PC, but not too PC
A column about issues and events in the polymer clay community
by Tommie Howell

Since this is the first issue of the publication and since many people may not have a clue as to who I am (amazing isn't it?), I will try not to rock anyone's boat too much. Usually when I make a claim like that, it means it's time to put on the life jacket and hold onto the railing for dear life. We will see if that is the case this month.

One thing that I have found about the people involved in the general polymer clay community is that we are a pretty decent bunch of folks. Sure there are a few snobs and a few looneys running around, but the vast majority of us are pretty straight-on individuals. A bit quirky probably; however, what creative person worth an account at the local craft store isn't? Having said that, I have come up with some suggestions concerning how to remain one of those straight-on but quirky creative types.

Keep in Shape

Now by keeping in shape, I don't mean going to the gym or making sure you maintain the strength to condition that seven-year-old block of Fimo that you simply can't throw out. I mean don't get bent out of shape.

Creative people are often sensitive creatures. It is easy to let a minor squabble over some perceived offense turn into a major battle. Usually one can talk these things out and everyone can go on their merry way. Believe it or not, that is the case. Carrying a grudge against other folks in the medium will, in the long run, only serve to stifle your own creativity. We all know you were right and they were wrong, so bask in that knowledge and get over it.

If You Teach It . . . Let It Go

Teaching is a wonderful thing. I am happy we have so many caring and sharing instructors in our midst. Sometimes, though, from the netherworld of cyberspace, I hear the rumblings of heartache. Those rumblings have to do with folks getting mad because someone is creating something that looks an awful lot like so-and-so's doodads. Usually these are items produced by someone who either took a class or read an article about how to do it. Once that knowledge has been released, it is impossible to corral it. So why get all grumpy about it?

I have to clarify here: it's not, most often, the teachers doing the grumbling. It is good intentioned third parties trying to look out for the teachers' best interest. But if we all recognize that people take lessons and buy magazines with "how-to" articles included, all with the intent of actually being able to put those skills to use, we will have saved everyone a lot of grief. Smart teachers don't tell their secrets until they are ready to part with them but don't make photocopies of the handouts or we will have you spanked!

Hey! I Can(t) Make That!

Often on e-Bay I see little polymer clay creations that are very nicely done, reasonably priced, and illegal as old billy hell. Pokemon, Disney, Hello Kitty: it's all been there at some point. While I like to give the benefit of the doubt, I don't think many people who are selling figurines for $7.50 on an auction site have paid $50,000 in licensing fees to do so.

It is very tempting to want to make these cute little guys, and the recent Disney-inspired Hot of the Press book hasn't helped any. While you can make the projects featured in the book, you can't distribute them in any way. It may seem a minor thing to sell one of these things for small change or even to give it away, but the fact remains that even theft of a dime is theft. Even theft from a multi-million dollar conglomerate is theft. And distributing non-licensed works is theft on a federal scale. We are all creators; we don't need to cheapen our work by taking it from one another.

I will add a caveat to this one. While there are books like the Disney HOTP book, which explicitly states in the book that you are NOT to use the projects for anything but your own private education and amusement (so don't you try to sell a Tigger!), there are other, less restrictive, kinds of how-to books.

At this end of the spectrum is an amazing artist, Katherine Dewey. Her book, Creating Life-like Animals in Polymer Clay, invites you to do as you will with the creations you make. Techniques and figures are also included in her permission. However, until all authors and artists are as giving as she, be very careful what you gleen.

Don't Drown!

I am quite sure that everyone has heard the little joke about the person who had his nose so high in the air that he nearly drowned everytime it rained. My irritation level always rises when the elitism begins. Artists are better than crafters, new professionals know more than decades-long hobbyists, there are a finite number of masters ... it goes on and on.

What a load of malarky. I know it is a brick wall (there are lots of dents in it though from the impact of my head), but creation should not be about being in the right club or having gotten started when Bathsheba was a cheerleader. Yes, we work to become better. Yes, we can learn from others. Yes, we give credit where it is due. None of us, however, are immune from falling off pedestals. Conversely, none of us are limited to what we were yesterday or are today.

And that is it for this month from your curmudgeon in the great Northwest.

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