Posted on 39 Comments

Giddy anticipation

I’m getting excited for a class I am going to take next weekend in Philadelphia.  I just booked my room, so I can easily hang around for the guild meeting the following day, and I’ve been spending this morning drooling over reacquainting myself with some of Julie Picarello‘s work.

Most of the images that illustrate this post are from her flickr photostream.  Aren’t they interesting?  It’s a look that is very uniquely hers.  Anyone who knows polymer clay and is familiar with the various artists’ styles will recognize a Julie Picarello bead from a mile away.

I went through a phase a while back, where I was taking 2-3 workshops / year from well-known polymer artists, and while it was always a lot of fun, I eventually made the decision to scale back to one class (or less) per year.  There were a few reasons for this:

  • For one thing, these workshops are not cheap, and if a hotel stay is involved, it can turn into a $200-$300 weekend.
  • At this point, I have no real interest in drastically changing my body of work.  Any class that I take must involve techniques that will enhance what I already do, and fit well into my current way of doing things.

I won’t lie.  After last year’s big discussions on this blog about copyright and ownership, I’m somewhat gun shy about taking classes.  There are two questions that are always very much in my mind when I consider signing up for a workshop. Does this artist have the wrong idea about my artistic ethics? and Will I be able to use this technique in a way that personalizes it enough to incorporate in my work?

I have no real control over the answer to that first question, so I just have to hope that my reputation is intact.

The second question is really the more important one, and while I think that yes, yes I can make it my own, I’ve seen before that ownership is in the eye of the beholder.  This is just one of those things that I’m not going to know until I’ve taken the class and given the technique a try.

I’m eager to see what is involved in building patterns like hers (left), on structures like mine (right).  But if it ends up looking too much like a Julie Picarello pattern on a Lisa Clarke pendant, well, I just won’t sell it.

It’s happened before.  I took a fabulous class with Jana Roberts Benzon, made a really nifty cane to her specifications in my own color palette, used it on pieces in my own style, but in the end, I just couldn’t get over that it was clearly a JRB cane on Lisa Clarke pieces.  I ended up keeping them for myself and sharing with friends.  (BTW, if you like that JRB look, there is a video…)

Anyway, I’ve got lots of eager anticipation about Julie’s class. I’m getting excited about clay again, which is always a nice thing, when you consider my entire business is wrapped up in it (as is a good portion of my dining room and basement.  Heh.)


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Posted on 39 Comments

39 thoughts on “Giddy anticipation

  1. Have a wonderful time at your class! I’m envious! I understand completely about trying to get your own “twist” from what you’ve learned. And I do remember what went on last year! (IMO, it all got a little out of hand) I felt bad for you. I think classes are valuable just for the techniques and tricks learned that can be incorporated into your work. I loved my class from Jana…it was the “secret shape” inro. So fun and easily interpreted! And Lynne Ann had so many little tips in her class. I think some of Julie’s techniques will fit in well with your work…can’t wait to see the results!

    1. Yes, it did get a little out of hand. Thanks for your sympathy – I really appreciate it! But, I have to say, I probably brought a decent amount of that scrutiny upon myself. I could have just stuck to my guns in a quiet manner. In retrospect, the only regret I have about that whole business is the fact that I helped it become so, so public.

      Hindsight is 20/20, eh?

      I didn’t take the Secret Shape class from Jana, but I watched the video, and was completely surprised by the “secret.” Love it!

  2. I’m so jealous! I’d love to take a class with Julie, but the timing is off. Isn’t that always what happens?

    Anyhow, I hope you have a blast. =)

    1. Maybe she’ll be back in the Northeast again soon? I’m really eager to see what she has to share. I’ve always liked mokume gane, but the technique I have used in the past doesn’t really look like it belongs with my current “style.”

  3. Truly impressive work. Such great use of color. I wish I could but it all.

    1. Isn’t it? I bought a pair of blue & tan earrings from her at Synergy last year. I wear them all the time!

  4. Wow! That should be alot of fun for you to go to. She has some rad art work. Enjoy your trip!

    See what kashoan has been blogging about: Not much exciting going on here

  5. Wow, Julie’s stuff is *gorgeous*! She sure knows how to balance color. Hope you have a good time at the classes 🙂

  6. I wish you were in town today—the weather is lovely! I’ve heard some rumblings on a couple blogs of late about this issue and I understand and I don’t. I would hope the spirit of generosity and sharing would trump the need to corner the market on a technique. I guess I’m just looking at this as someone who hasn’t a clue what all goes into producing the lovely pieces you make and I only see you in what I’ve seen, yk? Ran into a similar kerfluffle in the knitting world a few years back…

    but never mind all that….hope you have a great workshop and a great time in the city!

    See what Heather has been blogging about: ugli

    1. Generally-speaking, I think there is a wonderful spirit of sharing in the online art/craft community. Those exceptions, though, are never fun!

      Your photography is absolutely beautiful, by the way!

  7. Have tons of fun in Philly. It is a great city. I was raised there, and if I was there now I would say lets have lunch, but you will have to eat yummy stuff without me:(

    I can’t wait to see what you come back with.

    On a different note do you ever see 2nds (you know ones that have little defects that maybe none of us could see but you do) of your work? I love your buttons, but can not seem to pick one that I want…. (I want more that my budget will let me have:) Just a question and by no means am I saying that you charge to much because you do not.

    Anyway what I am saying is I would love to buy a bag of seconds if you have some. Please let me know.

    1. I am about 2 hours north of Philly, so I get down there a few times a year for polymer clay guild-related things. I don’t usually spend any time seeing the sights, but maybe I should one of these days 🙂

      As for seconds… I do actually have some buttons where the holes didn’t drill as nicely as I’d like, and I struggle about what to do with them. They’re perfectly functional, and the chip around the hole would likely be hidden by thread or yarn when you sew the button on, but they look less than perfect just by themselves. When I get a chance to go through them, I may do some kind of “seconds grab bag” or something. I like that idea!

  8. what makes me sad about the whole copyright/death grip on “original” ideas is that to me, it stunts creativity and growth of the craft/technique in general(and i’m talking any craft here). if we’re not allowed to share– and then use– information, we’re back to everyone having to figure everything out themselves and then it might each individual much longer to come to the same conclusion on their own (cause if they came to it on their own, then it’s not copying so it’s ok, right)–*so they can then build on it*. it’s one of the things i hate about the craft/internet world, but i hate to get tangled up in it so i generally keep my mouth shut.

    anyway, i hope you enjoy your class and that you learn some new tricks.

    See what linda p has been blogging about: Hippity Hop

    1. i should clarify– i do love the amount of sharing on the internet.
      i hate some of the “hey you copied that from so and so” attacks.

      See what linda p has been blogging about: Hippity Hop

    2. I think the issue gets more “heated” when the people who feel copied are trying to make a living off of teaching their technique. I can certainly understand that point of view, as long as those people also realize that maybe they weren’t the first to come up with an idea.

      It’s crazy. I’m just glad it’s not something that comes up super frequently, or I’d probably just retreat to my own little bubble and make things in obscurity!

  9. Those *are* gorgeous, but they’re not in “Lisa” colors–I’m absolutely positive that any cool ideas from this class that you incorporate into your work will be 100% Lisafied by the time we see it in bead or pendant form. Go have fun!

    See what Penny has been blogging about: Don’t tempt me

    1. Thanks, Penny! You know, you have earrings using the Jana Roberts Benzon cane I was talking about. If these techniques don’t work out for me, there could be another pair in it for you 😉

      1. Y’know, I haven’t seen that pair around in a while, and I miss them, they’re absolutely lovely. Hmmmmmm…

  10. I so know what you mean Lisa! It is for that very reason that I haven’t taken any classes on polymer clay myself!

    See what Cindy Lietz, Polymer Clay Tutor has been blogging about: Mixed Media Jewelry Projects | Polymer Clay | Scrapbooking Supplies

    1. Really? If that’s the only thing holding you back, you really should reconsider. PC workshops are such a lot of fun, and the VAST majority of teachers are excited to see what you can do with their techniques.

      1. You are probably right Lisa. Since I do teach what I know, I do get a little nervous of being accused of stealing ideas. That is why I’ve steered clear so far. But maybe I am worrying for no reason.

        You must be very excited to be taking Julie’s workshop! She has such an amazing way with color and design!. I bet she is an amazing woman to be around!

        See what Cindy Lietz, Polymer Clay Tutor has been blogging about: Polymer Clay Blog – Quick Answers To Your Bead Making Questions

  11. You are going to have a blast Lisa! Julie is an awesome instructor and a nice crazy person. Munchie loves her!

    See what Kathi has been blogging about: “L’Chiam-To Life”

    1. I saw some of your pieces from her class in your flickr photostream – she must be a great teacher, because your things looked *just* like hers. I’m really looking forward to it!

      1. yeah…I think I used more of her colors then mine…or we both like the same colors. I can’t wait to see what your create!

        See what Kathi has been blogging about: “L’Chiam-To Life”

  12. I remember what went on last year after Synergy. At the time, my heart went out to you, Lisa, for you are such a kind and generous spirit who would never intentionally do anything to hurt anyone else. Of course, we cannot control or change the way that anyone perceives or reacts to what we do in a given situation. We only have control over our own selves. It is those types of experiences that do help us look at ourselves and what is truly important to us as artists and as human beings. In reading your blog for quite some time now, I have enjoyed seeing you grow tremendously into your own as an artist. What you said about being “gun shy” about taking workshops has resonated with me. Perhaps that explains my hesitancy these days (well, besides the expense!) about taking classes and workshops. I do want to learn but I don’t want to end up copying someone else’s work. I want to create work that is truly my own. That is why I believe that it might be a better idea when considering sharing techniques in a formal teaching format to adjust your curriculum in a way that promotes and encourages individual creativity in your students rather than creating a carbon copy of a teacher’s work in the form of a completed project from the class.
    Whew, all that said 🙂 have a fabulous time at the workshop, surrounded by color and clay and creative kindred spirits!

    See what Karen has been blogging about: Studio Wednesday – Art Projects

    1. Thank you, Karen, that is so sweet.

      I look at workshops the same way I look at books & videos – the techniques I pick up are absorbed into my brain, where they slosh around with other techniques I’ve already learned, until something unique pops out 🙂

  13. Cool when you do please let me know I WANT them!!!! 🙂

  14. Greetings Lisa! I saw your blog entry and wanted to share my 2 cents, and hopefully alleviate any concerns as well. In the 4.5 years I’ve been working with polymer, I’ve taken workshops with Julia Sober, Kathleen, Maggie, Seth, Dan etc. Julia’s had a big impact on me because it opened my eyes to the possibility of melding my love of metalsmithing with clay…a big “duh!” moment. But I’m almost embarrassed to say that while I truly enjoyed the other workshops, what I brought away from them were not techniques so much as tips. Simple things like a quick & easy skinner blend, minimizing plaquing…even running your clay along the edge of the PM to keep it straight. As much as I enjoyed meeting the artists and attending their workshops, I did not come away with a desire to emulate them.

    I had a completely different reaction when I watched Victoria Hughes’ Mokume Gane video. In fact, I’ve never watched the entire video, because partway through I jumped up and ran to my workbench…and never looked back. I found myself working through her process over and over, discarding steps and adding others. I had constant “what if” ideas that led me in all sorts of directions. I still do! But the bottom line is that when I first started, I did my best to copy what Tory showed me. How else to learn?

    And that is what I tell my students…if they fall in love with my process the way I did with when I watched that video, they will start out copying me just like I did with Tory. My hope is that they will encounter their own “what if?” moments and ultimately follow their own unique paths. Not because I am worried about people copying my work, but because they will find that is when the true joy and satisfaction happens.

    And if a student doesn’t fall in love with the process? My goal is that they walk away with tips & tricks that make the workshop worthwhile!

    See you soon!
    – Julie

    1. Mm, yes, I had that same experience in most of the classes I’ve taken – finding them valuable more for the experience of seeing how the artist works, than for the actual class material. Not that there’s anything wrong with that 🙂 I am thankful for a Donna Kato cuff-bracelet workshop for sparking ideas that eventually led to me to making a very successful line of tile pendants. And we never even discussed necklaces in that class!

      Thanks for commenting, Julie, it’s nice to hear from you! I appreciate you adding your two cents. I really do think that any reasonable teacher is going to expect a student to copy at first, and then take it in a new direction. Conversely, any reasonable student is going to want to play with a technique long enough to inject some of their own style into it.

      I’m looking forward to next weekend!

  15. After the mess last year, I can certainly understand being gun shy. I believe you’ll have fewer problems now – nothing like experience as a teacher – as you’ve done thinking and solidified your positions.

    See what Elaine has been blogging about: Easter Egg Hunt

  16. Hey Lisa – a great post and some really interesting comments particularly those of Julie.

    I have been a great fan of mokume gane and obviously Julie for many years and have as yet never taken any such workshop. It is inevitable however that my designs will have some connection to Julie’s as they are a version of that technique. Just in the same way as me using my clay gun to produce mosaic like canes will resemble the tuto in Donna Kato’s book….

    I was fortunate enough to spend an entire weekend with Julie this February at the IPCA exec board meeting in Ohio. Just being in Julie’s company, listening to her talk and touching her work was inspiration enough. I’m back home now and working on a new range which I have decided to call “Samurai”. It has elements of Julie plus my own twist but I do feel that it is me rather than her….. and I still haven’ taken her workshop..

    So – enjoy the time you have with Julie and share in the beauty of creation.
    Julie is at last coming to France in October for the Euro Clay Carnival France event – and I have even managed to secure her time again for March 2010! At last I may just get around to taking one of her workshops….and by then who knows….my designs may be so distinct that people may so is that Lunes or Picarello….I can dream…..

    See what Kylee has been blogging about: Did I mention naked lovers & polymer clay?

    1. Hi, Kylee 🙂 I agree! There are going to be similarities from one artist’s work to another, simply by virtue of the fact that we are all using the same material, and many of us are using techniques that are very similar to each others, even if we learned them independently. That’s just the nature of it.

      Clay Carnival France sounds exciting! Have you had a local event like that before?

  17. Wow, this is coincidence! I LOVE Julie’s work — I found out about her only last week! Her colors are amazing. I spent the whole weekend just mixing colors and practicing with her palettes. I thought I’d make a necklace mimicing one of her’s, just to play with the technique, but I ended up making an entirely different kind of necklace, and inventing a new tool to help me make disc beads.

    Anyhow, I would love to take Julie’s class. I might have to make a trip back up to Baltimore to take her class at the Artway!

    See what deirdre has been blogging about: weekend jewelry making

  18. Lisa, what a coincidence! Julie is teaching at our local guild in a couple of weeks. I’m so looking forward to taking her class too! Hopefully I’ll have some decent pictures to share. 🙂


    See what tejae has been blogging about: Inspired Countdown – Class Supplies

  19. […] you can probably tell from my pictures, I really enjoyed the Julie Picarello class.  I loved the technique, and I loved the pace of the class.  I tend to work quickly, so I always […]

  20. Lisa,
    I was reading this post today, and having all these thoughts come back again about the whole copying/copyright/etc. issue. I’ve had apprehensions about ordering more pc instructional dvds or buying a pc tutorial on etsy for the mere fact that if I were to use these techniques that someone might say, “Oh look, that looks JUST LIKE so-and-so’s..”

    I’m not one who wants to copy (unless it is to understand the technique, initially), and I like making things my own. I think as artists we all strive to make things which speak from our own heart.

    If we use someone’s technique, are we to contact them and say, “Here is what I’ve made…I’ve been inspired by you…is it all right if I sell these at a crafts fair?” Is that going too far? I always worry about something coming back and biting me in the you-know-what.

    At the same time I can see where you really want to create your own style/vision so that if you really DO make a name for yourself, it’s not in the “style” of someone else. Know what I mean? I remember a gal who took a clay (not polymer) class from a well-known ceramist. Her work after that had so much of this gal’s technique. Even though she made things which were her own and not copying her exactly, I still saw the other ceramist’s style every single time I saw her work. It just bugged me to no end.

    Well, enough on that for now. Have to go buy some sale clay!

    Have a great day!


    1. How funny – I was just reading this post yesterday, too!

      You know, the more time that passes between me and my own bad experience, the less I care. It’s taking me a long time to get there, I’ll admit, because despite the fact that I am confident I did nothing wrong, I know that there are still a handful of A-list polymer clay artists out there who question my ethics. It’s hard not to care about their opinions. But I’m starting to let it go. No point in letting the misguided thoughts of a handful of people eat me up inside.

      The way I see it, if you really want to make a technique your own, then you’re already worlds ahead of people who blatantly copy for profit. Contacting an artist at that point to say “see how you inspired me?” or “look at what I did with what you taught me” is a nice thing to do, but asking their permission to sell your work is really unnecessary. Most reasonable teachers will say that once they’ve put a technique out there, it’s yours to use however you like. (It isn’t yours to teach other people, necessarily, but selling the finished product should not be an issue, especially if you are driven to put your own spin on it.)

      Anyway, it’s a thorny issue. Sounds like you and I are on the same page, though! I wouldn’t be hesitant to watch DVDs or read books – the inspiration they provide can be so valuable to helping you find your own voice, I think. That’s how it’s always worked for me, anyway!

      1. Wow, Lisa, a real thorny issue! I only got through a portion of the comments on that other post. Sheesh!

        I seriously do not think I would feel the need to contact an artist for “permission” to sell something using their techniques. I like the person who talked of Christi Friesen’s statement about being free to sell pieces using her techniques or projects, but just wanting to change the piece enough to make it your own (or credit the artist for inspiration).

        Then again, who is to say that the person who came up with a technique is the very first one to do so? Creative individuals can come up with very, very similar ideas on their own while being worlds apart. I think it is the nature of working with any medium.

        I’ve had to question myself after writing about that ceramics gal whose work showed a lot of the artist she learned from. I don’t know where my feelings are stemming from. Maybe the fact that we both were in ceramics class and she ended up showing and selling more work than me on a consistent basis after college…and my feeling that that should have been me. Funny stuff, isn’t it. But, I always enjoy self-analyzing and figuring out why I’m behaving the way I do!

        To end this ramble, I love it when people share ideas and techniques. I hate when people become watchdogs and start being snippy about things. I do hope we can all “get along” and keep making art! It’s one of the few joys of life!


        1. Agreed! I know that I have become way less “serious” about all of this art/craft-making stuff in the last few years. Art materials are for having fun and for self-expression, so why take all of the enjoyment out of it by being so watchdoggy?


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