by Jennifer Roberts
While last week’s announcement by the PMC Guild came as a surprise, the expressions of dismay at its passing did not. It is never easy to lose such an institution and the sense of wanting a place to share ideas is even more pronounced in a field as young as metal clay. The gratitude we feel for the people who introduced us to a medium we love so dearly cannot be overstated.
The metal clay community now has a unique opportunity – one I hope its members will seize. The Guild will not cease to be the Guild as we know it until next summer, so there is time to thoughtfully create something to take its place. All of the various members of the individual Guild chapters are already organized and talking with each other. Combine that level of organization with an active metal clay digest group, a healthy blogging community, and some wonderful metal clay magazines and we have a golden opportunity to create a new organization with a broader reach and even more involvement at the grass roots level.
You can already see the creative minds on the metal clay digest pondering the possibilities. For my part, I hope that whatever organization emerges reflects the brave new world that metal clay has become. What started as a field with two brands has blossomed into an arena offering tremendous choice to the artisan who wishes to mix and match, experiment and perfect, or just play with an ever-changing palette of materials. Metal clay is no longer just metal clay. It is enameling, resins, faux bone, mokume gane, wire-working, origami, mixed metals, mixed media, beading, found objects, polymer clays, glass, glass clays, gold, silver, copper, bronze, stainless steel, brass, cold connections, fingerprints and kinetic design. Some ancient techniques, some brand new, but all now part of the creative possibilities for a metal clay artisan.
While I believe that the various producers could get together to create a new organization, my hope is that the mission and shape of the new entity will spring not from the top down (the old model) but from the artisans up. The world of metal clay needed brand-specific guilds in the past to tell the world about this wonderful new stuff because no one knew what it was. Today, artisans are educating each other in classes, on-line, and in magazines. Who better to tell us where the art form and the materials should go than the people using them?
There are some aspects of graduating to a non-profit organization that can seem daunting, but with time and guidance, they are entirely manageable. I have guided many Texas groups through the process and all have been both successful and relieved at how smoothly the process went. Having chaired a few non-profits, I can attest to the fact that a burning desire to see your organization succeed and the willingness to work very hard are both prerequisites to survival. But I can also tell you that creating and leading one of these organizations is one of the most rewarding things you will ever do. And I see no lack of passion or stamina in this group.
It is very early days and everyone is still in a bit of shock. I hope that before we jump too quickly to version 2.0 of what came before, we will all let ideas about why and how to organize percolate a bit. So much has already been done by the hard work of the Guild that the artisans now have the luxury of asking this question: If you were creating an organization for metal clay artists from scratch, what would it look like?