My Interview with An Awesome polymer clay artist on Etsy.com
Introducing : Ashpaints!
When did you start to work with clay?
In January, 2007 I bought some Sculpey III holiday packs that were 80% off at the Hobby Lobby after Christmas sale. They sat on a shelf for a while because I had several commissioned paintings to finish before I could actually get my hands into it. The last of those commissions were delivered around the first of April and I was free to play with the clay. I was pretty much burned out on painting – after over 25 years as a decorative artist – and needed a new creative outlet.
Why did you choose clay as your artistic medium?
After watching Donna Kato and Lisa Pavelka on the Carol Duval show, I thought it might be a good medium to try and Hey, it was on SALE! Donna and Lisa made it looks easy -- like anybody could do it. I had worked with paper clay on gourds so I figured the polymer clay couldn’t be that hard to learn. I was both right and wrong on that point! Right in that the clay is easy and fun to work with and wrong in that it wouldn’t take me very long to master it! Every time I sit down at my work table I learn something new!
What do you love most about working with clay?
Most? Now that’s a difficult question. I think probably the surprise factor ranks right up there -- even when things don’t work out the way I originally intended. Some of my best work has come about because something didn’t turn out the way it was supposed to. And the joy of cutting into a new cane! That ahhhhhhhhhh moment! I love to watch the faces of our guild members – particularly the newbie ones – when they get that first look at what they, themselves, have made with the clay! It’s very rewarding!
But there’s also the cost factor. Yes, you can spend a small fortune on clay and clay equipment but you don’t have to. Besides which, you haven’t seen my paintbrush and paint collection!!! When paint dries, it’s pretty much beyond further use. You may be able to reuse the surface that it’s painted on, but the paint is a loss. When clay doesn’t turn out the way you want it to, you just use it as a base for something else, make a mold with it, make a stamp with it, mix it with the “out of the package” clay to create more pleasing colors, the list is endless. Other than the clay itself, you don’t have a lot of supplies that you have to replace on a regular basis. Our Guild president developed a list that we have on our website ( cmspcg.com ) called The Basic Toolbox which lists the things that a guild member needs to collect for their travel toolkit with emphasis on the fact that you don’t have to have them all right at first, but some things you might want to slowly add when you get that 40% off coupon for Hobby Lobby or Michaels.
And there’s the therapeutic factor. I’ve always had the “need” to create in some way. My grandmother taught me to embroider before I started to school and I’ve been doing something ever since. The decorative painting filled that need for a long time but had become more of a job than a joy, which is why I started looking for another outlet. Clay is perfect! You don’t have to have a lot of equipment or space. My first clay table was a rolling tv cabinet with a shelf that I picked up for under $20. I glued a ceramic tile on one side, drilled holes to anchor my pasta machine on the other side and I was in business. I used plastic containers with pull out drawers from WalMart to hold my clay and tools. Four of them fit perfectly in the shelf area. When not in use, I could park it out of the way. I have since added a larger work table and some cabinets to store my “stuff” in. (There’s more information about the cabinet project in my blog - http://harrisonhollowdesigns.blogspot.com/)
Whatever I’m working on right now. I know that probably isn’t the answer you were looking for but it’s true! There is so much to learn and so many different ways to create with polymer clay that I’m always learning something new. I guess if I had to narrow it down, I would say canes. That was my first love in polymer clay and I just keep going back to the canes! And since the information about using Play-doh to pack your canes hit the internet, I’ve been caning like crazy. I love being able to make my cane, pack it with play-doh with a scrap clay wrapper, reduce it in several different sizes, then remove the outer clay wrapper and the play-doh for a beautifully shaped flower cane. Definitely a WOW moment!
Where do you find your inspiration?
Everywhere! I subscribe to PolymerCafe as well as several of the jewelry magazines that frequently offer polymer clay instruction. I spend a fair amount of time on the internet and there is a wealth of information and inspiration out there.
I guess I would have to say that my best source of inspiration is other clayers -- both my online friends and friends that I have made because of polymer clay. After going on the Polymer Paradise Cruise with Lisa Pavelka, Christi Friesen, Lynne Ann Schwartzenberg and Desiree McCrory in April 2008 and hearing all the other people talking about their guilds and how much fun they were and how much they learned from each other, five of us Mississippi girls formed our own guild. We figured that if it was just the five of us getting together every month to clay and play, it would be worthwhile. But we’ve been able to share our enthusiasm with a lot more people and our guild has about 20 members after just one year. We celebrated the first anniversary of our first guild meeting in June.
Do you have any advice for people who are considering working with polymer clays?
Find a group to work with – either local, online or both. The International Polymer Clay Guild is a good place to start to see if there is a local guild anywhere close to you. Another good way to learn is to join an online group. There are quite a few out there. I know just on YahooGroups there are a large number of online email groups dedicated to polymer clay. Most have people of all skill levels who are willing and able to answer your “newbie” questions without making you feel dumb! Some of them have challenges. Participate. It will make you stretch your skill level… And if you do find people around you who want to learn too, get together periodically and teach one another. My absolute favorite thing to do is have a Clay Play Day where we book a room at the local library and just do our own thing. It’s fun to see what everybody else is doing and bounce ideas off of each other.
About the only other thing that I can say is practice, practice, practice! I don’t want to sound preachy but it’s a fact that you get out of it what you put into it. That’s true with pretty much anything you do. If you really want to get better at polymer clay, you have to get your hands in it!
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me, I really enjoyed learning all about you and your awesome work!
Please, feel free to check out Ashpaints on Etsy, by either clicking here, or any of the featured pictures (it will take you directly to those listings)