Book Review: Color Inspirations

Make room in your bookcase for a new essential text. Nan Roche’s historic work, The New ClayThe New Clay, which we’ve long referred to as The Bible of polymer may have to be renamed now as The Old Testament and moved one slot to the left. There’s a New Testament coming to town and it’s titled Polymer Clay Color Inspirations: Techniques and Jewelry Projects for Creating Successful PalettesPolymer Clay Color Inspirations by Lindly Haunani and Maggie Maggio.

If I had been asked to nominate a title for Lindly and Maggie’s new addition to the polymer library, I might have been tempted to call it “Everything You Wanted to Know About Color…..But Were Afraid to Ask.” That, however, would have been both derivative and long-winded, two qualities that one never has to fear in this indispensable book of 144 information-packed pages.

After my own cover-to-cover read, I dashed instantly to the telephone with a list of questions for Lindly that I felt the readers of Polymer Art Archive would want to have answered. Here are the questions and her responses:

When a writer presents a publisher with a book proposal, she normally has to prove a market need, an area of importance that has been neglected by other writers. Did you see some niche that previous polymer books hadn’t covered?

“Absolutely. More and more polymer books have been published, almost 100 by now, and not one has had more than two pages on the subject of color. Which was somewhat surprising to us; as one of the most intriguing, compelling and often challenging aspects of working with polymer is that it comes in a range of wonderful intermixable colors. Color has been not only the focus of my studio design work and my teaching workshops , but literally the driving force behind many of my life’s passions and pleasures.

Our book gives readers a well thought out, sequential study course.  They can elect to do all the exercises or part of them, and as a result readers will increase their confidence when mixing, choosing and combining colors.. Here’s our basic design plan. We provide first a color primer and follow that up with exercises designed to give readers the tools they need to mix and expand their own color palette”

Can you give us some detail about one of those exercises?

“There’s an early exercise in the book that asks the reader to use personal and intuitive choices to make a paper magazine clipping collage. Then to use that collage as a launching pad for further color exploration. Unlike other polymer books that offer just one definitive example for each exercise, in many instances, we provide two. Maggie and I each did our own version, going off in different directions, using our own color sensibilities.  This encourages each reader to experiment with a wide range of  possibilities.

We want readers to understand their own traditional mindset about the use of color, and then give them a way to expand those color choices. Finding a technique for pivoting away from old patterns isn’t easy, but in this exercise we’ve created a concrete vehicle to help readers discover a new color palette.”

Who did you want to reach with the book?

Color Inspirations has been designed to meet the needs of a wide audience.
It should be of interest to newcomers who want to try polymer, as well as people who find color challenging. We wrote this book as well for people who might be interested in working with dyes, paints, even colored pencils. If somebody is interested in the dynamics of color, the science of color mixing, the aesthetic awareness of color choice, this book should provide lots of nourishment and inspiration.”

Tell us about the genesis of the book itself. How did it come to be written and published?

“Genesis, I’m not sure of, but I think I might be able to date the ‘Big Bang of Teaching  Color Theory.’ That would be in 2005 when a bunch of us, we called ourselves the ‘Color Explorers,’ met for a week outside of Santa Fe in the Butterfly House, a vacation rental,  with the intention of working out new ideas for our color workshops. The group consisted of Maggie and myself, Dayle Doroshow, Jan Frame, Judy Kuskin, Hollie Mion, Carol Simmons and Cynthia Tinapple. Within a year, we had not only a portfolio full of new ideas, but also the essence of a book proposal.

That proposal fortunately ended up landing on the desk of Joy Aquilino, Executive Editor at Watson-Guptill Publications (now Random House) , who had previously edited some of the finest polymer books ever published. That she chose to work with us and guide us turned out to be one of my life’s great blessings.”

Lindly, you’ve spent a lifetime going around the country teaching workshops, helping aspiring polymer enthusiasts develop their artistic skills. How does this book help that life’s mission of yours?

“I want to turn that question around 180°. Actually, what my students contributed when I taught these hundreds of workshops helped me write the book. Getting feedback from them about what worked and what didn’t work has been of tremendous value to my teaching. Getting ideas from them encouraged me to modify some of my original teaching concepts, and made me into a much stronger instructor. Things that I learned from my students have found their way into the text of this book, making me thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to do so much teaching.

Because I’ve gained personally so much from these ongoing workshop experiences, my eagerness and enthusiasm to hit the road again and again hasn’t faded.”

Readers of Polymer Art Archive who are interested in learning about upcoming workshop opportunities, can find information on Lindly's website.

Getting back to the book, what in particular will readers be able to do, what will they have learned, as a result of reading Color Inspirations — even if they haven’t attended your workshops?

“At the very least, they’ll learn how to create their own personalized palette. But if they diligently complete the projects and exercises, they’ll be able to create more colorfully inspired polymer art with an enhanced sense of confidence. And isn’t it that kind of artistic satisfaction we all aspire to?”

You decided to do this book as collaboration. What are the benefits of working with a collaborator? What are the potential pitfalls?

“It’s great to have somebody to bounce ideas off, somebody who can tell you whether your ideas are clear or not. As far as pitfalls, I’d say that if two people are collaborating and are too much alike, they might not benefit each other in the most dynamic way. A great combination is to have one person who’s organized and computer savvy, while the other contributor acts as the visionary, the creative force behind the project. Luckily, Maggie and I are two dramatically different personality types and have complementary skill sets.”

When you devote years of work on a book like this, does that have an effect on your studio production?

“Of course. Doing  the mixing experiments and contrast tables, after making a new collage,  made me rethink my own color priorities. Writing sections of the book reminded me of my continued fascination with food via procurement, arrangement, cooking the food thing again…mangos, avocados and papayas.

My newest work has definitely evolved because of this book project, I am experiencing a renewed and enhanced sense of color confidence  and have been inspired to return to working with tinted translucent clay as I did in the early nineties.  I”m now working with translucents in a much lighter colorway directly inspired by the colors found in tropical fruits and vegetables. ”

Any new book project on the horizon that you can tell us about?

“Not now……..but check back in a year. The creative urge takes us all in many wonderful directions.”

Woody is an accomplished poet and recognized writer but his most important role is as muse to Elise