What is AgapeClay?
AgapeClay is my art studio and library – a space currently folded within my childhood home and a place where time often stands still. It is a realm of imagination and creation, where soul meets polymer clay. Deeply inspired, hand crafted, one-of-a-kind wearable art and other lovely things come to life here.
Where did the idea for AgapeClay come from?
AgapeClay is the blend of two passions.
I have had the great fortune to grow up in a home filled with unconditional love. My parents loved my sisters and me so deeply that I didn’t realize how unusual and special that was until I was a teenager. At 49, I’m still learning how to share and reciprocate that same depth of love with my own family. “Agape” is a Greek word that describes this love most completely for me, and I have spent much of my life pursuing an understanding, a knowledge, a meaningful practice of this spiritual concept – all while keeping my feet on the ground and paying the bills.
In November 2009, I picked up my first 2 oz. pack of polymer clay to make some beads to share with friends. One month later, I was hooked – not just on what I could make with the clay, but with the way handling it was changing me. When I sit with the clay in my studio, I slow down, I focus, I stop multi-tasking, I listen to the small voice within. When I work with the clay, mistakes lead to new inspirations. The very act of pressing my fingers into the clay shows me how little effort it takes for me to change the world around me. Swirling clay, blending colors, and creating patterns all become moving meditations.
Early 2010, I made a conscious decision to combine and explore these two passions in tandem. My art is a way of documenting that process.
How did you get your start, and how long have you been in business?
Picking up that first pack of clay was pure serendipity. I am a musician and an author, but never pursued visual or “tangible” art because I believed my first grade teacher who told me I didn’t have any talent and gave me a “C” for coloring. Over four decades later, I am finally challenging her. My family and friends bought a piece here and there to support my clay habit. Mid-summer 2010, my husband – a wonderful artist who works in several media, including silver – asked me to join him at an art show scheduled for November. So, a year after that first bit of clay, I began sharing my work with a wider audience. The business still feels brand-spanking new, and I’m looking forward to making enough money to keep myself in clay and jewelry findings.
Tell me a little bit about your art & jewelry. What's the style? What materials do you use?
In this first year (2010), I made at least 2,500 pendants and beads, and created a few treasure boxes, where spirals and movement and natural themes are predominant. My work is a reflection of who I am in the moment – the concentric rings that document the growth of a tree and the even slower growth of my soul; the pulse of light as it travels between the sun and an orchid and back again, and my much more shallow heartbeat. I don’t believe that everyone sees my work the same way that I do. But I know that other people resonate with my art because our journeys are similar.
Polymer clay is fabulous stuff. It’s called “clay” because it works like clay and feels like clay. But it is really a material based on polymer polyvinyl chloride or “PVC” that contains plasticizers. “Premo,” the brand that I use, has an amazing color palette, and I blend my own colors from that. I love this medium for its flexibility and forgiveness. I can cover an unfinished project on my worktable and return to it a week later, because it doesn’t dry out like real clays. My leftovers and my “mistakes” can be converted into other projects. And the success that I’ve had with polymer clay gives me the confidence to experiment further.
How long does it take to make the various items?
That really depends on the piece. From start to finish? A single pendant may take anywhere from three days to three months. The treasure boxes often take more than a month. Some pieces come to me in a flash of inspiration; others simply appear while I’m playing with the clay; and some I develop after careful thought and research. Often, I work with a particular color scheme and create an entire batch of pendants over several hours, and then bake everything for an hour. Most of my pendants are then hand-sanded and buffed. Finally, I pull together vintage jewelry findings and other odds and ends to craft a piece of wearable art that tells a story or conveys a particular emotion.
Have you done the jewelry for large events, such as a wedding, or more in the private sector?
I originally picked up polymer clay to make simple beads to gift to friends and other folks at several festivals and camping events that I attend throughout the year. The idea grew and I made 1,000 beads – most of them swirled lentils – between December 2009 and April 2010, strung them on hemp cord, and handed out over 900 this summer. I have made a few commissioned pieces for small groups since then.
Do you work from home, or do you have a shop?
Most of the clay work from initial thought to baking is done in my studio. I sand and finish my pendants and beads often at home in the evenings, so that I can spend time with my family.