Our blog this week is brought to you by polymer clay artist Laurel Swetnam. Laurel highlights the importance of play through art!
One of my greatest challenges as a family therapist for young families was to teach and motivate parents to play with their children - they just didn’t know how. Play is a cornerstone of early childhood development, but it’s just as important for us adults. Unfortunately, sometime our brains just get in the way. I posted an apt quote that a friend gave me near my workbench.
Playfulness takes us out of time and place as it eases stressors and renews our sense of well-being. Solo play unlocks new ideas and group play builds community. It’s not so easy! The popularity of Zentangles and the ongoing adult coloring book mania of young professionals (who, my daughters tell me, sometimes have coloring book parties) reflects our need to engage in play, but also our need for a little help with the process. Artistic Portland’s Kelly Casperson understands that need and publishes lovely coloring books - this one is aptly named “Meditations”.
We artists are often pretty good at play. We lose ourselves in Pinterest images and imagine new directions for our work. However, facing the pressures of shows and production while staying true to our “voice”, artists, too, forget to play. Burnout!
But I am very lucky! Every year I attend a retreat for polymer clay artists where play is the order of the day. About 25 professional artists gather for a week to soak in the synergy that springs from being together. We learn from each other, share resources and experiment. This year was especially interesting, because a little help came our way in the form of a book that one artist brought to share, Rex Ray Art and Design ( Chronicle Books, 2007). Rex Ray’s vibrant colors and curvy patterns fits well with our chameleon medium. Intrigued by the mid-century vibe, we started to play.
Lynn Yuhr, from Miami Florida, interpreted Ray’s aesthetic by cutting apart little screen prints she had made on clay then imbedding the lively patterns in a neutral background. Cynthia Tinapple from Ohio, who brought the book, channeled the guru of the hour by rocking his sumptuous palette to create a series of stylized leaves to hang from a mobile. Libby Mills ran with the shapes and started a series of 2-D wall tiles which repeated Ray’s iconic oval shapes.
My own Rex Ray efforts stuck with a couple of my favorite colors, yellow green and orange and my two most treasured design elements, strips and dots. Here’s a veneer I made. It’s been sitting around since a got home two months ago. I don’t have a plan, but I will definitely make time to play with it.