Whether or not you belong to a guild of some kind I think you can understand my message.  During my time as a member of the Chicago Area Polymer Clay Guild I have learned the value of belonging to a community of artists; however, the recent loss of a member has given me a deeper appreciation of what I have been gifted with through my membership.   We were recently saddened by the news that we had lost a long time member.  I counted Nikki as a good friend and her loss is something I feel very keenly.  Nikki was 87 years old and an active member at the time of her passing.  I continually looked at her and thought about how lucky I will be if I am that active, creative, and “together” at her age.  Her passing came just before our guild’s annual retreat and not having her there really drove home how much I benefitted from being around her and still benefit from all of the other members of our guild.  Often times during a retreat I would hit a creative block and just couldn’t figure out what to do next. A tour of the room to see what others were working on would always help me break through my creative block and a stop by Nikki’s area was a must. During this recent retreat I found myself looking across the room to where Nikki would have been seated and thinking about what she might have been working on if she were with us. I also found myself thinking about how I’d lost not only a friend but someone who would help me break through those creative blocks. I am very lucky to have known her and consider myself a better person and artist for having known her. I will miss her very much and although she is gone she remains a source of inspiration to me.