Monday, January 5, 2009

The Beginning of a Chain

I am beginning the new year with a little experiment that I began last month, with the help of some smart, talented, and wise women. It began with a question. A question to another artist/entrepreneur. She in turn, asked a question to another artist/entrepreneur. And so a chain was begun. Each person answering a question, then turning to another with a question.

In some ways it is like one of those infuriating chain letters. It relies on the passage of the e-mail from one person to another in order to sustain itself. And there is the promise of a payoff. The difference is there is only one person to send it on to, and you have an opportunity to ask someone something you would like to know about them, or that you would like to learn from them.

The experiment seemed ready to collapse a few times. But it would suddenly come to life again, and a series of e-mails would follow. I will start with a few entries from the chain, and continue over several posts. It began with a question I posed to Judy Belcher, the out-going President of the National Polymer Clay Guild...which is now the International Polymer Clay Association! Judy spent two years as president, and it was during this time that I got to know her. I witnessed from the sidelines a few of the many experiences she had as president, and I knew there must be at least one good story in all of it.

Question to Judy Belcher (from Judy Dunn): You are finishing up your term as President of the National Polymer Clay Guild. You have had lots of new experiences over the last two years. What did you learn or experience from this time that you might not have otherwise learned?

I really have learned so much about this community and about myself. I have written four thoughtful answers to this question and then decided to get personal and yes, selfish. I met Tim McCreight at a workshop he held at Tamarack, here in my state. The workshop was fascinating, but holding the position of president of the IPCA (newly renamed International Polymer Clay Association,) gave me permission to relate to him on a whole different level. He is an amazing storyteller, filled with knowledge of the history of metalsmithing, the beginnings of PMC and information about the art community in general. I was able to converse with him that week about things that were on my mind about polymer clay and its place in the world, about our community of artists, and about the role that the IPCA should play in that community and the art world. Our conversations were thoughtful and thought provoking and a real "I can't believe I'm talking to Tim McCreight about all this" moment for me. Because of that connection, I felt empowered to call on him several more times for advice on issues that have come up with our group, to ask him to participate in Synergy, and for his wise counsel on more personal creative dilemmas. I have learned that by taking this volunteer position, one that I didn't intend to gain from personally, I relate with people in a different way and in doing so, have gained a wonderful group of mentors. - Judy Belcher

Question from Judy Belcher, for Lindly Haunani: Having worked in this medium for a long time, what do you see as the most exciting moment in our relatively short history?

Wow! That is a hard question, as a lot of exciting moments have unfolded over the years. If I had to pick one...then it would be an evening in the "teacher's lounge" at the first national polymer clay conference- Ravensdale 1996- sponsored by the Northwest Polymer Clay Guild. While I had already met many of the artists working with polymer clay before- including Pier Voulkos, Kathleen Dustin, Steven Ford, David Forlano, Victoria Hughes, Nan Roche, Maggie Maggio and Kathleen Amt...there were many others that I had never met before in person including Michael and Ruth Ann Grove, Karen and Terry Murphy, Judy Kuskin, Cynthia Toops, Dan Cormier, Tracy Holmes, Meredith Arnold, Sarah Shriver...
So, on that on particular night, with a crackling fire in the fireplace and a drifting moon over lake Ravensdale, Judith Skinner decided to show us a color blending technique "that everyone already knew about" that she had been using for several years, using a pasta machine .Within minutes the room was a buzz and Kathleen Dustin made the suggestion that this technique should be named "the Skinner Blend". One could almost hear the creative wheels turning in everyone's heads- as they just began to imagine just how they could use this technique in their own personal work and as a teaching tool.
I still hear people of my generation pose the question- "Where you at Woodstock?" For many of us in the international polymer clay community, we still pose the question "where you at the first Ravensdale?" - the event where the reality of the synergistic effects of openness, sharing and an expanded inclusive community of polymer clay artists helped to create a memorable experience for everyone involved. - Lindly Haunani

Question from Lindly to Holly Mion: Your polymer clay collection recently was on display at the National Polymer Clay Guild's Synergy conference in Baltimore- and enjoyed by all of the participants.How and why did you start collecting? Has your rationale for selecting pieces changed over the years?

I got involved with polymer clay in 1991, and was addicted instantly. I had a voracious appetite to keep learning, and started going to workshops, retreats (including our "Woodstock"), etc. right away. While at these various events I purchased items I wanted to wear or things that I admired as objects of art (e.g., the large mask by Kathleen Dustin, circa 1994, has been hanging over my fireplace ever since I purchased it back then). Since I was co-editor of the NPCG's newsletter for 3 years, and organized the national retreat for 10 years, I had even more opportunities to acquire new work and was also lucky enough to receive some gifts along the way. I never bought anything with the thought of creating a collection until this past year. I own some significant pieces by well known past and present polymer clay artists, but I have also purchased a number of pieces that were made by unknown artists. Putting together my exhibit for Synergy and seeing people's reaction to it made me realize that what I have is, indeed, a collection (and I now have a rider on my insurance policy!). Prior to that, my polymer clay was located in a number of locations in my home, and the jewelry portion was such a massive jumble that I didn't truly appreciate what I had. After seeing it displayed properly at Synergy, I have now given many of my pieces a proper home where I can easily enjoy them every day.

I must admit that when I ended up buying (a lot) more pieces at Synergy and at the ACC, the whole idea of a collection was in the back of my mind for the first time. But even so, I only purchased items I loved and would wear or put on display in my home as works of art, whether by famous or lesser known artists. So I guess my rationale for selecting pieces hasn't really changed over the years, but my pockets did get a bit deeper. I know that some others have many more items in their collections with many fabulous pieces. I hope that we get a chance to see and admire someone else's collection in the future. - Hollie Mion
My next post will pick up from here. Who do you think Hollie will pose her question to? Were you surprised by any of the questions or answers? Did you learn anything new? Fun, huh?


Susan Turney said...

Judy, what a great idea! I loved all 3 sets of questions and answers and can't wait for the next one!!!

Kathi said...

wow! I agree with Susan, great idea and I can't wait til the next installment!

Iris Mishly said...

I enjoyed so much reading these posts written by people i admire! thank you Judy!

Iris Mishly