Imitation, Interpretation, Inspiration

Pier Voulkos, Crusty Pod Beads, 1993


Some people pick up comic books to discover a superhero. I simply stepped into Julie Artisans’ Gallery on Madison Avenue in New York City. There, in 1994, I discovered Pier Voulkos, who has been a creative idol for me ever since. Having just discovered polymer clay, I made a mecca to Julie’s where I was dazzled by Pier’s Crusty Black Tubes. Within days I was working on my own version.  While the color interpretation was dramatically different, one could easily call mine “derivative.”  Like every novice, the line between emulation and imitation was not clear to me at that time.  Perhaps I should be apologetic or embarrassed by how closely my necklace resembled Pier’s.  But all of us start out as beginners, working and struggling as apprentices did in the time of Michelangelo; imitating and emulating the hand of a chosen master. In Pier Voulkos I found both the master and the mastery I needed to launch my own career.

Elise Winters, Appliqued Tube Beads, 1994

I cannot remember a time in my life that I wasn't interested in looking at art, talking about art and the making of art. In 1990 I earned a Phd in art history at the University of Maryland. My first experiences with polymer clay were in 1992, but I consider my real work with the medium to date from 1999.