Playing with Food

ornamentcover.jpgI am thrilled to have been included in the latest issue of Ornament Magazine…here is an excerpt from my artist’s profile.

“Lindly, how many times have I told you, don’t play with the food!” And how many times have I thought; if I had only listened to what my Tutu (Hawaiian for grandmother) had shouted at me a hundred times during my childhood — I would have never grown up to become the contented artist I am today.

asparagus For “playing with food,” as my Tutu thought of it all those years back during my cooking lessons, was in reality an opportunity for the child observer in me to use my hands to explore the convoluted edges of a shelled walnut, to use my eyes for close-up inspection of the mosaic array of kernels on a corncob and to experiment with my first press mold by using the tines of a fork to sculpt the edges of a pie crust.

And now, nearly fifty years later, I’m still playing with food; in my kitchen, in my studio and at my job. For the past twenty years I have worked as a waitress at an upscale, 100-year-old restaurant in downtown Washington, DC one block from The White House. In today’s restaurant world you either laugh, or cry or die. Given these choices I’ve always preferred to laugh. I have natural sense of whimsy and have developed a flair for disarming hostility with comedy. This has served me well and protected me from intoxicated senators, demanding corporate executives, and knife wielding, imperious chefs. Laughter, a huge smile and light heartedness has allowed me to thrive and survive.

When I see someone pick up one of my asparagus necklaces, I want to see a smile on their face and the sparkle of recognition in their eye of the re-interpretative humor involved. When I see this, I know something of merit has come from my studio.

I make my jewelry much the same way I cook. I strive to respect the ingredients and materials I am using by keeping things simple and direct. Many of the techniques, tools and approaches that I use in my kitchen are readily translated to my work in my art studio with polymer clay. Some of my favorite studio tools include a Wusthoff cheese knife, an Italian Pasta machine, a Chinese melon carving gouge and a set of Japanese sugar molds.

Just as in cooking, I love to be inspired by individual ingredients and then amass a large collection of prepared ingredients, much in the same way a sous chef would spend hours preparing her mise -en -place before beginning to cook. Unlike a tray of two hundred pot stickers, the clay pieces I fashion by hand have a tendency to last a lot longer!

For my last two series, I created multi-colored variations of stylized asparagus tips and chocolate covered candies. Each of these forms inspired me to create several dozen complementary components. Ultimately, I may not use all of these components and since they start as just possibilities I am encouraged to experiment and take chances. Often I accumulate a thousand individual beads/components before I start any assemblage. The repetitive nature of making the same component over and over, usually leads to the meditative state of being totally in the moment, open to trying new variations and experiencing the flow of process at a deeper level.

The seductive, succulent color inherent in food delights and inspires me. So, when someone says that the color of one of my a pieces reminds them of the interior of Hass avocados, burgeoning fragrant cantaloupes, ripe blueberries, jewel like pomegranate seeds or tender pea sprouts, I know my color mixing has been successful.

This nature-inspired color palette and a direct approach to manipulating the clay are essentials of my artistry. For example: a simple blended dot cane becomes a compelling graphic element in a composition through repetition and scale variation. I acknowledge that my seed pod series may not be readily recognizable at your local Farmer’s market, my rolled up snails of clay may not capture the grace of the curves in fiddle head ferns and the pinched petals of my Leis defy the soft, ephemeral qualities and intoxicating scent of white ginger. But juxtaposing a viewer’s visceral memories alongside my re-interpretations of natural forms creates a heightened sense of awareness about both nature and clay.

After working with polymer clay for eighteen years my fascination with the possibilities of the medium continues to grow. As an art student,

I enjoyed designing jewelry and considered becoming a metalsmith. After spending 250 hours making my first and last large silver piece, a sea urchin inspired silver necklace, I decided that the journey from conception to completion was way too long. Instead, I chose to concentrate on the colorful repetitive patterning that serigraphy afforded and earned a BFA in printmaking from Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Three polymer clay artists have provided pivotal impetus to me: Pier Voulkos’s masterful interlocking shapes, in particular her translucent Neutrabrite sea anemones necklaces; Elise Winters, who has captured the reflective beauty of iridescent fish scales and suggestive form in her stunning brooches; and Kathleen Dustin, my first polymer clay teacher, who remains ever sensitive to layering and nuance.

I have been teaching polymer clay workshops for sixteen years, and hope some time soon to be presenting “Fantasy Food Stylist,” an experiential polymer clay workshop.

The next time I play with a basket of fresh sea urchins at the fish market in Honolulu, I spy a bucket of Penn Cove mussels glistening on a Whidbey Island beach, or the crusty edges of a loaf of artisan bread at a bakery in Berkeley, perhaps the result will be an artistic cornucopia: a fabulous considered meal, a new jewelry series from my studio, and an endless sea of smiles from appreciative collectors.


1 Response to “Playing with Food”

  1. 1 Sherry Bailey September 10, 2007 at 5:07 pm

    Yea, Lindley!! Nice article, cool place to be seen! (Ornament is kind of the creme dela creme of the jewelry/craft magazines, if I spelled that right!!) No matter what else you ever do, I will always associate asparagus with you — you are part of my diet now! ;^)

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Thanks for visiting my blog where you'll find my latest news, class details, and new tips and tricks. You'll find more information about my work at my website. Come back often.


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