us a bit about her style. “I would describe my work as ‘narrative’. My pieces explore the fusion of many elements, for instance, the components, color, process or form, with the stories the objects relate to; each object speaking as a chronicle of connected imagery, symbols, and concepts that reflect an intimate symbology. They are complex and complicated structures that speak on many levels of human experience, especially humanity’s delight in the body-embellished.”
“As a result, mine are multitasking jewels, accessible on more than one level. Each jewel is essentially and intrinsically wearable art…adornment, for without that, they would not be jewels; they would be solely small sculpture in precious metal and gemstones. The engine that drives my creativity is the wearability of my work, and also the narrative quality implicit in the combined elements of each piece.” (Images: Sketch and “Mixed Messages”) “Therefore, there is more to my work than its wearability, however sufficient that aspect is. Aldous Huxley noted that human beings appreciate the transformative quality of stained glass windows, fireworks and gemstones. It is the possibility of that transformation that I hope to bring to the wearer of my jewels. Quite obviously, jewels are costumes; we put on jewelry as an element in which we cloak ourselves. We become the outwardness of the jewels we wear.”
Looking at Linda’s work, it is clear that she draws from a wide range of sources for inspiration. I asked her to let us in on her main influences. “Color, color, color…I’ve always incorporated multiple gemstones in my pieces, to add the vibrancy of color to my work. Recently I have been working on a series that is all about color, using vitreous enamels, and I’m finding that to be very exciting. Some primary influences are: the architectural fantasies of Brodsky and Utkin; the forms and materials of mediaeval reliquaries; the mysteries inherent in the work of William Harper, Keith LoBue and DX Ross; ancient jewels; the curiosities of Morgan Brigg; and science fiction. (Images: “Summer Breeze” and “Syncopator”) Even more central to my work is an appreciation of historical art forms from the ancient Middle East, specifically the Fertile Crescent. The Fertile Crescent is the region in the Middle East which curves, like a quarter-moon shape, from the Persian Gulf, through modern-day southern Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and northern Egypt. Sculpture, jewels, written (some untranslated) languages, embellished and decorated ceramics are all influences. I feel connected to the design concepts, not in a whimsical, transmigrational way, but am drawn to the available materials and textures. I feel the same way about Sichuan ancient bronzes and their textural qualities. These interests certainly translate well using metal clay, as well as milled sheet.”
“Certainly DX’s and Harper’s influences are their freedom inherent in their design concepts, and their use of enamels, both of which I have found to be instrumental in encouraging me to break boundaries and add enamels to my work. Keith, well, he’s just Keith, where everything is fair game and nothing can be discounted and nothing can be considered too precious to mess with.”
With such a wide range of influences and some stunning work in her back catalogue, I asked Linda if she has one piece that holds a special place in her heart. “When my son was about five, he drew a caterpillar. When I began to enamel on metal clay, I made a pendant based on his drawing,” she said. Oh how sweet!
Linda uses a wide range of techniques alongside her work with metal clay. “I use the following techniques, each dependent on what an individual piece requires: Die-forming, patination, forging, soldering, chain making, cold connections (I am very fond of riveting), enameling, sawing, engraving, stamping, fold-forming, block printing, engraving etc. For my neckpieces I generally use a simple s-hook clasp normally combined with more elaborate ends to the chains.” (Image: “The Gift”) There are some techniques which she feels are important for anyone working in metal clay to learn. “Stone setting, soldering, sawing, filing and finishing are all important skills to acquire,” she said.
Linda’s pieces are highly desirable and I asked her where she sells her work. “From a period of time when I once did 21 shows a year (four of which were trade/wholesale shows), I am now only exhibiting my work at four shows, The Paradise City Arts Festivals. I am represented by one gallery: The Diana Felber Gallery, in West Stockbridge, MA.”
I asked Linda to tell us more about the amazing body of work that she has just completed. “My love of color has pushed me farther than just the inclusion of gemstones in my work. I have been pushing myself to learn more and more about the use of enamels, and the pendant neckpieces in my current indiegogo campaign, ‘From Drawings to Jewelry’, are prime examples of that investigation.” As the largest global site for fundraisers, Indiegogo helps individuals, groups and non-profits raise money online to make their ideas a reality through crowdfunding. (Image: “This Gathering”)“Here’s how that happened. Since doing the drawings years ago for my book, ‘Roots, Stems, and Branches; A Recollection’, so many of my jewel collectors (and others) have noted the resemblance of those drawings to jewelry, that I finally took a long, hard look at the drawings and realized they were right! It was a nice surprise to me, as I wasn’t thinking about drawing jewelry when I created those images. The artist is always the last to know, right?”
“So, over a year ago I began to explore making jewels based on the drawings, and the result was a long, exhausting, pleasurable, obsessive time at the bench, making ten pendant neckpieces. The cost in time and money was also exhausting and I thought it might be a good idea to try to offset some of the cost by starting a crowdfunding campaign. ‘From Drawings to Jewelry’ is the result of that.” (Image: “Walking Through Ancient Lives”) “As you can see from the images, the drawings, sketchbook pages, and the pendant neckpieces themselves, color is paramount in these pieces. And color for me is enamels. Not resin, not paint, not pigment… just vitreous enamels in all their glorious colors.”
Finally, I asked Linda what she would like to achieve creatively in the future. “At my age, I want only to be able to continue to make (and sell) my work to collectors who ‘get it’” she began. “It would be nice to achieve the credibility that having the work in museum collection affords, but, since the work is designed to be worn, and since museum collected jewels are never worn, I’m rather torn on this issue. Reality Check: I have not been invited to donate my work to museums…that’s a whole other story. I think I would rather continue to see my pieces worn.” So would we Linda!
See more of Linda’s work on her website – www.lindakayemoses.com. To contribute to her Indiegogo campaign, visit her page here – www.indiegogo.com/projects/from-drawings-to-jewelry
Nothing stops me in my tracks quicker than a friendly offer to come to my studio. My studio has been a mess for years. Last summer I started the mammoth task of cleaning it up. I think it looks pretty good now, but I still fear company. I used to blame the mess. I’ve recently come to the realization that I have other reasons. (Photo is NOT my studio…this is from the magazine Where Women Create, May 2014.)
One of the reasons is that my space is very personal. I have treasures on display…but not on public display. Rocks collected in Newfoundland, a kazoo Santa gave me, my military dog tags, a metal toy kitchen that was my mother’s, an old lamp in the shape of a green Buddha…stuff I like but that I don’t want to explain to another person why they are special. Continue reading…
Combining metal clay and polymer clay in a piece of jewelry is a great way to add color and contrast. To connect the two mediums, it helps to build some sort of connection into the metal clay that will allow the polymer to wrap around it or otherwise grab a foothold. In this pair of earrings metal clay ovals are connected with small blocks of metal clay and once the polymer clay is added the connection is hidden. I’ve used bronze clay but you can use any type of metal clay.
There are so many creative possibilities with metal clay. One opportunity is to roll coils, or as many of us lovingly call “snakes”. Coils may be used for bails, decorative accents, or as a primary part of a piece.
Right off the bat, let me tell you, that rolled coils, are stronger than syringe coils. There is more metal content by volume in lump clay then there is in syringe clay. This extra strength comes with a trade-off, though. Coils take a while to dry when compared with a rolled-out, flat, piece of clay due to the extra volume. Give coils a good hour to dry in air. If after ten minutes of air-drying, your coil seems stable enough to put in a dehydrator or on top of a warmer, then go ahead and do that. Take care that you don’t move your coil too soon. Otherwise, you risk flattening one side or picking up texture from the tray.
OKAY! Let’s go!
Once the coil is dry, dry, dry . . . attach to your creation in any way you like. I use syringe along a line where the coil will go.
This interview appeared in the 2nd anniversary issue of Metal Clay Artist Magazine in 2011. We loved Jen’s work then and continue to follow her career as a jewellery designer. (Note: New pieces from 2016 appear at the end of the article along with contact information to see the entire collection.)
She sells her work through several venues. “I have an Etsy shop and I sell my work at an outdoor Artist Market in Burlington on Saturdays from May through October. I also have my work in a lovely accessory boutique in Burlington called Trinket and I do a few local holiday craft shows and trunk shows.” I asked her what tips she had for artists who want to sell their work in the same way. “If you’re selling online, take fab photos. If you’re selling at a craft show, find or make great displays that jive with your work. And for selling in shops, approach shops/galleries very professionally and creatively. Remember, every part of everything is an opportunity to be creative! Use letterhead with an image of your jewelry on it. If you’re delivering work in a box, make the box beautiful. These are all chances to show how passionate and how good you are and to impress that on people.”
She finds inspiration in science fiction and fantasy and loves a good story where disbelief can be suspended in favour of wonder. Her practical and ultra-organised side is always vying for attention alongside her creative and messy side. Each is trying hard to learn from the other and live in harmony.
(or What Distinguishes Inspiration from Copying? – For those younger than 40!)
An often-argued creative concept found in all artistic disciplines, is what distinguishes copying from inspiration? It’s a controversial and complicated issue with a lot of gray areas. For what it’s worth, I offer my take on the subject in the article that follows, hoping to give an insight on what I believe are the origins of inspiration.
Where would the art world be if Monet, who is credited as being the father of Impressionism, railed against his contemporaries (including Cézanne, Degas, Renoir) who followed in his footsteps, embracing this new way of interpreting subjects for their work?
As an artist, I don’t believe that something comes out of nothing. Everything I create is inspired by something; even when I’m not conscious of the origins of the inspiration. If I carefully consider some of my creations, I can recall something that has a hand in my designs and techniques. Perhaps the waves of the ocean, a sunset, or the pattern on a hotel curtain had a role in a creation. Only ego can drive the need to demand a work is truly and purely original.
That isn’t to say that the fine line between copying and being inspired isn’t easily crossed. As an artist who also teaches, this is a shaky area for many. Personally, do not dictate that once a student has compensated me for my knowledge and shared skill, that they are forbidden from putting the technique or design concepts into practice. That isn’t a universally accepted concept. I hear from my students, over and over again, experiences in which teachers told them they cannot use design concepts or techniques learned in their classes if incorporated in anything they teach or sell. I feel that if a student has paid to learn from me for my time and knowledge, they should be able to duplicate what I taught them for any use they deem acceptable. I do expect that they won’t take undue credit that it’s something they originated or won’t reprint or plagiarize any written material I hand out. Also, I’m careful to credit others when using techniques that I didn’t originate. If I don’t know who to credit, I am still careful to make it clear that I don’t deserve credit for concepts that I didn’t develop.
My hope is that those who copy what I teach, do so primarily as a means of mastering what they learned. Ideally, whether for fun or profit, students will go on to modify what they learned from me and modify it to bring their own voice and vision to their creations. Regardless, if I’m not ready to have others use what I develop, I shouldn’t put it out there; least of all receive compensation for teaching what I’ve come up with. A common technique used universally in the medium of polymer clay, is the “Skinner Blend.” This is the method for creating gradient blends with two or more colors of polymer clay, developed by Judith Skinner. It is one of the most widely used techniques in polymer clay. It has also been widely modified by myself, and others into more advanced polymer clay effects and techniques. As in the case of Monet, where would polymer clay be if Ms. Skinner, forbade anyone from using her blending method professionally or commercially?
I look, not only to nature, the imagination (which is feed by countless stimuli each day that accumulates over a lifetime) for ideas, but I also find inspiration in the work of others. I find it both within and outside of my chosen mediums. My goal is never to copy, but to create something that is “original” in as far as I use a shape, color scheme, or design concept I create. I don’t want my work to look like an imitation of someone else’s. I don’t think any true artist does.
Creativity is a slippery slope and ideas don’t occur in a vacuum. This concept is worth repeating if you’re an artist who has ever struggled with the feeling that your creativity has been copied. Ideas don’t occur in a vacuum! On more than one occasion I have experienced or had other artists share the phenomenon of learning that someone else was is doing the same technique or design concept that I (or they) “created.” This is disconcerting when it occurs before I have shared my designs and techniques publicly – in a show, on the Internet, for sale, publication or classes. It can be very humbling to realize that another person has simultaneously or even preceded you in discovered the same “new” technique/design concept as you have.
There is a theory called the “Hundredth Monkey Effect.” It explains that the same idea can mysteriously occur in multiple locations without a direct correlation between them two. There are several websites and even books devoted to this concept. Read it more at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hundredth_monkey_effect Clinging too tightly to the ownership of an idea is a dangerous thing and can result in a great deal of personal unhappiness. Who among us doesn’t wish to be recognized for their creative innovation? Making this important to yourself as an artist, robs you of your higher purpose to create and can hold you back from personal and professional growth.
I’ve even been on the receiving end of being accused of taking credit for someone else’s concepts only to find myself having to prove that I developed, introduced or used a design/technique before the accuser. In some cases, it was clear that they didn’t copy me, but it can be uncomfortable to have to defend your work. Having been on both sides of this experience, the oddest example for me was hearing someone I had just met tell me about a friend who told her about a profound artistic experience at an adjacent tradeshow to the one she was working at. Coincidently, I happened to know the same artist personally as a friendly acquaintance. Both of us were demonstrating for the same company, at the tradeshow at the time of this occurrence.
What a shock it was to hear the story retold as it had happened, only it had happened to me! While on a break, I went to the other trade show with a friend. People stopped me to admire work I was wearing. I made it with a new technique I had developed. They though it was a completely different medium and not the one I was using to replicate the look. I went back to the booth where I was working and shared how my “faux’ technique fooled many people at the other show. I shared this story with a group of eight people.
This group included the artist who then went on to tell my story as her own. Later, I saw another artist credit her for the technique in a magazine article. If you’re wondering how I handled it, I decided to let it go. I concentrated instead on developing the technique to take in new and exciting directions. Having done otherwise might have had a crippling effect on my creative ability. My energy was best spent in moving forward in my work and not feeling the need to salve my ego over setting the story straight. This person has to live with their lie, knowing they need the credit belonging to someone else to feel accomplished.
Of course, this is different from when your design concepts are copied and sold for profit in an arena in which you compete for your livelihood. Companies like Wal-Mart and Target have found themselves on the loosing end of lawsuits where they had taken the designs of independent artists, culled from buyers attending shows and had them reproduced – en mass – without the permission of the artist.
I’ve heard it said that sites like Etsy and Pinterest are nothing more than idea factories for other artists. If I have a problem with anyone using my techniques or design concepts for themselves, then I should not be putting it out there to begin with, knowing that in all likelihood, I’ll never be credited or profit from my concepts. Success as an artist for me is acknowledging that my “original” ideas all have their beginnings in something, but for me, it’s important that something is merely and influence and not a mold for me to duplicate.
Image Credits: All images by Lisa Pavelka, copyright to the artist.
Inspiration Credit for Lisa’s art:
Image #1- Inspired by Karl Faberge
Image #2 – Inspired by Karl Faberge
Image #3 – Inspired by 1960s Optical Pop Art
Image #4- Inspired by Dichroic Glass and Ocean Waves
Image #5 – Inspired by Mardi Gras
Image #6- Inspired by William Morris
Image #7- Inspired by Periscopes
Lisa Pavelka, a Colorado native who now resides in Las Vegas. She is an award winning artist, designer and author. Although she is well versed in several mediums, she is best known for her polymer clay expertise. Having worked with the medium professionally since 1989, she has focused her creative energies in taking polymer clay in new directions; especially in the areas of mixed media applications.
As a polymer clay pioneer, Lisa has tackled everything from jewelry making and home décor to scrapbooking and altered arts to name a few. She has shown the crafting world there is almost nothing that can’t be done with polymer clay, whether it’s coming up with new techniques or covering the back of a van.
Lisa is author of three books including the award winning best seller: Polymer Clay Extravaganza (North Light Books), and DVDs—Gifts from the Heart & Hand (Page Sage) and Claying Around with Lisa Pavelka(2007).