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MARK SAWICKI

Your Company Name: Biztoon
Email Address/Web Page: biztoon@yahoo.com
   http://art-tek.com
City & State: Stevenson Ranch, CA
Type of Craft: Polymer clay sculptor

Tell us in your own words, how you discovered polymer clay and how long have you been using it?

I first discovered the clay in the 70s when I was actively engaged in stop motion animation. It was great for me in that I could make hard props and set pieces directly with the clay and only needed a home oven to set them. It saved untold hours of working with plaster molds or ceramic clay that, of course, need a kiln.

Are there any special artists that you can attribute your interest to or that have inspired you?

My main inspiration comes from stop motion artist Ray Harryhausen whose fantasy films have thrilled generations of fans. In the Polymer clay world I admire Maureen Carlson and Katherine Dewey. I am very impressed with not only their art but their impressive business achievements. I think Ms. Dewey publishing her own book is a tremendous acomplishment. Another gal I admire greatly is Klew, who, I notice, also has an interview on this site. I visit her place in Tehachapi from time to time and I think it is fabulous. I have learned a great deal from her Polymer jewelry discipline. I greatly admire these women who have transformed this clay into art and independence for themselves.

What is your specialty?

I wear many hats in my field of work. I make my living as a cameraman, animator, artist and occasional actor. Since the traditional world of animation has been taken over by computer graphics I have chosen to keep the traditional skills alive by creating clay characters and placing them in real environments using forced perspective photography. The digital prints become more affordable than the original sculptures and lend themselves to limited edition print runs easier than the manufacture of figurines.

Can you tell us why you find polymer clay the expressive medium for you?

It's the directness. The clay is not as encumbered by technique as is ceramic clay, where air bubbles and moisture have much more catastophic consequences in a kiln. You have the colors built into the clay, and much like an oil painter, you can go direct from the mind to the medium for a very pure rendition of your ideas.

Have you published any polymer clay books or do you have any in the works?

I have not published any books as of yet. I have written an article on how to make a Santa ornament in the 2003 Winter issue of Polymer Cafe. This is a terrific magazine, by the way, that I recommend highly for those working with Polymer clay. I have published two videos on clay sculpting and animating clay that are being distributed worldwide by First Light Video, a division of TMWMedia.com. I have a third video that I have just completed that deals with animation concepts using a toy truck. There is no clay used in that program but the lessons are a very good grounding for animation students.

I know it is very difficult to express, but have you won any awards for your polymer clay work?

That is such a nicely put question. I have been fortunate to win awards for my work in film as a cameraman. I have a Clio and an Emmy from a few years back. As far as clay goes I am happy to report that I was selected to appear in an emerging artist gallery show here in Los Angeles. My figures and photography will be at the Lankershim Fine Art gallery in early 2004. The gallery is currently showing my Santa figurines for the holidays. I would love to appear on a craft show but nothing has cropped up as of yet.

What are your expectations for the future? Where do you hope to be 5 years from now?

I have the goal of teaching animation skills to kids and hobbyists. I currently teach at UCLA extension and very much enjoy sharing my visual effects knowledge with the new generation. I am concerned when I see kids playing video games at the local mall. When you look over their shoulder they're taking their virtual gun and shooting virtual people all too realistically. My hope is that if I can turn kids on to stop motion animation they will learn in a tangible way about art, mathematics, photography, lighting and the simulation of life. I would like to see kids get charged up by creation. Perhaps if they put effort into traditional animation and brought their own creation to life they might not be so eager to be destructive. By working traditionally it also takes them away from the computer for a while and gives them the foundations that the computer software is based upon. After all, software is just a tool that allows you to do the same things in a different way. The principals never change. In five years I think it would be great to have a series of books and kits on this subject that would help make the world a better place.

Do you have any advice for the beginning polymer clay enthusiasts?

Just go for it and don't be overly concerned about perfection. The problem with beginning anything is that you don't really know what is important and what isn't. Worrying about finishing processes like sanding, smoothing and painting tend to tighten you up too much. I would recommend pushing the clay around and invite those happy accidents. Experience the joy of the thing for yourself before getting bogged down by perfection. Once you capture the essence of your joy, then you can work on technique.

Are you a member of any Polymer Clay group,or any other craft organization?

I am sorry to say that I am not. The main problem I have is the time commitment. Most meetings of any organization never seem to gel with my schedule. As a cameraman I work from the early afternoon till whenever. The reality of movie production is that if a screening deadline is made it is not uncommon to do a shot till it is done, even it if means getting home at 4 in the morning. With this kind of unpredictable schedule I find it hard to commit to a group on a regular basis.

What brands of polymer clay do you prefer and why?

I'm a long standing Sculpey man. I primarily work with Premo and Super Sculpey for their strength and durability.

Last and most important can you tell us all about you? Your family, your training?

Well, I try to stay active in my acting though it is difficult due to my schedule that I mentioned before. If I can plan in advance I do enjoy acting in small independent features.
I am married to a wonderful woman named Juniko whom I met at USC film school. She has been a computer animator for all the major studios and is now transitioning over to teaching and technical writing. Of all the women I have mentioned in this interview she, of course, is my main inspiration and encouragement. I have no children save for my little clay people that constantly misbehave.

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