Guest post from Angela Mabray, co-author of Polymer Clay 101
Five years ago, I wondered if I was the only gal in Central Oklahoma using polymer clay. Today, I have the pleasure of knowing a whole group full of folks who love it as much as I do, and we meet monthly to learn and play together.
Have you wondered if you might enjoy meeting with others who share your artistic passion, whatever that may be? If you’re thinking about starting your own group, I’ll share a few tips in an upcoming post. But today I’ll start by telling some of the unexpected benefits I’ve found through starting my own group.
Penni Jo Couch and I started the Central Oklahoma Polymer Clay Guild in late 2006. We found each other through a polymer clay-themed Yahoo group, after an exchange where we realized we were 1) both in the Oklahoma City area, and 2) both interested in meeting with other clay-ers.
Our first meeting consisted of just the two of us, and the group stayed pretty small the first year or so. But with some effort, we gradually grew, and we’re now up to 10 regularly-attending members plus frequent guests.
I think the two of us had slightly different goals when we first decided to start the group. Penni Jo was interested in the social aspect — swaps and play days. I’m a little on the shy side, so I was nervous about meeting new people. But I was eager to expand local awareness of polymer clay. Plus I’d heard about the polymer clay libraries the larger guilds had, and I thought all that locally-available reading material sounded divine.
I’m sure as each of our other members joined up, they were interested in slightly different things, too. The wonderful thing is that the group became more than any of us could have imagined.
Since the beginning, our meetings have consisted of a single member sharing a project or technique they knew, teaching the other members as they went. I’d never taught a group in my life, but with our small membership, I needed to teach often to keep things going. I went to Toastmasters to get past my fear of speaking to a group. I studied new polymer clay techniques to share. In the process, I learned a lot about both my medium and myself. I also saw first-hand where my instructions were lacking. I found out where other people had difficulties, and I was able to focus on those things not only in subsequent classes, but also in blog posts for my website, and later in my book.
Speaking of which, I’m not sure I’d be a published author today if it weren’t for my local community. And I’ve been happy to see the other members of the group find their own successes. Penni Jo now has her own very-successful line of polymer clay molds and has been asked to teach at polymer clay retreats across the nation. Several of our members (including one who joined the group as a beginner!) now teach local classes. Various members have placed in large polymer clay contests and/or had their work published in a national polymer clay magazine. I personally feel the group’s constant encouragement is part of what has led these artists to their successes.
We’ve done the things Penni Jo and I originally envisioned. Our library has 70+ polymer clay books and magazines. We hold themed swaps every other month. Plus we’ve done other things we hadn’t initially imagined. We held our first retreat earlier this year, which even drew a couple of clayers from outside the state. Through the Bottles of Hope program, we’ve shared pieces of polymer clay art with many local cancer patients. And I have to mention the friendship aspect. Together we’ve gone through baby showers and funerals and everything in between. Our meetings are full of chatter and laughter. We are able to encourage each other both artistically and in the more mundane day-to-day matters.
If you want to try starting your own group, come back next week for a few tips on making it work.
Join us Saturday for our monthly meeting!
Angela Mabray is a co-founder of the Central Oklahoma Polymer Clay Guild, which meets the second Saturday of each month at City Arts Center. She blogs about polymer clay at CraftyGoat’s Notes and recently co-authored Polymer Clay 101.