Thursday, May 31, 2018

Pittsburgh Polymer Clay Guild Workshop...

Me (in the apron) with some of the PPCG at the Swissvale Fire Department.
A day after I got back from San Francisco, I headed over to the Pittsburgh Polymer Clay Guild to teach a two-day workshop on working with resin and mold-making.  As I've taken a step back from the front of house operations at the shop, so too have I stepped back from teaching.  It seems like for awhile, I was on a roll teaching, doing presentations for arts groups and demoing for TV.  I know that it pales in comparison to some of my teacher friends who teach on a daily basis or teach workshops for the majority of their income.  Still... for awhile, it felt like I was all too regularly in this position, putting myself in front of people and facilitating learning opportunities.  This isn't something that comes naturally for me.  I am most comfortable in the sanctuary of my studio, keeping my own company, and playing mad scientist with my art supplies.  But as much as it's outside of my comfort zone, it has been very rewarding and I often look back with fondness to my teaching experiences.  I am very thankful and appreciative that the Pittsburgh Polymer Clay Guild asked me back to expand upon a demo that I did last year.  It's a big honor considering the incredibly lineup of their past instructors!

Left: Mushroom tile in progress by the very talented, Les Polinko.  Middle: My traveling feast of ideas and art supplies.  Right: Me showing how to make mold walls out of inexpensive materials... aka a toilet paper roll!  All of these photos are courtesy of Les Polinko!  
I always feel like I'm moving in when I teach, especially for these more in-depth workshops!  I always come loaded down with bags and bags of art supplies and examples of my own work.  I think I filled up four tables of different materials and examples and projects in various stages of completion!  It's like I've transported a little chunk of my studio with me.

Top left: Texture tiles created by the fabulous Laura Tabakman. Bottom left: Les Polinko's mushroom tile in progress with polymer clay gnome.  Bottom center: Lovely fish pond scene made by Rebecca Watkins.  Right:  Les Polinko's baby mandrake about to get molded! 
We had a fantastic group of talented students!  Several of the participants of the workshop are accomplished professional artists.  It's always a curious situation when teaching colleagues and others who are experts in their own right.  I shy away from project oriented workshops, because to me, what's more valuable are the techniques and guidance.  I want to help people best achieve what they want to do and help guide them to where they want to go.  I know that it can be frustrating for some with this loosey-goosey style of teaching; I know some folks prefer more structure and are more results based.  I do hope that everyone had a good time though and that even if they were pushed outside of their comfort zones and subjected to my own particular brand of teaching and humor, that they found it a valuable and empowering experience.  Everyone seemed to have a positive class and that there was lots of learning and growing.  I could see the gears turning in the heads of several of the attendees, adapting their own practices to incorporate these materials and ways of working... and I think that's a very good thing indeed.  I can't wait to see what they create!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Western Skies...

I recently had the good fortune to travel out to the Bay Area with my sister, Cynthia.  We stayed mostly with our friend Jess and had all kinds of adventures.  Truthfully, I've been reluctant to put it down on paper, so to speak.  Now that I'm home, there's a finality to it.  I've been holding on to the experience like a worry stone, rolling it around in the palm of my hand, smoothing it like a piece of agate plucked from the sea.  I've been sucking the juices out of the memory, like the last bite of a delicious meal, not wanting it to end.  I know now why there is that saying... "I've left my heart in San Francisco."  It truly is a beautiful place, full of magic and wonder.

My heart is brimming with gratitude to my sister and Jess for making this trip possible, being amazing traveling companions, making me laugh until it hurt, and for kinship and camaraderie; also to William for holding down the fort while I explored and for not being too disgruntled while I described all the awesome things we were getting up to.  Many thanks also go out to Kate Richbourg, who generously opened up her studio, arranged art outings, provided wise counsel, and made arrangements for memories that will last a lifetime.  Much love also goes out to Diane, Emily, and Elsa.  Really there were so many lovely souls that I met during the trip that I will surely miss someone.  I am remiss that I didn't see more of my friends out in the area, but our days were so full, it is hard to imagine filling them any fuller.

I've partially documented my adventures as they were happening over on Facebook and on Instagram, but I felt that I needed to fill in the gaps and capture all the little details before they've faded too much and are too far gone.  If you're interested in more moments from my trip, swing by those various social media outlets and scroll back through, as I've tried to keep things relatively unique to each platform.

Normally, I would try to describe everything, but really there was so much that it's hard to wrangle it all and I know that if I try, I won't do it justice.  So, instead, I'm going to go about this in a photo essay style with captions.

Good morning, San Francisco.
View from Buena Vista Park.

Golden Gate Bridge.

Alameda Point Antiques Faire.

We stayed in a cottage once owned by writer, Kathleen Norris.

Montara sunset.

Pillar Point Marsh Beach near Half Moon Bay.

Tide pools at Pillar Point Harbor Beach.

Montara seascape.

Sea anemone, mussels, and goose barnacles in Montara. 

Vivid green algae flowing down the cliff in Montara.

Sea Star in the tide pool.

Raven posing on a fence post near the entrance of Muir Woods.

Carpet of clover (wood sorrel) in Muir Woods.

Muir Woods Cathedral Grove.

Towering redwoods in Muir Woods.

Mini roses and ferns in Muir Woods.

Wildflower path to Muir Beach.

A feather in the foam at Muir Beach.

Flotsam and jetsam and a crab claw at Muir Beach.

Muir Beach.

20th Century Cafe.

Cynthia admiring our delicious yield at 20th Century Cafe.

Goodbye, San Francisco.