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Lynn D. Troldahl Hershberger Mask
Discussion:
Artistic Integrity and Dedication to Well-Crafted Works
Following is my encouragement for new or uncertain artists.

Grove and Grove. Kathleen Dustin. Marie Segal. Kathy Amt. Cynthia Toops.

These names, if you know the polymer clay community, will bring pictures to your mind instantly. Their styles are so individual and so refined that they have an artistic voice which carries through the mere mention of their names.

These people have several things in common, though their artistic styles vary greatly. They have something to say, and they say it. In addition, the work that they create is made with utmost attention to detail and finish. Nothing sloppy comes out into the public with these names attached.

As a developing artist, you must keep your work your own, and keep the vision and the finish work of your pieces as high quality as possible. You will certainly create more pieces which you do not like than those you like, but keep the learning pieces to yourself.

Get as much training as you can, read as many books as possible. Find inspiration in anyone and anything, whether it be polymer clay, ancient drawings, quilts or the cracks in the sidewalk. Translate that inspiration into your own style and your own vision.

Join guilds wherever you can. Belonging will keep you in touch with training possibilities. These groups are essential to my own development as an artist.

At the beginning of our artistic development, our influence comes from few sources. It is easy to follow the style of a teacher. However, the more you immerse yourself in creative possibilities, and the more you listen to your inner self, the more you can find your own voice.

The world of polymer clay, unfortunately, is full of "craft" copying. It seems that somehow we think that we don't have any good ideas of our own. Many publications teach us how to duplicate things, down to the exact brand and color of clay. In my opinion, these copying exercises are only worthwhile if approached as a training tool, and even then the product of those exercises must never be presented as original work.

I am saddened by the number of times I have seen work which is a poor copy of City Zen Cane or Pier Voulkos, presented for sale with no reference to the original source.

I believe that the craft industry has made muddy the fact that this selling others' ideas is wrong. If we give people instructions on how to copy, then how can we expect them to understand that it is wrong to sell the resulting items as their own? Just the same, there are so many ideas which haven't found their way to this earth yet-- there is no need for copying.

This is the essence of my advice: Find work you love doing and do it. Execute your work in your own style, for the pure joy of it. Make quality finish work a priority. Strive for authenticity.

It is not always easy. We all struggle at times. But these goals seem absolutely vital to my own development as a constantly-evolving artist. Artistic integrity may be the most important issue in my own work, and I submit that it is crucial to us all.

I will leave you with a favorite quotation:

To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.
e. e. cummings

Thanks for listening.

Lynn

Lynn D. Troldahl Hershberger

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