“A technique is only a technique. It’s what one does with it that matters.”
Hello Kathleen! You have taught classes around the world, yet it seems that this class project is going to be quite different than the previous ones. Is there something that influenced your way of teaching?
One thing I’ve noticed over the years is the tendency for the polymer clay community to emphasize techniques over concept or design. The best work doesn’t just have some unique technique, but it says something in a well-designed way. There’s a little more design decision teaching now, but it’s far more difficult to teach and more long-term than teaching techniques quickly. I’m hoping in my short class to get a little designing in there too.
How would you describe your style of teaching?
When I teach, I will answer any questions people have. I have no secrets because I believe a technique is only a technique and it’s what one does with it that matters. Frankly, if an artist is good enough to do the same work I do, they will want to do their own ideas, not mine.
In your artwork, you also search for inspiration in different fields of art and design. Is there any book or source you would recommend?
One of my favorite books is “Steal Like An Artist”. And Picasso said, “All art is theft”. We should certainly have open eyes to what has gone before us in the art world. My work as well as other artists’ is usually a combination of inspiration from others, inspiration from what we see and feel in general, and all this is filtered through our own lives, experience, skill, and education. I feel my job as an artist is to “pay attention” to everything I see and experience in life, which certainly includes art and design.
Often, we can find unusual shapes in ceramics or furniture or unusual colors in textile design. So, of course, paying attention to other fields of art and design is valuable to me.
What does your typical day look like? And which part of the day do you really enjoy?
I actually have two times of the day I love. I enjoy the morning at 10:00 when I go into my studio. I anticipate the day ahead of me with excitement at interesting things to work on. I usually start by spending a little time in my sitting area in the sun looking out the window. But, I also love the late evening when most of my creative juices come out. The world around me is going to bed, there are no interruptions and I have all this quiet time to myself to work until I’m tired out.
When you look back, at your beginning of working with polymer clay, how has your style changed over those years?
As my expertise with polymer has increased, my style and concepts have changed. I have always, however, used a variety of styles and concepts, sometimes at the same time. As I said before, I try to pay attention to life around me, to the lives of other women, and to the stages of life I am traveling through. Recently, I began a “Gramma Series” in which I refer to the drawings of my grandchildren from ages 4 - 6 and then I make jewelry. I couldn’t have done that 40 years ago. I have a wide variety of techniques that I can use to realize the ideas of my grandchildren. My work has always changed and continues to change.
Speaking about techniques, which of them are your favorite? Do you still experiment with translucent clays?
I wouldn’t say I have favorite techniques, just techniques I often use to get my ideas across. I continue to enjoy the translucent layering I developed primarily because it shows a rich depth of surface, layers of designs, one over the other. Using this technique in an abstract way enables me to express the layers of life: joy and exuberance, prosperity and health, pain and suffering. Then when all of these are layered together, it makes something beautiful and life is beautiful.
Pain and suffering? Really?
People don’t know that I put pain into all of my abstract pieces symbolized by a red slash. What I’m saying in this abstract work is that none of us can escape pain in our lives and in fact, pain is what makes life beautiful. Having that red slash in the design adds something that makes the abstract design beautiful. It’s only a small part, but it is necessary.