“There seems to be an endless number of things you can do with polymer clay.”
American artist Melanie West is well-known for her typical organic design. Even she has tried a lot of different artistic mediums, she is still faithful to polymer clay, with whom she has traveled around the world to teach and inspire hundreds of clayers her own ideas. This is her story.
Melanie, you are famous mainly for your beautiful organic clean style. How did you come up with this style or have you created these organic designs since the beginning of your polymer clay career? Why do you still love organic style after so many years? How do you keep the inspiration for your creations flowing?
My fascination with organic design is founded on a lifetime of exploring nature. From long summers as a kid, on an isolated island in Maine with no TV or other distractions just nature, to living in the woods of New York State’s Hudson Highlands through high school, to studying Environmental Science in college. It’s who I am, and what I must do. But, I didn’t always know it. It took getting hit with a breakdown and being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, for me to stop and realize that perhaps it was time to be who and what I really am an artist (with ADD, and now, constant pain), who’s spirit thrives in nature with all her beauty and ugliness. After a couple of years learning how to work with polymer, I realized I was rather aimless in my direction, and I knew I had to start finding my own voice. So, I limited my “canvas” to the bangle form, and thought long and hard about what was important to me in life, not just in art and nature kept coming up. You know the saying do what you know and love. So, I went back to what I have always loved. I found memories of Limnology lab, drawing what I saw in the microscope, and memories of poking under the seaweed looking for crabs as a child. I remembered my Marine biology field trips, hauling in nets with sea creatures caught from hundreds of feet below the boat. The rest was a no-brainer.
Is there something that constantly surprises you about polymer clay?
There are several things that constantly surprise me about polymer. Most often it the diversity of the crazy stuff. There seems to be an endless number of things you can do with it and the ideas keep coming. I am also constantly amazed at how wonderful the polymer community can be (when we remember to be respectful and sharing not always easy). On the flip side, I am constantly amazed that polymer just can’t seem to get the respect, as an art medium, that it deserves yet. A lot of us are working, mostly individually, to “raise the bar” for folks who work in polymer, and educate others (gallery and museum staff, educators and academia, artists who work in other mediums, collectors, and so on) about just how amazing and diverse this material is and how it really can be a mature medium in it’s own right, not just shoved into the “mixed media” category.
Read the whole interview, buy the Polymer Week magazine (Autumn 2017)..
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