By: Sherman Oberson
I’m currently attending a polymer clay retreat as I write this. It’s called Clay Back East and is being held in Atlantic City, New Jersey. It made me think of how being social with polymer clay has shaped my journey as an artist. When I first started out with polymer clay I was a kid, an aunt of mine had found a polymer clay on a business trip and brought it back for me. I worked with it for several years before seeing another person working with polymer clay. The first person I saw working with polymer clay was actually Donna Kato, I didn’t see her in person I saw her on a TV show on the discovery channel sometime in the early 90s. It was exciting to see someone else working with a medium I loved so much and it gave me ideas on what to do with the clay that I had never thought of before. Then after that I stumbled across Nan Roche‘s book the new Clay, which opened up a world of possibilities to me.
Several years later upon moving to Philadelphia I found out that Philadelphia had a guild. I was very nervous going to my first meeting and I wasn’t sure if I was good enough to attend but what I found was a group of people at all levels who would turn out to be some of my longest running friends. For those of you have never attended a guild meeting it’s very fun, back then we would have a demo and some snacks and everybody would just sit and chat and play with clay. It completely changed what I was doing with polymer clay because I had been sculpting but most of the women in my guild made jewelry. Very quickly I learned all kinds of new techniques from them and even took my first class. After that I was off and running, the guild meetings became the thing I looked forward to the most every month. I became an officer in the guild and then the president. Over the years with the guild I’ve met so many people who have shaped who I have become as a person and an artist. The guild helped me get through some of the hardest times of my life and helped to share some of the happiest times of my life too.
Several years after that our guild held its first retreat it was called Polydelphia. A couple of years after that one of our guild members started an overnight retreat called Clayathon. I attend that every year and have so much fun, if you’ve never been to a retreat all kinds of stuff happens there depending on how the retreat is laid out, there could be a guest artist or maybe master classes before and after. Some retreats don’t have either of those they just have demos given by the attendees. You’ll have a workspace to play with clay, and get to meet people from all over who love polymer clay as much as you do. Most retreats have a game night too and some type of auction and a shop to buy supplies and the work of other artists. It’s a great escape from everyday life. There are retreats all over the country, Clay ConeCTion in Connecticut, Klay Karma in New Hampshire, Clayathon in New Jersey, Fandango in Florida to name a few.
Over the years I’ve attended many retreats all across the United States and my favorite one in Canada. Held in a little town called Morrisburg. I’ve even gone to one in France. All these retreats have taught me many new techniques with polymer clay and opened my eyes to new ways of working with the clay but the most important thing it’s given me is access to all the wonderful artists attending these events. I’d highly suggest that if you can you look up the retreat near you and also check to see if there is a guild in your area.
Another way to be social with Polymer clay is to go online. There are so many websites and Facebook groups dedicated to polymer clay. This blog is a great example of one. YouTube is another amazing resource. All these places will help you form a community of friends and a network of people who can teach and guide you on your journey as an artist.
I’m off to attend a class today with Fabiola Perez who’s come all the way from Spain to teach us. I hope you all will expand your polymer clay circle. Look me up on Facebook, I could always use some more polymer clay peeps.