Advertisers' Page
Advertising Information
Submission Guidelines
Mailing List
Adobe Acrobat version
of this issue
Home
Book Reviews
Johnny Kuborssy Interview
Renaissance Pendant
Carol Zilliacus
Design Originals
The Evolution of Polymer Clay
Previous Issues
Contact Us
Donations
Staff
Swaps
Johnny Kuborssy
by Elissa Powell
Click on images for larger picture

I remember it well - the first time I met Johnny and Robin Kuborssy . It was about four years ago, at one of my guild meetings - the South Bay Polymer Clay Guild, in San Jose, California.

I was surprised to discover that the clayer in the family wasn't Robin, but her husband, Johnny! Men in the polymer clay world are about as rare as hens' teeth, so we were especially delighted to welcome them into our group. At the time, Johnny was making whimsical, colorful little fantasy creatures with expressive faces, which he called "PolyPals." He brought a few to show us, and attracted an enthusiastic crowd!

Click on images for larger picture

As with most creative people, Johnny has been into some kind of artistic endeavor for most of his life. The eldest of five children, he was born 33 years ago in Nazareth, the Holy Land. His parents and one of his sisters still live there. His brother and two other sisters and their families live in neighboring California communities, and all have a very close relationship.

Johnny began learning English at the age of eight, and though he has been in the United States for fifteen years now, a charming hint of an accent is still discernible.

Click on images for larger picture

Of course, I had to ask Johnny the inevitable question: "How did you discover polymer clay?" He told me that he knew about it from seeing it in craft stores. About ten years ago he was playing with some Silly Putty, and made a flower that Robin loved. She convinced him to go out and buy some of that colorful Fimo and reproduce the flower with a material that would last. And of course, the rest is history.

PolyPals began when Johnny started making small figures to entertain his little daughter, Stephanie. When his friends and other family members saw them, they convinced him to try selling the figures in craft shows, and as predicted, they were a sell-out! Not only were the figures entertaining to children, they made charming little computer companions - one of the advantages to living in the Silicon Valley!

Click on images for larger picture

At our first meeting, I saw Johnny as a self assured young man. I was surprised when he told me, "When I first started at the guild, I looked at everybody's work, and I felt very small and insignificant . I compared it to what I was doing, and felt really bad, because everybody else knew a lot of things that I didn't know. I never dreamed I could get to their level."

Johnny stayed with what he knew he could do well - his PolyPals -- but leapt at every opportunity to learn the skills and techniques of other artists. The South Bay Guild is rich with its own 'natural resources' -- artists who are prominent in the polymer clay world. We also invite a number of well-known artists to teach classes. Says Johnny, "I wanted to do the kinds of things they did, but to develop my own original style. So I stayed with it and learned all I could, and finally, I did!"

Click on images for larger picture

And learn he did! Johnny started making jewelry that immediately attracted notice -- etched and inlaid faux ivory, faux bone, and delightful ornate pieces with a flair that reflect his Greek and Middle Eastern heritage. The Bay Area Belly Dance Society of San Francisco caught wind of his jewelry, and Johnny was asked to sell at one of their shows.

Click on images for larger picture

The past two years have been significant ones for Johnny. In 2001 he attended the National Polymer Clay Guild's conference, aptly named "The Muse," in Philadelphia, and met more influential artists. He was elected president of the South Bay Guild. He attended HIA in Anaheim this past January, and charmed Lisa Pavelka and Donna Kato. Lisa took home several of Johnny's PolyPals, and has included him on the HIA photo page at her site, calling him, "the Incredible Johnny." Johnny has been asked to write an article for both Polymer Cafe and Expression Magazines, and his PolyPals creations are featured in and on the cover of Irene Dean's new book, Kids' Crafts: Polymer Clay.

Click on images for larger picture

In a recent message board discussion of men in polymer clay, Donna Kato had this to say: "Don't forget Johnny Kuborssy...I almost whomped him when I saw his first piece - it was so beautiful. But then I found out he made it for his wife and my heart melted. I call him one of our Hunks of Clay!

Click on images for larger picture

Though his PolyPals still hold a special place in his heart, Johnny now makes them by special request only, as he is now fully immersed in creating his amazing jewelry. He has a sketchbook full of drawings of future creations. Falling victim to the Silicon Valley employment slump, Johnny was recently laid off from his position as manager of a travel store. But, with his usual faith and optimism, Johnny is confident that another door will open soon. Meanwhile Johnny plans to use this time well and bring as many of those sketches in his bulging sketchbook to full fruition.

Click on images for larger picture

And what does Johnny have to say about his rise to prominence in the polymer clay world? "I'm now creating original pieces. What I'm trying to say here is that never give up, and always believe in yourself, no matter what. I finally found my niche!"

Click on images for larger picture

To see more of Johnny's beautiful work, visit his site at PolyPals.

Johnny plans to soon begin selling his creations on the online auction site, Just Beads. Be watching for him!