Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Maria Saracino, Figurative Polymer Clay Sculptor, Tells Her Story

I am a figurative artist and my medium is polymer clay. I’ve been working with polymer since the mid 1990’s; however, it is still considered a relatively new medium in the art world. It’s only been around for 30 or 40 years, which is a nano-second compared to traditional sculptural mediums. During most of that time it was considered primarily a craft product. Only recently has it been recognized as a fine art medium and we are finally starting to see polymer clay artists in galleries and museums. For those who don’t know what polymer clay is, it’s basically plastic – PVC plastic. It’s non-toxic, and doesn’t require any special equipment. Also, because it’s oil-based rather than water-based, you have time to work on your sculpture without worrying about it drying out.

Lunch in the Park - 11"H x 26" x 6"

I have wanted to be a professional artist for as long as I can remember. I actually know the exact moment the switch turned on in my head. I thank my first grade teacher for recognizing and igniting my passion for art. But like most artists, as an adult, I had to deal with the practicality of earning a living. For the first 18 years of my career I worked as a graphic artist in the days when ad layouts were waxed and pasted and typesetting was done with a dark room wet processor. During that time, every chance I had, I painted, did portraiture and explored just about every creative medium I was able to get my hands on. Discovering polymer clay, however, resolved many of the frustrations I experienced with traditional art mediums. With polymer clay I am able to create dimension, realism, movement and emotion. More than just sculpting, it also incorporates several other mediums I enjoy, sung as textiles.

Playtime - 18"H x 14" x 11"

During the last 20 years, as I honed my sculpting style, polymer clay has also been developing and improving. Several brands and grades of polymer have been introduced that have resolved many of the growing pains of the early clays. When I was first introduced to polymer I started by making old world Father Christmas which then led me to the world of art dolls. During the middle portion of this journey I was designing and manufacturing a seasonal gift line, all the while working on my sculpting skills. During this period I certainly paid my dues - from the hardships of being on the road travelling from one show to another, to the lows of rejection and criticism to the highs of winning competitions or appearing in publications - it’s been a roller coaster ride. Regardless, I have a passion for what I do and I’ve stayed on this path relentlessly. I am extremely lucky that my husband has supported and encouraged me throughout my career even during the low periods, which in retrospect were probably harder on him than on me.

Yes Chef - 35"H x 14" x 14"

Although I still have many goals and dreams I want to fulfill and I work tirelessly at promoting my work, today I am a full time artist and am recognized as a figurative sculptor and master polymer artist. I have appeared in three museum exhibits, am represented by three art galleries in Canada and have been featured in exhibits in both Canada and the USA. I am often commissioned to do portraits or special sculptural installations. My influences include Joe Fafard and Ron Mueck, but my biggest influence, and who my sculpting style is often compared to, is Norman Rockwell. Like his illustrations, my sculptures are familiar; they are about triggering a memory, a feeling. They are realistic yet whimsical. My sculptures are like looking at candid moments in time in everyday situations. 

As a matter of fact, “Moments in Time” is the name of my new solo exhibit that runs until March 6th at the Orange Art Gallery in Ottawa, Canada, which also carries my work year-round. I am also represented by Gallery On Gore in Perth and the Rimawi Fine Art Gallery in Montreal.

Moments in Time

Most recently I have started teaching. I offer beginner and intermediate workshops in polymer clay. I’ve resisted teaching for years for fear of being one of those teachers who is too hands on and turns all her students work into her own. I’ve overcome that problem by sculpting alongside my students so they can see my technique without me actually handling their work. I also break down the process into steps and offer videos or printed tutorials with lots of photos so they can work on the techniques on their own time as well. Turns out I’m a pretty good teacher and I enjoy it very much. My students enjoy it too; they often sign up for additional classes and are always looking for new challenges. My workshops are available through my website - the direct link is http://saracinocollection.com/pages/workshops and they include beginner and intermediate classes, video and PDF tutorials. Anyone interested in purchasing an online tutorial can order directly through the website or if you would like to participate in an in-studio open class you can contact me directly at maria@saracino.caor book online as well.

The Gamers - 12"H x 16" x 8"

One of my favorite quotes is “Being creative is not a hobby . . . it is a way of life.” This is my life.

The Haircut - 24" H x 10 x 10"

This is Week 7 of 52 Artists in 52 Weeks. Thank you for reading and sharing Maria's story today!

To connect with Maria and see more of her work, please use the following links:

Commissions: Portrait Commissions start at $1,000 Cdn for a single character. Contact Maria for details and a quote.