The Times They are a Changin’

Ellen Marshall Teaches
Ellen Marshall Teaches

Pardon the long post but I want to introduce our important new plans for how the Guild will be accomplishing its mission of bringing high quality polymer clay art education to our members.  The story starts and ends with our Guild Founding mother, Ellen Marshall.  We are headed onward with a cutting edge approach that will maximize value to our members and leverage technology for education.  It really is “a good thing.”

I am constantly boring our new members with Polymer Clay Art History lessons.  They smile and nod, and maybe even are listening to my campfire stories that hearken back to the days when the only book artists had to learn from was “The New Clay” and when, if you worked in polymer clay you probably actually knew the clever artist for whom the Skinner blend was named.  The history and evolution of the medium fascinates me though I have only been actually living through it for the past 15 years or so.

For most of that 15 years, I have had the good fortune to be involved in the leadership of this incredible Guild.  Before stepping up to these responsibilities, I asked the then current leaders, Martha Aleo and Ellen Marshall to tell me the history of the Guild.  It turns out the Guild was formed so Ellen wouldn’t have to travel to NYC or elsewhere to take a Polymer Clay Master Class.  Ellen figured Philadelphia was a big city, we should have our own classes!

There was once few opportunities for classes; now they abound in location and a variety of media. Seven years ago I would post a class registration and it
would fill in less than 24 hours. Our past several classes struggled to meet the minimum, and, sometimes, they didn’t so the teacher reduced their minimum
or their rate.

On the other side of this, our membership has tripled. Our meetings are well attended (better than the classes!) , and our electronic outreach to people in the area is the highest it has ever been. To me that eliminates the idea that this drop off in class attendance is strictly a marketing issue. We cannot really assess the effects of the economy, but price and time are cited by the members who do not attend classes.

We can only clearly conclude that the format of the Master Class is not an approach that our members demand at this time. Additionally, the classes
require a lot of work from our volunteers (that would mostly be me and a few others), and they lose money each time for the Guild as they are subsidized events.  This means all the members are paying in for a service that only a small fraction are using.  This is not a fair model.

Because of this, we are refocusing our Guild efforts on meetings and the Guest Artist Program where a visiting artist gives 2 – 3 demos rolled into a meeting. A
fixed stipend is paid for that event. This is a highly popular feature for our members, and fairly unique to our Guild. It does serve us well.

The best thing of all is Ellen Marshall has agreed to coordinate the Guest Artist program so she will again be a major part of bringing teachers to Philadelphia.  We have had experience with non-local Guest Artists through Skype and CraftArtEdu.  Ellen plans to leverage that for some phenomenal programs coming up in the next few years.  The best part is ALL of our members with internet access will be able to benefit from these types of programs – all included in their dues and even when they can’t get to town for a meeting.

So we will ring out the old with a farewell to Master Classes with Melanie West’s class on November 15.  (There are still spaces if you are interested!)  Melanie will also join us on November 16 as Guest Artist for our regular Meeting to herald the new era.  It is a members only meeting, and we all hope you can join us.

PAPCG Head Cheerleader



  1. Kudos to Sarah, the most fabulous “cheerleader” any Guild could hope for. Your history and analysis of the PAPCG’s and polymer’s path is spot on prescient and accurate. And a huge welcome back and thanks to Ellen Marshall for taking on the responsibility as Guest Artist/Program chairperson. Our Guild members are incredibly fortunate to have both of you willing to lead us into the next phase of PAPCG’s growth.

  2. PS – Hopefully many of you will recognize the photo of the fabulous “Circus” polymer gift our wonderful Clayathon participants created during our Jan., 2013 Retreat. I love how it shows off the varied talents of our Guild/Clayathon folks. I didn’t intend to leave a semi-anonymous comment — “Polygemdesigns” is me, Arlene Groch.

  3. I have a hard time thinking of you as semi-anonymous, Arlene! Thank you for all you have done as Program Coordinator for the past two years. You brought some marvelous artists. Then, at the last Clayathon, you paved the way for the non local Guest Artist. The equipment you donated for the Guild’s use will help pave the way as well.

    I didn’t mean to imply I am doing this all alone. Arlene, Emily, Sherman, Robin, Martha, and Terri have put in so much effort in the past two years. Many thanks to you and to all those (more than I can name) who show up for meetings ready to share, to learn and to help move us forward. I am looking forward to the next phase!

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