"Art" (just what is it?)
Polymer as an "inferior" medium
Formative teachers/others
Creativity & Inspiration
..........more Inspiration
Spreading the word
Finding time to clay
Critiquing, criticism
Shows/Demos (& Fear)

Creativity, getting Inspiration, & "Art"
(various opinions)

. . . I too appreciate all the discussion that has taken place (on this topic). I understand the POV of all involved. Again, I really appreciate everyone expressing, very openly, their opinion, and hope that no one feels hurt by the different opinions that people have. I have to say that there is nothing that I love more than a great discussion where people feel free to express themselves without fear of intimidation and loss of respect.(I've worked in both kinds of environments, believe me the open and free to express environment is far better for the soul of the individual and the team). celeste


Julia’s "why clay"? (vs. painting/drawing, etc.)
Jacqueline Gikow's list of things to do/pay attention to in order to be creative
Creativity, teachers (esp. for children) (7 pgs)

info, exercises, tests allow you to" identify your own character traits and develop a better understanding of yourself using the creative process"

Victoria (Tory) Hughes now has workshops on creativity and creating one's most fulfilling life, which is called MindMoves.
...she defines mindmoves as the "choices and actions that that get us more of what we do want, and help us let go of what we don’t want (whether it's for our art or business, etc.) ... these can be physical actions like changing the way we do or make things, emotional decisions, mental adjustments, spiritual connections ... they happen when we observe our normal behaviour, and then identify and take action to be more of who we know we are. "


Polymer, the Chameleon Clay: Artranch Techniques for Re-Creating the Look of Ivory, Jade, Turquoise, and Other Natural Materials, by Victoria (Tory) Hughes . . . I love the book. It is really good one. Not just a project, tips and "forget me" book but much much more. I think it is now one of my favourite books... It touches me, the artist in me, and makes me both inspired and also active. I still have it unfinnished, but I already have gotten a new attitude towards colours (the talk about "really looking at colours" was very inspiring) and also I think the part where she talks about goals and their importance in all creating, have made a good impression into my own thinking. I dont know if I am the only one, but if Tory Hughes ever starts to make inspirational casettes for crafters, I think she would definately make it. Her way with words is great, and the ideas and opinions she express are very good ones to hear for getting confidence and structure for one's own creating.
(see more in Books & Videos)
. PöRRö

I read a book called Art and Fear and the authors mention an interesting study. A pottery teacher took her class and divided them in half. One half were going to be graded on quantity - the more pots, the higher the grade. The other half had to do just one pot - but it had to be perfect. The end result was that all the very best pots in the class were made by the students making quantity. Terri C.
I hadn't heard of the book Art and Fear. I went and read the reviews on Amazon - sounds interesting. Thanks for mentioning it. Pat
I have a great book....It's one of those books that with each word you read you are convinced that it was written for you... "Art and Fear" Observations on the perils (and rewards) of David Bayles & Ted Orland. ...some of the stuff I do, I love but most of the stuff I feel insecure about and that keeps me from doing more thing that the book states over and over is to just do it, no matter what it looks like...hmmm, maybe I'll create something today...I'll let you all know... Good thoughts and creations.. Joy

books for artists "block". . . .The Artist’s Way . . . The Vein of Gold andthe latest Heart Songs (I think thats the name) are also treasures in my collection. Julia Cameron is great. Some time ago, I read and loved Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. It is about being a writer, but many of the chapters also relate to doing visual art. Natalie Goldberg has a new book called Living Color. Not only is she a great writer, but also a painter with a beautiful, bright vision. Evidence of the harmony and coordination of a person's aesthetic style across disciplines. I love both books and re-read them often. Another favorite of mine I'm re-reading now is called Art and Fear. Can't name the authors right now, but I will look it up if anyone's interested. Patti K.

magazines and books: mainly tole painting books by "Cute As A Button", "Pipsqueak"etc. ( I sculpt 1-3" people and selected animals). One of the BEST books is one by James Christensen named "A Journey of the Imagination". There is sooo much for the eye to see.

--what is it? (opinions)

What is Art? Folks have gotten Masters degrees, even Doctorates, by coming up with high-sounding answers to that question.
At one point, the majority view was that Art was an endless re-creation of the Masters' work. In other words, only things which looked like that which had come before counted as Art.
Then there was the school of thought that said that Art could NOT be anything like that which had come before. Suddenly, nothing could be Art if it was representational.
For a brief time, 'Conceptual Art' was big,...that the idea is more important than the Art object itself, and that Art was meant to force the viewer to see the entire world in a new light, the world itself as Art.
While this might have had possibilities, the ways in which the students explored it was sad. One such piece was ice cubes melting in a bowl. It was boring. Today, you can find many individuals trying impress a jaded Art world with wild ideas.
The Classic definition of Art was that which had to do with Truth and/or Beauty. Byrd

(* great, very condensed characteristics of the various art movements/artists in Western history

The consensus of what art is changes all the time. Some of the art masters were ignored or laughed at in their time. It was only later that we decide they were great... This seems to me to indicate that Art is not an intrinsic quality of an item, but rather a social construct . . .

Maybe the explanation lies in the communication (semantics): all words are deals between humans, agreements that certain sounds (or letters) combined mean something specific we all know.
IMHO the problem with words like ART and CRAFT is that they actually are used as if they were something specific when in real life they have thousands of meanings... That is one reason why this conversation is always waking up in every group of artists I have seen/heard/been in. Maybe we just want to make some deals how to talk to each other so that we could understand each other better.

It's possible that something that is well crafted could have no feeling behind its creation, and, on the other hand, something that speaks volumes could be shoddily crafted. PoRRo?
And it's essential that we not think that one opinion is the "correct" or most favored one simply because strong personalities state them, and (other) folks are afraid to come forward with their feelings . .. .Diane B.
And I really don´t believe anything has only one truth. Most of the "reality" is just a agreement on seeing things as others do. PöRRö

So Yes, I do think *anybody* can be creative; the talent is there, but people are afraid to fail, afraid they won't be any good at it. It takes courage and support to step outside the known, which is what being creative is all about. Cate

... book Art & Fear by ....some of the things in there have really been sticking with me. Here is one that strikes me:
"To all viewers but yourself, what matters is the product: the finished artwork.
To you, and you alone, what matters is the process: the experience of shaping the artwork.

The viewers concerns are not your concerns (although it is dangerously easy to adopt their attitudes).
Their job is whatever it is: to be moved by art, to be entertained by it, to make a killing off it, whatever.
Your job is to learn to work on your work." (p.5)
...Since I have been focusing on what "I" want to create rather than what I 'think' others would buy, I have felt more satisfied and the quality of my work has stepped up, and it has become more unique to me. Surprise, surprise. :) It's not easy, but it's common.
Start out by rephrasing the thought that you are not a "real artist". I think that is a state of mind, and if you work on your mind to actually believe it, other things will follow too. Lori G.

I come from a "spiritual" background which says that we are here to learn to be creative, and then that's our gift back to the Universe. The trick is figuring out what our gift is...
... And creativity isn't just artistic, remember. Preparing a meal, planting a garden, rearranging a room, whatever. Creativity expresses Self in a good way.
I didn't think I was creative at all, ten years ago. I followed directions well, took craft magazines, etc, made lots of stuff. Then I slowly ventured out of my comfort zone, designed a few things of my own, tried drawing with "Drawing on the Right Side of Your Brain" and found I could draw; three years ago found Julia Camerons "The Artist's Way", went through the three month program, and developed the confidence I needed, and am now having a ball. I love color, deep, intense, saturated color, sculpt heads, write, etc. Perhaps not well but that's okay, too!

~One thing that we each can do (to help others get past the "lesser value" of polymer clay as a medium) is to try to eliminate any prejudices we might hold ourselves, or tendency to be judgemental - about how others choose to use pc, or the quality (or quantity) of their work. Everyone's creative work deserves respect, whether or not it appeals to our individual taste or standards. And if someone chooses to make more than one of an item - is their work no longer valid? What's the difference between that and prints? Are lithographs, woodcuts, or bronze scuptures where more than one is produced no longer art? No boundaries! Jan C

"Technical skill is mastery of complexity, while creativity is mastery of simplicity." E. C. Zeeman (via DebKeller)

In Britain, I have found that there is not the same apparent stigma attached to being an artist versus a craftsman as in the US and at first I was quite amazed at how vehement the US (polyclay) "artists" were about calling themselves that. In Britain, a true craftsman is just as highly acclaimed as an artist - often more so because we tend to believe they have developed higher skills in their chosen medium. The worth of an artist's output is highly subjective and depends on taste and trends - a craftsman's work can often be admired by a much wider audience. Sue??

I agree with Cate, there is creativity in us all to varying degrees, and the biggist killer of creativity is fear.
(A long, long time ago when I was a little girl I told my grandmother I wanted to be an artist. She discouraged me because "artists starve". She didn't realize what an artist she was because she used fabric, needle & thread instead of paint & canvas. There are many among us who are artists unawares & I choose to encourage and nurture that spark when I see it.) Linda

Art can be anything at all!...The main thing is to do something you love to do, love to look at, and that says something important to you. Don't try to get too extravagant. Just do one simple piece. Be it cute or not.
And also remember that people who judge "art" all have different ideas of what it should be. Just because a piece of work isn't selected doesn't mean it isn't good. I had a piece turned down and the judges comments were "...too amateurish and not well executed." I entered that same piece into another contest and I won first prize and the judges comments were "...this is art at its finest. Magnificent work!" Go figure! Don't put your efforts into trying to win. Put them into doing the very best work you can. The rest, eventually, will take care of itself. Dotty in CA

IMHO not all that is unique is art, but not all that is "a repeat" is crafts. . . I have to admit that I really have only recently learned that I have some mild artistic skills, and I definitely am the first to deny them all. I take pride from defining myself as crafting polyclayer: the need for design comes from the need to make, not the other way around. I see nothing bad at all in that, in fact I think that was the way old masters worked. . .

~We all get our inspiration from something: nature, books, artwork, and other such things from our environment, so we are all, in a way, copying from somebody or something. Real genius come from combining those elements into something new. We all gotta start somewhere. PlaysClay

I think that in our society, too often, people are taught that they are not creative. Think about it... Little kids do the most wonderfully imaginative things. Most leave some or all of it behind when they "grow up". It doesn't have to be that way... I want to write a thousand or so words about "art", and who gets to decide what it is.... =)

One sentence in particular sums it up for me..."As artists, we belong to an ancient and holy tribe." I like the feeling of continuity that the idea contains. The "rules" state that "creativity grows among friends, withers among enemies" . . .

MLBee poses the question "What is art anyway?". I think a case could be made that art is creation that pushes beyond the obvious. . .

In my old women's groups, one of the most valuable things I learned was that when one person puts forth an of-course-this-is-the-way-it-is statement, most of the others don't agree but are afraid of getting pummeled by the strong person, unsure of how to express their disagreement or thoughts, or just assume that most of the others must agree because they're not disagreeing.
What we learned to do was to go around the circle and ask (require) each person to actually express their ideas --it was always a revelation to see the breadth of relevant things people had to say, as well as that most of them didn't agree with the original speaker! When this happens over and over, it really makes you think. . . DB

. . .The way I see it, art has three purposes: to inspire us, to act as a a form of personal expression, and to enhance the quality of life esthetically. Art can encompass any, or all three of these aspects. Lisa P.
(see also the rest of Lisa P's comments in paragraph just below)

polymer clay as a legitimate "art" medium... just "plastic"

Do artists not use anything they can get their hands on and apply the creative process with it ?

There are two things to consider when people react to polymer clay items as "just plastic" or "just for kids."
....the material itself
....what has been done with that material by a person

For polymer clay, those things have often been mixed together in people's minds as well.
...Most "art" materials are just ordinary things from the earth (mud, rocks, plants, plus animal products, etc.)...over time, most of those have been considered lesser or ordinary materials (unless a way has just been discovered to make them into a different form, etc....then they rise in stature).
...However, what can be done with any of those materials varies widely, and eventually is the best defintion for what is "of value," etc.
For example, a child or unskilled person may use the finest materials (e.g., ceramic clay, oil paint, gold, etc.)but produce something less "artistic" or "meaningful" with it
...On the other hand, someone with more artistic sensibilities can use virtually any material to make "art" (e.g., found objects; paper and paper mash; plastics like solid acrylics and cast resins, acrylic paint, polymer clays; etc.).... even degradable materials can be used for art which will last only a short time a la ______, and even some otherwise "objectionable materials can be made into "art.". What counts is what's done with the material or items, how they're put together, or what they allude to and the meaning they have and how well those things are accomplished. In art circles, often a new way of doing one of those things is considered "important art," but often it takes awhile for those techniques/materials to be "taken seriously."

Tommie Howell's article on the validity of polymer as an artistic medium

(The way I see it, art has three purposes: inspire us... to act as a a form of personal expression... and to enhance the quality of life esthetically. Art can encompass any or all three of these aspects.)
........What I am curious to know, is when did there become an "official list of materials" qualified to accomplish these results?
And, more importantly, who is the supremely qualified individual(s) who made this determination for the rest of us?
...Thank goodness we are all individuals and that we all view the world through different eyes. Otherwise we would all be creating the same thing over and over and over again, making artistic expression pointless.
...Do children use polymer clay as a creative medium? Of course! . . . Do hobbyists and crafters use polymer clay as a creative medium? Of course.. . . Does these facts negate polymer clay as an art medium? Well let's ask.
...Do fine artists use polymer clay to create works of art that exhibit in museums around the world? Yes, of course.. . . Do some people's polymer clay artwork command enough money, enabling them to make a living solely on the basis of their artwork? Yes, of course!
...Also polymer clay has a huge base of end users. . . . Does the fact that people enjoy polymer clay on a hobby level negate it's value as an art medium? I pity the close-minded individual who thinks so.
. . . And is the work of hobbyists and crafters valueless simply because it doesn't fit into some elistist idea of what is art?... Lisa P.

Where oh where did this idea that the medium is what makes art get started?
...Leonardo DaVinci used pencil for his many drawings - so does that mean only his oil paintings are considered art, and the many drawings he did was only "kids stuff?" Terri

uh hum....gee...aren't "ceramics" JUST DIRT?!? . . . or better yet...just 'MUD'?!?
...before Polymer Clay I was a huge fan of 'ceramics' and was a 'mudbaby' so I am not 'knocking' the medium ...I'm just making a point. Kim in MI

some other examples
....cave wall paintings (many definitely considered "art") were made from ground-up plants and rocks, plus spit in many cases
... fresco paints were often made from egg yolks or egg whites... sometimes with honey or milk or water
....oil paints are made from ground up and boiled nuts and seeds, etc., plus stuff that trees use to heal themselves (pine resin)
....marble and stone are just pretty rocks
....scrimshaw is just scratching on the tooth of a large mammal with a knife/pin
....natural pigments are ground-up or pulverized plants and rocks... many dyes are synethic
....some paints are pigments with animal parts as binders

All art mediums have had to battle the perception that they were not fine art at some point in time. At one time, e.g., oil paintings and bronze and marble sculptures were the only "true" art from.
(techniques)...drawing was just a means of planning, printmaking was just a means of getting multiples out there, watercolor was a medium for little old ladies to pass the tiime. And of course the crafts, jewelry, pottery, woodworking, etc. were not considered in the league of fine art.
.... All that of course has changed, but it took a long, long time. (And of course there are still people who question it today.)
But look at the work in the fine art museums today and you will see all those mediums and types.
....Also, it use to be cut and dried as to what was a painting and what was scuplture per se. Now those lines are blurred too. It is not so easy to identify based on what it is made of. A sculpture can be made of rags and a painting can be made of toothpaste. ocartteacher

are chains of molecules; loosely speaking, anything sticky is a polymer.
, that most "organic" of gems, is the quintessential polymer. Jet
...(fossilized coal) is organic.
Want to get excited about polymers? . . James L's page all about polymers, carbon, polymer clay, the stuff-of-life!, etc.

May I submit this tiny tidbit. ALL plastics are organic.
Plastic is made with and from petroleum. Petroleum is a variable substance created through the decompostion of plant and animal matter under not fully understood conditions of heat, pressure, and time. It is not a mineral, it is an organic substance.
It cannot be produced artificially in quantity, and must then be derived from the same organic substances producing the natural product.
...Think about it, "earth clay" is constructed from earth dug ingredients. Polymer clay is also constructed from deeper dug earth ingredients. Its base is a petroleum product made from ancient dinosaurs.
The ingredients are manipulated various ways. . . . So are the ingredients of porcelain, etc. Dotty in CA

Acrylic paint is pigment suspended in a polymer emulsion. Acrylic paint was not immediately accepted as a fine art medium. The first acrylic paints were created for industry use (think house paint) and the pigments used were not the stable (non-fading) ones used in fine art. Artists who were seeking a faster drying medium (oil paint dries very slowly) began to experiment with the new paints. They slowly gained exceptance and art material manufacturers responded by creating acrylic paints with high grade pigments.. . . As for jewelry, Bakelite jewelry from the early part of this century is very collectable, obviously durable and very much made from a polymer.
Just as there are differences in the quality and endurance of metals, there are differences in the quality of polymers. Polymer clays such as Premo and Fimo are closer to Bakelite than they are to cheap plastic spider rings out of the gum machine (although I am a sucker for those also!) Val

Only once have I had to resort to the following point was to illustrate that just because it's synthetic, it's not bad.
...A vendor at a show said she couldn't accept my work as "art" or as anything she wanted to own because it was plastic.
Even after showing her the books I take with me to each show (New Clay, etc) and describing techniques, etc., she was still very negative.
..So in extreme self-defense, I asked her about the earthen clay she used -- removing something from the earth, pretty invasive, eh?
..... And the wood her husband used to make furniture -- doing his part for deforestation?
......Oh, metal-based artwork -- strip mining!
......Natural dyes -- how about disposing of the heavy metals necessary to set the dye?

Do artists not use other media which aren't so directly taken from the earth? (besides acrylic paint)
....what about "computer-generated" art?
.... polyester fibers and fabrics?
.... found objects of all kinds?. . . etc., etc.

If anyone says to me "Hey, isn't that plastic?"
I inform them that actually it's a unique kind of "clay" (which it is). . . . All of a sudden they are interested. Maybe we should play up the CLAY aspect. That might make it sound more "artsy". Robin

..."clay" (from: "to stick together, glue, mud"):
a firm, fine-grained earth, which is "plastic" when wet (earth clay). . .or any substance which can be used in the same way ----paper clay, polymer clay, bread clay, etc.
..."plastic" & "plasticity"....that which is capable of continuous and permanent change of shape in any direction without breaking apart;
. . . moldable, pliable . . . and various compounds with these characteristics
...the "plastic arts" . . .arts producing works to be viewed as sculpture, architecture, painting, and the graphic arts, as distinguished from those involving writing or composing, as music or literature

I think enlightening artists who work in other medias is truly important... any time you get a chance! Whenever you're at a show for instance. Try not to react badly to a negative reaction to the *plastic* comments. Geeesh.... you can almost always find something negative to say about ANY media if you think about it. Turn it back on them. WE have no need to be defensive of our work, just cause THEY get offensive. We have so much to be proud of... let's get out there and tell it!
...Use your enthusiasm for our media to your advantage. When someone takes a shot at the clay... turn the sheer light of your love of the media on them.
Let some of those artists know what goes into building a complicated piece... the design process, the bakings, the shapings, the inclusions, the texturing & detailing, the amature building, the sanding & buffing... don't let them leave thinking you wad up a piece of clay, throw it in a toaster oven, and presto, you're done. We put every bit as much of our creative selves into our work as the rest of them do. Way more in some cases!
...Talk about the versatility of the medium! Almost every other media out there has natural limitations. Paint... you can only paint with. Stained Glass... is a very hard planed media. Even Hot Glass has limits... as does stone... or basketweaving... wood... all other medias. They have limitations in either form, shape or effect. OUR media has no limitations... not that I've found yet anyway. We can work tiny... or huge. We can work in 3d or on a single plane. We can PAINT with our media.... as seen by Byrds work... can painters build a sculpture with their paint? I think not. We can simulate virtually any surface detail or texture.
We can add other media to ours in more ways than any other artist out there has the ability to!! If we can think of something we want to have happen with the clay... we can FIND a way to make it happen! Oh golly, there's just nothing we can't do with our chosen media. ...Joanie

Show some really upscale polymer work
..... The book 400 Polymer Clay Designs: A Collection of Dyamic & Colorful Contemporary Work (400 individual pieces of upscale polymer eye candy collected into one book by Suzanne Tourtillott)
(......see more re this in Business > Negative Reactions to Polymer Clay)

I am an artist who works in many mediums. One of my favorites is pencil, but pencil is way down the totem pole. The art world is full of (snobbery) about mediums, such as: Works on paper not as well thought of as oil on canvas. Colored pencil not as good as watercolor or oil, but better than pencil. Art created on a computer isn't really art. "Original" prints are better than other prints. There is even snobishness within mediums: watercolor purists sneer at those who use white paint instead of the white of the paper! Jan C.
...You will always find elitists in the art field who put down the mediums others use. Oil painters look down on water colorists. Metal sculptures cast aspersions on clay sculptures. Pen and ink artists have distain for cartoonists. And yet all of these take practice, skill, patience, and an artistic and creative nature...Dotty in Ca
~One thing that we each can do is to try to eliminate any prejudices we might hold ourselves, or tendency to be judgemental - about how others choose to use pc, or the quality (or quantity) of their work. Everyone's creative work deserves respect, whether or not it appeals to our individual taste or standards. And if someone chooses to make more than one of an item - is their work no longer valid? What's the difference between that and prints? Are lithographs, woodcuts, or bronze scuptures where more than one is produced no longer art? No boundaries! Jan C

exclusion ...snobbery in the polymer community matter how much anyone could feel polymer is exclusively for "artists" only (...sometimes it may be necessary to) quietly remind some that oil paints (or any paints), for example, are available to every level of painter, and that polymer clay should also be available to every level of artist as well .....polymer helps many people enjoy their spare time and enriches their lives .... maybe some of them will even grow up into "artists"!

some gender considerations?

. . . I've wanted to say that (as well as the idea that male dominance, or those males who first had status and set the rules of other arts, also probably sets competition--and its corollary of not sharing ideas or encouraging others--as the correct, "highest art" way of doing things; think of what we've heard from people who've been in many other arts and how surprised they are at the supportive and information-giving environment of pc'ers --I had this with quilters too), but have been feeling a little war-weary re this discussion. . . . (but sometimes, I just *have* to say something when it seems that one or two people are declaring what is "right" -- which I feel is unfair and alienating to many others) DB

I took a workshop with Jonathan Talbot, a well-known collage artist (wonderful workshop), and he told the group of 18 women, 1 man, that 60 to 75% of all artists pursuing "fine" arts were female. Yet, only 10 to 20% of art displayed in galleries was by women! (Jonathan, forgive me if I got the percentages wrong, but I'm true to the point of your statement.) Yes, this represents rampant sexism which I believe also contributes to the discounting of PC art as a legitimate art form by some.
To change this narrow-minded attitude, we cannot expect the people who dismiss PC art as being "less" to change their attitudes. They have a vested interest in their belief, held in place by the need to feel better than others, dislike of change or newness, a desire to conform to their crowd, or just the simple inertia of "this is my belief and I'm stickin' with it."
We are the major agents for changing the general attitude, because we are the ones who benefit from the change. To do this we must believe that we are artists and that our contributions are important. Tommie was so right. We must expect to be treated as artists, insist that we are treated as artists, and learn to accept being treated as artists graciously and as our due. I'm not suggesting that we all become tempermental divas. But genteel self-effacement and false modesty aren't going to benefit us as individuals or advance the art form. Thanks for the opportunity to rant. Sincerely, Jo Aldridge

I have often noticed that females work in collage themes more than males and at a very high pecentage compared to males---roughly 8 women to every 2 men. I have also noted that females who work in collage seem to take similar theme, color or type objects and make them into a whole in a very pleasing or joint type of design as if making order out of chaos. Males (except for the collage work that I have seen where old tools are made into an animal) tend to take items that normally are not associated together to tell their story. And then they often tell a "disconnect" kind of message. Often these collages have almost a disturbing quality about them. So just wondering if anyone else has ever noticed anything of this sort. Like I said---maybe I just notice for example female collage art and see how it relates to me since I am female and maybe some of the other just 'hits' me wrong because I am not male. Jeanne

Formative Teachers, others

Tommie Howell's article on those "teachers" who inspired him

I took a ceramics class once where the teacher said that if the thing you are creating has any sort of use at all, it is not Art. . . . I didn't agree with him . . . LynnDel

This is interesting, because I never could understand grading artwork in an art class.
In my college art class we never received grades. We received compliments, constructive comments and support from the teacher, but also the class itself. We always had class discussions on all of the projects so we got a lot of feedback and were able to see more than just one view (the teacher's) of our work. I don't mean to say that grading is bad or not helpful, but that class was a wonderful year for me (I took another class with that same teacher the next semester) because of all of the positive feedback. There was no pressure to conform to any kind of standard and by the end of that year I had seen an enormous improvement in my own work and everyone elses. Angela

I remember my high school art classes...we had an excellent teacher, who guided rather than dictated our creativity.
When I graduated, I was all set to go into "fine arts", then I encountered for the first time the art snobs. A building full of stuffy people who truly believed you could categorize what was art and what was not - and graded accordingly. Can you imagine what would have become of Picasso in that environment? Or Van Gogh? I once read a book that Charles Schultz flunked his art classes in school because he wasn't doing what the rest of the class was doing. My god! Punishing people for having original thoughts! I think it would be much more constructive for us to put aside the labels and again concentrate on becoming the best/crafter/designer/whatever we can be. ..

...when I was in High School, I had 2 art teachers, both teaching different things. One class was still life, and I hated it. The teacher was one of those snobs who wanted your art to conform to her idea of what art was. My other art teacher taught me how to look at things with my own eye, and I did really well in his class. He taught us how to work with earth clay and we also did some drawing of figures, etc.
I remember one time he was gone, and the substitute teacher was just like the other art teacher....I remember drawing a picture of a barn and silo, and he told me that there werent enough bricks in the silo. ????? I drew what I saw, so I didn’t know that I was supposed to count the friggin bricks. When the regular teacher got back, I told him that I couldnt put in each brick because I didnt know how many were in the silo. He got really pissed at the sub. I guess I wasnt the only kid who had been told to draw the way the sub wanted.

Re teachers (and viewers of our efforts). . . there are always abusive people. . .

I want to encourage anyone doing things different from those around you. The very pieces that have gotten me kicked out of one art class have gotten me invited to gallery showings. I have been kicked out of art classes for developing my own techniques. When I went to others I found support for the same pieces. This is for my other ceramics but it is true for other works of art as well. I think of any piece receiving strong response one way or the other successful and not easily forgotten. I had 2 pieces of my last show stolen which I have to take as a compliment. Good thing I take pictures of everything. rainbonita

. . . THAT (expereience) reminds me of the fact that I went to 13 years of strict Catholic schools where they made all the educational decisions for you and told you that art was "foolishness". Couple that with parents who made all your educational decisions for you and thought art was "foolishness" and what you end up with is a person who didn't know, on her own, what she wanted to be even though she attended college several times. So, (now that the kids are gone and years) later this person found out that she's wild about arts and crafts, and am looking forward to retirement within the next 5-6 years when I can "play" all the time! Valerie in Chicago

My Grandmother was a professional artist. The medium in which she worked was First Graders, and she was worked for over 40 years in the public school system---she took her raw materials and she polished the good points, pruned the behaviors that didn't fit, and placed all the separate bits where they could best make use of all potentials, moving things about until it "fit"---not just to some preordained pattern, but to an organic and growthful entity of its own. Her classrooms were studios of movement and color, with pictures and words everywhere, and always changing to fit new work and the needs of the workers/workees ...
is not in the $300 set of Winsor -Newton is everywhere, if you will but notice. I saw Grandma take a walk with me once, finding a piece of treebark and two bittersweet berries. She turned it into an alligator. It even had teeth!
. . . it taught me more about Seeing and Doing Art than any amount of formal "Art Training" in school ever did. Though I have taken some valuable rendering technique classes in college.... but almost ALL of what I have learned has been outside of formal "school". My three years of college, studying theatre design, taught me alot, much of which I still use even tho I'm no longer in "The Theatuh, Dahling". But I went TO LEARN STUFF, not for the degree... I quit and opened a store with the money. And got a real education in Business! I've never looked back with regret, still don't have that BFA, and refuse to see it as a "waste" as someone once called it--I went to college to learn, and I did.
I also learned alot in my summer job as a carnival talker on the Midways of Fairs and Carnivals---how to sell to crowds, how to work a crowd, how to last in the sun day after day....I use that in trade shows and such these days.
And I learned a lot as the artist in residence at A local bead/import store in my to deal with customers, how to make change, how to bag things so they don't break, how to string beads with no "tails" at the to make stuff and sell it...
You can take EVERYTHING you have ever learned and apply it in some way to the business at hand...and the more you know, the better chance you have of doing business long term. Use what you have, cross-pollinate using all areas of your expertise and brain storage.
DO NOT ALLOW MENTAL BARRIERS....if you are open to learning new things, it sure helps! When I go out, I try to leave my pre-concieved notions at home....I don't see the Hardware Store as ONLY a place to buy a nail and fix the step. There are texture things there! color thingies! pokey-pulley bits and stuff to cover, and....well, you know. Don't limit yourself to what you think you know about something. Find the little child you were, and PLAY! IMAGINE! It's not only OK, it's absolutely neccessary. Sarajane Helm


Creativity & Inspiration
(what are they & where do you get them?)
(not very organized, and lo-ong)

(....for using creativity to deal with loss, death, personal issues, stress, emotional trauma, etc., see Disabilities > Emotional...)

"Out beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing there is a field. I'll meet you there." Rumi

"If you compare yourself with others you may become vain and bitter; for there will always be greater and lesser persons than yourself.  "Desirata"

Use what talent you possess. . . the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best...Henry Van Dyke

It's like Miss Frizzle says on the Magic School Bus, "Take chances, make mistakes, get mess-y-y-y!" Amazing how much you can learn (or relearn) from your kid's books and TV shows! Jody Bishel  

Remember: a thing is only a *failure* if you give up & don't try again .... in the meantime, it was an *experiment* that needed more work :> ..patsy

The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers. --Scott Peck

Reading things like this (creativity information) really gets me going.
. . . . . It has helped me tremendously just to "face my fears" and learn that other people go through the same sort of things...Kellie

...They make me think of things I hadn't thought of before.
...and they also put me in "groove" of creativity . . . and from there, it seems more possible to do.

(I strongly want to emphasize this point though, I am not good example of rest of the world) . . . there are plenty of people who learn better with imitating.
....some can read the instructions from books, and others have to take classes to understand the same thing.
....some need seven years to achieve results similar to what other seem to get in two hours, etc.
...we are not one person, although we usually seem to think we are so similar.
But there are millions of others out there, and if we really want to introduce our common love polymer clay to them, I think we have to realize there is not one holy truth in this (subject ).

I'm interested in the designing methods people use. . . How do people come up with patterns, etc.? . . . Mavis
. . . (WARNING, LONG!) ...What a great question! This subject is really interesting to me and I've thought about it a lot. Actually, I think your question is really two, potentially overlapping questions (one requiring "con-vergent" methods, the other "di-vergent" ... in other words, trying to figure out a particular pattern, vs. how people "design" something new).
Anyway, here are some of the things that I've noticed (all IMHO), first re the divergent method:
---different personalities go about it different ways: Some people are inherently able to focus intensely on what is directly in front of them, and some are too aware of their surroundings/other responsibilities/etc. to do that easily (or it may happen to them only intermittently, though they can always *learn* to do it better). Having this intense focus is essential to "play."
When you focus intently over a period of time, it's also more likely that you'll actually spend enough time just sticking with it to allow some of the next things to happen, especially in that fertile period beyond the beginning stages.
---some people are able to "momentum-stop" more easily than others (again, I think this can be learned). In other words, there is a lot of momentum happening when you're working on a particular item or specific way of doing a technique; you have a "goal" in mind, and your brain wants to focus on the goal for lots of reasons (to avoid getting lost or diverted, to get it done in reasonable time, and to have success and not feel dumb and unsatisfied). However, the problem with that (which does serve very well in certain other things in life or art) is that it's very hard to *stop that momentum, and redirect* if some little interesting thing or variation pops up. For most of us, those tiny ideas barely niggle at our minds before *immediately* getting tossed away and completely forgotten; they're slippery as heck. (After all, that's how we "learn" paying attention to relevant things and ignoring all the other flotsam and jetsam that's coming at our brains.) Some people though will be able to stop and explore the new idea right then... possibly because they're easily distracted genetically, or because they've come to understand why it's important, and know that it can be a path to getting in touch with their creative abilities, or maybe for other reasons too. (Some combination of the two probably works best in regular Life.)
---Simply having a lot of experience with a subject can free up the brain to encounter other possibilities too. That's one reason that some people like to work "in series." With every new beginning in the series, they will explore something slightly different about a thing they're now very familiar with. . . which leads to "evolution."
---Other things that can help with fresh ideas are going out into the world after you've spent a lot of time thinking about a topic or problem. Other things "out there" can spark a fresh (if seemingly unrelated) way to go about or think about the topic or problem. Again, those ideas have to be respected for the potential helpful gifts they are, or they'll just float away.
Similar to this is cross-pollination from other hobbies/interests/work. *Loads* of new ideas in clay have come from similar techniques or generalizations from quilting, metalwork of all kinds, weaving/knitting, rubberstamping, glass work, pottery, printing, photography, collage, even cooking or gardening, you name it! If you're very familiar with another field, these new associations might come to you easily, but you can always go on a systematic hunt for them too. (Dream images can also be fertile ground whether you simply use something you've dreamed, or you actually "request" an image or pointer from your dream by simply thinking about the subject before sleeping and *intending* it to happen. . . dreams are *your own* personal creations/vocabulary in the first place!)
---Another of my favorite ways to get good ideas is also a freebie . . .that is, mistakes I make. One kind of mistake can happen when you're actually working with clay, make a boo-boo, and say hey, that's pretty cool, I think I'll do that on purpose from now on. But another kind happens for me when I misunderstand something someone else has said, and think o-o-o, that's a cool idea! When I realize that they didn't actually say what I thought they said (!), and that my brain had seen the cool thing immediately, I can then explore it entirely on my own --and perhaps even name it after myself <g>.
---Yet another freebie is noticing two things that are accidentally in physical proximity to each other which go together well or suggest something between themselves. This could include noticing that some bits you cut off a cane and tossed aside actually have an interesting pattern, or that some of the colors in your laundry pile aren't ones you'd usually put together, but really set each other off.
---Because there can be so many of these ideas when you begin to become aware of them, some people like to keep a notebook in which they jot down a few words or simple drawings about the little inspirations they've had but couldn't pursue at the moment. Those are great for just thumbing through later too, as long as the descriptions are sufficient to remember them by! (been there, done that).
---curiosity and/or rebellion: some people have a lot of natural curiosity or maybe even rebellion that makes them want to know how something works, or keeps them from ever accepting the status quo easily (I'm lumping those two only for convenience).
---learning the vocabulary and concepts for something. Some people have had art, architecture, or other design training which makes them aware of certain ways of looking at and categorizing things; and some people learn these things by discovering them on their own...or some combination of those plus listening to or discussing them with other people. Those categories (like line, proportion, structure, weight, color schemes, schools of thought or art movements through the years, etc.) can be a jump start to having "different" ideas in the first place, or for knowing how to decide what it is you don't like about something and possibly how to fix it, for example.
Most of the things I've mentioned so far are more in the di-vergent realm than the "con-vergent" (trying to sit down and figure out a particular pattern, for example) though there's overlap. In the case of trying to reproduce something, what you're trying to do is bring a number of things you know *together* for one goal, to con-verge them. In the other situations, it's more like how to generalize or go outward. (Some other analytical concepts that come to mind re all this are synthesis, de-composition, and analysis, versus linkage, connections, free association and com-position.)
BTW, people for whom math is easy do have an advantage in figuring out or coming up in the first place with certain patterns or techniques, but that ability isn't totally limiting. (I'm not a math person, for example, even though I find it interesting, but I am a pretty good figurer-outer; however with my quilting I noticed I didn't really want to do the math-heavy stuff either).
---There's loads of other ways to be creative in clay or other mediums though.
(I haven't even mentioned the "organic" types, who may be on yet another wavelength .) Gotta stop though ...that was quite a spew. I'm sure there are many other ways to talk about all this . . . what does everyone else think?? Diane B.

**for an article about those who "bloom" early and those who bloom later and some diff's between them, see near bottom of page (in purple)

Lateral thinking is about moving sideways when working on a problem to try different perceptions, different concepts and different points of entry. The term covers a variety of methods including provocations to get us out of the usual line of thought.
****For example: Granny is sitting knitting, and three year old Susan is upsetting Granny by playing with the wool. One parent suggests putting Susan into the playpen. The other parent suggests it might be a better idea to put Granny in the playpen to protect her from Susan. A "lateral" answer . . .creativity . . . MtnDews

Creative activity could be described as a type of learning process where teacher and pupil are located in the same individual.
--Arthur Koestler (1905-1983)

>. . . the things I make don't come out like I wanted. . . <
LOLOL... welcome to the world <bg>
....There are two basic ways to deal with that kind of thing.
You can do as many "artists" do, and simply follow the lead of what happens --without a hard-and-fast replica in your mind and intention of exactly what you want the item to look like.... think of it as a journey of exploration, serendipity and discovery rather than hanging everything on producing an item (IOW, learn to enjoy the process rather than just the end product to show off). Most of us have trouble doing that, but if you give yourself permission to explore that side of creativity as a sort of "lesson," it'll be easier... plus you might well learn to like it or at least to take things from it that you can use later.
....The other thing is just to keep at it. Most people who get good at something do that because they keep practicing and exploring the same general thing for awhile. So if you're into figures, instead of trying to make a mermaid today and a replica of a cowboy boyfriend tomorrow, try making several small mermaids... each time you do one, you'll get better and quicker at the basic parts, but also your brain will begin to bump mermaid/scales/hair/etc ideas around against other things you're seeing every day and also over more time, beginning to come up with different ways to do things or directions to take it. When artists do that, it's called "working in series"... that's how they really get good, and get more "creative" with their theme. Diane B.

(Which type of clasp do I like best? I like either stretch material or toggle clasps, myself.)
.....How long did it take to find that out? Well, let's just say you start with what you think is the obvious and it could be days, weeks, months later you get hit with an 'ah ha!' Just like with many techniques you come up with...the more you do it, the more ideas you get.
When I feel stuck, I have to continuously say, now, I'm an artist here...anything is can I MAKE it happen? Just because there are 'clasps' out there, doesn't mean you/me/anyone can't come up with something new. Lori G.

(--Mike Buesseler’s IMHO on inspiration, creativity, etc.

...."In my humble opinion".... everyone is familiar with the expression, and most polymer clay people are familiar with the cyber-acronym, IMHO. Most of what follows is IMHO.)
....When someone suggested that I write an article about polymer clay and art, my first reaction was, “What do I have to say that would inform anyone--about polymer clay, or anything else, for that matter? I have only been doing this for a few short years, and I’ve been doing it mostly by the seat of my pants.” Now, I DO know a few technical things about polymer clay, things I might say at a workshop or in a how-to article. But the truth is, just about everyone out there knows most of the same things. Many probably know more.
....People sometimes get the mistaken notion that because you happen to create something they find interesting or pretty, you have information unavailable to them, or perhaps, unavailable to any mortal man. I am almost prepared to believe this may be true of some artists. A couple I have met hinted at having God’s home phone number..... I can assure you, I DO NOT. And even if I did have the number, I would expect the line to be busy, or more likely, IMHO, God might be away on more important business.
....So what does inform my art”? (I was asked this recently on a submission form for an exhibit. I wasn't even sure what the question meant when I read it...) Although I struggled to come up with a more “informed” answer for that questionnaire, I will tell you the plain, and perhaps, disappointing truth about me:
...My hands inform my art. I feel the clay and it speaks to my hands.
My near-sighted, and now presbyopic, eyes inform my art. I see apples, clouds, snakes, mountains, ferns, shadows on the wall, hummingbirds, stones, rivers, and they speak to my eyes.
The colors of clay speak to me, too. I get my information in the most ordinary way: through my senses.
. . . Ah, but what, you might ask, do I do with this information from the senses?....Get ready to be disappointed again... I fart around with it.
I’ve been farting around since long before I ever heard of Kurt Vonnegut, but here is what he wrote in Timequake:
“Listen:. We are here on Earth to fart around. Don’t let anybody tell you any different!”
So, we have Kurt Vonnegut’s permission--and you have mine, if you needed it--to fart around. I am pretty sure that farting around--with clay, or whatever--is what I am supposed to do. Otherwise, why would God have made me such a good fart-arounder?
..... So, I open my eyes, I open my hands, and I fart around with polymer clay in every way I can think of.... I cut it, I stretch it, I scratch it, I bend it, I roll it, I break it, I press it, I freeze it, I squeeze it, I rub it, I pull it, I push it, I bite it, I love it, I hate it.
....Farting around can LOOK like hard work. Once, I just took a big lump of clay, squeezed down hard until it took the shape of the inside of my hand and I baked it. My children will always know what my hand feels like, or at least they will know something about me that they could not have known in any other way. Perhaps they will pass it around at my funeral. "Boy, Dad sure knew how to fart around!"
....Every once in awhile my eyes, my hands, and the clay pull off something nice, something that reminds me of something else, or something I’ve never seen before. In that moment, I have the feeling of having added my own little harmony note to the chorus of beauty we live in. It is a nice feeling, considering that most of what we humans, including me, add to the chorus is noise.
....So, I agree with Mr. Vonnegut. We are here to fart around. I say it’s time to get busy. Mike Buesseler

Everytime I hear, "I didn't know you could do *that*!" I have to answer, "I didn't know you COULDN'T!" . . . If I think it can't be done, I don't do it! And so my triumphs have always come from blissful ignorance! lolol! Katie

Creativity can achieved differently by different individuals (this can be cause by genetic difference, or happen at a particular time or type of work, etc). There are lots of variables and combinations, but here are some:
.....some people seem to enjoy doing art or craft by proceeding step by step, without preconception, "guided" or stimulated to the next step by whatever is present and occuring to them as a possibility in the moment before... they often don't know where the piece will end up, and enjoy discovering where they're being lead, lost totally in a stream of consciousness (some of these may not even be interested or attached to the piece afterward)
.....others may have an original idea or image haunting their heads which they feel compelled to reproduce
.....others (particularly sopme beginners) may be trying to reproduce a particular thing they've seen
...the last two are goal-oriented as opposed to process-oriented, and may be constantly comparing what they're doing with a preconceived idea... the first two may be more traditional "artists," but there are many ways to be creative within the last option too

(my paintings, which are a totally right-brain function) evolve from a tangle of brushmarks, spills and splatters, randomly applied to the stretched canvas, obliterating the oppressive whitespace... I spend a lot of time viewing this grid from a distance, like staring at clouds or tree branches. Creatures emerge, morph, vanish and reappear. I try to hold on to the strongest ones and rough them in
.....a trance-like state usually comes on after a couple of hours of work, when the moral censor turns off and I enter the canvas — another world where I work feverishly, I have no sense of time, temperature or place. I am “through the looking glass” Everything flows.
...(with sculpture, form determines function)... a new object arrives and sparks an idea of what it will become
.....but I don't sketch out any ideas... instead I lay out the objects on the floor, adding and deleting until the piece evolves. Often the outcome is markedly different from what I had roughly envisioned.
...I also enjoy the mechanical challenge of building the piece and doing electrical wiring... (then) I am present and grounded. My left brain gets a good workout!
...drawing is somewhere between painting and sculpture. As with painting, I go into a meditative space but remain conscious of my environment. While it takes some time to re-enter the drawing each day, the process is faster than with painting, but not so immediate as the sculpture which engages instantly.. . Liz M
(please see Liz's wonderful creative work for more: )

Tory Hughes (5 guidelines): Start with what works. Choose your intention and stick with it. Allow experiments; there are no mistakes. Take care of your tools: body, mind, and spirit. Trust your intuition.

But I know what you're talking about: The Judge kicks in too soon; it's hard to play. Mine does, too, and it's something I've spent a lot of time trying to unlearn. I've found things that have helped (helped, not cured):
A couple of books, A Whack on the Side of the Head and A Kick in the Seat of the Pants. They helped me recognize the controlling behavior. Sherry

It sounds like you're feeling some anxiety, and Just Don't Let That Happen!!! Playing with clay is supposed to be just that--play.
..... What I love best about claying (besides the vibrant colors and the great tactile sensations) is the element of surprise it can bring. You might learn to relax and enjoy yourself more if you do a project or two that just unfolds spontaneously. . . . .Don't plan in advance what the finished piece will look like. (Just follow this little thing that occurs to you, then that little idea that occurs to you all the way. . . .you'd be surprised how many artists create this way.)
. . . Just mix some colors you like and start stacking them up, cutting, twisting, rolling in ways that just feel right at that moment. Add a little of this, a little of that. When you get something interesting, slice it, roll it, or cut it into slabs or chunks for pins, earrings, beads. Or if it looks like a design that will repeat in an interesting way, butt the slices together to cover a little jar or tin. The important thing is not to know what you're making until it's done. Chances are, you'll sit back and look at it and say "THAT'S SO COOL!" Suzanne

One of my proudest failures is a pair of beads that I made a few weeks ago. I was trying to make some beads that I saw in Jewelry Craft, following all the directions in the mag. The beads are really ugly, but in the meantime, I learned some new techniques, which led to some beautiful projects. I'm keeping the beads as a reminder: 

I find that I look to perfection too much--sometimes to the point where it becomes an obstacle to the creative effort itself. I need to allow myself the freedom to "fail," not only because one learns more from mistakes than from success, but also because mistakes often lead me somewhere delightfully unexpected.Trish

One of my favorite quotes is "Anything worth doing is worth doing badly." You have to start with "beginner's mind" and not get intimidated. . . I'm one of those who starts out by imitating. particularly in polymer clay, which has so many possibilities, I see something neat, and make a copy as close as I can get it to learn the technique. I'm doing Maureen Carlson's little kids right now from her book, six of them. I've learned her hand; how to make the mouths, eyes, etc. Now I have the techniques, I've done a little guy with a paper airplane and a politically correct Little Miss Muffet who is sharing her curds and whey with the spider. I wouldn't sell the copies, of course, but I learned a lot. For me, the first six were craft, eg, technique, the last two were still crafty, but more my own.

I'm convinced that the first step to being an artist isn't being a perfectionist. It's giving yourself permission to make cr__! Man, I've got some ugly stuff. I also have stuff I thought was beautiful at the time. ...And it's all ok..... I learned from the stuff that didn't work more than from the stuff that did. Nae
....An interviewer had asked me "what is the one bit of advice you would give to anyone starting out in polymer clay" ....after thinking about it, I came up with the conclusion that the best advice I could ever give would be - if you have an idea, don't give up on it. Because none of us get it right first time do we? And it sometimes takes many revisions and many times going "back to the drawing board" before we can get what is in our head to be represented by the clay. Emma
.... And those very rare times we do get it right first time, it's sheer luck :). Carla

Sometimes those mistakes turn out to be happy accidents where you come up with something entirely new. Celia

Someone commented to me once about how my work was always so wonderful. I told them it's mostly because I don't show off the rejects, just the good stuff. I have lots of orphans and oddballs ;). Celia
....for every half-decent thing made there are SO many rejects - for every technique I get nailed down and tweeked just right, there are SO many steps where I nearly just gave up trying! . . . . To me the fun is sometimes in NOT knowing how to do something - because getting down and dirty with the clay is where the fun and magic happens for me. But there sure are a LOT of casulties when I get into "experimentation" mode! Emma
...So don't be like me and feel like a lunkhead if you keep trying something you read about or saw on Carol Duvall and it's not working out the way it seems to work for someone else. There are a lot of paths to that thing you're seeing in your head.. . . Read some more and try something different to get where you want to go. Or try something that just pops into your head. Elizabeth
.....Boy, I go along with that. I can sit right next to someone and not get the same results! I just keep plugging along and I eventually get there by trial and error ...and lots of ERROR! Marty
...yah, that's me too. We can call it trial & error & error. . . . BUT, the errors can lead you off onto some totally new quest and down some pretty cool paths, can't they? I guess it's fortunate for me that they are numerous and frequent ;) Elizabeth

When I was in art school, I had a painting teacher named Maya Schock. She was a tiny, little, Oriental woman who was so dynamic and inspiring! She always told us to "dare to be lousy"......meaning take chamces and be bold. Sometimes it doesn't work, but when it does it's wonderful. I am inspired by her spirit even 30 years later. Sue

…if you could see my house you would know I live in Chaos. It seems the more work I do, the more STUFF I need to have around me. It's like what a zookeeper i saw on TV said once about a gorilla he was feeding. The gorilla threw the lettuces and apples all over his "home" and the zookeeper said he did that because he had to be constantly stimulated. "That's ME" I said to my son. Magazines, books, beads, fabric, website printouts all over the place. And yet when I sit down to work, the area just in front of me is all organized in my own fashion…Diane S.

"Every time you don't follow your own inner guidance, you feel a loss of energy, loss of power, a sense of spiritual deadness." --Shakti Gawain. When I feel this *deadness*, I read this (quote) and then ask myself what is it that I want to do and why am I not doing it? When I ask this question, the answers are never valid reasons that something is not getting done, just excuses, so then I can get past the block and move on into the work. Patti

. . . Personally, my journey with polymer clay has really helped me toward a greater understanding of my inner workings. I used to knock myself silly - wondering why I couldn't focus like Kathy D and Pier and our top tier artists. Finally, I came to grips with the fact that, that type of focus has always escaped me and to try to force myself to be like someone else was a futile effort. I also realized that, if I were to do the best job I was capable of in promoting clay, I had to let go of feelings of competitiveness that only took me further from my ultimate goal - promoting clay through free sharing of information and techniques. This has been my best contribution to the community and the most satisfying to me.
We all have contributions to make; they're not the same contributions, but each is as valuable as the next. I believe to the extent you give, without reservation, you receive. . . . Donna Kato
(read more by Donna and others commenting on "What Polymer Clay Means to Me," in the Nov. 01 issue of Polyzine

On the other hand, I think there is a difference between wanting "perfection" and wanting a professional looking product and in my opinion, time and timing is usually the difference. I think you can tell the difference between a piece that was either rushed or thrown together, or one that the time has been taken to finish it professionally, patiently and with care. Sometimes the finishing techniques are just what is needed to get that extra little professional feel, and a lot of times knowing when to stop fussing before you get to that point of overworking the piece. Polymer almost DARES you to rush since it's so easy to do quickly and so dang exciting to see the results! I notice the quality of my pieces starting to fade within a line when I catch myself starting to rush and have to stop myself and refocus, or take a break. ...And ok, last thing....I've found myself many times trying to imitate the 'perfection' of other artists or what I 'think it should' be like. Phooey! Find what you love and continue doing it! If you find yourself getting off track, no problem, but come back to what you love....It will become your own and you will be known for that, or something about your pieces will start to be recognized as your own. No one says it has to be perfect, symmetrical, even, etc. The 'charm' or 'handmadeness' of how YOU do it will show through. . . Lori G.

I didn't have a recognizable style for the first 2 or 3 years I worked with clay. I tried every technique that came along so I could get the hang of working with the clay and see what interested me. My "style" happened very gradually over 4 or 5 years. I didn't realize it had begun that long ago until I looked at photos of my older work. My graphic design background eventually found a way to come out in my polymer work and that has been rewarding for me. . . . Once I had found my "style," I realized I didn't have to learn every technique or buy every new tool. That has been very liberating. I am more interested in challenging myself and seeing how far the particular technique I'm working on can evolve. That keeps it interesting. Dorothy
....I remember reading in one of the magazines about Sarah Shriver. She said that she had stuck with the same kind of technique since she was first drawn to the clay and had just perfected it (paraphrasing here). I have also noticed that I can pick out almost any of the polymer clay artist's work by their style from their beginnings to the present time and even though some of the styles have evolved over the years, most are still recognizable as theirs. Cynthia Toops, Pier Voulkos, Irene Dean, Kathleen Dustin, Jody Bishel, Karen Lewis, Elise Winters and others have a style. I see work by others who may have used techniques which the above mentioned artists perfected in their work, but either due to their colors or applications of the techniques, I can still instantly recognize it is not by one of them. Most of the time it has to do with color first and then design... Jeanne

"clay therapy"... This is such a great idea. As a former therapist for domestic violence and sexual assault ...I used art and expressive work to help women feel their feelings after numbing themselves. I know, for myself, numbing works well but, only for a time. Helen

This weekend, I taught a class for my guild....fortunately, some of the guests were kids, the chronologically under 12 years of age type. ;-) I structured the day long class around how to build a lace cane and then demoed how one could use their cane to decorate various objects. . . they could select one of those projects and spend the afternoon making it.
I had forgotten how much fun it was to be around creative children. While the adults fretted and fussed trying to make sure they understood so they could create a very nice project, the kids seemed to be whipping out projects left and right. In fact, one girl when asked which project she would like to do she exclaimed, "Why all of them, but I want to start with the hardest one first (altoid)." I flashed back to my questionable downhill skiing experiences when, while cautiously creeping towards the inevitable tree on the other side of the trail, little kids would be bombing down the slope as fast as they could, aiming for every mogul and squealing for joy when they'd launch into the air... and practically skiing right between my flailing, uncoordinated legs. I must remember to call up my inner child more often.... Desiree

"I'm frightened all the time . . . scared to death. .But I've never let it stop me... Never!"
......Georgia O'Keefe

I had to respond to this post because as a fearful artist and wonderful procrastinator it really hit home. I have all the clay, clay books, clay tools, etc that one can get but have yet to accomplish much of anything. The biggest surprise came when I had a 10 year old girl at my house visiting and she wanted to "play" clay. So I gave her some clay to fiddle with and she proceded to outdo me in all aspects. She let herself go and created a lady sitting in a chair with a matching table and tea set. All in about 25 minutes..I was astounded and it really made me think that what we really appreciate in anything artistic is the guts to "just do it" to let yourself go and be done when it is done and to trust your own instinct. For me personally I have not been able to recapture the abandon of my youth and am still caught up in "perfection" and making it look as good as "that" one.. but I am trying and when I need reminding, I just hand my 5 year old some clay and watch her create!!! Bethany

I decided (at Susan's demo) last night that as I learn new techniques, like sanding and buffing, I make fewer pieces. I was more productive when I was not so concerned with details. In other words, for many years I made lots of necklaces, pins, key chains and I'd never heard of sanding, buffing, or flecto. I used to use a piece of cloth to slightly texture raw switch plates, etc. Pieces had a nice matte finish. I've decided to stop being so concerned with finishing techniques and go back to what kept me more productive. Kay

What has helped me overcome some fears is joinnng in swaps (that was a hurdle!) Elizabeth's 101 swap was my first. Now I'm hooked! What is marvellous about this clay thing is that I am in my 70's & suddenly making new friends & learning a new medium. It stops me from worrying about all the bad things in the news so much. Mavis
(......for more on "fear," see Shows below)

The versatility of this stuff can make it difficult to see your own progress, because you can work in a dozen different techniques in a day. If you do, there isn't much of a linear progression of skills where you can see definite movement forward in the various qualities of the things you make.
.... It's more like a spider-web growing out in different directions at once, and in smaller increments that you might not be as likely to recognize and give yourself credit for. Elizabeth

Thinking about creativity, I often remember a thing I read years ago in an article about a best selling author. He said no matter what, every day he wrote ten pages. Sometimes the words just flowed, sometimes he was there for twelve or fourteen hours trying to force something onto the page. And there were times when he felt a great burst of creativity and felt he was writing prose that would last the ages.
The humbling thing was, that if he went back a week or so later and reread his work, he could almost never tell which pages had been written on which day. He had worked so long and hard at the disciplines of his craft and on good writing technique that even when he felt uninspired he could still produce good solid work.
I remember that on days when I really do not feel that I can produce anything. I have found that if I put in the time and effort, something still happens and often better than I thought. Sometimes just putting one foot in front of another can get you there.

. . .during the (polymer clay) Arrowmont conference. . . I wanted so badly to go, but it wasn't an option then. Finally, I decided the best way to deal with it was to do my own clay conference at home. I gave myself permission to spend as much time as possible claying for the duration of the conference. An "I'm not going to Arrowmont" swap had started up and I signed on. Now my story gets interesting because I swear it felt like the universe was trying to help me. . . . I was a woman on a mission! I lived polymer clay and especially Liquid Sculpey for most of my waking hours! The whole basis for everything I've done since then, a lot of my basic LS techniques, germinated in that window of time. might want to try something like that. ...And the swap idea is still great. The work that was produced for that one was especially inspired.. Jody B.

Personally, I figure that the first time I do anything, it's just the prototype....the next one will be better! You have to start somewhere. Everyone has to have had a 'first time' !! Especially in the beginning, I couldn't work (or play) without SOME direction.

You know I had the same problem - didn't want to "waste" anything or "ruin" anything- and then someone pointed out to me that if I died tomorrow, all that clay - not to mention all my other art supplies would be there and would be given or thrown away. Everything can be replaced - so dig in and enjoy life - life is too short not to use that clay, wear those good clothes, use those good dishes and burn those wonderful candles. Take care, Terri C. I plan to try to use it all up!

" ROCKS FIRST ": A while back I was reading about an expert on the subject of time management. One day this expert was speaking to a group of business students and, to drive home a point, used an illustration I'm sure those students will never forget... As this man stood in front of the group of high-powered overachievers, he said, "Okay, time for a quiz." Then he pulled out a one-gallon,wide-mouthed mason jar and set it on a table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar. When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, "Is this jar full?" Everyone in the class said,"Yes." Then he said, "Really?" He reached under the table and pulled out bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks.Then he smiled and asked the group once more, "Is the jar full?" By this time the class was onto him. "Probably not," one of them answered. "Good!" he replied. And he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, "Is this jar full?" "No!" the class shouted. Once again he said, "Good!" Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim.
Then he looked up at the class and asked, "What is the point of this illustration?" One eager beaver raised his hand and said, "The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it!" "No," the speaker replied, "that's not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is this: If you don't put the big rocks in first, you'll never get them in at all." What are the big rocks in your life? A project that YOU want to accomplish? Time with your loved ones? Your faith, your education, your finances? A cause? Teaching or mentoring others? Remember to put these BIG ROCKS in first or you'll never get them in at all. So, tonight when you are reflecting on this short story, ask yourself this question: What are the "big rocks" in my life or business? Tomorrow, put those in your jar.

I prefer to work alone rather than in a large group. At our guild's clay days I don't even bring my clay or tools. I bring the digital camera and walk around and socialize mostly. I can't create with others around. I went to Klew's clay camp this summer and made sure I had a no-brainer project with me. 100 nametags with the design already set. All I had to do is make them. I'm not comfortable going into the 'zone' in a group...LOL... Lori G.

That's me, Lori!... that's me-e!! I am exactly the same way, right down to the camera.
I have some theories about why I might be that way (baggage of needing to stay alert to surroundings/people, etc.), or it might just be genetic. I don't know about you, but I don't find many people who understand it when I try to explain. (It seems to me that the more typical "artistic" style is the ability to get really lost in one's own thinking, and get so used to being that way that it's hard to climb out.)
My style can be really frustrating but was much worse before I isolated just what was happening with me; now I can plan around it. The funny thing is that I can be completely tongue-tied and find myself facing a totally blank mind if I need to come up with something creative in the moment (if I haven't already thought about it and gotten ideas, that is).
YET, I can do what I call "percolating" really well . . . too well maybe! I'll begin by just putting something on my mental agenda; sooner or later I'll start to think of a few things or notice something in the environment that reminds me of something that reminds me of something which gives me a creative idea about the subject. This starts slowly, but then builds and builds until it's a gusher! (my best place for getting ideas is long showers or long drives, alone) The problem comes when "I'm finished" with the process of getting ideas. . . but unfortunately my brain is NOT done! It keeps spewing and spewing and I can't shut it off. Eventually enough other things crowd my mind that it does go away, but I'm always annoyed because I never met a neat idea or good piece of information I didn't like --but I don't want to have to go write about or do something with those overflow ideas.
. . . (I don't seem to have any problems delivering the ideas once I've gotten them though . I gave a demo on what can be done with a clay gun at our guild Clay Day yesterday, and talked for 3 straight hours about possibilities, with only a few actual demos . . . more on this later).Thanks for writing about this; it's nice to know there are others out there with the same M.O.! DianeB

I think of these slumps as a form of mental and spiritual pregnancy: something is growing, but it is still unknown, and maybe premature exposure would harm it. I believe in the Jungian idea of the unconscious mind as a real part of the self, the deep source of much that is profoundly valuable, but a part that is hidden from most of us. Dreamland. Inspirationland. Artland. So I try not to worry when I'm in a slump; for at least a while, I just pour some more good stuff in the hopper -- art books, mystery novels, swimming, movies, clay classes, walks in the country -- and give myself permission to take my time and gestate. Georgia

more Inspiration

more specific ideas

The internet, books on any kind of art, geometric and floral patterns I see anywhere and on any scale, at work (I work at a paper co. and we have soooo many paper colors, sometimes I experiment by laying sheets together to get color combo ideas, or I just see 2 or 3 colored papers together in the scrap pile or in the trash that were cut together or just got together by accident, my old notebooks... I have a lot of project ideas that I forgot I wrote about, many of them were dreamed up at a time when I did not have enough experience with clay to be able to complete them, I'll go back to them and see if I know new techniques that could help me accomplish the projects or I simplify them, Cane ends & cool lookin baked scraps from old projects, sometimes I look at them 2 months later and see something there that I did not see before or I look at a flower petal cane and can I morph this thing into something else? Laurie in MI
.....As I browse the internet, I capture images I like and put them into various folders on (my computer) main folder is called "Inspiration," and there are sub-folders underthat for things like "Plant," "Animal," "Wearable Art," "Vessels," "Geometric," "Cultura,l" and so on (your list would depend on your interests). Then when I'm stuck for an idea, I browse these folders and I'm off again. Kim K.

Reading all of your postings has been very inspiring. I think its fascinating to see all the different (and all the "in common" ways) that artists are inspired to become creative. I remember taking a week long class with Tory Hughes in Bennington--not only is she inspiring, but she infused all of us with the incredible, endless possibilities in the world around us.
She helped us to see color, texture, patterns and design in everything around us--from the shape of a dried pine cone to the pattern on the bottom of a sneaker. Many of us spent part of that week scouring the campus and nearby woods, scooping up interesting rocks, twigs, and discards that called to us.. But I can't help myself. I can find interest in the oddest of things. Some of my greatest inspirations come from walking around flea markets and picking up all sorts of odds and ends that either wind up in my work, shape, mold and affect it in some way. Byroni10

I still have my voice activated tape recorder and keep it by my bed, if anything strikes me through the night I just say it out loud and viola there it is in the morning! Barb

... Fall is my mostly favorite time of the year. . .colors, smells, and tastes make my creative juices start to flow... Richard and I create all year long...but I feel a closeness with my work during fall time.....besides coffee smells and tastes better at that time. I asked Richard where he draws his inspiration from..he said his youth...his memories of his family and his father as a railroad engineer. Childhood memories are very important to both of us...we talk all the time about things that happened during our childhoods...and from that I believe we create images and scenarios.... Also, a person can never have too many books'...also we like older magazines and older photos from antique stores.......just walking down the street and seeing something that strikes your stop and think about it...and then you begin to create images..and put what you just saw in a setting...that is pretty much how we create....
I love to take one simple photo from the turn of the century....and then start to change that image, change the character...change the furniture, the clothing....or mix and match photos...make a doll from 8 different photos...then you have created your own private is your creation because your mind created the picture...the really creative process came when you began to put this here and put that over there...that's why I love art so makes you think!
Truth is.... all of YOU are our can never receive a richer grasp of life than from friends.... you are all the best...and I treasure this Internet time we have... you give me vision! Jodi Creager

Winter is a dark time, and that sort of pulls me inside to work. Mtn.Dews

You just put another dilemma on my shoulders... I steal colors. I really take any color combination that is suitable for my moods and use it. I never have thought about any unmorality in there... I look at paintings, artists' complete works catalogs, sometimes postcard pictures of master works (they are useful, although not the type of "art" I would hang into my walls)
....I study them, try to see what is the thing that makes those colors work.
... I sometimes like to compare two painters with different styles but who seem to have similar taste of colors.... I label different use of colors --there are Dali-colors, Monet- colors, Picasso- colors. . .
... I steal. But I think stealing colors is pretty muchaccepted in artworld. Or am I missing a point, again....PöRRö

Rarely do I plan what the end result will look like....something just takes over and the piece happens (or not).
.... I would like to be able to plan more, but personally I just end up more frustrated. .

I enjoy taking bits and pieces from several different. techniques ...then combining them in one piece.
...that makes me feel a little more like I created it, and didn't just copy what someone else had done
.....stretch out the learning curve and learn to think past that box... the results can be very rewarding. Nancy

I know that there are many times when I want to create something, but just sit there staring at the clay. I make skinner blends to pass the time til creativity hits. Rhonda

Another thing you could always do is to create samples or stock of things. It's a job that always needs to be done, but takes time and isn't something you often want to do when you're on a roll. For example:
...mix up batches of color combos with the clay and colors you use most and string or mount them.. then try other colors, or metallics, or metallics with opaques, translucent combinations, glow-in-the-dark combos, inclusions, etc. . . . also see how much they darken or change when baked. the same for Skinner Blends, or make a bunch of Skinner plugs or bullseye canes to use later.
...make samples of different kinds of mokume gane, or just wildly different color combinations with just one mg technique
...make step-by-step samples for caning or any technique, and then you'll have something to show the next time someone asks if your stuff is painted (mount the sequential steps or photograph them).
...make as many varieties of leaves as you can for your stash.
...see how many shapes you can roll in your hands for beads, or cut for pendants or bails... etc., etc.... for the pendants, you might want to trace their outlines, or scan or photograph them and reuse the clay if you don't want to keep them.
I'll *bet* you won't be able to get too far before something you do or see makes you think "oh, that's a good idea," or "what if I took that___ and did ____with it"?? . . . .
At that point you can either fly away with your new inspiration, or you can write/draw it (and its later friends) in a stetchbook by your side and have a goldmine for later exploration! Diane B.

(when inspiration isn't coming) I clean my workroom. Something usually calls to me. . . . (and gets me out of cleaning up!) Trina
...oh YAH! That works for me ,too! LOL! After two or three days of what I call a "THUNDER RUN", my work space looks know what. . . .Take an hour to reorganize and remove the left over from the last projects and you find yourself thinking about stuff and by the time you're through and all the clutter is gone, "PING!" you're ready to go again. Happens every time. Jack

Try this when you're creatively blocked, I guarantee it will get you going in directions you can't even begin to imagine. -Take a 2x4" piece of black clay rolled thru at a #1 setting to make a black sheet.
-Slice off thin bits of solid color clay, canes, jellyrolls (or whatever...) and spread randomly across the surface.
-Run this sheet thru the PM at a #2, rotate a 1/4 turn and roll thru #3. Do this until you reach a number #5 setting.
Now add bits of leaf to the surface and roll thru to #7. This will spread the colors and crackle the foil to give you a beautiful 'fabric' that you can then adhere to a thicker backing piece, for covering everything from amulet boxes to vessels. It's addictive...Carolyn lose the block you're up against, just make yourself sit down with the clay and squish it around.
grab a couple colors and moosh them together.
make stripes by rolling out a "snake" of clay and wrapping it around another color of clay and then rolling it around on the table.
moosh it, twist it, pull it and see what it does.
roll a couple or more different colors out into flat sheets and stack them on top of each other. then roll them into a cigar. voila - a jellyroll or spiral cane.
stack another bunch of colors together, cut them in half and stack the halves, cut again and stack again. voila. a checkerboard cane - kinda.
cut slices off the spiral and checkerboard and play with them. roll them thinner, pull them, twist them, combine them together, roll them in your hands into balls, lentils, footballs.
don't worry about making the clay into "trash." scrap and mud piles, as you'll discover, are precious commodities.
use what you make with the clay, the marbled, the outlandish, the mud, the canes, to cover jars and glasses.
cut some slices of the canes and use them as appliques over the clay you put on the glass. using your finger, rock it back and forth on the edges of the slice while applying pressure and watch it blend miraculously into the clay underneath it. use your thumb to pull and move the applied clay around to see what it does.
grab two colors of clay and roll each one into a snake. put them together and twist them. voila! peppermint style! add them to the clay on the glass. press firmly but gently to keep the rope look and hard to flatten them into the underlying clay. both effects are delightful. Sunni

Well, Jodi, I read all the messages and found that no one has admitted finding it where I do--the street gutters. A tightly wadded piece of tissue paper looked like a cat's head/bead. . . A piece of soft metal that had been run over repeatedly, looked like a pin. Rocks and stones look like animal fetishes. A piece of grayed, dead tree vine caught in the chainlink fence for 20 years (?) has been calling me for weeks. . . I just now got it out of the fence.
....Now, I'll spend the next 48 hours of clay time turning it in my hands and looking for how it wants to be used. . .Stone201

Inspiration is something I haven't really thought about; I guess I never cared where I got my ideas from as long as I got them. But, since this topic came up, I realized that my inspiration comes from a variety of sources including nature and just walking the aisles of whatever store I happen to be in. Hardware or craft store, marine supplies or stationery, I'm always looking at things and wondering what, besides their intended uses, they are good for. Rubymac

Sandra gets inspiration for some of her pieces (not polymer) from photos she takes

Most often, things people say to me and the feelings I get from them are what inspire me, or what those things engender as a response in me.
....I never realized before, but trying to capture a moment of emotion is what I'm usually after. Thanks
. Great topic. ...Rubymac

I think in a way I'm always subconsciously cataloging images and ideas. They bump around in my head for awhile, and then they pop out at the most unexpected times... driving, doing the dishes, reading the boards. Jane Cameron, who wrote "The Artist's Way," says that when our left brain is kept busy doing sequential things, our artist brain has a chance to work and throw out ideas, etc. . . . The trick is listening to ourselves carefully enough to catch those little whispers of inspiration, then jotting them down and putting them where we can actually FIND them later. Mayora

. . .we spent our free and enjoyable time walking the woods and deserts serching for natures goodies...our entire house was filled with bird nests, hornet's nests, old rusty cans that held our candles (romantic times) ..dried weathered wood that we made our picture frames with, beautiful dried flowers, rocks, bark...just about anything...we still have many of these things...bring back good memories... Jodi C.

I love happy old I spent a lot of time staring at people. Most of them knew why, and some were kind enough to sit for me. The piece I had in the Houston PC Guild show was an amalgam of three wonderful faces. So I guess, I spend a lot of time people watching/staring. . . spend a bit of time going through opera costuming books, since I make a lot of opera dolls. ClayHandlr

On the other hand, I also try to remember something I once heard in a writing workshop, that the hardest part of writing is applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair. I find that when I am feeling cranky and disjointed, I may have to discipline myself to clearing my space, setting out clay and tools, and just plain sitting down there. Have faith in my fingers -- most of my best stuff comes out of looking and doing, not planning. ???

One of my overwhelming inspirations is the whole 700 section in the library -- the last time I was at the downtown library I found a book on New Zealand artists that included Maori sculpture and carved jade objects, and a book on a culture that carved their goddesses out of existing rock formations [but my tired brain can't remember where!], and a book on ancient Chinese art. I want to touch the past, when ornament had great spiritual meaning, . . . One of my other inspirations is my porch at sunset, . . . and the sky calls out all those colors I can't seem to mix. . . Of course, logging on has become a major source of inspiration AND motivation!!!! Jami

. . . and I do look at other people's work. Also fabric patterns, quilt patterns, rug patterns and nature. Some of my best ideas creep around the recesses of my brain at night -I am most productive - again - at night. It just seems like that's when the "Committee" convenes and I go with that! Polymaid

Unlike so many of you, nature doesn't do it for me. Maybe it's because I'm a city kid, but what turns my lightbulb on are colors, shapes, and patterns, and textures. For some reason, the appeal of a piece of wood escapes me - not that I don't admire people who can see things there, I just can't do it myself! Rocks don't turn me on nearly as much as lintels on old buildings. Trees don't make my heart go pitter-pat the way skyscraper superstructures do. I'm always astonished when I see the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, who was able to take nature and translate it into glass and steel and brick. Once it's been translated, THEN I get it! Canebake

... I have to think all day at work what I want to create that night, 'cause if I wait until after supper uninspired, I sit and look at the globs of clay and don't get anything done. GOclay

I have to get my ego out of the way -- stop thinking I have to be perfect, just go ahead and be a humble ordinary person who makes nice things, NOT grand works of art. Good enough is fine. Great is kind of an accident, a byproduct of productivity; I figure if I make enough, some of it will be pretty swell because my unconscious will be able to slip out from under cover and work its wonders when I'm not looking. Like the shoemaker's elves in the old fairy story. Good enough is good. Really. ???

Actually, I'm still terribly insecure. I just bluff my way through things. I'm happiest when letting someone else take the "floor." I hide at parties where I don't know people. But even with all this, I do enjoy and feel comfortable when teaching. Seems to be my "natural" thing. Also, I spent a good part of my life on stage, doing radio, early TV, etc. When I'm pretending to be someone else, that's when I'm most at ease. So you see, never judge a person by their "cover." It may just be a facade which makes one able to deal with life. Dotty in CA

You sound like another of who I think of as "good-crazy people." The more there are of us in the world, the better the place is. This board is just full of good-crazy people. Stone201

Who is the oldest? I thought you'd never ask. I'm in my eighties and just learned computer 2 years ago. Now I also have a digital camera and can print pictures from the floppy disk. I've been in lots of swaps, have entered in many PCC challenges and won a few. I was a puppeteer and did use clay for puppets and props. That required imagination, and so does clay art. Since I am a widow and the children are married and on their own, I can clay all day if I want to. So don't be afraid of getting old. Genevieve

The first inspiration I have is a deadline to get something done, Not necessarily the one in front of me. For some reason when I am working on a deadline my mind always seems to get sidetracked. Maybe because I am a bit of a Procrastinator and have been seen working to the wee hours in the morning to meet a deadline. I can not control my inspiration. I always carry a pencil and pad with me. I will always draw out my ideas before trying to sculpt it. It has already been turned around every way in the mind. Once I pick up the pencil I normally do not stop for anything till the sculpture is done. . .. I have been know to work over 72 hours straight on a painting. This work ethic also makes mass productions, and swaps also very hard for me. . . What inspires me to do what? Who knows, a word or phrase, a sight, a thought. or a dream. Lysle

While I'm working on one creation (or prototype), tons of ideas will leap's like going off on tangents
...they're very fleeting ideas though, just little blips in my consciousness I always write down those blips in a notebook (log, art journal etc.) ...I always keep a notebook next to me when I'm working, and also carry one with me everywhere.

My best creative time is when I'm working on inventory in the summer for the fall and winter shows
hen in the early part of the year I look back on all those ideas to see which ones I want to pursue. ALBehnen1

I'd like to reiterate the sketchbook idea.... I also design and create traditional hooked rugs and I noticed that my work changed radically after I started carrying a small sketchbook.
.... I took it everywhere-- to meetings, in the car, and I even carried it around the house.
.... I did little drawings when I had the time, and when I didn't I just jotted down quick ideas, words, or colors.
....Suddenly my designs had more depth and clarity, probably because for the first time they were more fully developed before I began hooking the rug. Trish

Keeping a design journal helped me (with creativity in general, and also to remember where a particular inspiration had come from --a book, tutorial, someone else?, etc.)
...first I'd put in it an image of a piece that inspired me (photo, printout or photocopy) and make a note of where I'd seen it (book, store window, magazine, other work?)
...but then I'd write in notes about what I liked or didn't like about it ...and also exactly what had inspired me about them (color combination?, the geometric cut of a dress?... sometimes it was just the models hair - e.g. blunt cut and bright red)
...I also added swatches of colored fabric and pictures from magazines (a tree-lined lane was one, dresses from the fashion mags another, ) I wasn't so specific about these pictures because I wasn't putting in a picture of a piece of jewelry - thus I was not worried about swiping a design illegally. (You can't copyright the color of a dress)
...And don't be afraid to color in your journal. Get some inexpensive colored pencils and use them when doodling your designs. Bekka

>For me, it's hard to be completely original.
....You know, I used to think that also, but once I just let my mind play with things - many of which I never made - it got easier to make my own designs. Trust me, get some cheap notebooks and start making design journals. You'll be surprised how creative you can be. Bekka

Inspiration? Just about anywhere: certain scenes with light and shadow intrigue me, and I LOVE seeing all the interesting faces everywhere I do (NY had so many interesting faces! AND "outfits"). Museums, textures, patterns in fabric, walks on beaches and all the cool shells, leaves, bark and leaf color excite me. Artists are weird, aren't we? Gotta love us! Norbird

Sometimes the novelty of a new setting is a great time for innovation, and for seeing things anew (wihtout habituation) maybe moving had unexpected benefits. DB.

I love the idea of taking something associated with a person (or place or idea) , then customizing it for the holidays (or any other occasion)...or mixing it with any other association (occupation, hobby, personal characteristic, geographical region, house)... (e.g., a dentist, railroad enhusiast, New Yorker, or baker ...who likes books, or who vacations in Alaska, or who likes to paint or work on cars ... or combine for a particular holiday or celebration)
... or taking one interest and mixing it with another (feminism, kids, 50th anniversary or turning-40 or 21, volunteering interests, colors from sports, etc.) Diane
my " Santa Flamingo" ornament was inspired by a neighbor who collects flamingo stuff.... I thought this might be something she didn't already have...I took a basic flamingo, added a Santa hat... added the beard (plus boots and wreath around neck). Laurel

... Sources of inspiration? Pretty much anything, although if I get "stuck" I tend to start leafing through mail order catalogues... I get inspired by color combinations and shapes. Because I cane, and not sculpt, I think I look at things with an eye toward illustration, so I sometimes find myself inspired by a book or poem or children's story. Canebake

Absolutely... I had seen some posts by Vanevery about creating beautiful I don't remember exactly....but it was very inspiring and suddenly I had the urge to create two *trinket boxes* using long-stemmed glass goblets. I tried to keep them both in my *doll realm* I sculpted a big head around the goblet on one and made him into an elf with a tiny little body around the stem...and a hat on his head that lifts off and opens into a trinket box. The other is a Romeo and Juliet themed piece with faces on two sides and hearts and moons....I'm thrilled with these pieces and now want to try a purse (Kathleen Dustin)..whose work I had never seen before...has inspired me to try some *doll face* purses...(now I have to figure out how you put these things together..<G Adoll2U

Sometimes, I just start (a sculpt) and the person comes out, tells me how they want to dress, and then I pick up the fabric and it, too, develops a life of its own . . . Sorta like channeling or automatic writing. ClayHandlr

I too get ideas form flipping thru magazines and books: mainly tole painting books by "Cute As A Button", "Pipsqueak"etc. ( I sculpt 1-3" people and selected animals). One of the BEST books is one by James Christensen named "A Journey of the Imagination". There is sooo much for the eye to see. ALBehnen1

... My best time for inspiration is anytime...........too bad my work habits don't follow suit. I like to work in the fall and winter but if the truth be told, I work best when I am under the gun with a deadline. I just can't seem to work in a methodical and disciplined fashion which is a must if I am to be productive, quantitatively, that is. For inspiration, I look at books of paintings and drawings from the old masters to more contemporary illustrations. I also like books of photographs, particularly, those by famous photographers whose purpose is to capture the spirit of their subject. HueyCarly

I get inspiration at all sorts of times. I enjoy reading books over and over ...mostly the ones that have to do with clay . . . I can't help but look at anything with color and pattern and not think about a cane. I love it and my DH has come to understand. He too comes up with ideas for me. . . Tamster11

...Whenever I can't think of a darn thing to do with my clay, I first head over to the computer and start looking at all the pictures I've downloaded from the library. Then I start looking at all the clay websties out there. I can usually see what someone else has done with color or shape and that will inspire me to try something that's "exactly the same, but different" <g . If that doesn't work, I'll grab all my clay books and start leafing through them, for inspiration.

Sometimes, I'll just sit at my table and condition old stuff. While I'm conditioning a block of clay, I'll come across a color that reminds me of something, and away I go. Or, I'll start working on a swap. . .

I have to tell you this because I think its funny. I often get inspiration for colors and some design from advertisements in the paper. Wierd huh? I do a lot of home accessories (lamp shades, switchplates, etc.) and I like to see what the ads are saying are the popular color schemes and designs. I really like the Martha Stewart look, so I make items I think would go with her merchandise. Karen L.

>Do any of you save pieces of favorite colors and make notes how you made the color?
....Yes. I have a sample chain with a couple hundred recipes on it. I have another separate chain for inclusions (stuff mixed in) and powders and glitters. When I started using exclusively one brand of clay, I did every one-to-one mixture possible with the colors I'd purchased. It was a little tedious, but kind of zen, and I learned a lot. When the muse isn't around, it's something to do until she returns. You can also take two colors and mix varying proportions of each to see what a range you can acheive with just those two. I cut my samples into one-inch squares and use the tiniest circle cutter (a drinking straw would work) to make a hole towards the top. After baking, I write the recipe with a Sharpie marker directly on the sample and string it onto a length of ball chain. Irene in western NC

My inspirations come from everywhere.
..... Sometimes it is just the barest seed of an idea ... then I become obsessed with it.
... I will study, research, draw pictures, sketches, anything until I feel that what I'm finally going to make is "Right"!!!!
... Am I a perfectionist, alas, I must admit it is true. Sometimes I am my own worst enemy. That's why my family is so great. They say things like: "Wow!!!!!" (that's not a trademark infringement, is it?) "That looks REAL!!!!!" "Can I have it for my room?" AHHHHHHH! Strokes! I love it! KitBirming

I have been very lucky to have had a lot of contact with people from an older generation and the stories that I have heard keep me supplied with plenty of creative inspiration. Jmait28

I am a confirmed magazineaholic. LOVE looking through magazines for ideas. Plus books ....Since I mainly do figurines, I also like to go to local collectibles shops and check out the new issues in the various lines like Cherished Teddies, Boyd's Bears, etc.
...craft shows, shops, malls

...I also love to put on one of Maureen Carlson's videos for inspiration and sometimes work with the video running in the background. Ftofclay

"Every time you don't follow your *own* inner guidance, you feel a loss of energy, loss of power, a sense of spiritual deadness." --Shakti (Patti)

I will explain about scrap clay and its abiility to be transformed into something beautiful and useful, and compare that to the process of healing for someone who feels they are trash.
....Part of my joy in claying is that the results and gratification are instant, pleasant, and somewhat controllable --the world I see daily isn't.
....I am very grateful for this group and the nurture and caring all of you express. It helps reassure me about the world in general. Jeannine

PoRRo's description and photos of one way she works (she percolates an idea in her head... then draws it on paper, and proceeds to make it)

As a retired public school art teacher, the frequent statement: "I can't do art, draw, paint, sculpt, etc." was always a challenge for me. Having come to consider myself an artist rather late in life (after 40), I knew the lack of confidence these students felt.
....So, I borrowed from Betty Edwards, "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" and insisted that my students draw an image upside down while looking at the reversed image. . . The second step was to have them draw their hand as they usually would. Then have them draw their hand without looking at the paper they were drawing on. This was best accomplished by having them tape a piece of copy paper inside a large brown paper sack and then taping the sack to the table. This way they couldn't peek and the paper stayed put. Directions were to start just below their wrist and let the pencil follow what their eyes saw. They were not to pick up the pencil until the other side was reached, but retrace any lines where lines crossed over. Let the eye go slowly and mark every indentation at all joints and wrinkles. This exercise is certainly not original, but it does help to train the eye to truly see. Most often they were quite surprised at how much better their drawing was than the first one they had drawn. Patty B.

You probably have your own tricks for luring the muse; I would like to share some of mine.

Don’t Stop at the End --Always leave something to finish on a project for your next work period, or have something newly started. Even if all you do is tie up the fringes or apply the last coat of varnish, it will get you back to work, and serve as a transition from the outside world into the world of creativity.

Plan Your Next Work-Time --Make a date with yourself for next Tuesday morning, for example, and have some idea of what you will be doing. If it helps, make a few notes to yourself. "Process black-and-white film." "Weave last four inches." "Mix new batch of medium." You can always change your mind, but a plan will at least give you something to reject.

Study --Pin up sketches, photos, found objects, or materials or arrange them so that you can consider the effect. I pin strips of fabric to my design wall or make a stack of fabric that shows all the colors. During idle moments I might add a strip of contrasting color, or take something away. The brain has an amazing capacity to keep working on a creative problem while the rest of the body is engaged in some other activity.

Act on Inspirations --Drop everything and try it out. If that isn’t possible -- you are away for the weekend or your mother-in-law is visiting -- record the idea. Make a sketch, write a couple of notes, or do something to remind you of the idea the next time you face the dreaded empty studio. We tend to think we will remember a great idea without help, but the reality is that a hot idea cools off fast if it isn’t acted on.

Get Out Those Notes --Remember how much fun you had when you took a workshop with Famous Person in 1988? Recreate the spirit and try one of the many variations that you had no trouble thinking of during the workshop.

Do Anything! --Working gets the brain in gear. When I bought my loom it sat for a month waiting for an inspiration that was worthy enough to justify this swell purchase. Finally I wove a simple purse and that was enough to take away the burden of making something of "enduring artistic value." Color studies or work samples are great when you simply don’t have an idea worth bothering with. The materials, the structure, and simple act of working will get the process going.

Doodle --Carry some paper with you and doodle during free moments. Look for patterns, surprises, interesting lines, and let them develop into an idea worth pursuing.

Take Notes, Clip Ideas --Remember those boring design note-books you had to keep in school? If you did them for the teacher they were probably a waste of time, but if you keep a folder of ideas, colors, materials, and visual information that appeals to you. it is a great resource when your brain is dead.

Choose Any Idea --Sometimes we get bogged down because of too many ideas, rather than too few. If you can’t decide which of a dozen projects to work on, draw straws and start. The menu may have too many great entrees to choose from, but the restaurant will still be there when you get hungry again.

Try a Series --If you loved it in red, try it in blue.

Honor the Modest Inspiration --Waiting for a good idea before starting to work is like hoping to get rich quick. Sometimes a simple idea, arriving with no fanfare, will become the basis of an important discovery.

Play --Try something completely different. Maybe you are tired of what you usually do. Your creativity is what is important: the medium is just a vehicle for discovering yourself. In exploring a new medium you may find a whole new world of expression that consumes you. At the least, you will break through the creative blahs and enrich your store of ideas.

Beware of Critics --Smile and ignore anyone who says, "But what is it good for? What will you do with it? Why did you use that color? My sister has been making those for years. Did you use a kit?" Be proud of everything you make. Your best idea is the next one.

Give Yourself a Break --If you are normally productive, you have learned that ideas and the urge to create will always return, even when you think you have thought your last good thought. Use the time to organize your slides, get caught up on paperwork, organize your materials. The creative mind is a funny thing--sometimes it needs to be respectfully ignored. It is like a shy person who becomes less and less forthcoming under a barrage of questions. Let it alone and you will find that, sure enough, you have produced a great new idea.
Joyce Marques Carey, The Crafts Report, June 1992

I have a long background in both studio art and art history, so I have a lot of visual images tucked away in my head somewhere and I find this very helpful in general. But when I'm "stuck" or want to do something in the manner of a specific culture I have some techniques that work for me. I grab a couple of books and look at the pictures and read a bit about the culture. For instance, if I want to do a mask or some object connected with the ideas of power or transformation I might look to various African sources or consider work from Papaua New Guinea. Sometimes I find the written notes about these object as valuable as the images themselves. What were the makers intending to accomplish with this object? What were their beliefs? What were the constraints placed on their creativity by their culture, religion, etc.? Then I may try to be inspired in the same way. (I like to work within the spirit of things.) At other times I look at the work of favorite artists or periods.
Sometimes I look at what I specifically don't like and then analysize it.
Then I often ask myself some questions about what I could do to make it my own by extracting and using the parts that excite me. Is it the color combination? The line? The contrasts? A feeling?
Finally I use some hints taken from particular books. I don't know if I'm allowed to name them here, but they address these very issues. They suggest asking things like "can I":
magnify: add more? make it taller? Multiply parts? Exaggerate?
substitute: other process? other feeling or voice? other material?
rearrange: interchange components? other pattern? other sequence? other layout?
Beyond that, I try to really see things. I've gotten excited and inspired by the empty shell of a lobster I just ate. The marking were beautiful and I found myself thing about how I could do them in clay...bulls eye canes, shaving of layers of different clays, etc. Kathie
I make mistakes all of the time and have more failures than successes, but I just keep workin' at it until it gets close to right. If it's really bad, it goes on a shelf in my studio. It's full of flawed little critters that look down and me as if to say: "Just look at the mess you made." Today was day like that. Thanks for the kind words... Kathy Dewey

...the frustration you voiced about swaps is actually one of their main benefits: They confront you with all sorts of artistic possibilities that you "coulda, shoulda, woulda . . ." :). I feel much the same way when I open each PolyInformer: Part of me is depressed because (1) I see all the wonderful work and wonder if mine will ever be as sophisticated and, (2) I feel like I can never quite catch the "leading edge" of the polymer clay wave. By the time I master a particular technique, it has moved on and I'm still running to catch up. On the other hand, I look at swaps (and the PolyInformer), and I'm encouraged by the variety and individuality of the work; that tells me that there's not just one way to go.
More and more I'm convinced that one of my own greatest failings is a lack of patience. According to one source, it takes *nine years of concentrated effort* to master any craft or career. (Many musicians and artists will tell you it takes a lifetime, and since I have no formal art training, I often feel as if I'm starting in the negative numbers and trying to get up to zero.) For me, it's a major deal to have enough patience to work and practice to master the basics. I get frustrated because my work doesn't match my vision or because I have great ideas--until I sit down to execute one and suddenly I can't think of anything to do! I'm not sure that any of this helps, except maybe to say "Hang in there and don't give up."
Keep in mind that people like Tory Hughes and Gwen Gibson have spent a great deal of their lives immersed in art, and that every other medium that they have ever dealt with and mastered contributes to their ability to work with polymer clay at a sophisticated level. (In my own life, I relate to this by remembering how easily I learn new programming or scripting languages: I've spent years working on computers and after a certain point, that way of thinking becomes second nature even if the specifics of the language are different.) Maybe after I've spent years working with polymer clay, graphic design, and metal, I'll have that same facility with art and design. Triche

Being an artist doesn't mean that you do the same things everyone else does, it means you branch out and put your heart into what you are creating. And this is when the finished product is a one of a kind. If you put your heart into your work, it's never wrong. And don't ever think less of your ability because it's different than what someone else does. If someone doesn't see something special in what you do, it just means that person isn't able to open his heart to that spot. Leigh

I am notorious for being the student in the class that doesn't finish or the one at Clay Camp that has nothing to show for the time. I have finally figured out that I can always create gorgeous handles for my tools at these times. It gets my hands in the clay, creates something that reminds me of the event, (if I was at one), and gets my mind going past a block to: "gee, when I'm done with this, I think I'll...." and I'm off and running again. Hope this helps someone. Meredith

It is good to know that I am NOT the only one feeling the slumps. What is it they say?..."misery loves company"...this helps me to realize that everything is happening as it should. When I look back I can see that it has happened before and you get over it...usually by some inspiration here on the newsgroup that gets you "kick-started". I think the creative brain has a circuit breaker that stops or slows us down when we start to overload. I am sure that some of us are in overload at the moment and resent the fact that we just can't get it together. I seriously want to do something, yet can't decide which pile of "started Projects" I want to choose from. Polymer clay has such a hold on me that it is searing my circuit box! I WANT TO DO IT ALL !!! The stuff just blows me away!

... and now here I sit with a rotten feeling that I just didn't try hard enough and slapping a real guilt-trip on myself...that's not like me! Let's hope this slumpiness passes soon! I guess it's time to make a list of my priorities...come to think of it, I haven't made a "list" in a while...hmmmm, maybe that's my problem - no guidance!

One I have been working on is a 'Skate boarding boy'. Well my #2 daughter's #1 squeeze, in an effort to be helpfull, and who is a skate boarder, brought over a skate boarding magazine. The question. Have any of you had your design/creation process dashed because of this type of input? I mean I had a purfect image of what I was doing till this extra bit of data came into my life. Now I have lost interest in the whole project.
This is a normal reaction, Lysle.I have always felt that when something like this happens it interrupts your creative cycle. Usually, if I put the piece away and work on something else it will "clear up' after a short while and I can finish up the piece.It also helps to yell at whoever did it to you . . .

Clive Barker on creativity

In 1997 I attended a lecture by Clive Barker, sponsored by the Learning Annex, at the ANA Hotel in San Francisco. His topic was creativity -- how it affects our lives, and how we can nurture the creative impulse. The following is a fairly accurate paraphrase of the lecture, with direct quotes.

Some reasons for making art: "Creating a place of refuge. I first went to these places in my heart as a place of refuge. I was an overweight, nearsighted, soon-to-be-gay adolescent. I made the world my way. Art can also be a refuge from hostility."
"The attainment of power. . . Any kind of storytelling is an attainment of power -- the power to move, scare, confuse, and fascinate your audience."
"The imparting of wisdom or knowledge. I have something to tell which is profound and deep and belongs to me, because it could only come from me."
"Sacred experience. . . There is nothing wrong with standing up and being counted as spiritual beings, as artists."
Creating a life story. "I look back at things I've written and say, 'I could not get to that place now, and I'm so glad I wrote it down.'"
"Showing off. . . Like what you do. Celebrate it!:

Some suggestions about making art:
"Give the truth. Ask yourself, 'How do I get to be most purely myself?' The audience wants the real thing. Go and look for the real thing in yourself, however intensely unpleasant sometines that can be. Express the things mom told you you shouldn't say - sexual urges, anger, despair."
"Gather experience. . . Look at what you should not look at. A feeling of anxiety is the sure and certain evidence that you should do this." Barker performed a disection at a funeral home, for the sake of understanding death at close hand.
"Enjoy the freedom to be wrong. If you're driving a bus, you don't have that freedom."  In other word, if your decisions are loaded up with family, friends, teachers and other critics you won't feel able to take a 'wrong' turn. Every move becomes freighted with responsibility.
Pay attention to small details - they're important. Sometimes it's the small details that make an artwork more truthful.
"Be raw. The more slick, finished, pre-digested a thing is, the less likely it is to move you."

Barker strongly believes that drugs and other mind-altering substances won't nurture the creative impulse. This includes prescription drugs. At his most depressed, when working on the novella Revelations, Barker tried Prozac. His mood leveled off, but he couldn't write as well. The creative impulse seemed muffled. His experience, and there was a general agreement from the audience, was that taking drugs or drinking can give you the occasional flash of insight,while you're having an artistic experience as a passive observer (like smoking pot and watching a movie), but they won't help you create that work of art. Your energy or impulse will be sapped.  Barker found that writing was a much more effective way to combat depression. His succinct analysis: "Prose: 1, Prozac: 0."

"Make it easy to begin. Break off in the middle of a sentence. If you are at a difficult place, move on and start work in an easier place before you break off. Leave your space clear and have your favorite music, your tea or whatever, and your tools ready for when you come back. These are the things that get me to my desk." Barker also suggests setting a time limit for working. If it's open-ended it's harder to begin. And turn off the phone!

"My touchstone is, 'You don't leave the desk.' I write 2,600 words a day, no matter what, good or bad. As Steven King says -'If you write five pages a day for a year, you have a novel.' If my work is not up to standard, can I be undefeated by that?  I can survive the feeling that my work today is inferior, because I know I will write again tomorrow. Every day that you make something, that's what you made. It's probably not as good as you think it is at the time. It's probably not as bad as you think. It's from where you were that day. . . like a page from a journal. 'I am able to be, and my being is expressed by making this mark. Not that mark or another mark, but this mark.' "

In his early twenties, the impossibility of achieving an 'abstract excellence' made Barker self-destructive. The idea of comparing his work to, say, Picasso's Guernica, seemed to defeat him from the start. He says, "An abstract perfection is a moving target. Our business is to make things. Let other people judge. There are days when you're not writing a Mozart requiem. . . when what you want is a jingle. But there is no abstract hierarchy with Mozart at the top, and the Supremes at the bottom, with Cosi fan Tutti at one end, and the Ring Cycle at the other. A jingle can be as truthful as a requiem. . . Hierarchies are antithetical to the business of making art."

Barker took some time to discuss the relative quality of 'success' for a creative person, depending on one's goal. He remembered a quote, "The three T's are most important to success: Taste, Talent, Tenacity. You need a minimum of two of these to make it." Li Gardiner

Creativity, like wisdom, often increases with age
by David W. Galenson and Joshua Kotin, LA Times Feb 07

At 76, Clint Eastwood is making the best films of his career. "Letters From Iwo Jima'' has been nominated for four Academy Awards --including best picture and best director. (`"Flags of Our Fathers,'' which Eastwood also directed last year, received two nominations.) New York Times film critic A.O. Scott recently named him "the greatest living American filmmaker.'' Such accolades are the latest development in Eastwood's creative ascension. Two years ago, his ``Million Dollar Baby'' won best picture and best director, a repeat of his success with ``Unforgiven'' at age 62 -- his first Oscar after making movies for more than 20 years.
...Sculptor Louise Bourgeois is 95. This year, she will be honored with a retrospective at London's Tate Modern museum. In November, her "Spider,'' a sculpture she made at age 87, sold at auction for more than $4 million, the highest price ever paid for her work and among the highest ever paid for the work of a living sculptor.
... Is such creativity in old age rare?
...Eastwood and Bourgeois often are considered anomalies. Yet such career arcs --gradual improvements culminating in late achievements-- account for many of the most important contributions to the arts. That society does not generally recognize this fact suggests that many are missing a key concept about creativity.
... We often presume creativity is the domain of youth, that great artists are young geniuses, brash and brilliant iconoclasts. Arthur Rimbaud, Pablo Picasso, T.S. Eliot, Orson Welles, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Jasper Johns all revolutionized their artistic disciplines in their teens or 20s. Picasso created the first cubist paintings at 25, and Welles made "Citizen Kane'' at 25. These artists made dramatic, inspired discoveries based on important new ideas, which they often encapsulated in individual masterpieces.
....But there's another path to artistic success, one that doesn't rely on sudden flashes of insight but on the trial-and-error accumulation of knowledge that ultimately leads to novel manifestations of wisdom, and judgment. This is Eastwood's and Bourgeois' path --and it was the path for a host of other artists:
.......Titian and Rembrandt, Monet and Rodin, Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier, Mark Twain and Henry James, Robert Frost and Elizabeth Bishop, to name a few. Twain wrote "Tom Sawyer'' at 41 and bettered it with "Huckleberry Finn'' at 50; Wright completed Fallingwater at 72 and worked on the Guggenheim Museum until his death at 91.
...Paul Cezanne is the archetype of this kind of experimental innovator. After failing the entrance exam for the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts, he left Paris frustrated by his inability to compete with the precocious young artists who congregated in the city's cafes. He formulated his artistic goal, of bringing solidity to Impressionism, only after age 30, then spent more than three decades in seclusion in his home in Aix, painstakingly developing his mature style, trying to represent the beauty of his native Provence. Finally, in his 60s, he created the masterpieces that influenced every important artist of the next generation.
...Frost also matured slowly. He dropped out of Dartmouth and then Harvard, and in his late 20s moved to a farm in rural New Hampshire. His poetic goal was to capture what he called the "sound of sense,'' the words and cadence of his neighbors' speech. He published his most famous poem, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,'' at 49. At 63, Frost reflected that young people have flashes of insight, but "it is later in the dark of life that you see forms, constellations. And it is the constellations that are philosophy.''
...These two creative life cycles stem from differences in goals and methods. "Conceptual innovators'' aim to express new ideas or particular emotions. Their confidence and certainty allow them to achieve this quickly, often by radically breaking rules of disciplines they have just entered.
... In contrast, "experimental innovators'' try to describe what they see or hear. Their careers are quests for styles that capture the complexity and richness of the world they live in.
....The cost of ignoring Cezanne's example is tremendous --and not only for the arts. Our society prefers the simplicity and clarity of conceptual innovation in scholarship and business. Yet the conceptual Bill Gateses of the business world do not make the experimental Warren Buffetts less important.
...Recognizing important experimental work can be difficult; these contributions don't always come all at once. Experimental innovators often begin inauspiciously, so it's also dangerously easy to parlay judgments about early work into assumptions about entire careers.
....Perhaps the most important lesson is for experimental innovators themselves: Don't give up. There's time to do game-changing work after 30. Great innovators bloom in their 30s (Jackson Pollock), 40s (Virginia Woolf), 50s (Fyodor Dostoevsky), 60s (Cezanne), 70s (Eastwood) and 80s (Bourgeois). Who knows how many potential Cezannes we are currently losing? What if Eastwood had stopped directing at 52, after the critical failure of "Firefox,'' his 1982 film about a U.S. fighter pilot who steals a Soviet aircraft equipped with thought-controlled weapons?
.....DAVID W. GALENSON is an economist at the University of Chicago. JOSHUA KOTIN, a doctoral student in English at the University of Chicago, is editor of the Chicago Review. They wrote this article for the Los Angeles Times.



Spreading the Word

Sometimes the most influential thing we can do is to encourage others to keep trying....sometimes that returns to us as a blessing multiplied ten times.

Myself, I feel that most people that I have met who call themselves artists are very snobbish and unwilling to help a fellow artist out when they have a question. This may not Really be snobbery, rather that they themselves don't know the answer to the question posed, but it comes off with an air of elitism.
And they also seem to always have to describe everything in a philosophical way which to me is quite confusing, to say the least. When I talk to craftspersons, whether producing fine crafts or the more 'craft fair' crafters, they seem very willing to discuss their processes in a language that can be understood by a lay person as well as another craftsperson. I find this to be very appealling and enjoy their company very much.
I have got to believe that Britain is not as buried in kitsch hobby craft output as the US is! Sherry

The thing is, if they're not given encouragement to TRY they may never find out that they have the Talent OR the skills. Yes, maybe they'll find out they don't, and maybe alot of bad art will be made. But who hasn't made bad art?

I agree with this, but I would also like to add that much so-called "bad art" is satisfying, joyful, defining of self, etc., for the person who created it . . .
The important thing to me is that we all find a way to be involved in what we find interesting. Disdaining so-called "bad" art is a little like some people who say that heavy people shouldn't wear shorts or bathing suits in public because *they* don't think it's pleasing to the eye (or older people, or people who are handicapped --or generalize right down to anyone less-than-"perfect"). I want a beach where everyone is enjoying the wind, sun and activity to the utmost . So I feel that every person has the same right to be involved and to express themselves as every other person, and I think we should support everyone in enjoying, being willing to take chances, etc. (There's also what Ruebens might think about who looks good in bathing suits . . . cultural relativism-wise . . .) Diane B.

Re kits, even that involves some creativity":
--the *choosing* of the style/item that most represents "you" (an important thing for anyone to feel they have the *right* to do, and to be). Even though it's more of a multiple choice format than an essay :-), it often helps us all begin the process of sorting out what there *is* to be/choose.
(-- the figuring out of how to make sense of the directions --lots of creativity here sometimes!-- and learning that perseverance often yields real and unimagined results)
-- we don't all design our own clothes, or even make them, or create our own furniture, pots, houses, utensils, etc., yet we would be happy and supportive if someone we knew tried one of these things. . .
Let's foster having a great *journey*, valuing process as well as product at every stage. . . and also allow ourselves to recognize and identify with the frustrating, spottily-wonderful, sometimes insecure feelings that we've all had while muddling through this funny thing called life . . .
Sorry, needed to get that off my chest :-) . . . much better now ! (stepping down) Diane B.


I am an early riser(4:30 to 7) but can't seem to find the right time to clay. Morning is ok, and midafternoon passes by so quick, I can't seem to keep up. Late afternoon is supper, clean-up, outside chores, etc. By the time I've gotten all those nightly things tucked away, it's nine oclock and I'm ready for bed again. Though midafternoon would probably be an ideal time to work, I find myself way-laid or encopassed into other things. And when things are going right, it's also the time for me to be doing outside work in lawn/pasture. Does anyone else out there have a scheduling problem?
It's hard to fit everything into one day. I find it hard to be creative when you're rushed. ;o/ This summer is going by way too fast, and I don't feel like I've made the most of my time so far! cowgirls85rule

One never FINDs time, one has to MAKE time.
I look at the clay as my work. I'm up around 7:30 and retire about 12:30. I put in eight hours a day, Monday through Friday, working with the clay or doing clay related activities (such as writing my clay book, going to classes, . Sometimes I switch hours and days, but I still work those 40 hours. If I went out of the home to work I would have to spend even more time in travel, so I use some of that time to do household chores. I do the rest of the chores during the same time that I would if I were working outside of the home. Major things are done on weekends, or whichever two days I allow myself to have off from the clay.
I used this same schedule when I was writing several of my five novels. When I was working full time outside the home I still managed to write two novels by spending an hour in the morning, part of my lunch hour, and another hour after dinner--every day. Weekends were for housework, research, and going to the movies, plays, out to dinner, etc.
Okay, so I'm not the worlds best housekeeper. But I'm not the worst either. I'm lucky because I don't like shopping at the mall. I don't belong to any clubs (except for the NPCG.) My kids are grown. My husband is retired (but working with me on the kaleidoscopes.)
I am not at all organized however. I GET organized about four times a year, and after that it deteriorates fairly fast. But I work well with a mess around me thank goodness. I certainly don't think that everyone should stick to such a schedule. But I do think that you need to commit a certain amount of time each day, and a no-less-than amount of time for each week, and stick to it. Get it to be a habit, one that you feel guilty about not following. Dotty in CA
For me it's very hard to make myself take time off. I think that's because I love working with the clay so much, as well as loving my writing. So I have to force myself at times. Kind of break the grip and run free. Once I'm away, I'm fine and enjoy what all I'm doing.
I actually have a minimum of work time that I plan for, but no maximum. I've been found working at 2 a.m. or later not realizing how late it is. I think it's actually very good if you are flexible with what hours or days you work. I just like to set that minimum. But it's not iron bound. Let one of my friends call and invite me to lunch, and off I go like a shot. Then I seem to automatically make up the time somewhere else such as late night, weekend, early morning, whatever.
And I do get my "down" times, when I just seem to wander around doing this and that, probably waiting for my creative well to fill up again. Sort of like writer's block. But fortunately, it doesn't last long. Dotty in CA

i'm retired and i'm going to bed when you're getting up!!! but i have much to do during my "day," too!! life has a way of getting in the way what with chores, interaction with animals and family and friends, errands and the like. i solve this by setting aside a day just for me. the chores will wait, the wife picks up the care for the animals that day, i don't answer the phone. i do crafts all through my waking cycle on that "day." it is also necessary for my mental and emotional well-being to just have that day dedicated to crafting. i am told i'm a nicer person if i'm allowed that time to create and play, to experiment and explore. besides, with several hours to work on things, i can get lots done and everyone likes the results! and if i don't take care of me, how can i take care of the others? so you might try it. set aside an afternoon once a week for just crafting. invite friends over to join you. they don't hafta clay, just a craft day. you'll be amazed how the crafting skills will begin to intertwine! Sunni

My studio schedule depends on what's going on that day. I'm "at work" at least eight hours a day, but they don't necessarily fall in the regular corporate hours. If I wanted to work from 9 to 5 I would have kept a full time job (well, or looked for a new one). Actually, I work more than an 8-hour day for myself. Some days I start before breakfast and then take a mid-morning break. Some days I work until I realize it's 4 o'clock and I haven't eaten anything. Some days I start at 10 and work until 9pm, eating all my meals at my computer or work table. And then there are those two o'clock in the morning days. Of course, I have days when I give up after about four hours or even less . . . Jacqueline

I usually work on the weekends- because that's when many of my classes are scheduled. My husband is a firefighter- so weekends are nothing special to us.... although if it's Saturday night and he's not working we're dancing!!! I wish I was as devoted and focused as Dotty...she gets a tremendous amount of work done. My focus gets blurred and I find myself doing too many different things. But that's part of life- learning what's important and finding ways to make it happen. Kathndolls

I agree, you seldom 'find time' for clay, you have to 'make time'. As for me, I suffer from terminal Puritain Work Ethic. I have to do chores and work during daylight hours, no doing fun stuff. (hmmm, maybe that's why I like gray days so much) So I get up around 7 am, feed dogs, hubby, cats, etc. do dishes, clean, run errands, teach (I teach private art lessons) round 6pm, we eat dinner. Then! it's time for the good stuff. I clay while hubby watches TV. Hubby retires around 9 or 10, then I chat while claying or clay or sometimes (gasp) read. I go to bed between 12 and 3. Luckily, I have a sleeping disorder and need very little sleep. But I do this 7 days a week. So if I clay between 7 and midnight, seven days a week, I get in approx 35 hours a week. Since most nights I really clay later than that, it works out as a full work week. Boring stuff, but you asked. -byrd

Scheduling time hasn't worked well for me. Something always seems to happen to keep me away. There is no such thing as just sitting in front of the TV for me. There is always clay in my hands when I watch. Do you have a TV tray that you could set your work on? A cupboard that you could stash a tile or piece of glass on? You could leave your current project on the tile or glass and stash it until you're ready. Or maybe if the dust bunnies aren't too bad under your bed, it could go there. Cover it with waxed paper until you're ready to take it out again. I've made one corner of the kitchen counter my work space and the clay stays there all the time. I've got the world's smallest kitchen...4 floor tiles from counter to counter and 9 from end to end. Just had to take the crock pot off the counter and move the toaster. Kim2

Dotty, this summer I am looking at my studio time in the same manner as you do. That is, it is my 'job' and I am spending 8 hours per day in the studio. I love it! First, because during that time, I am concentrating on the project at hand. There are no guilt feelings about 'I should be doing this or that'. At the end of the 8 hours, I 'go home'. Now is the time to get some exercise, cook dinner or clear/wash dishes (hubby cooks most of the time.) Do housework detail. Get ready for bed. Wow!! I am looking forward to keeping this schedule permanently...uh, 4 more years. Meantime, it keeps me getting up early and getting to bed at an earlier time (most nights.) Dianne C.


All of us have made valid points about what is constructive criticism and what is just plain mean.
There are many things I made when I first started that I was very proud of, but looking back, I wouldn't want to show anyone. In learning techniques and color, what darkens during baking and consistency of the different clays. . . we MUST have less than perfect results or we learn nothing. If everything was a success, where is the incentive to learn? I have several canes in my scrap heap that qualify for an ugly cane contest, but I learned something from every one of them. I have baked representative slices from all of them so I can look back to see what did or didn't work. Especially things like contrast and how something will look when reduced.
Nothing is to be gained by nasty or rude comments except for hurting others' feelings and only people who have to build their own egos by making someone else look small need to do this. Every time one of us puts something up to share, we risk our egos, and we have the right to be proud of what we have created. As a newbie (I started March 2000), I am insecure when I show something I've made because we have a lot of talent in our guild. They wouldn't think of being unkind and many times have given me confidence in what I am trying to do. There is a big difference in "that is ugly" and "This is nice, but maybe if you tried...". Try to put yourself in the others' place when you say something. Off of soapbox for now. Kim

We are all beginners at some point in time. I don't go to ebay, but I've been in a number of swaps and I've seen a whole range of experience and talent. I appreciate all of it, to tell the truth. I hope we're here to support each polymer clay artist where she or he is, not to compare each other despite our differing levels of ability. It's difficult to share ourselves and our creations with a large group of relative strangers. We hope for encouragement and constructive criticism, if criticism is needed at all. I prefer suggestions myself. I think we're best when we don't judge each other, but instead lift each other up with the support we'd like to receive ourselves. We're all growing in our art and it's not good karma to stifle another's creativity and development with derogatory comments. Carol N.

(where is more?)

Jurying into art shows is indeed incomprehensible. When I was starting out as a potter and clay artist, I also began entering competitions. Although I had gone to graduate school in Arizona, I could not get accepted at a California show. On the other hand, I got accepted to almost every show I entered on the east coast! Finally, I looked closely at the judges and the styles accepted and realized I wasn't getting accepted on the left coast because my style was not "Californian." :-) My style has never been funky enough for that venue although I love some of the work from those artists. My style is more formal even when light-hearted, even when the juries change, and there are really regional differences in style and taste. Do what you want and find your own aesthetic "home." :-) Jacqueline G.
I agree with you 100%. Regional areas make a big difference. I live on the East coast, and I believe there are differences within this region as well. ...some things will sell super in coastal fish boxes.. Pottery will sell well in the mountains. Same goes for juried shows..each show has a "flavor". Depending on what flavored area we are whether we will be able to get into the show. BUT.. and this is a big butt.. not unlike my own.. I think shows that have been traditionally one way..are beginning to open up and become more varied. It's just something I've noticed through the past couple of years. I hope that it continues because it makes going to shows more interesting. Susan~

Shows/Demos & Fear

(Fear of Selling & Shows)...This fear of selling is something so common to most of us, AFAK. I just need to say something about rejection fears and art. Just my opinions, of ...
The fear of presenting our art or crafts may have something to do with our childhood and past as some psychologically orientated people say, but I prefer explaining it by the description of the creative process.
When one makes something, especially something totally unique that is their design and creation, the attitude and behaviour is so near the feeling of being a child: you are open, totally captivated by the "playing", you have visions that you are eager to try. The technical difficulties do not feel ones you can not overcome. You are learning every minute you are doing, creating, making. You are not thinking about who you are, or what you should be, or what others think about you. There is no room or time for dwelling in the past or worrying about the future. The present is so much, it needs so much attention and energy that you can not be anywhere else. You just have to, because probably you too have found that the only way to make something out of your soul and hands is to relax. And when you are relaxed, you are not thinking the way you normally think: with words.
And when the clay is finally ready for oven, you sort of wake up. You see something you have done and probably you are not totally aware how an earth that did come up. You just are proud and feel good. But when the time passes, while the clay bakes, you start to worry about the product. The results. This is the time when you become nervous: it all felt so good, but it can be ruined by wrong kind of baking. You want to get over this step as quick as you can. You want the clay to be hard, and you want to see it, feel it, get assured that something that was not there hours ago is there really. You don´t totally believe that the items you thought you made really are. This (IMO) is the natural suspicion that we have with everything: we need to see and touch, and see and touch more to get convinced about all the things in our life.
The clay is baked and you take it out. You immediately find the nasty critic inside you. Something could have been done better. Something is not right. You need to finnish your work. Sanding, buffing, warnishing. It´s not ready yet and you feel you are not able to do it. The feeling, IMO, comes from the slowness of the next parts of this process: it takes time to sand, to buff, to varnish. You have too much time for thoughts, and naturally they are thoughts that you feel you need to think. After all of that good feeling it is very natural to start to think negatively because we tend to think that good and bad should come as equal doses.
Then your work is ready. And the first people see it. It probably is your family or someone really close to you, your friend or loved neiborough. And they see what they see: just the work, not you, not your feelings. Even when they absolutely love the piece and make you a queen because you made it, you feel something is missing because you can not tell them what you experienced. And you are suspicious if they just love your stuff because they love you. And in the worst case you compare their admiration of your work to the times you have loved and admired your kids crafts because you are so darn proud your child has made them. You are not sure. And it starts to eat your confidence.
Then you sign up for a craft fair, and suddenly there are dozens of things you need to do before you are ready for the show. Even though you might have a good amount of things to sell, you need to think about all the rest. The booth; how do you present your craft/art work. You try to think what might be the best way to show them. What would look professional. What kind of packing materials to do. And what about all the rest of the needed things: the leaflets that tell about you etc. And you - even though you might have done this several times - are not really sure what ´´professional´´ booth and etc. might be in this particular show, and what kinds of solutions others have.
And then you realise there is competition... And that is the worst thought you might have: you start to think about all of those other artist that use silver, wood, ceramics etc. in their work. The materials you don´t know start to feel like something way out of your league. The things THEY have done seem things that you never could do. And as you can make polyclay you feel that is less. Because you can not do the other things. And there is time. Too much time. To think about all of it. And to start having second thoughts about your work. And you heard so many stories about unsuccessful craft fairs.
And you start to wonder if it is worth it. You want this to work, but... All the time, from the conditioning to the selling, you seem to have strong emotions. And in the end, when you really should feel ready, you just are so tired from all of the rollercoaster your thoughts and imagination have put you trough that you think there is something wrong with you because you think you are the only one feeling this way. The only insecure one. The only one who has so much difficulties on this. And you are ashamed of it, so much that you rarely have the courage to open your mouth and really tell people how hard it feels. And - as sad it is - so are most of the others too.
And so we have this art of acting strong and confident when entering those shows. All the other dozen people selling and putting up their booths have some kind of nervous feelings too. Maybe some have learned to cope with them better, and the long run of shows have made them realise that they can do it, and that their stuff sells. But then they are insecure about the finances: they probably make this for the living. It is their income. And in a way they too have all in stake there. And then there is that one person who seems to have all the confidence in the world, who just quickly sets up his/her booth and then seems to walk around with complete peace glowing from his/her face. And you wonder what is the secret of that kind of attitude, but have not the courage to ask what makes this person so sure and confident. And naturally you compare yourself to this person and fell less. It is only natural...
Ok. That was my explanation for the feelings. Do I have a solution ? Not a totally waterproof one, but some things I do when starting to doubt myself and my work and the justice of me selling my stuff to strangers.... I try to write up everything. I might not need the notes, but then again it is possible that I might. So I try to act like I liked recording the things I do...
I´ll finnish my pieces and then put them away. Maybe show them to the Mr. Right, but others have to wait. Two weeks is enough for me to forget the unnecessarily detailed memories of the feelings while making the piece. Then I take the pieces out of the closet. I don´t know about others work, but mine obviously gets better when put in the dark shelf for some days. To me this is a good way of both being honest about what I think about my work and to see the things that need to be changed in the future. And also a good way to get pleasantly surprised by my own creativity :-)
While I start to make the craftshow together I usually do the things most people do: make a list of things that need to be done and then do them. But if I find myself wondering about ´´am I going to succeed´´ or ´´are my works worth it´´ or ´´what do they think about me when they see my work´´ I try to stop there. And go to have some claying time. Even 10 minutes of mudplaying is better than 10 minutes of disbelief. If I am already in bed trying to sleep, I try to change the subject of thoughts by thinking about new designs instead of coming shows.
And most important thing: when the show really begins, I try to pump up my feelings by getting everything ready few days in advance.
Then I use the last day for playing with clay: doing all the things I did not have time to do before.
And also: when I sell my stuff I try to think of it as someone elses stuff. I just try to imagine it is one separate part of me that sells the stuff. Someone else than the artist. So if I fail selling, the artist inside me suffers no harm ! Phew... ...
Some shows sell well, some are total catastrophes. Things happen. People happen. There are wonderful customers, and then there are the hard ones that always seem to demand more than I can offer. There are bad shows. Bad days. But there also are good ones, and very good ones. Finding the right markets is hard. I still have not found the real goldmine, but at least I have some pretty decent ones. I just keep trying. PoRRo

~I have found that to "calm those nerves" and also have something to do those times when it is slow, I take some clay and demonstrate. It seems to draw people to your booth. At the last show we did, I actually had an individual come up to me asking a million questions. It seems that she wanted a hobby and thought that PC was the way to go. So I gave her a bunch of sites to visit, books to check out and vendors on-line. The second day she came back armed with several lists of what to buy and what not to buy. In the booth next to us a lady was doing watercolor sketches. She and her daughter, age 7, had tried to make napkin rings out of SIII, but they kept breaking. The daughter spent most of the second afternoon helping us to demonstrate. That show was not the best in the way of $, but was one of the best for making you feel good about your craft. The moral of this story is that even if things aren't selling, you can still get lots of ideas and encouragement, and maybe even start someone out in this wonderful medium. Just my two cents. Marciafirst


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