Interview with Amy A. Crawley
The product of Amy Crawley’s mind and craft is one of a kind. In fact, each creation seems to be more interesting than the previous as you browse through her intricate pieces. But that is how it is supposed to be with Amy’s art: the more you examine it, the more alluring it becomes. The nostalgic beauty of her sculptures is reminiscent of childhood. The colors, shapes, and the patterns combine to create sophisticated layers of thought and wisdom.
One of your customers say that your work has a healing quality. Has being a speech/language therapist and a technical writer influenced you as an artist in any way?
Working as a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) and Technical Writer certainly gave me different ways to use my creative skills. My interest in sculpting may have some basis in my past life as an SLP. And working as a Technical Writer definitely gave me a good background in writing copy, grammar, and editing. Both fields honed my organization skills. I think, however, that those careers were stepping stones to get me where I am today, working as an artist.
All three careers have their roots in helping people, bringing information to people, and touching people on some level. My first two careers required some form of creativity but the amount of self-expression was limited by the work environment. However, I was always doing something artsy-creative outside of work. When the universe presented the opportunity for me to delve into art fulltime, I took it.
You say that polymer is “malleable so if you don’t like it, you just squish it and start all over again.” So, do you usually create your sculptures by trial and error? Or do you plan out the designs beforehand?
My approach to creating my Spirit Messengers is a combination of sketching and trial and error. I get an idea for a particular piece, sketch it out, have a vision of what I’d like to be, and then the trial and error starts. I’ve learned that what I sketch on paper and what I see in my mind’s eye may not be what comes out of my hands. In other words, I have learned to let the sculpture speak to me and tell me what it wants to be. If I try to control the outcome, the creation fights me and we may both be disappointed with the outcome.
But yes, polymer is malleable and you can squish it and start over if necessary, depending on where you are in the process.
You started working with polymer clay in 1998. How has the polymer clay community changed in the past decade?
Polymer clay has become more popular as a medium for artists. I’m seeing it used as a cross-over material with artists for whom polymer is not their primary medium. For example, you may find it incorporated in mixed media pieces, such as collage. Jewelry artists may use polymer in conjunction with glass and stone beads.
When I started working with polymer there were very few books on the material. Now there are hundreds of books on creating with polymer clay. The national organization’s membership has grown from being primarily stateside and in Canada to an international organization with members throughout Europe as well as in the Middle East and in Asia. There are more workshops for people, both online and in-person. Polymer clay artists are also pushing boundaries with the material, using it in both a traditional format (creating canes, jewelry, functional items) to sculpture, vessels, wall installations, painting, and as an inlay in furniture.
There are also more museums with polymer clay art in their permanent collections, including the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and soon at the Racine Art Museum (RAM) in Wisconsin. RAM will house the largest permanent collection of polymer art in the country. Their collection will include over 180 pieces of polymer clay jewelry and sculpture. The inaugural exhibit of this collection opens in 2011.
Yet polymer remains, for most people, a very affordable art material. For about $30, you can buy a few colors of clay, basic tools and an instruction book at the craft store and start creating. Because it is a low-fire clay, you can cure it in your home oven with some simple precautions.
Besides art, you also meditate and write (read her blog here). How does these mediums compare in terms of self-expression?
Meditation and writing can be springboards to creativity. For me, meditation is a way to silence my inner critic and to center myself. By becoming quiet in meditation and clearing my head, I open myself up to other ideas and inspiration. Meditation might provide an answer to a problem or help me to see a situation more clearly. But at its core, meditation simply keeps me on an even keel and brings me back to my self.
Writing is a different form of self-expression. I’ve recently returned to daily writing in my journal as a way to dump the voices and noise out of my head. Like meditation, writing on a daily basis clears my head for the day ahead. We all have so much stuff bouncing around in our heads that it can become a distraction and keep us from accomplishing anything.
My blog is place where I can share my artwork, my frustrations, my inspirations, and sometimes a really good recipe! I’m very in tune to my need to have a community where I can share thoughts and ideas and get support. Writing on my blog is one way to do that.
Your store is called Moonroom Crafts. How did the name originate?
The name Moonroom Crafts comes from my first home studio. The studio had two skylights and you could see the moon through them. We starting calling the studio the Moon Room and it kind of stuck from there.
When I started my business, Moonroom Crafts was an all-inclusive business name. In 2008, I split up my lines of artwork. Now Moonroom Crafts represents my functional art business; that is, where I market and sell my wine bottle stoppers, perfume pens, and business card cases. Amy A. Crawley Fine Art is where I showcase and sell my Spirit Messengers and small scale sculptures.
What are you actively working on now?
For the last couple of months I’ve been actively working on a new business plan. I am expanding my business to include teaching and creativity coaching. I’ve been writing class descriptions and proposals and meeting with local art/craft stores to discuss teaching opportunities. This fall I am teaching a class in October, offering a series of classes in my studio and hope to have another class in either November or December.
I have also been experimenting with bird sculptures, making sculptures with light bulbs as the armature, and mixed media wall art incorporating polymer clay. Finally, I’m teaching myself how to use Photoshop Elements to create digital art. My vision is to create a line of cards, prints, and Spirit Messengers inspired by a common theme, such as the colors and shapes of the produce in our vegetable garden.
Random: what is your guilty pleasure?
Hostess chocolate cupcakes
Interviewed by Connie Q.