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Artist's Statement

From a young age, I was compelled to express myself, to express those emotions one gets when they see something beautiful, something dramatic or something emotional. I create in many different ways: with the written word (poetry); with music (piano); and by using different materials, from paints to polymer clay to paper to plants. Of all those expressive outlets, creating objects of art is what I love best. In addition to creating art pieces for walls, I really enjoy taking an item from our everyday life and transforming it into functional art. Working with polymer clay has given me that ability.

For me, visual art is seeing beyond the flat surface of the visual object, to those nuances of ideas and emotions that cannot be expressed with words. I feel hints of the deepest mysteries of the universe and have an unshakeable sense of the unseen-that-needs-to-be-seen. My goal is to somehow find the way to bring that to the surface and incorporate it into a work of art.

The best art, I think, is when we take all the works of art we have been exposed to, and mix it together with everything else we have ever seen, then, within us, something transforms, so that we produce something completely new. Then, if we do it well, it is striking, beautiful and original. I create art like I cook. I read the recipe, throw it away and then go do my own thing. I begin a piece by sometimes having definite idea, sometimes only a glimmer. If it's a definite idea, I sketch it out. Sometimes I use the computer to test color and shape ideas. If it's only a glimmer I have, I just sit down and play.

My favorite tools have always been my hands. Even when I was a beginning oil painter, I used my fingers to blend, more often that not. Now, working with polymer clay, the hands are absolutely the most important tool. I find this rather ironic, because polymer clay artists usually equip their studio with many, many more tools than most artists use for classic painting.

The art pieces I've made that gratify me the most are when I've used minimal designs, with the result being visually powerful. I consider a work as turning out well when I like it, first, and then get the same reactions and feedback from others. When people see my work, I'd like them to see it with their own interpretation, their own reasons for appreciating it, which might be quite different from my own.

I always try to use colors as they are found occurring in the natural world, especially of plants, rocks and water. Texture and patterns fascinate me, especially considering that many patterns we use in modern decoration are actually derived from ancient sources. I tend to work with contrasts, such as a textured stone-like surface juxtaposed against shiny, metallic surfaces. I like to create the unexpected in some of my work by adding surprises, subtle whimsy, and fun elements. Many of my paintings from my early years had almost-hidden fantasy creatures in them.

I strive for beauty first and drama second. Physical beauty as found in nature, including the color, texture and light, is important to my work. I try to express the sense of those things, rather than replicate it, as seen by the eyes. In recent years, I am drawn increasingly by the concept of the different aspects of humanity that are beautiful - not physical beauty, but the beauty-behind-the-physical.

When my work is going well, I have an awareness of complete fulfillment in the moment. It is an authentic be-here-now sense of now, with no thought of what was before or next, just what is. Of course, I experience major chunks of time-loss when this happens, as many artists do. I know a piece is done when I 'feel' like I'm doing too much. If I think it needs something else, I ask myself why and just how important it would be.

I love watching a creation unveil itself as it nears completion. I can go into a deep state of zen meditation while making adjustments, to add the just the right touch. I am always surprised to discover that what I made is, while at the same time what I pictured, it is also completely unexpected. Frequently I am amazed that I created it, at all. It is from this gratitude for my ability that drives me forward to always learn and do more.

Artist's Artistic Biography

The below write-up is a bit lengthy, but I wanted to include some stories from my life as an artist that many people find interesting. I don't think about it a lot, but when I start to tell stories about some of my experiences in life, I realize how fortunate I am to have had them. I realize my life has not been boring and has been enriched by many wonderful, talented and colorful characters. I also realize that many of you will not read it, which doesn't bother me a whit. It is only here for those that feel so inclined.

When I was 14, I received a year of art lessons for Christmas, under a wonderful artist who taught very small groups. Her name was Mary Westfall. We lived in Juneau, Alaska then, and, with the gorgeous scenery, there were many budding and full-fledged artists. The next year, I received another year. Mary insisted that her students learn to work with many different mediums including pencil and charcoal, pastels, watercolors and oil paints (acrylic paints didn't exist then). By the end of high school, I had also taken art classes there, where I learned basic pottery and sculpting.

For the next decade,? I worked in oil paints, and experimented a little with the new acrylic paints, as well. I was not fond of the acrylics at first. They dried too fast for someone used to working with oil paint, which allowed a longer working time to "get it right". Fortunately, the acrylic paint makers developed retarding medium and flow mediums that helped in the transition.

When I initially started painting, it seemed to me that the goal of becoming an excellent painter was to attempt to recreate, as closely as possible, the scene or object painted. I tended to use my oil paints very thinned, almost like watercolors. In my mind, the closer to a photograph one could get, the better the artist. I knew how to paint and mix colors, but I didn't really understand art as a whole. I was doing well with composition, light and color, but only from the aspect of a painter. I wouldn't learn about the concepts of texture, form and intricate designs until many years later.

My subject matter was predominantly scenery, especially scenes with mountains and water. I did many sunset and twilight paintings, being drawn to that lighting. Being the daughter of a sea captain, I also took a stab at some paintings with ships in them.

My artistic idol at the time was Herb Bonnet, whose Alaskan art is known world-wide. He also happened to be a good friend of my father's, so we spent a lot of time together. I tried to emulate his work (I was young...), which includes many fantastic scenes of ships and boats in Alaskan waters. I decided to paint a picture of the Carthaginian, the sailing brig that starred in the movie, Hawaii, in full sail on the open sea, at twilight. I was very proud of that painting and Herb and my father acknowledged it was pretty good, too. Except for one thing. Dad reached out and pointed at the ship's bow and said, "It's great, Pat, except when ships are sailing, they usually don't have their anchor line down." Yes, I had painted a rope line going down into the water off the bow.

That painting disappeared in a mysterious way during the 1970's, when some people were transporting it for me. It could be anywhere, but I hope whoever has it, enjoys it, anchor line and all. I moved on from painting ships after that, and focused on mountains. In the early years, I gave most of my paintings away. One I did, of a man climbing a mountain in a storm, I gave to Ray Genet, the well-known mountaineer from Talkeetna, Alaska. Ray's company, Genet Expeditions, guided people up Mt. McKinley (Denali). Ray died on Mt. Everest in 1979, but after he had made it to the summit of K2. The world lost one of its most colorful characters that day.

I would hope that the "Man on the Mountain" painting is still there, in Talkeetna, however I now know it is doubtful. Years later, I discovered something really sad about my early oil paintings. Mary Westfall had taught us that we didn't need to buy expensive turpentine and linseed oil. In her opinion, the same products purchased from the hardware store worked just fine. I don't know if she gave this advice to novices, so they wouldn't spend a lot of money on supplies while they were learning, or if she just didn't know. I do know that what she probably used in her studio was artist grade turpentine and linseed oil. I know this because the paintings I did while in her studio are all as as true in color as the day I finished them. The paintings I did on my own have all yellowed badly. It looks especially bad on one I did that was an arctic scene. I expect that "Man on the Mountain" has become equally yellowed.

During the 1980's, we bought our first home. Even though I was still painting, it was not frequent. I didn't realize until years later that my art had turned to a new medium - gardening. I became intensely interested in horticulture, not just about growing plants, but creating a thing of beauty in the process. During this time, I became a go-to person, helping others with their garden design and installation. Every year, I kept ripping up larger and larger areas of my yard, to start with a fresh canvas for the season. In 1993, I finally designed and installed a permanent landscape in my front yard that is a small Japanese styled garden, complete with koi pond. It was at that point, after it was finished, that I realized my garden had replaced my painting. I also realized that the artist in me was alive and well.

I acquired my first computer in 1989. Soon I started to use it to computer graphics and layout for many different purposes. Unfortunately, I started out on a PC, instead of a Mac, and I was always trying to make it do Mac things. I took a seminar in desktop published and became a font junkie. Fonts and white spacve are the artistic side of creating a well-design page layout. I started doing freelance graphic design and desktop publishing, constantly upgrading computer and software as soon as it became available. CorelDraw and Adobe Photoshop were my mainstays. I did everything from custom labels for a beauty salon owner, for her own line of skin care, to logos, to newsletters and signs. In the mid 1990's we ran a business in a remote area of Alaska (a lodge with a restaurant and bar) and I had to become my own print shop. I designed our logo, set it up to put on T's,. sweatshirts and cups, created the menus for the restaurant, made signs for the business and special events we sponsored, created the layout of all the forms we used in the business, and more.

In 2000, I discovered that I was really missing old-fashioned hands-on art. I dusted off my paints and started "messing around". I had been doing decorative painting on terra cotta pots, mailboxes and florist tins for a few years, but that was not enough. For me, it just lacked something that my artist-inside was looking for.

I began studying and updating myself on new art mediums and different styles of art. I became fascinated with collage and hand-made papers. In the course of planning some pieces, I read about using polymer clay to create 3-D effects to embellish the pieces with. So, I bought a few packages of the clay and began working with it. I wasn't exactly sure what to do with it, so began searching the internet and, what an eye-opener! When I saw all the different applications and ways artists used it, I was mesmerized.

One of the things that caught my attention, right from the beginning, were the eggs covered in designs made from polymer clay. In my early painting years, I had purchased acrylic paints to try, and as I mentioned before, was not fond of using them for paintings. What I did instead was start using them every year to paint Easter eggs. I did this for several years in a row and again when I had my own children. I painted them with everything from faux Ukrainian Pysanky designs, to scenery with mountains, to flowers. Unfortunately, I didn't do them to be saveable. I usually just did them on boiled eggs, as extra Easter decorations and they had to be tossed. The few times I did them on blown egg shells, they ended up cracked and broken.

The egg has always been one of my favorite things to create art on. One year I created some really different, vivid colors from cake decorator's dye and used torn tape to mask off areas - similar to the batik/pysanky method but using tape instead of wax. Another year, I helped Girl Scout troop make natural dyes from onion skins, beets, blueberries, etc. We colored several dozen eggs for Easter with the dyes and they were lovely. It isn't surprising that covered eggs were my first polymer clay project.

So, when I saw the polymer clay covered eggs, I thought, "I have to try that!" So that was the beginning of the plunge into probably the most intense learning periods of my life. On the surface, it looked like it should be very easy to learn the various techniques. I've never been more wrong about something. It took hours and weeks of practice to "get the feel" of the clay, to learn to mix its colors (which is time consuming), to get to know the different brands. The work in finishing an item, to get a glass-like depth, is time consuming and labor intensive.

Learning how to make canes meant learning to think in 3D - to see a picture in your mind, break it down into shape components, then extrude those components a few inches and put it all together. I became a cane enthusiast almost immediately. It seemed as if it could be an easy way to make a design to quickly cover eggs and other items with. However, one learns soon enough when working with polymer clay, that to make a cane that is really extraordinary involves days, sometimes weeks, of work. Still, the results that are reaped cannot be accomplished using any other art material. The look is truly most unique.

Simultaneously, I was also gaining an intense interest in art designs from ancient cultures. I had been spending time in Arizona and was exposed to the designs of the Southwest, that had been around for centuries from the first peoples there. Another art facet I was coming to appreciate, to an increasingly greater degree was, texture. I had already worked with this concept in my garden, using different plants to create visual texture contrasts and interest. Polymer clay is the perfect medium to explore the application of texture, in unexpected ways, to an art piece.

I found myself consumed by the unending possibilities of polymer clay. In 2004, I developed a line of "little things" that I sold, for other creative people, to use in embellishing their own projects. Though these embellishments were targeted for people creating "altered art", they were also welcomed by those people doing collage-style scrapbooking. I developed several different themes. For a short time, I did seasonal themes, but decided they were not a good fit to my line, so dropped them. I chose two different colored Asian themes, a Kokopelli theme, an Ocean theme, an Ancient Art theme and a Woman theme. In this way I was able to immerse myself in learning the art of these cultures and time periods.

In addition to creating the embellishing items, I also learned how to make beads, and, also, jewelry to use those beads. I started covering different kinds of glass objects, including special glassware and vases. In 2005, I created a very special vase to honor all the souls that had been taken by the sea in the 2004 Asian Tsunami, which I sold on eBay for a goodly sum and the proceeds went to a major charity for the cause.

In 2007, I decided to retire my embellishments lines. I wanted to make more sculptured glassware, bottles and vases and special art beads. Especially, I wanted to make many more art eggs, using one of nature's perfect forms as my canvas.

In 2011, I finally realized a dream I had pursued for many years. I had saved enough money to invest in a small kiln and the start-up tools to work with precious and base metal clays: PMC silver clay, copper clay, bronze clay and steel clay. I had hoped it would be an easy learning curve, because of my polymer clay work and also assumed I had most of the tools needed already. I was, of course, wrong on both counts. I had the tools to work with metal clay, but needed many more for proper finishing. Working with metal clays was very different than polymer clay. It's expensive, so you make mostly jewelry or other small items, and work with very tiny detail. Also, unlike polymer clay, which almost never dries and hardens until you cure it, metal clays dry fast and, so, you have to work fast. Additionally, I've had to learn a thing or two about metallurgy, which was something I didn't intend when I embarked on this course.

Because we were also doing some big house remodel projects, it took me a few months to really get going. I slowly collected the tools I needed, then completely rearranged my work studio, to make more stations to work at. In 2012, I finally got into the swing of metal clay work. Though still novice, I'm very pleased with what I'm making. It's pretty exciting to make something out of dried clay that turns into pure fine silver, after kiln firing!

This artistic biography is a tale of one artist's journey. It is a journey that is far from done. It is true what they say: The more you know, the more you know that you don't know enough. And so, the journey continues.