Monomers is finally open

I just reached that point with 2016. I felt slow and tired and I ached for Christmas and the promise of New Year. I could feel myself slipping back into that unhealthy mindset I used to get into whenever I tried to lose weight in the past. That ‘All-or-Nothing-I-was-really-good-yesterday-but-then-today-I-ate-one-cookie-so-might-as-well-write-off-this-week-finish-the-whole-pack-and-try-again-on-Monday” mentality.

I felt heavy as I sat down to my two year old unopened Etsy shop. I scoffed at the half listed Robins I had left there, alone and forgotten. Their sculpt had a kind of charming naivety, back when I was newly-wed to Fimo Soft, a lifetime before my passionate love affair with Super Sculpey. They reminded me of simpler times, and of Christmas.

I sighed and began playing with my ring absent mindedly. It’s so loose on me now – I come close to losing it every time I wash my hands or shake volumetric flasks at work.

In the end the weight came off with very little effort. I had become tired of the lingering uneasiness. Tired and slow, and eventually just frustrated. I just reached that point. It had just been such a long time, that for me the transition was easy. It felt natural, like I was finally making progress, finally putting myself first.

I didn’t choose veganism for the weight loss, in fact I had stopped worrying about what I ate at all.  That’s not to say I don’t care about what I eat – I am aware of my nutritional intake, of how healthy or unhealthy something is – it just doesn’t worry me. That “I-was-really-good-yesterday-and-it-honestly-doesn’t-matter-if-I-ate-a-whole-chocolate-bar-today-beause-I-feel-at-peace-with-my-overall-dietry-choices” mentality.

I scratched through the top draw of my wardrobe and fished out the six brown paper boxes I kept my most recent work in. It was time to cure myself of this Stockless Syndrome. Yes – I am busy, and I am tired, and I don’t sit down to sculpt nearly so often as I would like to. Yes, my work isn’t as good as those artists I follow on Instagram – but none of these were good enough reasons to write the rest of this turbulent year off and perpetually start again.

So I did it. I took photos, worked out shipping costs, made a logo, wrote some listing information, and I set up Monomers with a starting point of six little creatures. Seven as of today. I’m not worried about my low stock count – I know can always list more, I’m not worried about my artistic skill compared to someone else’s – I’m not charging a premium for my work anyway, I’m not even worried about selling anything right now. I’m just happy to be making and sharing with others what brings me peace. I’ve had enough of worrying. I’ve just reached that point.

https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/Monomers

monomers-logo-cropped

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Monomers is finally open

Unfinished Business

After a couple of weeks of casual crafting my desk begins to resemble somewhat of an artsy war zone. Tubes of acrylic paint litter its wooden surface like bullet casings, clay tools lie abandoned beside the mutilated bodies of unsuccessfully formed creatures – the scraps of their flesh mounded high on my glass chopping board, gathering lint and dust. It’s usually around this time that I call it.
“Enough is enough,” I declare, trying to rescue paintbrushes caked in glaze.
The clean-up effort doesn’t normally take too long – the disorder is categorized and moved into its respective boxes, ready for the next call to arms.

It was during one such clean-up operation when I found them, huddled together amidst the rubble; my forgotten projects. My unfinished business. How many times had I banished them to the corner of my work surface? How many times had I taunted them by storing them on the “to-be-baked” tray?
Enough is enough.

There were three of them this time. A Chihuahua with an empty eye socket and missing body, a wingless, legless chicken with badly sculpted beak – and a limbless sealion staring sadly out of hollow eyes. The Chihuahua was heavy with dust, the clay hard from weeks of sitting unworked. The sculpt actually wasn’t bad – the eyes a little unsymmetrical maybe – but nothing worth this fate.

I sat down with my camera to document the damage, like a plastic surgeon deciding what could be salvaged. I didn’t have the energy to work on a body – I had already spent nearly two days sculpting that tiny face only to abandon it before I fixed the left eye into its socket. I was not about to spend another two days working on a body I would almost certainly dislike.

I mused over the usefulness of a floating Chihuahua head while rolling an eye in the palm of my hand, when I happened to scan over an as yet untidied bag of wooden buttons. I held the head up against a button, balancing the two above my knuckles.

It was perfect. I eagerly cut away excess Chihuahua neck to improve the fit and chucked it in the oven. I felt suddenly excited and amused – like I was the only one to understand a joke told to a room of intellectuals. I honestly can’t explain what I find so hilarious about my Chihuahua ring. Maybe it’s the contrast between what I intended to make when I started sculpting it, and what it ended up being. Maye it’s the salvaging of my forgotten project into something quite unforgettable. Or maybe it is what is it – a hilariously ridiculous Chihuahua ring. I’m sure not many people have (or would want) one like it.

chihuahua 2chihuahua 3chihuahua ring 1

And as for the other two… the chicken made it as far as a fixed-up sculpt and an initial layer of paint before I lost interest again. The sealion never even made it to the oven. They sit patiently on the outskirts of my chopping board, awaiting another moment of playful insanity – and when it comes, I’ll be sure to let you know.

 

 

Unfinished Business

Creativity Calls: The Pursuits of a Bad Artist

I had originally intended to call this blog “Creativity Calls” (which I discovered has already been taken), using the tagline “The pursuits of a bad artist”.

I think about that tag line whenever I have a day like today. I’m not naturally talented; nothing about sculpting or painting or drawing or anything really comes very easily to me. Yet I have also not worked long enough at it, not tirelessly tried to better myself as an artist, not found the time in my scientist’s schedule to nurture an artistic soul. Creativity is different for everyone, but for me it’s a kind of desperation. A plea for something to focus my restless mind on, for something quiet. It works best when I’m trying to copy something – drawing from reference photos, or painting coat colours onto clay animals. There’s a visible measure of my skill then – I can hold side by side the genuine article and my attempt to capture it and appropriately quantify my success.

But trying to replicate the image in my head – trying to paint or to sculpt from abstract ideas, always leaves me frustrated and unfulfilled. It was a rabbit shaped beanimal that bought out the depressive in me this time. I had a reference photo of a baby lop-eared bunny beside my naked beanimal, and I glanced at it often while mixing up shades of yellow acrylic. I just wanted enough realism in the coat pattern, but ultimately intended to paint a Spring themed bunny, inspired by the boldness of the daffodils; too eager to sleep any longer – pushing through the last of the winter with such a confident contrast to the still leafless trees.
bunny beanimal fail
There is no physical picture of the finished bunny to compare to, and so it can be hard for people to understand my disdain. The frustration can be quite lonely when you’re the only one who appreciates just how much the second rate brush strokes have butchered that image of a beautiful daffodil bunny into a jaundiced rabbit with skew eyes. And having strayed just too far from the reference photo of the lop-ear, I can only assume that to the outside observer, my creation is simply the pursuit of a sub-par artist.

It can sometimes be hard to bring myself back to sculpting after such an under-expression of my creativity. It can feel quite helpless, like that quiet I craved is drowning. I often imagine this to be a sort of ‘writer’s block’, borne not out of a lack of inspiration, but a lack of skill to express it; a helplessness.

The analyst in me knows that this is solvable, and knows that it just might take years of practise. Of pushing myself outside that comfort of reference photo comparison, pushing myself to find and accept my own artistic style, and to keep working on it – always working on it. But in the meantime, the creativity, the desperation, keeps calling.

Creativity Calls: The Pursuits of a Bad Artist

Welcome, Beanimals!

The Beanimals were something I doodled well over a year ago. I don’t remember how I thought them up, but they’ve been sitting there on the back shelf of my imagination for quite a while now.

Originally I intended them to look more like actual beans; a kidney bean fox, a butter bean bear or perhaps a pinto bean hamster. But ultimately, despite my vegetarianism, there is only so much enthusiasm I can muster for actual beans. And so when I began moulding the Super Sculpey between my fingers, it was bean shaped animals that emerged, rather than animal shaped beans.

They’re both incredibly easy and deceptively tricky to make. Their consistent bean shaped body and tiny little stump legs means I’m already half way there after five minutes of working the clay, an instant encouragement to finish their forms. The tricky part comes in shaping the face, adding enough of an animal’s distinguishing features so that no Beanimal could be mistaken for another.

I like to play a game with my boyfriend where I have him guess what animal the Beanimal is prior to receiving its paint job. He doesn’t always get it right – an instant discouragement in light of the additional hour I take sculpting their faces. In fairness, when we play this game the Beanimals are lacking their eyes, noses and markings – and it is usually only me who has spent the last hour staring at stock images of the same animal, mentally editing features until only the most distinctive remain in the stylised clay.
“Isn’t it obvious?” I often sigh in defeat, “that these are the over-emphasized cheek bones of a panda?!”


It’s important to remind myself at such times that he had only recently discovered skinny pigs as a legitimate creature, and had struggled to accept the concept that they were in fact just hairless guinea pigs. I’ll get better anyway right? The more of these little beans I churn out, the easier our guessing game should hopefully get.

I have big plans for the Beanimals. I’m trying to build up a stock of them. They’re my experimental range – the test subjects for my entrepreneurial journey, and I’m excited to share their development with you.

 

Welcome, Beanimals!

Stockless Syndrome

I’m telling you all this, because then it makes it real. I’m publishing it on the internet for all the world to see, because then I will at least have someone to be accountable to.

I want to do a craft fair.

Apologies for what was inevitably the most anticlimactic admission you’ve ever wasted half a second of your life reading, but I’m serious this time. Every so often I get the notion in my head that I’ll sell things I’ve made – I’ll open up Monomers next month, I often think, just got to make stock first. But the stock never gets made in sufficient quantity to fill the imaginary quota I set in my head, which is ridiculous for an internet shop – I mean how much do I think I’m going to be able to sell?!

A craft fair though, that does require some real, visible stock – more than five 2 cm tall items to display on a 6 ft table would be preferable. I don’t envision I will sell very much, or anything, in fact there’s part of me that doesn’t care about physically selling things at all. It’s the making, always the making that I want to do. I’ve had the odd casual browse for local craft fairs, and am a little apprehensive. I make small, silly things, which although might take me an age to craft, are ultimately worth very little. I will sell most of my items for probably less than a fiver. Which means I’d have to sell a lot more than I’ve so far made to break even just on the cost of the stall alone. Let’s face it – I’m going to make a loss. But maybe that’s the wrong way to look at it, maybe I should instead be looking at this as some kind of metaphorical gain – in experience, in achieving a stock making goal…in something right? It just makes so much more sense to try and sell online, but still this aversion to meeting an unspecified, unsee-able stock goal, this inexplicable barrier.

But I’ve told you all now. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time, and hey – this blog is going to run dry pretty soon unless my boyfriend destroys anymore of my heart and soul with the heel of his foot (see the Squashed Gerbil Incident). So, already sounding like my usual excuses – I’m going to spend some time ‘making stock’. I figure that anything I can’t sell at a fair will at least have already broken through this weird mental block of mine – will be pre-approved to put up on Monomers and sell online.

I’ll keep reporting back here to confirm whether I’m sticking to my resolution for a change. That’s the first challenge; have something to display. Then I’ll sign up to craft fair and get my act together. I’ll blog it even, I’ll be accountable. And maybe this will help others like me, with Stockless Syndrome. It’s hard to know where to start, but maybe having you all there (as if anyone is actually reading this) will help.

Stockless syndrome picture

Stockless Syndrome

Super Sheep

All my polymer clay related social media (all two of the platforms I use), and even the business cards for Monomers (my unopened Etsy store) bear the image of a pearl white Swirly Sheep. He is my mascot. Before I got a job where cutesy-sheep jewellery might be frowned upon, I wore that little guy almost constantly around my neck on a black rope choker. He’s in my graduation photos.

Swirly Sheep is the only one of my pieces that I have successfully taken to, and actively used for its intended purpose – an item of jewellery. He’s not even the best piece; he shows practically no significant artistic skill, he’s not realistic, he’s not adorable or even that much of a unique concept. But he is my favourite. My breakthrough sheep.

When I first started making things out of polymer clay I had little appreciation for how fragile it can be after baking. Perhaps part of the problem was that I didn’t use my pieces for their intended purpose – just put them in a cardboard box and moved onto the next thing. I remember collecting the first few items I made in small plastic ziplock bags and transporting them to my parents’ house to proudly show off my new hobby. Probably 60% of them were broken when I arrived; severed fish tails, a snapped sea lion flipper and an absolute carnage of spindly leg pieces from assorted animals.

I wasn’t too upset about the mutilations, nothing a bit of super glue couldn’t handle – but they are something that has since stuck with me, and something I was constantly reminded of when making Swirly Sheep.

Swirly Sheep is somewhat of an innovation. The result of a very successful experiment into making a durable, strong and generally bad-ass pendant who aint afraid of nobody – not even gravity. He is the Wolverine of my polymer clay creatures – reinforced with no less than five pieces of adamantium, I mean florist’s wire. He was the pioneering sheep, the first to undergo a multiple bake-stage construction process. The first to have his respective limbs not only blended onto his body, but fused to it with liquid clay.

When he used to reside on my neck, I’d often find myself reaching up to check his tiny little triangle ears hadn’t fallen off, when of course they hadn’t – only a fool doubts Swirly Sheep. He is my mascot because he reminds me of the first breakthrough, he was the first real chance I had at making things I could one day sell. He’s a little swirly piece of excitement, a little pearly hint of hope for the future of my crafting. And although I don’t wear him all the time anymore, he’s the first thing I turn to when I need to feel strong.

swirly sheep

 

Super Sheep

The Birds

 

I made a lot of birds when I lived in London. It started amidst the struggle to find a flat with affordable rent that my boyfriend and I could co-habit in. I had just started a new job in Publishing – and was ‘staying over’ in the tiny room my boyfriend rented in a house full of strangers, on a ‘temporary’ basis.

3 months is not really what I would call temporary. 3 months is bordering on ‘short-term’ in my opinion, but so was my brutal introduction to the London rental market.
He had a small desk in the corner of the room, which required some furniture rearrangement to sit at, and the precarious stacking of his existing stationary to make space for my glass chopping board.

I came across a Zen Pencils comic once that illustrated Charles Bukowski’s poem “Air and light and time and space”. It says something along the lines of ‘you will create whatever the circumstances, in whatever space you have to work in’, or more bluntly ‘no excuses.’ Every time I sat down at that desk I was reminded of it, it made me smile to myself. London was still new – I had everything ahead of me. I was at the best part of that journey – the beginning.

It was hard to keep the clay clean in that small space. I was always picking things up to make room, disturbing dusty items. I think that first little bird; a tubby, tiny blue tit, was the earliest in my experimentation with painting clay.  And how freeing it was! To rub my linty hands all over a block of Fimo Soft and give exactly zero fudgecakes about the consequences. My tools became grubby with pigment traces, my chopping board streaky with caked on Fimo Decogel – but I couldn’t care less; the acrylics would hide all such sins.

I felt pretty pleased with how my little blue tit came out. I felt spurred on to stock an Etsy shop full of garden birds – and even went as far as making an account and reserving a shop name. (It’s Monomers if you’re interested – maybe I’ll actually be up and running by the time you read this, maybe I’ll dedicate a blog post to it…maybe…)

But then life, or maybe it was London, checked me. We found a flat. Or rather – my boyfriend found a flat for us, as I ended up working late and missing the viewing. It was small of course (this is London we’re talking about), a “super-studio” with a grand total of two doors and an ensuite cupboard, I mean kitchen. It was comfortable and interesting, and more importantly ‘affordable’. It took an hour to commute in to my office job, riding the full length of a DLR line and then reluctantly squeezing myself against strangers on the Northern Line for, thankfully, only four stops.

Somewhere in all the back and forth, in all the mental tedium of watching my belongings, avoiding eye-contact and silently daring people to touch me with their inconsiderately full spread newspapers, I became trapped. London is an amazing city, a vibrant city, a place of infinite opportunity and experience. But I was drowning in it. I had never felt so lonely among so many people.

So I made a lot of birds. Birds are the ultimate symbols of freedom – but even they are bound by routine. Yearly migrations, breeding seasons, morning calls. I felt they were a good metaphor for the way I was feeling; technically free but ultimately trapped.

 

I know this post is a bit heavy, so here’s a bonus video of me painting the blue tit for you to lol at…

The Birds