This week's blog was written by polymer clay artist, Laurel Swetnam.
I imagine that everyone who sells art gets stuck from time to time. Your stock of successful products has to be replaced, but your chaotic workspace overwhelms you. On one corner of my studio table there are five half-done projects. Yikes - time to focus! Other times you carve out a little time to create new designs, but your
muse takes a hike and you feel uninspired.
Here’s my motto. When the muse takes a vacation, it’s time to retreat - not retreat as in run away, but retreat as in step back, refresh yourself and take time to play. I am most grateful to have the opportunity to do just that every August when a group of professional polymer clay artists gather in the awe-inspiring northern Rockies to spend a weekend together.
Each artist generally chooses to explore something new during the week which pushes a bit beyond her comfort zone. Jewelry artists sculpt, color zealots work only in black or white, sculptors use clay as pointillist painting medium or artists collaborate. I crafted a series of large pods, using millefiori cane work (which I do) and oil painting (which I don’t do). Bonnie Bishoff, a maker of extraordinary wearable art, used polymer clay to create this 2-D textured painting.
Energy is augmented, and the workroom thrums from early morning to the wee hours. As punctuation to the studio work, individuals demonstrate techniques, spontaneous “seminars" (marketing, teaching, social media) spring into life, and critique groups form. Artists share other skills - one polymer artist is also a photographer who shares tips. There’s lots of storytelling and jokes by a couple of masters, reminding us all not to get too serious! I’m way too introverted for that, but I bring my guitar and play classical music each night. Maybe best of all, there are myriad lovely, deep conversations during our week-long slumber party.
There’s time for walking around the gorgeous northern Colorado landscape, sketching or taking photographs. I love doing that by myself so I can process the heady brew of group experiences. The combination of solitude and camaraderie is my secret sauce. Some artists are fed by the group synergy and create amazing new pieces. I know I’ll never be one of those, since I work most productively in the quiet of my own studio. However, I always leave the mountain with a notebook full of drawings and ideas, a ton of photos and an eagerness to get back to work since I know the muse will have returned.
I am most fortunate to have my amazing August retreat as a time to reset and re-energize. Best of all, it has taught me a “retreat” strategy we can all use any time: take a walk, sketch what you see, and play!
Be sure to stop by Artistic Portland to see Laurel's gorgeous polymer clay art!
This week visual artist Jennie O'Connor interviewed new Artistic Portland artist Liberty Shea Wilson.
How long have you been a part of Artistic Portland, and what appealed to you about joining the Co-op?
I've been a member for about a month now! I wanted to join a co-op to meet other artists and have a consistent way to get my work into the public eye.
What is your background?
My background is varied. I have no formal training as an artist. I have a degree in Theater with an emphasis in costuming. But for the past 13 years I have been a stay-at-home mom. Prior to being a mom I traveled around the world to about 40 countries and lived in Japan for three years. I've always been inspired by nature. And have always had a fascination with color.
Why do you do what you do?
I like painting and creating because there are endless possibilities. Every painting and creation is unique and I never tire of doing it.
Describe yourself in one word? Why that word?
Multi-passionate. I call myself multi-passionate or a multi-potentialite because I'm never going to be "one thing." I have many interests, many passions. When I finally stopped trying to fit myself in a box, I started to fulfill my full potential.
Where do you create?
Mostly in my kitchen at a work table that sits under an east-facing window.
What motivates/inspires your work?
My work is nature and color inspired. I love texture. I love mixing colors and color gradation. I use dried and pressed leaves, plants and flowers in my work.
What kind of creative patterns, routines, or rituals do you have?
I'm not very routine. I wish I had more of that. I often paint at night when my kids have gone to bed. I do a lot of creating when my kids are around.
What is your favorite piece you have ever created?
So far, my favorite piece is called 4000 Feelings. I spent about a week on this 11x14 water color. I layered grasses and lace-leaf maple leaves in reds, pinks, purples, gold and black. It looks like two trees, one tall and strong and one being blown around by a storm. In the strong one, a face started to emerge, so I spent a great amount of time creating the detail in the face. And the one being blown about became a woman with long hair who is upside down in the tree. It represents what was going on in my life at the time.
What do you like to do when you are not creating?
When I'm not creating, I'm landscaping. I have a small landscaping business. Since moving to the PNW I've become obsessed with plants and flowers. I also like to go on nature walks. I take macro photos of flowers and plants, as well. I spend time with my three kids: Quinn (13), Wyatt (9) and December (6). We like to play tennis, swim, cook, watch movies and go on adventures. I also love food and wine! I'm a bit of a bakery addict.