IMHO

In My Humble Opinion. Everyone is familiar with the expression, and most polymer clay people are familiar with the cyber-acronym, IMHO. Most of what follows is IMHO.

When someone suggested that I write an article about polymer clay and art, my first reaction was, “What do I have to say that would inform anyone--about polymer clay, or anything else, for that matter? I have only been doing this for a few short years, and I’ve been doing it mostly by the seat of my pants.”

Now, I DO know a few technical things about polymer clay, things I might say at a workshop or in a how-to article. But the truth is, just about everyone out there knows most of the same things. Many probably know more.

People sometimes get the mistaken notion that because you happen to create something they find interesting or pretty, you have information unavailable to them, or perhaps, unavailable to any mortal man. I am almost prepared to believe this may be true of some artists. A couple I have met hinted at having God’s home phone number. I can assure you, I DO NOT. And even if I did have the number, I would expect the line to be busy, or more likely, IMHO, God might be away on more important business.

So what DOES “inform my art”? (I was asked this recently on a submission form for an exhibit. I wasn't even sure what the question meant when I read it...) Although I struggled to come up with a more “informed” answer for that questionnaire, I will tell you the plain, and perhaps, disappointing truth about me:

My hands inform my art. I feel the clay and it speaks to my hands. My near-sighted, and now presbyopic, eyes inform my art. I see apples, clouds, snakes, mountains, ferns, shadows on the wall, hummingbirds, stones, rivers, and they speak to my eyes. The colors of clay speak to me, too. I get my information in the most ordinary way: through my senses.

Ah, but what, you might ask, do I do with this information? Get ready to be disappointed again.

I fart around with it.

I’ve been farting around since long before I ever heard of Kurt Vonnegut, but here is what he wrote in Timequake: “Listen: We are here on Earth to fart around. Don’t let anybody tell you any different!”

So, we have Kurt Vonnegut’s permission--and you have mine, if you needed it--to fart around. I am pretty sure that farting around--with clay, or whatever--is what I am supposed to do. Otherwise, why would God have made me such a good fart-arounder?

So, I open my eyes, I open my hands, and I fart around with polymer clay in every way I can think of. I cut it, I stretch it, I scratch it, I bend it, I roll it, I break it, I press it, I freeze it, I squeeze it, I rub it, I pull it, I push it, I bite it, I love it, I hate it. Farting around can LOOK like hard work. Once, I just took a big lump of clay, squeezed down hard until it took the shape of the inside of my hand and I baked it. My children will always know what my hand feels like, or at least they will know something about me that they could not have known in any other way. Perhaps they will pass it around at my funeral. "Boy, Dad sure knew how to fart around!"

Every once in awhile my eyes, my hands, and the clay pull off something nice, something that reminds me of something else, or something I’ve never seen before. In that moment, I have the feeling of having added my own little harmony note to the chorus of beauty we live in. It is a nice feeling, considering that most of what we humans, including me, add to the chorus is noise.

So, I agree with Mr. Vonnegut. We are here to fart around. I say it’s time to get busy.

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