National Polymer Clay Guild

By Sarajane Helm

Are you a member of the National Polymer Clay Guild (NPCG)? I am. I have been, on and off, for at least a decade, and this year I'm the volunteer in the Membership Office. One of the things I get to do is help spread the word about the joys of polymer clay itself and about the benefits of being involved with the NPCG.

I've been playing with clays for as long as I can remember, and polymer clay has been my "day job" for more than 15 years. All along, I have found polymer clays to be the most fascinating, changeable, malleable and seductive of media. It is easy to get enjoyable and beautiful results, once you've learned a few things about preparation, baking and finishing. Then there's a whole world of color and form and application to explore. Whenever you think you've found all the uses of clay, that's when you are guaranteed to learn six new things you never thought about doing with it. There are always new techniques, new color combinations, new tools, new finishes, even new kinds of clay!

Many people have been working with polymer clay intensively, and there are a growing number of excellent books and videos about working with polymer clay. I am proud to say that this year will see the release of my book, Make A Polymer Clay Impression, from Krause Publications (due September 2001; for a sneak preview, visit Sarajane's Polymer Clay Gallery).

In addition to the books, videos, and magazine articles now available in print and online, there are a number of polymer clay artists who also offer classes throughout the United States and elsewhere in the world. Conferences, retreats, trade shows, seminars and conventions featuring polymer clay are also offered every year, and there is growing availability of both the raw materials and the finished art.

There are several ways to keep in touch with what is being offered in the way of classes and events. One of the best is to join with fellow polymer clay enthusiasts in a guild. There are many local guilds that are independent of the larger national organization, but efforts are made to work together to mutual advantage -- it's in all of our interests to spread the word about things to do with polymer clay!

The NPCG was formed a decade ago to support artists and crafters and to educate the public about the use of polymer clay as an artistic medium. It supports and educates by publicizing polymer clay work to galleries and museums as well as the public; by fostering education through sharing information, giving demonstrations and conducting workshops; and by developing opportunities for polymer clay artists to show their work to the public and to engage in public service activities.

The membership of this not-for-profit arts organization is made up of artists, teachers, hobbyists and collectors who love polymer clay. One of the chief member benefits is the quarterly newsletter, The POLYinforMER, which is both a visual treat and a great source of information. The newsletter includes articles, projects, and interviews designed to stimulate your imagination and improve your skills. Every issue features reviews of tapes, books, and clay-related products; safety information; listings of upcoming shows, classes and other opportunities; descriptions of exciting programs in regional guilds; tips, techniques, and more!

Other member benefits to the NPCG include the Membership Directory -- never sold or given to non-members -- which contains contact information for more than 1000 U.S. members as well as our members from around the world. The directory also features resource listings, which are very handy to have!

The NPCG maintains a web site on the Internet that is a valuable source of information, with a steady influx of news about the polymer clay events around the world, contact listings of local guilds, and a printable membership form you can fill out and send in to join the NPCG. You can now use PayPal.com to pay your membership fees online with a credit card if you choose. Visit www.npcg.org to find out more.

As a member of the NPCG, you can rent books and videotapes from the NPCG library, and rent (and contribute to) the NPCG slide bank, featuring fascinating and historic artwork and craft projects. The new slide shows that are now being prepared are amazing. These collections are all well worth viewing.

Members are also invited to participate in guild shows and attend workshops, program meetings, the biannual National Conference, and the annual May retreat, all at a discounted price. A lot of work goes on in our membership, and a lot more work happens in order to show it off!

All the efforts needed to produce these benefits and events are done by volunteers, and the NPCG offers its members the opportunity to get involved on many levels. Working and learning together, we make things happen! My own time in the office of Membership VP has been highly educational and stimulating, and has gotten me involved in projects outside my own studio. It's good to see, on in a wider scope and scale, what is happening in the polymer clay community. I've learned skills in the course of my duties that are of use in my own business, which I hadn't even thought about when I agreed to volunteer, and my typing has certainly improved!

If you aren't already a member of the National Polymer Clay Guild, think about joining us! If you are currently a member, please think about what skills or areas of interest you could bring to the group, and consider volunteering to help with the many ongoing aspects of this terrific organization. Come see what others around the country and the world are doing with their clay!

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