My Synergy Experience


The dawn of the first day of the Synergy conference in Baltimore. I stayed at the Tremont Plaza Hotel, located about 1/2 mile from the Baltimore Convention Center where the conference was being held. The room that I shared with my friend, Amy, was quite spacious with a kitchenette, sitting area and 2 big feather beds. We could eat breakfast in our room and it was very comfortable for sleeping. We walked back and forth to the conference center everyday. The brisk walk and crisp winter air helped to wake us up for our first morning class at 8:30am. The 3 days were so jam packed with classes, panel discussions and guest lectures that I am still digesting the volume of information I absorbed and recorded in my notebook.

Jeffrey Lloyd Dever has a 20 year background in graphic design. He shared slides of his amazing work in polymer clay and its progression from vessels to pod shaped jewelry. His art graces the cover of the latest issue of Art Jewelry magazine. The article explains how he creates his pod forms and he also shared this process with us in class. There is also a chapter on his “Sculptural Pod Necklace” in Katherine Duncan Aimone’s book The Art of Jewelry: Polymer Clay.

Robert Dancik is a mixed media artist with a background in teaching at all levels from elementary school through college. A very engaging teacher, he opened both classes I attended with the sounding of a small Tibetan singing bowl. Its soothing sound helped to create a shift in our brains that opened us up more fully to the information he shared with us on artistic technique and process. We learned about Cold Connections such as riveting, tabs and prongs, and nuts and bolts. These techniques are from the metal world but can easily be used in polymer clay creations. My all-time favorite class was entitled “Dance to the MUSEik”, where he discussed various ways to access your artistic voice.

Lindly Haunani is very well known in the polymer clay community as an expert on color. I took 2 classes with Lindly, one on color confidence, which she taught with another queen of color, Maggie Maggio, and one called Teaching 101. She is such an entertaining teacher and as I laughed at her colorful stories and techniques, I felt myself opening to my playful child within. Lindly is very much in touch with that playful child and I would love to take a color workshop with her someday. There is much to learn.

Maggie Maggio is writing a color book with Lindly. Hooray! She has a wonderful blog called Smashing Color. As its name suggests, it is all about color and has shared tutorials about making color scales and practicing with color mixing. Her beautiful jewelry displays her amazing color sense flawlessly.

Sarah Shriver is best known in the polymer clay community for her intricate kaleidoscope canework. Her class was called “A Teacher’s Quandry”, all about the challenges she faces in teaching her exacting technique. This sparked a lively discussion which carried through into some of the panel discussions on finding your own voice in your art. A teacher would like to facilitate the discovery of that voice in each one of her/his students but the quandry results when you are teaching a specific technique and the project causes an imitation to be created. As the question of finding your voice and expressing it in your art has been a journey I have been on within the last few years, I was most fascinated and intrigued by these discussions. What constitutes true art? Does all art have to actually say something? What and who determines this?

Karen Woods is a weaver and fiber artist. In her class, Unconventional Polymer, she shared her explorations of combining polymer clay with basket weaving. She also showed us a slideshow of magnificent work of artists from polymer clay, fiber, glass and paper arts. She is an enthusiastic proponent of letting your work be inspired by many different materials.

Judy Kuskin is a jewelry artist, marrying polymer clay with metal in her beautifully graphic pieces. We explored asymmetrical design elements with her in a slideshow of the work of various polymer clay artists. I learned that one of the key words of asymmetrical design is balance.

More in my next post on the guest speakers and panel discussions…


9 comments on “My Synergy Experience

  1. Dora says:

    Great report, Karen ! Wish I could’ve been there…Maybe next time (if there is a next time, LOL !) Looking forward to your next post.

  2. Marcia says:

    Thanks for such a thorough report. It
    will be fun for you to see how all that you soaked in
    will inform
    your work in the year to come.

  3. […] There’s more coverage of the Synergy conference over at the fun blog, Art and Tea. […]

  4. Toine says:

    Hello Karen,

    What a great report about your experience at Synergy. Like Dora, I wish I’d been there. Yes, Dora, next time we’ll go!! I’m game!!

    Karen, as always you are very inspiring (and eloquent). Yours is my favorite blog to read.

    Happy creating!!


  5. artandtea says:

    Thanks ladies! I really enjoyed myself and learned so much. I would highly recommend that you go and have this wonderful experience for yourself.


  6. Frivolitea says:

    Wow. What a wonderful assortment of people to learn from! That conference sounds great!

  7. artandtea says:

    It was an incredible experience being with and learning from all of those wonderful artists. 🙂

  8. […] On her blog, Lisa Clarke at Polka Dot Creations shares her life as a businesswoman, artist and mother of 2 small boys. The joys, the challenges, the delicious recipes, the beautiful art are all a delight to see and read about.  I especially enjoy Lisa’s color challenges and seeing how she creates a color palette in polymer clay from inspiring photos.  I had the pleasure of meeting Lisa at the Synergy conference. […]

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