Iconic polymer

Nine of Elise Winters' 64" wrapping rope necklaces from 2004 on PolymerClayDaily.com


by Fran Abrams

An icon in my artistic medium
died today
Cancer, the notice said

I was introduced to her at a conference
Heard her speak at a seminar
Ate dinner at the same table at another event
I never knew her personally
Didn’t know she was ill

Yet I feel personally bereft
Feel as if the saying
She will be missed
is much too casual
for her contributions to the field

Without her crusade to bring attention to polymer clay
Without her donation of her own collection to several museums
Without her own exquisite designs
Would the recognition be so great?
Would my own work be in a museum today?
I think not

I grieve because I can see clearly
the steps of her life leading
to a moment in my life
How her life
changed the story of mine

Photo, Elise Winters necklaces, Nine Sautoir, 200464-inch wrapping rope necklaces with gold, vermeil, sterling silver and mica

Elise Winters’ legacy

Elise Winters, 1947-2019, portrait by Barbara Bordnick

Polymer’s finest champion, Elise Winters died on New Years Day after a long struggle with cancer.

While we absorb the sadness of her passing, it may be comforting to read How Polymer Hit the Big Time, the story written by Monica Moses about Elise in American Craft Magazine’s October/November 2011 issue.

It begins, “In the 1990s, Elise Winters became convinced polymer artists weren’t getting the money or respect they deserved. “The whole field needed to be elevated,” she says. A natural strategist and organizer, Winters set out to make that happen.”

And she did make that happen.

The Racine Art Museum (RAM) was the first to put together a permanent collection of polymer art. Then RAM director Bruce Pepich helped pave the way for smaller chunks of Winters’ collection to go to the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Newark Museum; the Mingei International Museum in San Diego, and the Museum of Arts and Design in New York.

Elise elevated our craft and artists around the world mourn her loss. Our community will forever be in her debt.