Here is the very first necklace that I created about 24 years ago. My babysitter and I had got our hands on a small (self-printed, I think) book by David Edwards on polymer clay and millifiori. It’s not too bad, except of course, I thought Flesh (now Beige) belonged in a milliefiori pattern. Still the genesis is still there. More importantly, after over 2o years the clay is still there! I even washed this necklace before I photographed it.
This was pre-pasta machine (as I recall David was against using pasta machines?), but I found one at a yard sale not too long after that, along with a rusty toaster oven. We had a great time fumbling along with our clay. Then one day I noticed that there were petroglyph style necklaces made with polymer clay in the Craft Center at UCSD (I was working in School of Medicine on campus at the time). As I was standing there admiring them, I heard a voice behind me say the words we probably all heard before we gleefully entered the rabbit hole of polymer clay, “Oh, it’s easier than it looks. Start with plain beads…” That voice belonged to Z Kripke, a campus physician who ran Student Health and polymer clay enthusiast. Z starting teaching classes in petroglyph millefiori and, of course, I was there! Z did production work and taught production style, so our canes were about the size of a 3×5 index card and about 2 inches high. As she would say, “I’m teaching a class on Saturday, another 500 petroglyph turtles are about to be born!”
Of course, in the early days, there were no tools premade for the work we were doing. Suddenly, the garage was a magical place. We were pleading with our dentists for broken tools. Toaster ovens disappeared from the kitchens. In fact, my Dad got tired of me dragging around that rusty toaster oven I had bought at that garage sale and bought me a lovely toaster oven that was much nicer than anything in my actual kitchen. Yes, it NEVER cooked food, only my precious clay. I told myself that the boys “liked” burnt toast…
In a year or so, everything started happening at once, In 1993, Z said to me one day, “I see that there is some sort of National Guild, let’s start a guild here.” We started with the group of her hard-core students and grew from there. Nan Roche published The New Clay, which became the clay bible. I wrote my first article for Michaels magazine (which was an AWESOME magazine in the glory days of craft publishing) in 1996. I also began my relationship with Polyform Products with that article. Our guild held our first retreat in 1999 in a little hotel on my beach so we aptly named the retreat Sandy Camp. I’m pleased to say that our San Diego Polymer Clay Guild has grown to over 100 members and we will be having our 16th Sandy Camp this year!
I ran into Z and her husband, Dan, at the park last weekend. I was so excited to meet my mentor, the person who changed the entire course of my life! Z had taken an early retirement from UCSD years ago. She would call me up and tell me how awesome retirement was and I should do it. Well, it took another 20 years, but I finally did!