Synthesizing Synergy2

Janet Pitcher's polymer and filigree necklace

It’s taken me a couple of days to process what I heard at Synergy and boil it down to bullets. These are my takeaway points:

  • We are emerging from the polymer ghetto and crossing over into broader participation in the art world
  • We are making closer alliances with important advocates – museums and academic institutions among them
  • Mash-ups of media are commonplace and these collaborations signal an acceptance of polymer
  • Media tools bring our art in front of a wide audience
  • Many artists are working in polymer which is raising the bar
  • Calling our art “polymer” and dropping “clay” is becoming the most favored description and avoids confusion with ceramics

I’ll try to elaborate on these themes and share some of the techniques presented in future posts. You can sense the participants’ energy and excitement in this album of snapshots that I’ve assembled.

Janet Pitcher wore her new polymer and filigree design shown here at one event and I didn’t want you to miss it.

  • reply Kylee - Lunes ,

    Cynthia I have been following the twitters, blogs and all with greed since I wasn’t able to physically get to Synergy II. Your report round-ups have been great.

    It’s with pleasure that I read “Calling our art “polymer” and dropping “clay” is becoming the most favored description and avoids confusion with ceramics”

    So to put that into French…. Bijoux polymères….art polymère…..créations polymères….. I love the whole concept of dropping the word pâte, such an ugly word….which has never done us artists any justice!


    • reply Janet Pitcher ,

      Thanks Cynthia, for sharing my new design. I sure had fun with it and with all the tremendous artists who shared so generously at Synergy!

      • reply Gaina ,

        It’s good to know that polymer clay is now crossing over into art. I am using it for my final exhibition in my Art & Design degree and it’s been if interest to my tutors including one who teaches 3D/ceramics and wasn’t familiar with polymer clay. Hopefully people will be able to study it at college in the same way you can specialize in other mediums now.

        • reply maureen carlson ,

          Thanks, Cynthia. Your site is invaluable as a meeting place and source of inspiration.

          I know this site isn’t meant to be a discussion forum, but it seems appropriate here to add a comment and a few questions about the word “polymer”.

          At Synergy 2 I presented a session titled Mix and Match in which I showed and discussed other polymer clays and materials that are often used along with oven-cured polymer clay. So I’ve been thinking about this topic quite intensely for a few months now.

          Are we, as a community of users, prepared to broaden “our” field to include other polymer materials such as resin, silicone, paper, polyester, etc.? Those that air-dry, chemically combine to harden as in the epoxy compounds, and or include organic ones that are water soluable?

          It believe it isn’t really as simple as just eliminating the word “clay”.

          • reply Jeanne Rhea ,

            Are we, as a community of users, prepared to broaden “our” field to include other polymer materials such as resin, silicone, paper, polyester, etc.? Those that air-dry, chemically combine to harden as in the epoxy compounds, and or include organic ones that are water soluable?

            Very good question!

            • reply Ivy Koehn ,

              While respectfully acknowledging that you, Cynthia, are simply “the messenger” of this information, and also that this isn’t necessarily meant to be a discussion forum… I just want to say that I agree with Maureen. It seems to me that the word clay is helpful in describing the process. I think if I were to say to someone “I’m a polymer artist”, the first thought in their head would be “polymer what?”. I also feel that the word “polymer” alone is too broad a term, and that the other forms of polymer art mentioned above are too different from polymer clay art to be lumped into the same catagory.
              All that said, I’d like to add… THANK YOU for all the wonderful photos and information that you’ve posted from Synergy!!! It has been a real treat to get a glimpse of everything.

              • reply Alisa R. ,

                I’ve been using the word “polymer” alone as one of my materials tags on Etsy for a while in the hopes of elevating the status of PC. I have mixed feelings about dropping the “clay” part because it seems to detract from my sculpting use of the material.

                It’s always great to see its reputation as a medium grow in the art world because we know there have been unparalleled artworks created with PC for a long time.

                And it’s great to tap into the Synergy through PCDaily!

                • reply Lisa Mackin ,

                  “Emerging from the polymer ghetto” – Love it!

                  • reply victoria angelica ,

                    bellisimo todo……….

                    • reply Angeli ,

                      Just wanted to say thank you for sharing photos, and for this recap Cynthia.


                      • reply Loretta ,

                        when asked at shows, I reply “my work is polymer”. This is not a political statement but meant to keep the train from going off the rails. Too many times “polymer clay” has led to distracting, confusing banter when what I really want to talk about is the value of my work – the color, design, form, inspiration, focus, wearability, etc. Anything that leads the customer to greater appreciation is good and i found dropping the word clay to be just that.

                        • reply All Things Metal Clay » Blog Archive » PC Daily reports on Synergy 2 ,

                          • reply Genevieve ,

                            In my very limited experience I have noticed a difference in people’s reaction when I say my work is polymer as opposed to when I say its polymer clay. I kind of like to feel people out on this issue and it seems that most people think “artist” when I say polymer and “hobby crafter” when I say polymer clay.

                            • reply Amy Crawley ,

                              Hi Cynthia,

                              I enjoyed your presentation at Synergy2 on trends and I agree with your bullet points on some of the pertinent issues in polymer. I’m thrilled that the polymer clay community is pushing the medium to higher standards in both design and definition.

                              I’m still on the fence regarding the “polymer” versus “polymer clay” debate. I have a show in two weeks. I will have to try out the polymer (sans clay) label when describing the material and observe customer’s reactions.

                              I’m also posting summaries of Synergy2 (post event) on my blog at for anyone who’d like more to read on the event.

                              • reply Harvey Turner ,

                                While I do not work in Polymer clay, I am a jewelry artist. I recommend that you consider declaring, what appears to me to be clear, that you are a jewelry artist (or sculpter) fabricating primarily in polymer (clay). This art has come a long way in a few short years and this would seem to be a definitive identification.

                                • reply Carol Simmons ,

                                  “Polymer” is simply a word that describes the chemical structure of tens of
                                  thousands of materials in our world – natural and synthetic. Scientists,
                                  engineers, etc, would use the term “A polymer” to describe anything from
                                  amber, shellac and natural rubber to bakelite, nylon, polypropylene, PVC,
                                  and neoprene. The word “clay” provides useful information about the
                                  properties of our medium. It belongs in a category with paper clay, cork
                                  clay, modeling clay (plasticine), metal clay, and yes, “earthen” or
                                  “mineral” clay. As more and more high quality art is created with polymer
                                  clay the name will lose its negative connotations.

                                  • reply Jules ,

                                    ? And saying only “peanut” avoids confusion with normal butter? Interesting theory. 😀

                                    It’s not about the name, it’s about what you do with that stuff!

                                    I mean…the clay, not the butter… ;D

                                    • reply Cathy ,

                                      In my area, WNY, people are not familiar with “Polymer Clay”, let alone changing it. People would say “Polymer what?”. I understand the need to upgrade this fairly new media, but, I think that would be more confusing.”Polymer” alone, sounds very chemical, and could give a negative connotation. Using the term, “clay”, gives a sculptural meaning and a form that a customer can visualize.

                                      • reply Debbie ,

                                        Cathy: I’m also in WNY, and have just returned from the fantastic IPCA Retreat. I’d love to find where you are, and if you get together for talk /or play with clay. The people at the retreat were so full of positive energy, that I would lilke to find or gather a community locally. Although, I am a novice, I had teaching and constant sharing from quality people in polymer creations, so I’m focusing on follow through. I live in Amherst, near UB north.

                                        • reply Silvana Bates ,

                                          Thank you Cynthia for glimpses from Malta. As always, inspiring and amazing. Love the necklace(?) from Janet Pitcher, it’s wonderful!

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