An unsolicited copy of a new magazine appeared in my mailbox this weekend, and it has brought to the forefront an issue that I have been batting around for a few months. The focus of the magazine is on crafting with natural materials. I flipped through it and saw things like felt, wool, cotton, natural food colors (like, from beets), beeswax, etc. Not surprisingly there wasn’t an ounce of polymer clay to be found.
Even in the beading article, the words “choose natural materials wherever possible” appeared, essentially excluding the multitude of beautiful polymer beads available these days.
I guess I started considering the idea of natural living, conserving resources, using renewable materials wherever possible, when I started blogging more regularly this summer. I found myself reading blogs like Tiny Choices where the entire focus is on reducing your ecological footprint. I observed bloggers like Amy Karol write about ridding her home of plastic bowls and cups and buying her children handmade wooden and fabric toys. And while I am still choosing to drive my minivan over a small hybrid, and I have no intention of giving up my washing machine in favor of an old-fashioned washboard, I have been making some more ecologically-sound choices inspired by things I’ve read.
For one, we’re using exclusively cloth napkins around here now. The only paper napkins we ever use are the ones we’ve collected from take-out restaurants, who always put more than you need in the bag. Initially I started with the cloth napkins because it was an easy sewing project for a beginner. Now, though, I can’t imagine going back to the paper kind – the cloth ones are so soft and nice, particularly after they’ve been broken in.
I bring heavy canvas bags with me when I do my food shopping. I don’t know why it took me so long to do this – as it turns out, I like shopping with these bags infinitely more than the paper or plastic variety. There’s nothing more handy than slinging 4-6 tote bags over your shoulders to get the whole grocery load in the house in one trip!
At the moment, aside from what I’ve already mentioned, my actions aren’t drastically different than they ever have been. What has changed is my way of thinking. When I have needed new kitchen things lately, I’ve considered the materials carefully before buying. I’m phasing out the plastics and nonstick stuff, and replacing with glass or stoneware as the need arises. In thinking about Christmas gifts for the boys this year, I’ve found myself drawn more to handmade, classic, wooden objects and less to the ubiquitous Made in China plastic monstrosities that I wouldn’t have previously thought twice about putting on the shopping list.
Plastic is the enemy lately. And as drawn as I am to some of the more natural materials out there (particularly since discovering fabric, sewing, and crafty mom blogs earlier this year) I still am under the spell of polymer clay. Polymer clay, which, in the right hands, can be transformed into a wonderful, colorful work of art. Polymer clay, which has held my interest and taken over my house for the last twelve years. Polymer clay, which is, essentially plastic.
This is not a topic I’ve given much thought to until now, and to be completely honest, I don’t know how I feel about it. These days, I refuse to buy new plastic mixing bowls when I can have glass. I turn my nose up at plastic cups when I can drink out of glass. I don’t have any interest in buying plastic building blocks for the boys, when they could stack wooden blocks instead. But give up my polymer clay? Should that form of plastic be the enemy as well? And will I one day start to perceive it as such despite myself? And even if I remain confortable with it, will there cease to be a market for my creations once more and more people start to “go green” and adjust their attitudes towards plastic?
If you’ve read this far, I’d like to know your thoughts. Are you enamored with polymer clay? Are you feeling the pull to utilize more renewable resources in your daily life? How do you feel about using a material like polymer clay, and does it bother you that it does nothing to reduce your ecological footprint?
[Edited 11/14/07 to add: This topic just came up today on Polymer Clay Daily. Have a look.]