Courting the Muse

Courting the Muse: Enhancing Creativity and Artistry in Polymer Clay

In 2001, the National Polymer Clay Guild sponsored it’s second conference in Bryn Mawr, PA.  Courting The Muse was a week long conference filled with classes taught by polymer clay masters, thought-provoking and inspiring evening lectures, creativity seminars, and a retrospective exhibit entitled Illuminating a Medium, a Retrospective on Polymer Clay that showcased important works of polymer art from the past 20 years.

The campus setting, classical theme, intimate atmosphere, and simple format  worked together to create a unique environment  that allowed attendees to explore creativity, think outside the box,  have fun, and court their Muses.

Sponsoring Organization:National Polymer Clay Guild
Dates and Place: June 10-17th 2001,  Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, PA.
Steering Committee: Maggie Maggio (Chair and Programs), Nan Roche and Lindly Haunani (Site), Shelly Crossen (Administration)

Conference Mission: To foster artistic and creative growth by providing a stimulating, supportive environment to allow attendees “court” their personal muse, and to help them learn and apply new techniques. The weeklong event included one-day workshops Monday through Thursday, morning creativity seminars, evening programs featuring guest speakers, silent and live auctions, and culminated in a 2-day “synthesis session,” in which instructors served as resource persons to help participants apply the techniques they’d learned earlier in the week to their own, unique creations. The event concluded with a Grand Fete and Masquerade, and “Dancing with the Muse.”


Kathleen Dustin: The Rules of Group Critiquing: Encouragement without Personal Opinion
Steve Ford and David Forlano: Collaborative Creativity
Victoria Hughes: Creativity as a Dynamic Natural System
Dr. Robert K. Liu: Originality and Creativity
Nancy Myers: Morning Creativity Sessions: Entering the Castle, Meeting your Monsters and Champions, Listening along the Way, Finding your Muse.
Joyce C. Scott: Up to her Old Tricks


Curator:  Elise Winters
“Illuminating A Medium, A Retrospective On Polymer Clay” assembled more than fifty seminal pieces from the finest private collections which represented the historical development of polymer art.  Many of these pieces had never been exhibited at gallery shows or museums, having been commissioned or bought up immediately by knowing collectors.

Seminar/workshop Presenters:

Dan Adams:
Basics of Glass Beadmaking; Continuing Glass Beadmaking
Laura Balombini: Woven Wire Structure for Polymer Figures or Vessels; Earring Design and Construction
Linda Bernstein: Precious Metal Clay for the Polymer Clay Artist; Talisman, Symbolism and Style
Jody Bishel: Designing and Constructing Amulets; Exploring Transparent Liquid Sculpey
Dan Cormier: A PERFECT FIT! Cylindrical Boxes and Other Stacking Containers; RELIEF BEYOND BELIEF! Silhouette Die Forming in Polymer Clay
Jeffrey Dever: Original Vessels: Conceiving and Constructing Form-Built Vessels; Dr. Jeff’s Surface Laboratory-Experiments in Surface Ornamentation
Katherine Dewey: Wedgwood Beads and Bas Relief Baubles; Basics of Sculpting; Costumes in Clay
Celie Fago: The Art of Incising Polymer Clay: Signs, Symbols, and Calligraphies; Pins, Pendants, and Picture Frames
Gwen Gibson: Hot New Silk-Screen-Making Technology; Basics of Transfers
Lindly Haunani: Rock and Roll with the Rainbow; Fabulously Funky Folk Mosaics; Basic of Mokume Gane
Victoria Hughes: Be Here Now; Weebles Wobble; Basics of Imitatives
Susan Hyde: Expanding Skinner Blend Possibilities: Basic Canes; Expanding Skinner Blend Possibilities: Elaborate Canes
Margi Laurin: Impossible Objects and Optical Illusion Canes; Music and Clay: Ocarina Construction
Dorothy McMillan: Through the Looking Glass: Polymer Clay Kaleidoscopes; Vessels with Attitude!
Ann and Karen Mitchell: Discovering New Dimensions in Liquid Sculpey; Sew What? Clay Fabric with Liquid Sculpey; Personal Adornment: Finding your Jewelry Design Style
Margaret Regan: Folded Canes/Signature Canes; Long Clay
Sarah Nelson Shriver: Complex Skinner blends: Focus on Color; Care and Finesse in Finishing Beads and Jewelry Design
Cynthia Toops: Basics of Caning; Canes to Cones; Selling Your Work
Pier Voulkos: Toys and Tricks with Polymer Clay; Jewelry Construction Tips: Barrel Clasps and Tube Beads
Elise Winters: Alchemist for a Day: Polymer Clay into Vermeil; “Crazing” for Polymer clay


Dan Adams and Cynthia Toops: Inspirations Sampler Necklace
Laura Balombini and Dotty McMillan: Telling a Story
Linda Bernstein and Elise Winters: Combining Metal and Clay
Jody Bishel and Gwen Gibson: Muse Memory Bracelet
Dan Cormier and Pier Voulkos: “Dear Diary…”
Katherine Dewey and Susan Hyde: Pocket Pet Pendants
Celie Fago and Margi Laurin: In Your Own Voice
Lindly Haunani and Sarah Shriver: The Muse of Harmonic Color
Victoria Hughes and Margaret Regan: Talismans of Your Ecosystem
Ann and Karen Mitchell: The Masquerade

Other important aspects of the event :

More than 120 class proposals were received from around the world.  Prospective attendees were asked to pick their “top-ten” wish list classes from online class descriptions. Their response helped the steering committee in choose classes that reflected the magnificent diversity of the polymer community.

A Virtual Conference was arranged for those who could not attend the Conference where news and pictures were posted on the Muse website every night.

A daily newsletter,  was published during the conference and wasmae available to the attendeesin the dining hall each morning.

The Muse Store, staffed by volunteers,  sold items made by participants along with polymer clay tools, clay, and books along with works for sale by polymer artists from around the world.

A product fair.

Thanks to Maggie Maggio and Judy Belcher for supplying the information about this event.

Thanks to Nancy Travers for  her assistance in posting this article.

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.