Monday, April 15, 2013

What I was "On My Mark" for, and "Get Set"

My last post was "On your mark", as I prepared for a very special 6 day polymer clay workshop I was attending.  I left home last Monday, April 8, at 5:30 a.m. heading for Racine, Wisconsin to spend 6 days learning about color theory, kaleidoscope caning, and intricate manipulation of said canes to create fabulous works of art pendants.

The instructor of this fabulous class was Carol Simmons.  The workshop, or retreat, was held at DeKoven Center, in Racine, Wisconsin.  I arrived around 10:00 a.m.; set up my supplies and materials for the workshop, met the other participants. and prepared to learn; following lunch, of course.  The reason I mention lunch, is because part of the fee for a retreat at DeKoven Center is FOOD.  We were provided with 3 complete meals a day, and they were extremely good.  They even went well above and beyond the call of duty to meet some of our special dietary requests.  
At our workshop, one student was a vegetarian and another was gluten intolerant and they met our needs at almost every meal (there was a mix up at one meal where the meat in the specially prepared dish was vegetarian and the noodles were gluten free, and in the other specially prepared dish, the meat was real meat and the noodles were regular noodles) so I can't say EVERY meal, but they were darn close and really went out of their way to provide for  us.  So, as you can plainly see, we had a great group of students with an even better teacher.  The people attending , besides myself, were Dee, Alex, Priscilla, Donna, and Marji.

Carol makes the most fabulous polymer clay kaleidoscope cane designs and pendants I have ever seen, and she offers a 6 day workshop called,  6-Day Kaleidoscope Pendant Intensive, and it certainly is intensive.

Carol also makes and teaches other classes, such as this one for creating artistic covered eggs.  For further information regarding the workshops offered by Carol and when and where they are being held, see  Carol Simmons Teaching Schedule.  
I am already fairly good at making polymer clay canes, and Carol wondered, out loud to me, as to why I was even taking this class.  I explained that I wasn't taking it for the construction process, but rather for the color knowledge and information I felt Carol could impart to me, as she does such beautiful work, her colors are rich and varied, and her cane work is so vivid and intricate.
As to the class itself, it was wonderful.  Very professionally presented; it was informative, educational, interesting, fun, and yes, intensive.  The room, where the workshop was held, was open for our use 24 hours a day.  Some of the group tended to be night owls and would work on their process and pieces until the very late night hours of midnight or so while I usually went to bed by 10 or 11 and was back in the classroom at 5 am most mornings.  Those who stayed up late often did not reappear downstairs until around breakfast at 9 am.  Most straggled in between 7 & 9 am.  It didn't matter, we could work whenever we felt like working on our own items.  During the day, Carol would usually be available between roughly 8 am and 8 pm and would have group instruction and demonstrations throughout the day, as they were needed, to move on to the next part of the process.  I am not going to go into great detail, as it's not my class, I'm not the instructor and you need to take the class to get the most out of it.  I will post some pictures of our class and the work we did, but strongly encourage anyone to take a class with Carol to really get an intensive look at color and how it works with polymer clay.  For a list of classes Carol will be teaching in 2013, check here:  Carol Simmons Workshop Schedule 2013.  
We all arrived with our own picture to work from and about 6 lbs of prepared clay in the color palette Carol had provided for us ahead of time.
We often worked as a group helping one another truly "see" the colors in our pictures (or in my case a shirt I wanted to use for color).  Carol would also walk around the room helping us individually or answering questions we might have as we worked through the process.  We had quite detailed discussion on how colors are perceived and how to reproduce those colors.  Some of them were quite a surprise.
For example, I used a shirt I really liked the colors of (a real surprise to me, as I rarely like the oranges, reds and yellows that were in this shirt, but I had seen it in a store and knew it was the one I wanted to use for this class).  At first glance we all agreed that the colors in the shirt were true or "full" colors and once released to start preparing clay in those colors I gleefully started mixing colors.  I was shocked and surprised to find my colors didn't match after all and after discussion with Carol and my classmates, we decided my colors were slightly muted and not "pure or full" colors after all, which changed my whole palette and was a wonderful learning experience for me.
We finally got to the point where we had our colors mixed and started preparing small, fairly simple canes to use within the major cane we were building.  At this point, I discovered another reason I needed this class.  I was having a horrible time and just kept making blended bullseye canes and blended plugs and setting them up to work with but wasn't making any progress and was feeling rather frustrated and disgruntled (remember, I already "know" how to make canes, LOL, so why was this so difficult for me?)  While working late one evening I mentioned my frustration (with myself) to another student and we started discussing it and realized that it was because I am a "whole to part" person.  I can work and reproduce almost anything, I cane flowers, butterflies, hummingbirds, sea horses, and I do it well.  I take the "whole" picture and can break it down into "parts" to make that picture or graphic.  The process we were using for this workshop was a "parts to whole" process.  We were not trying to reproduce our picture (or shirt in my case), but rather reproduce the colors and the "feel or flow" of the piece.  It was totally abstract and foreign to me (like learning a foreign language).  However; I persevered and just forced myself to do it, once I realized what my problem was.  So that was part #2 that I learned without even knowing I needed to learn it.
I slowly built my "parts" and was the second to last to actually begin putting the parts together to form the "whole" of my cane.  I was surprised to be "behind", as usually I am the over achiever who gets my polymer clay work done the most quickly and completely.  So that was a bit of an eye opener, also.  We finally got our canes ALL built, reduced them and had the great reveals, as we cut into the center of each of our canes.  There was much cheering and whooping and hollering as we revealed the cane we had created.  My cane turned out like this:

It was a complete surprise because of the way the canes were put together and once again, I learned some things about part to whole constructions and process, as I found some of the more intricate parts of my cane were in fact wasted effort and didn't look that good for this type of cane.  Here is a perfect example of the reaction of the students as their beautiful cane was revealed.

Alex's picture and cane:

Marji's picture and cane:

Priscilla's picture and cane:

Dee's picture and cane:

Donna's picture and cane:

Now, how we get from this cane to the completed pendant (only one of many, many possible combinations of parts of these canes) I will leave a mystery for Carol to explain and teach you when you chose to take a class with her, but here are some examples:
One other thing I learned, is how to properly sand and buff a piece to a high shine.  This was so exciting for me, as I have always hated sanding and buffing as being too hard/time consuming to be worth the effort.  Not anymore, Carol made a convert out of me.  Here is one example of one of the pieces I managed to finish in class:  (the shine doesn't show well in photos, but they look like glass, the finish is beautiful).  And, NO, I didn't make little teddy bears on purpose, that's just the way these particular slices aligned, which is part of the fun and excitement of Carol's method for producing Kaleidoscope Pendants.
Side 1
Side 2
Perhaps in a couple days I'll show a couple of the pendants produced in this class.  I can't show mine, yet, as one of them is going to be a gift to someone who reads my blog regularly, LOL.

I should stop here, but just can't resist telling about the only part of the retreat I, personally, was a bit uncomfortable with.  Although it is a beautiful historical site, with priceless antiques, I was rather uncomfortable with the accomodations.
It reminded me of something from Harry Potter and I kept expecting things to jump out at me or ghosts or somethings to go bump in the night.  There were no locks on the doors and many of them barely even closed tightly.  As anyone who knows me well, I am a bit odd about my sleeping and private facilities (which is why we own a fifth wheel in the first place, as I am not comfortable in many motel facilities).  I know it's a personal quirk, but I was very uncomfortable and between that and being apart from Mr. C, I didn't sleep much.  Average 3 hours sleep a night (not in one block of time) with 14 or more hours of claying per day, and I will just say I came home absolutely exhausted.
It gave me the feeling of being a nun in a convent or something, as I first looked into my room, with the old registers (still in use), sink in the room, small plain, barren rooms.

Old fashioned functional toilet facilities.

Restrooms "down the hall" or across from our rooms  (the restroom closest to my room didn't have hot water and had almost non existent water pressure).  With my personal quirk (read phobia) about public bathing facilities, it was a real bust as far as this subject.  I managed 2 very quick, luke warm (chilly) jump in, get wet, soap up, rinse and get out and into warm jammies as quickly as possible showers and for a person who happens to bathe daily, this just wasn't a happy situation.

The elevator was great, if you aren't afraid of elevators, LOL (my mom would have hated it).  It had an old fashioned grate/gate and door system.  Every time it would lurch to a stop, I'd stand there stupidly waiting for the "door" to open, but it was all manual, you had to pull back the grate/gate and open the door, each time.  Although I finally remembered whenever I reached the first floor, whenever I went to the second floor to go to my room I'd stupidly stand there waiting, EVERY TIME, LOL, and then I'd be glad I was alone, so nobody saw me waiting for the door each time.

There was also no way one could sneak up or down the stairs or down the hallways, as they were so squeaky even a teen wouldn't have been able to sneak out in the middle of the night, LOL.

The DeKoven Center was in a lovely location, though, right by Lake Michigan.  I sure wish it had been nicer weather so I could have taken a daily walk by the water.  It was cold and rainy (or a bit of snow) every day we were there, though.  I wonder if Carol ordered the weather specially so we wouldn't get distracted by the beauty of the locale.

This workshop was not all work and no play though.  I made some wonderful new friends (and a couple "old" friends, from previous workshops).  We went out to dinner one night as a group along with Alex's sweet husband Lars.  I'm afraid I can't tell you the name of the restaurant, as I've forgotten, but it was a very busy, popular restaurant, mainly pizza and Italian, although they did have a few other choices, also.

Priscilla took the time to teach us how to make the cutest little "clear gift boxes" out of Coke bottles.  They had to be Coke or Sprite products, though, as it was dependent on the shape of the bottle.  If you cut them a certain way, you can fold down the "cut out petals" into a closed top to the little gift box.  I am using one to give a gift this Thursday.  Thanks, Priscilla.
Open Gift Box

Filled and closed Gift Box with gift inside surrounded by shredded  paper.  

I did manage one quick chilly walk down by the lake, one day, to take in the whole DeKoven architecture and location.

Carol, hard at work.
 I was so busy with my polymer clay creation that I actually didn't take many pictures and even failed to take pictures of my own work table, which is unheard of for me.  I didn't even have any time for the computer or my beloved Kindle Fire.  We weren't tied to our chairs or anything, it was just so involved and we were so intense with the process that we didn't want to go do anything else.  Perhaps it would have been different, if the weather had been beautiful sunny days, but perhaps not?  So over all, I would consider the week a wonderful success, as I learned all I wanted to know and then some more.  I still have a lot of practicing and exploring to get it "right", but over all, it was a good experience.
I'm glad I went and my thanks to the following for
making it such a fun experience.





and there's even a picture of me, for once.

I arrived safely home on Sunday, late afternoon to see my Toad House Gnome proudly watching over some lovely spring flowers.

Mr. C and I spent today finalizing our packing and preparation for our next big adventure, so. . .
tomorrow we

We did have one sad thing to end this lovely week, though.  Our lovely blue mink Ragamuffin, Cuddles, had to be euthanized today because of Feline Infectious Peritonitis, so she will not be able to accompany us on our next great adventure.  I hope she is having her own great adventure and no longer has pain and trouble breathing as she did this past couple weeks.  She will be missed by us and our grand children.  
R.I.P Cuddles.  

Tomorrow we're "GO" on the road again, as we head towards the Texas Gulf Coast with a quick stop off to see our Daughter and family in LA and to drop off their snakes and mice.  
Good Bye, Umber and Grey Lady, and Queen Georgia, I hope you enjoy Louisiana.
I hope you'll come along on our next great adventure, as we explore the Texas Gulf Coast.  Until then. . . 
Keep SMILING!!!                           Smiles, Sue C

1 comment:

  1. So Cool, glad you were able to go and that you enjoyed the experience and most of all learned a lot. I love you! And will hold the fort down. Gail