ORNAMENT: Polymer’s Earliest Booster
Long before Facebook, early polymer practitioners created their own artistic networks and community. Knowledge about polymer expanded in a way that is similar to today’s social networks, in that artists discovered it, explored its possibilities and then shared the information with others. While the internet ultimately played a significant role in the advancement of polymer, the initial explosion of information was through word of mouth and then through the printed page. Beyond the community of users that began to develop during the 1980’s, a few outsiders began to take notice. The editors of the magazine, Ornament, Robert Liu and Carolyn Benesh have followed the rise of polymer and provided the new medium some of its earliest artistic publicity.
Although he is not sure of the date, Robert Liu’s first encounter with the material was probably via a Jamey Allen demonstration at a bead society meeting. In 1988 Ornament published its first article on polymer authored by Kathleen Dustin. Dustin provided a basic introduction to the material as well as visual examples of her work. The next year saw an article by Jamey Allen on ancient bead techniques and polymer, his particular interest.
And a few issues later, a postage stamp brooch by Tory Hughes was on the cover, with an accompanying commentary on the inside. Since then Ornament has continued to promote polymer artists.
In addition to Dustin and Hughes, the magazine has featured Pier Voulkos, Ford and Forlano, Cynthia Toops, and Elise Winters as well as others. Robert Liu and Carolyn Benesh’s decision, way back when, to champion the nascent medium was a bold choice which gave polymer artists recognition as well as bringing quality visual examples and information to its collection of readers. Today, Liu and Benesh continue to highlight polymer artists regularly.