Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Trip to the Stillpoint

If you are a maker of things, you know one of the greatest thrills is to come across new supplies to inspire your making.

If you are a devoted thrill seeker, you will luxuriate in supplies that are rare, even singular, and that will make your work unique by their incorporation.

And there is one more level to step up the stimulation: collaboration with an artist whose works are so inexplicably beautiful and varied that thinking of them makes you dizzy.

This is the creative nirvana I’ve touched this week when a magical box arrived from Gatineau Canada stamped “Stillpoint Works.”

How this fascination began I can’t remember. Somewhere in the making playground that is Etsy I saw a piece that gave credit to Stillpoint Works, and I was immediately fascinated by the name. The poetry of conception of the word “stillpoint” combined with the intense concept of a foundry: what could that mean? I looked up the term “stillpoint” - in itself an invention of biological reverie that fits with my belief that part of making is finding a dream state where the body drops away.

And then... I engulfed myself in all the images of things made by the marvelous artist that is Stillpoint Works, Claire Maunsell . I pored over all the pieces that had ever been in her Etsy shop and drank the intoxicating flow of photography at her Flickr site. I immersed myself in the glimpses of her bucolic life she shares on her blog “The Next Bend.”

Right. I am an art stalker.

I learned that Claire’s invention - the hollow polymer clay pod (a form that allows for endless organic variations and infinite surface embellishment) was published in a new arty how-to compilation called Polymer Clay: Global Perspectives.

I immediately purchased it to gather insight into the impossibly difficult route Claire took to arrive at an evolutionary achievement so completely original. Knowing what I know about podmaking is like the curiosity of knowing about deep sea creatures that thrive in the dark inferno of thermal vents miles beneath the world of waves and sunlight: I will never go there, but I cannot escape the desire to contemplate their existence.

The process of artstalker, from admiration to photo curating to just plain breathless staring is one that took me months. I bought my first few components from Stillpoints works’ Etsy shop and greedily devoured them. People who buy my jewelry snapped up those pieces. This is part of the secret of making things with components from artists whose work makes you break out in a cold sweat: you know you’re going to make something in a higher register when part of what you do is focused on understanding this sort of new life form in your toolbox.

A little aside: that’s why I use the name “Alien Beadings.” While the original name of my endeavor, "Human Beadings", is a play on 'human beings', Alien Beadings is a phrase that reminds me that the business of making is about looking at things as if you’d never seen them before; you have no idea how they work or what they mean. Your touching, taking, combining and enshrining of these supplies (beads, paint, fiber, components) is what shapes symbols and makes meaning. Playing with Claire’s components is like a safe landing on the dark side of the moon to find a cup of good tea on the art table in the midst of an alien landscape devoid of gravity. I’m transported, unbalanced, provoked and comforted all at once.

As part of the creative dance into which I’ve been drawn by the polymer clay miniature masterpieces of Stillpoint Works, I recently asked Claire to make a bundle of orphan pieces for me. I find it difficult to choose from the pieces in her online shops (Zibbet & Etsy), great as the photography is. This challenge of asking Claire to send me her choice of beads and components allows for the collaboration of another maker in my work, and I am greatly honored by that opportunity.

The package that arrived was a Pandora’s box of goodies that will be causing mischief on my worktable for weeks to come.

The pieces range from tough and primitive to exquisitely ethereal imitations of life forms that inhabit ecstatic daydreams.

I am touched by the wand of the Muse.