Polymer Clay Taught Me Patience: An Interview with Syndee Holt
When I was new to polymer clay, one of the first books I bought was Polymer Clay for the First Time by Syndee Holt. No one I knew had ever heard of polymer clay, let alone used it, so I relied on Syndee's book to unlock the secrets of Skinner's blend and millefiori cane. It was a special thrill for me to ask Syndee a few questions about her work.
Michelle: Why polymer clay? Why not knitting? Or skydiving?
Syndee: I have always liked beading—after all, I am a child of the 60s. I liked the tribal work that was being done in millefiori at the time I got involved. When I first started, I would make a set of beads, bake them, and string them while they were hot so I could wear it the next day. Ultimately, I wanted to do more and more complex designs that needed more time to create, so polymer clay literally taught me patience.
Michelle: You're a very busy person—kids, full-time job, plus designing for magazines and TV. What advice do you have for others who are trying to carve out time in their schedules for creativity?
Syndee: At one point, I was working full-time, designing for three different companies, writing for magazines, doing television twice a year, taking care of two small boys (and all their friends), and taking care of my eldery father. Scares me to think of it. I wrote my book with six boys playing Nintendo in the same room with me. My advice? It only takes five minutes a day to create.
It also helps to plan your meals carefully for your "play days." For instance, a French Dip dinner for Saturday evening, that cooks all day in the crock pot, with no supervision (since you are already at the clay table, you don't want to get up if you don't have to!). Add onions to the the leftover broth, cook all night again, and you have French onion soup for Sunday evening. That can free up at least three hours from kitchen duty!
Keep your family involved. My kids were part of my design team, my photography team. They also loved to see something they had worked on in the magazine or on TV.
Michelle: What's your studio like?
Syndee Holt's garage studio Syndee: My garage door is designed like a big Double Dutch door, so I can open up the top panels and let the Southern California sunshine in. This workbench is over 50 years old and belong to my father. I live in the house I grew up in. In fact, our bicycle license numbers are still written on the wall. The sign you see on the wall was my dad's. It says, "Live long enough to be a problem to your children." The other signs, boxes, and posters all have my work on them.
Not only do I store some of my holiday decorations in my studio, but since most editorial calendars are nine months ahead, I often pull out the decorations to help me "get in the mood."
Syndee: I live at the beach and I have a good friend who collects beach glass. I had seen some beads with silver bezels around real beach glass, so I thought why not make faux glass out of polymer clay? That way I can create the wire bezel and press it into the unbaked clay to create the bead. MUCH easier than trying to fit metal around glass!
Michelle: What's next? What are you currently working on?
Syndee: I'm working on trying to retire to only ONE job! I'm trying to slow down! It's not an easy road, that's for sure. When I walk into social gatherings, all my friends say, "Do we know you?"