The amazing benefits of participating in an artists’ retreat: Pojoaque Pueblo, New Mexico, November 2018
This week's blog was written by polymer clay artist Laurel Swetnam of Sequels.
This year I had the pleasure of meeting a group of artist friends for two weeks of working together during the day and sharing long, discursive dinners around a massive red table in the evening. There are usually about 6 artists from around the country and their partners, plus local artist friends who come to Butterfly House to work for the day and share dinner.
It’s an opportunity to disconnect from the usual distractions of daily life and to focus. I found time both to play with new ideas and to produce work. There’s time to look at images, sketch a new idea, plan an approach, try and fail then try and succeed. I spent a couple of days experimenting with a technique learned from Utah artist, Jana Roberts Benzon. Jana is a master at manipulating polymer clay to create luscious 3-D shapes. This one involves layering colors, cutting, turning slices and recutting. It’s complicated! Here
are my experiments with Jana’s technique.
Next I worked on a class I’ll teach on January 19th called Romancing the Wave. The idea is to create swirly patterns using ripple blade techniques with very sharp serrated knives and mokume gane, originally a Japanese sword making technique. Mokume gane adapts very well to polymer clay. I was also inspired by the stunning work of Britain’s Carol Blackburn, a former fiber artist whose palette is inspired by fabric designs like Missoni patterns, who has perfected her own variation in clay. The photo shows my wavy forays.
Working together, we have a rare opportunity to observe each other’s strategies for designing and perfecting new techniques. This was an eye opener. Maggie Maggio, who is both an internationally acclaimed artist and a color expert, used her time to work on a project to teach for upcoming engagements in South America and to celebrate the tenth anniversary of her book with coauthor artist Lindley Haunani, Polymer Clay Color Inspirations. Maggie worked tirelessly on making, tweaking, critiquing her new designs, and then repeating the entire process. Watching was a tremendous lesson in learning from mistakes and working day after day with intention. Here are Maggie’s prototypes.
As we work together, there is camaraderie, jokes and joyful sharing; there are observations and suggestions for each other’s work, sometimes helping to push towards a new design or a new level of artistry. This is, of course, also a motivation for belonging to Artistic Portland! Although I always take advantage of the glorious, sunny New Mexico high desert for a little outside time, I managed to make the components for new pieces headed for shows and, of course, Artistic Portland. It was a reinvigorating and relaxing time.