Saturday, August 19, 2017


Energized and exhausted, inspired and brain-fried, awed and humbled... this was my week immersed among members of the IPCA international polymer community that attended Synergy4 from August 13th through August 17th. The event was held in Philadelphia (King of Prussia area) this year. When I learned how close the conference would be to my home, I knew I had to attend. I found a roommate to share the expense of the hotel and saved up my pennies well in advance, and am so thankful that I had the chance to experience it.

When I originally signed on to be an attendee, I dismissed the thought of participating in any of the workshops because of the added cost and because I wanted to keep things simple (i.e. I didn't want to lug a lot of supplies). It was for this reason too, that I opted for the conference (discussions) over the retreat (hands-on).

Wading in....

As the months closed in on the conference though, I kept beating myself up for not signing on to a workshop... particularly the workshop offered by Donna Greenberg. You see, Donna is among the very top of the list of polymer artists who's work I idolize, and this chance could be a once-in-a-lifetime-event for me (although I hope that won't be the case). The universe must have heard my regrets at that time, as Donna sent out a Facebook notice that she had received a cancellation for her workshop and a slot had opened. I messaged her with a few questions and soon after jumped on board. This was such a gift to myself, and I couldn't be happier to have had the experience.

The class gathers around Donna Greenberg as she begins to demonstrate her process at Synergy4
With a canteen full of coffee in hand, early Sunday morning I made the 50 minute trek from Lancaster to King of Prussia. Donna Greenberg's workshop was an all day affair, beginning around 8:30AM and wrapping up around 4PM. Donna thoroughly explained and demonstrated each step in the process of creating her Tidal Pool Pendants, and she helped along the way whenever anyone ran into troubles, with tips and design suggestions. She's not only a master of design and of our medium, but she is a patient, generous and giving teacher.

As a workshop virgin, I'd always heard that taking a workshop with any of the master artists teaches one so much more than the project itself, and that was certainly true of this workshop... I came away with new supply suggestions for paints and finishes, a bigger appreciation for simply using my hands to do more of the sculpting (as opposed to using tools and cutters), and of course the insight into the methods that Donna uses to create her gorgeously sculpted pieces. At the end of the class, it was so fun to see the separate voices of each person, as we all used the same instructions but went in very individual directions. Here's a group shot of some of the pendants from the class:

Group shot of some of the pendants from the Tidal Pool Workshop given by Donna Greenberg at Synergy4

Can you guess which one is mine? If you follow my blog or are familiar with my style, I think you just might be able to pick it out. I wanted mine to incorporate more of the curves and waves that Donna demonstrated. I also wanted to incorporate some tiny sea urchin spines which I had brought along (might be tough to find in the photo above)... After I finished sculpting the piece I was quite pleased with it... I began the painting after Donna's instruction on that part, but mid-way I hesitated because it didn't feel like the piece flowed as well with the addition of color. Perhaps I rushed into my choices, because I was focused on using similar colors to those in the sea urchin spines. Donna came around to my table and suggested that I push further with color to unify the piece. I did push further, when I was finished with painting the front I liked it more, but didn't love it. Donna came around again and chatted with me about it, immediately zeroing in on what I was feeling and the reason why the design wasn't working for me as much as it had when it was unpainted. I had taken it from having a definite focal point to, with my use and choices of the color, diminishing the focal. As time was running out in our day, I resolved to keep working on it when I returned home. Since my return I have managed to squeak in some studio time and I did finish my pendant, added the cord and made a toggle clasp (á la Donna style - yes, she taught us that part too).

Here's the before tweaking shot:

My pendant before tweaking the colors (you can see two of my sea urchin spines broke in transport)

Here's the after tweaking - I replaced the broken sea urchin spines and added gold flake to the center focal and tiny hints of gold to outer areas:

I wish I had made the toggle before I painted the back, but when I colored the leather purple, I decided that the toggle needed to also have purple, and also wanted to bring the gold into that part. I may at some point make changes to the paint on the back of the pendant to unify it with the rest of the piece. I was beyond pleased with the workshop, and really hope that I will be able to do more of them in the future! If you are a polymer enthusiast, if you ever get a chance to take a workshop with Donna Greenberg, do it!!


What to say about Synergy... Wow! I'm still processing all of the information and everyone I saw and met. As a major introvert, it was a great benefit to me to have a partner in crime, my roommate... Lisa Rapp of HiGirls! Lisa and I have been online friends for years, we met through the PCAGOE and had met in person previously at our little PCAGOE retreat a couple years ago. We were both equally exhausted from the full conference schedule.

To begin, Sunday night we enjoyed the opening reception, mingling with the other attendees while enjoying cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. Each day we enjoyed breakfast in one of the hotel restaurants, followed by morning announcements, a morning general session, a snack break, morning break-out sessions (where we divided up into smaller groups and went to discussions we chose based on our interests), lunch (beautifully catered by the hotel), afternoon announcements, afternoon general session, mid-day snack break, afternoon break-out session, and finally demos... the days were packed with information and food!

Into the Forest installation at Synergy4 (this amazing mosaic was created by Julie Eakes)

The general sessions included presentations by:  Laura Tabakman, Emily Squires Levine and Julie Eakes on the amazing Into the Forest collaboration installation (the photos above show the mini Into the Forest that they brought to Synergy), Mags Bonham Mags Bonham, Really Unique Creations (using digital cutters with polymer), Ellen Prophater Creative Journey Studios (Magical Mokume Gane), Marie Segal Marie Segal's Art from my Heart (Cernit), Jana Roberts Benzon (VanAken - Kato), Loretta Lam on Creativity takes courage, Jeffrey Lloyd Dever and Nan Roche (a conversation celebrating the 25th anniversary of The New Clay), Maggie Maggio (The ABCs of color: Learning the language of art), Georg Dinkel Vunderkammer video presentation of his amazing body of work, (Polymer Clay Wunderkammer), and finally Jeffrey Lloyd Dever (Common ground/distinctive voices - a panel discussion).

The Breakout sessions that I opted for were: Sage Bray The Polymer Arts (Green Art: Polymer and the Environmental issue), Kathleen Nowak Tucci  (Taking a low material high), Doreen Kassel/Donna Greenberg Donna Greenberg Arts (Doreen and Donna's Excellent Adventure), Christi Friesen Christi Friesen Originals (Exploring New Materials - Timeless Techniques), and Linda Leach (The Etching Alternative).

The demos I had the pleasure of seeing were: Karen Woods and Alison Gallant (Silkscreen techniques), Maria Alexandrou (Flexible cuff construction), Syndee Holt (Urban Raku), Patrice Pfeiffer (enhancing textures and layers with Ultra Light), and Mags Bonham Mags Bonham, Really Unique Creations (Silhouette Cutter with Polymer)

The IPCA awards were also announced at Synergy. View the diverse entries and the winning pieces at this link:  Congratulations to all entrants and winners!!

Jeffrey Lloyd Dever and Nan Roche during a General Session presentation that commemorated the anniversary Nan's groundbreaking book The New Clay, published 26 years ago

There's a panoramic photo of the whole group of attendees at this link (tried to embed it here, but it didn't work):

The biggest take-away for me was how welcoming everyone was. It was a wonderful experience to meet with people that I've only know in an online presence, and make some new polymer artist friends too (I wish I could list them all here). And it was humbling to be among polymer masters and to see and touch their incredible art work in person. Being the introvert that I am, I didn't take nearly enough opportunities to introduce myself to everyone that I wanted to meet, and I didn't take nearly enough photos either (I regret that I didn't ask Donna Greenberg for a photo with her...yes, major introvert here... I took her workshop, you'd think I'd ask for a photo), but I did muster up the courage to ask for photo ops with a few people:
With Cynthia Tinapple of Polymer Clay Daily 

With Ginger Davis Allman of The Blue Bottle Tree
With Carole Monahan of Curious Clay Creations

With Kathleen Nowak Tucci 

With Marie Segal of Marie Segal's Art from my Heart
With Nan Roche
With Sage Bray (center) of The Polymer Arts and Lisa Rapp (right) of HiGirls 

With Debbie Jackson (left) of Debbie's Adornments and Lisa Rapp (right)

With EvaMarie Törnström of Mosebacke Horse Sculptures
The closing reception was brimming with eye candy, everyone was donning some of their art or art that they'd purchased, and the auction was a feast for the eyes, as well as thoroughly entertaining... with Christi Friesen performing auctioneer duties... what a hoot! The last 4 photos above are shots taken at the closing reception and dinner, here are a few more:

Overview of the reception 

Dinner table-mates, Lorrene Baum-Davis and Gloria Davis

Overviews of the Closing Dinner

Polymer artists are a lively bunch!

Lori Michels and her sugar maple leaf polymer handbag
The fabulous Marie Segal and her equally fabulous woven necklace

I remember when I first committed to attending this event and I had reservations about whether I could justify/afford the expense... Goodness, I can hardly believe I had that thought now! Given all the gained information, inundation of inspiration, experience of meeting fellow artists and polymer masters, along with all of the polymer freebies and inclusive meals, it was way beyond worth it and then some! I so hope that I can attend another Synergy event in the future!

Special thanks go out to Donna Greenberg for her generosity and guidance. Special thanks to Polyform for supplying Premo for the workshops, and for the free bottle of the new Clear Liquid Sculpey. Special thanks to Van Aken for the little take-out box that was full of Kato clay, liquid clay and poly paste, plus the free bars in the swag bag and at the closing dinner reception. Special thanks to Staedtler Mars GmbH & Co KG, for the bars of Fimo gifted to us in the swag bag. Huge thanks go out to the Synergy4 team for putting together a memorable and amazing event. And big thanks to the IPCA members who attended the conference with a sharing and welcoming attitude. Thanks also go out to the Doubletree Hilton at Valley Forge and their staff, for doing a great job catering to this crowd...

Can't forget to add photos of my loot!

Plethora of business cards
The freebies! (minus 2 bars of Premo that I used in the workshop)
The supplies I purchased... can't wait to try the Cernit and Swellegant!
The Polymer lovelies... 3 of Ron Lehocky's heart pins, an Into the Forest Flower, a Christi Friesen hanging air planter and a Donna Greenberg leaf brooch! 
Whew! what an incredible experience, for which I am beyond grateful! It's back to the grindstone for me... I drove home late Wednesday night, after the dinner/auction and the first day was spent in the garden bringing in tomatoes, thai basil, digging up our potatoes, pulling some onions, beans, peppers, eggplant and blackberries. Much of Friday was devoted to processing the tomatoes for oven roasting, and the next couple days will find me processing more tomatoes and the eggplant... I know it's been a while (8 months) since I've posted here on the blog, much of that has been due to spousal health issues. Now that things are hopefully back on track with the hubby's health, the new school year (i.e. alone time) will hopefully usher in a burst of creativity and projects... stay tuned! As always, your comments are welcomed below, if you have something to say or add, please do leave me your thoughts below! ....If you don't hear from me for a little while, it's because I'm buried under a pile of vegetables! 😉😜

Garden harvest on Thursday 
Tomatoes prepped for roasting on Friday



  1. Wow! Thanks, Beth for the comprehensive report. Looks and sounds like a marvelous event, and I'm so happy that you and Lisa took the plunge :D (And, I correctly identified your tidal pool pendant!)

    1. Ha, ha! I guessed that my PCAGOE friends would be the most likely to know which was mine! ;) Thanks so much to you again, Susan, for all of your tips on "doing" Synergy! Your presence was missed and I hope we can all (you, Lisa, Line, Marie and me) find some way to do a Synergy event in the future together, for a little PCAGOE reunion!

  2. Beth, so glad to hear from you. What a wonderful experience to give yourself. One that I hope to do someday soon. But in the meantime I have to live vicariously through you. Ah, to have been a fly on the wall. I think that it is amazing that you can go from Synergy to your garden from one day to the next. It shows a strength of character that I've always seen in you. I would have been "vegetating" for a week or so after all that. lol
    Can't wait to see how all that churning inspiration finds its way into your work. I'm almost glad that your hubby is feeling better. Happy fall!

    1. Thanks, Line! It was a great gift to myself, indeed! I hope you can attend one someday... and hopefully we'll both be able to do the same one! ;) Wouldn't a little PCAGOE reunion at a Synergy be a fabulous thing?! :D

  3. Thank you for this wonderfully written overview of an amazing experience. It was great having you as roomie and fellow synergy newbie buddy! I love what you've done with your piece and I'm glad to hear you've had a little time to get back to the clay. Hope to see you soon.

    1. Thank you, Lisa, for your comments and for sharing in the Synergy adventure with me! It was great to have a familiar friend along for the ride! So, thanks for putting up with me! ;) Yes, I hope to see you again soon too! Perhaps a clay date?

  4. Thank you for your Synergy review. Almost as good as being there. You certainly don't appear introverted and your art speaks loudly and beautifully for you! I had really wanted to attend Synergy this year but events and lack of funds prevented that. Time to start saving for the next one. I think I heard it will be 2019 so that gives me 2 years...hope I will make it then. Thanks again for your wonderful descriptive post!

  5. Hi Nan! Thanks for the comments! Yes, I think I should start saving for 2019 Synergy too, I hope to attend it and hope to meet you then! ;)


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