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Polymer Clay Polyzine

Copyright 2000-2004
Raleigh, NC
ISSN 1534-1038
All Rights Reserved.

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Hands On Sculpting:
The Talent of Dottie Erdmann

By Jeannie Havel
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Thirty year ago, Dottie Erdmann walked out of a small art store with a box of polymer clay, some armature wire, and what she thought was a sculpting tool. Her intentions were much like many other women who find themselves with hoping to fill their quiet hours with a creative pursuit. It’s difficult to imagine that Dottie could find any quiet hours in a house with five young daughters and a husband who traveled. But that’s the magic of polymer clay – it drove Dottie to make time for a collection of small figurines she hoped to make for herself.  

Dottie ErdmannToday, Dottie’s polymer clay “idea” has blossomed into what she calls a “three-decade reality.” Long gone is the day she first naively wrapped clay around twisted armature wire. It was then she believed she had no real talent for sculpting. But Dottie persevered and despite frustration, she began to see indications of figures beginning to emerge. She recognized the autobiographical nature of her work; skinny bodies on which clothing gapped and hung, with narrow feet that had always worn brown Thom McCann lace-up oxfords.

Dottie Erdmann Figurine - GirlAs Dottie continued to create, she incorporated features of children she had known growing up, boys with too-large ears and girls with bows in their hair. Her detailed figures could tell a story of Dottie’s early life and she considered them her newly created family. She even names some of the boy figurines after her brothers.

Eight or nine months passed and an artists friend of Dottie’s encouraged her to show her work to Flavia, who was climbing the ladder of fame in the greeting card genre. Flavia’s positive reaction not only enlightened Dottie, but provided the first sales of her figurines in Flavia’s San Pedro, California shop. Dottie’s success continued as her work was accepted into the Disneyland Art Gallery. What had started as a quest for a personal collection of small polymer clay figurines led Dottie to a very special moment in her career. She and her figurines appeared with “Mr. Rogers” in his TV Neighborhood in Pittsburgh.

Hands On Sculpting BookAs Dottie began participating in outdoor art shows, she found herself fielding many questions about her sculpting process. This led her eventually to write a book. “Hands On Sculpting,” says Dottie, “is a fundamental book on sculpting and containing many ‘get off the ground’ projects from simple to advanced.

Dottie says most of her work now is custom orders for proud parents and grandparents who place special orders for figurines resembling a special child in their life. Dottie accommodates them with custom hair colors and even an occasional baseball uniform.

Dottie Erdmann's KidsWhen you visit Dottie’s website, you will see both her “kids” and examples of her exceptionally detailed sculptures. There is also a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section explaining how to order Dottie’s work for yourself as or as gift. She says, “Walking into that art store 30 years ago was such a lucky happenstance! All those kids I've made! All those parents I've met! I've loved every minute of it.” 

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Publisher’s Note: I asked Dottie if there was anything in particular that stands out with her about the work she does with polymer clay. She says, “There are two points that stand out with me. One, I didn't know how to sculpt when I bought that clay! But by having a fierce desire I stuck with it and  came up with a unique figure in the end. Also, that it's important to be emotionally attached to what you're creating, and inspiration can be right under your nose, or feet.”

See more of Dottie Erdmann's work at: http://www.dottieerdmann.com.