Into the Forest — A Great Place to Go on a Lackluster Pittsburgh Day

From Connie Donaldson, today’s guest blogger.

IMG_20171104_133411_648 copyYou can tell that winter is coming to Pittsburgh fast. The dark mornings, the dreary rain-filled days are harbingers of another cold, messy season. That’s the way the day was when I went to the Spinning Plate Gallery to help my friend Laura Tabakman and Emily Squires Levine and Julie Eakes, the creators of Into the Forest, begin to assemble one of the most unique installations of polymer clay art there has ever been!

But once inside the light-filled gallery—I think it used to be a car dealership—the darkness lifted and, for just a few hours, I experienced a hint of Spring. The room was filled with everything needed to create an indoor forest—massive paper Mache tree trunks, spindly branches wrapped in curious patterns , interesting ground cover—and boxes containing thousands and thousands of colorful, unique and awe-inspiring flowers!! With each glance, I caught sight of mini-rainbows of flowers and butterflies and even a few alluring bugs and mushrooms, all being categorized and grouped and drilled and wired to make them ready for the gallery opening on November 10th!

20171104_144515 copyIt’s going to be magnificent! It will appeal to people who love polymer clay. It will, no-doubt, surprise those unfamiliar with the medium. Little kids will love the whimsy. Art lovers will be astonished by the sophistication of some of the pieces. Everyone will be in awe of the color, texture and heart of this work.

But for me on that cold and dreary November morning, the real magic was in the creation of this wonderland. When Laura, Emily and Julie chose to create this one-of-kind gallery installation, they sent the word out to the polymer clay community. And over three hundred artists—from beginners to established experts in the field, from the U.S. and around the world—responded to the call to send examples of flora and fauna from their part of the world!

For well over a year, these three friends, from three different cities, met and planned and shared responsibilities for the project. Friends and relatives and polymer clay guilds contributed their time and skills to make it possible. And the spirit that even dared to imagine this highly improbable art show was so present in the Spinning Plate Gallery on the day I visited. As we volunteers walked into the cavernous space, we could immediately sense the soul of the project. Despite the hundreds of hours of work still ahead of them, Emily and Laura greeted us warmly. Each was eager to share both the excitement and the work ahead of us. They were organized and prepared for us (no small feat in a room filled with the beginnings of twenty different projects) and, within minutes, drill or paint brush in hand, we felt like part of the team.

In what seemed like a blink of an eye, it was time to us to leave. We left the colors and the chaos and the paint smell behind. But, later that day, as I headed off to bed, I noticed a strange little feeling in my heart that hadn’t been there the night before. I think it is the Spirit of Spring that these amazing women have breathed into the Into the Forest exhibition.

~ Connie Donaldson