All About: MIPCES

Elise asked me to lead a small team of volunteers to research and write about gatherings that influenced the development of polymer as an art medium. This is the first of these posts and we hope to follow up with more. Special thanks to Nancy Travers who organized all the materials about MIPCES.

MIPCES, 1997, Artists Group Portrait

Masters’ Invitational Polymer Clay Exhibition and Sale (MIPCES): The Cutting Edge in Polymer Clay

The event consisted of a month-long exhibition featuring at least one major experimental piece from each of the invited artists. The kick-off weekend events included exhibiting artists’ lectures, workshops, demos, and slide shows; a sale of polymer clay wearables and collectibles by the exhibiting artists; and auction to benefit the National Polymer Clay Guild. OCCC sponsored one and two day workshops during the rest of the month-long exhibition period.

MIPCES, 1997, OCCC School of Art

Sponsoring Organizations:

The OCCC School of Art (now called The Art School at Old Church) with the support of the National Polymer Clay Guild and generous donations from Polyform Products Company, the New York Polymer Clay Guild and Mildred Otten.

MIPCES, 1997, OCCC Sign

Dates and Place held:

OCCC School of Art (now called The Art School at Old Church)
561 Piermont Rd.
Demarest, NJ 07627

Opening Weekend:

Friday May 2, 1997, 7:00am-10:00pm
Saturday May 3, 1997, 10:00am-6:00pm
Sunday May 4, 1997, 12:00pm-5:00pm

The exhibition continued for the remainder of the month in the Center Gallery.

Event Coordinator: Elise Winters

Mission Statement:

MIPCES was designed to be a national, multi-faceted event to enhance the visibility and reputation of polymer clay as an important medium for artistic expression. MIPCES provided a non-commercial venue to foster innovation and recognize excellence among polymer clay artists. In order to expand the community of recognized “masters,” each of the “Master Exhibitor” artists was asked to invite one additional “Emerging” polymer artist to exhibit with the group. The artists had an opportunity to focus on experimental work without having to satisfying shop owners’ concerns for sales.

MIPCES, 1997, Exhibition, view 2 MIPCES, 1997, Exhibition, view 3 MIPCES, 1997, Exhibition, view 4

The MIPCES Exhibition:

Mission: The exhibition provided an opportunity for both the masters and emerging-artists to focus on an experimental work without commercial concerns. Victoria Hughes, Prayer Wheel, 1997, 15 ft. highThe exhibition challenged them to stretch and expand their understanding of themselves and their medium. Nearly all of the works were created expressly for the exhibition and might never have been attempted were it not for MIPCES. In future posts you will see and read about indiviual pieces from the exhibtion. Many, like this 15 foot outdoor sculpture by Tory Hughes, pushed the envelope in unprecedented ways.

MIPCES, 1997, Artists Group Portrait

Master Exhibitors:Jamey Allen, Kathleen Amt, Kathleen Dustin, Steven Ford, David Forlano, Michael Grove, Ruth Anne Grove, Tory Hughes, Nan Roche, Cynthia Toops, Pier Voulkos.

Emerging Artist Exhibitors:Martha Breen, Katherine Dewey, David Edwards, Gwen Gibson, Lindly Haunani, Susan Hyde, Donna Kato, Laura Liska, Margaret Maggio, Liz Mitchell, Margaret Regan, Elise Winters, Kaz Yamashita, Amy Zinman

MIPCES, 1997, Sales gallery at opening

MIPCES Opening Weekend Events:

MIPCES began with a Champagne Gala Reception and Sale of polymer clay wearables and collectibles by the exhibiting artists, which benefited them and the OCCC. The opening weekend also included polymer clay workshops, slide show lectures, and technique presentations and demonstrations. Bibliographies and resource lists were available for the public. A juried silent auction raised funds for the National Polymer Clay Guild.

MIPCES, 1997, Ford and Forlano Workshop MIPCES, 1997, Ford and Forlano Workshop participants

Weekend Workshops and Mini-Workshops:

City Zen Cane – Foil Core Vessel Construction
Pier Voulkos – Basic Caning TricksNan Roche – Transfer Techniques
Tory Hughes – Private Master Class and Group Reviews

MIPCES, Tory Hughes, Slide lecture

Weekend Slide Show Lectures:

Tory Hughes – Truth, Light & Rhythm
Grove & Grove – Retrospective & Current Work
Katherine Dewey – Flesh & StonePier Voulkos – Overview of Her Work
Kathleen Dustin – Ancient History of American Clay
Nan Roche – Polymer Clay: Beyond Techniques – Inspiration & Influences
City Zen Cane – Recent Work
Margaret Maggio & Laura Oakes Liska – Inspired by Color
MIPCES, 1997, Pier Voulkos, Demonstration

Weekend Technique Presentations

Lindly Haunani – Color I: The Story of Purple and Rose Caning Techniques
Margaret Maggio – Color II: Fine Tuning a Palette and Color III: Tests, Tricks & Tools for Combining Colors
Kathleen Amt – Using Embossing Powders with Polymer Clay
Donna Kato – Shortcuts: Another Look at Mokume Gane, Stone Imitation, Marbling, etc.
Katherine Dewey – Josiah’s Eggs, Mock Wedgewood and Sundry Stuff
Pier Voulkos – Lightweight Beads Using an Aluminum Foil Core
Kathleen Dustin – New Techniques in Translucent Clay Layering
Susan Hyde – Ornaments: Angel Wraps
Margaret Regan – Clay against Clay, The Use of Polymer Release Agents and Acoustic Egg Rattles

MIPCES ’97 May Workshops:

Katherine Dewey – Polymer Clay Box Relief
Pier Voulkos – Polymer Clay Beads – Jewelry & Assemblages
Liz Mitchell – Buttons, Baubles & BeadsLiz Mitchell – Rolled, Mold, Fold & Gold
Steve Ford and David Forlano – Organic Images – Polymer Clay Butterflies
Steve Ford and David Forlano – Polymer Clay Mosaics


The opening weekend exceeded the wildest expectations for attendance and sales. As with an old-fashioned barn raising, the polymer clay community joined hands and each member contributed special talents to create this groundbreaking event. Polymer enthusiasts from all over the country arrived to participate in workshops, meet the artists, reunite with friends and see the experimental works.

MIPCES, 1997, Elise Winters and Liz Mitchell installing the exhibitionThe exhibition, installed under the supervision of Liz Mitchell, exposed a whole new audience to the artistic possibilities that polymer clay offered serious artists. Opening weekend attendance was estimated at 1000. Gross sales exceeded $43,000. For the remainder of its run, the exhibition continued to draw viewers from across the United States and Canada. 13 pieces sold out of the exhibition.

MIPCES garnered national recognition for polymer clay with articles in American Craft, Lapidary Journal, Ornament, and Jewelry Crafts magazines. The show also received an intelligent, serious and positive review by an art critic well-respected in the Tri-State area. MIPCES was instrumental in establishing new standards and legitimacy for polymer clay as an art form. At the same time, the exhibition amazed a new audience and educated them the artistic possibilities of the medium.

Supporting Contributors

Advertising Invitations and Mailers: 1/4 page B&W ads appeared in Ornament and American Craft Magazine. 15,000 2-color postcards were produced. Approximately 14,000 were mailed using the combined mailing lists of the OCCC, artists and guilds. Jeff Dever’s graphic design company designed the ads and the mailed invitations pro bono. Lori Feiss, the advertising coordinator, booked and placed these ads.

Color Catalogue: Jennifer Scott and produced a 24-page color catalogue. The OCCC sold more than 100 copies. Remaining catalogues went to the National Polymer Clay Guild for fundraising.

Auction/Fund-Raiser Jury: Susan Sloan, Robert Thompson and Amy Zinman.

As this is an ongoing research effort, we welcome additions or corrections to informational posts about these events.

I work in in metal, lampwork, seed beading and polymer clay. I also write about crafts and have reviewed books for several publications. Polymer Clay's growth in popularity in the late 20th Century coincided with the rise of the Internet. Coincidence? This co-evolution provides an unprecidented opportunity for curators and polymer clay artists to share a first person account of the history of the medium with a vast number of people. The Polymer Art Archive is an important part of that effort and I am happy to be able to contribute to it.