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Robert Dancik's Polymer Palette

dancik_small.jpg As he teaches, Robert Dancik’s ocean blue eyes dance among his students’ works. These are the eyes of a seasoned navigator looking ahead at what is to come for his art. And whatever it will be it is sure to include whimsy, imagination and mastery of his materials.

For Robert Dancik, cartographer’s maps are “metaphors of not only where we are heading (in life and such) but also as repositories for the information that gets layered in us as we move through time and space.”
Dancik’s continuing series of work entitled Navigational Aides takes many forms and uses a variety of materials, techniques and procedures. At the core of his work is the desire for guidance both from without and within. mapnotterritory.jpg
I first saw Robert Dancik’s work at a Columbus workshop hosted by the Precious Metal Clay Guild of Columbus. It was a three-day exploration of materials and their compatibilities. Viewing his work you readily see metals, gems, epoxy, polymer clay and a new material he calls faux bone. Often tucked into his work is a found object that adds depth and complexity to the piece.
“At times, an object will suggest the idea for a piece by what it references in its previous life. I tend to work in a narrative way. For instance, a button keeps an opening closed, a mirror reflects the world, or a compass shows the way. An object can carry with it a story, mystery, or comment. How did the bicycle reflector get broken? Who wore the medal with a green star on it and what wasw it for? Why was that typewriter left to rust?”
“Other times I will be working on a piece with no intention of including a found object at all, but the design needs a formal element (a line, a form, a color) and a certain object, or part of an object, simply fits the bill.”
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“Most of the time, there is no hierarchy for me. If it’s a triangular corner of a yellow ticket stub, a piece of brass from a bullet casing, or some 14 k gold, it’s the design that is important – not the material. And if that piece of “stuff” makes a better design, then that’s what gets used.”
Robert discovered polymer clay in 1983 at a workshop taught by Joe Wood, a fabulous jeweler and teacher at Mass Art. Joe included just a little bit of polymer in a piece and Robert was intrigued both by the look and by the process involved in the material.
“Shortly thereafter, I met Tory Hughes when she came to the high school I taught at to provide my students with an artist-in-residence experience. She was (and remains) not only an inspiration, but the way she worked with the material was pure magic, and I was hooked.”
Polymer clay is an important part of Dancik’s tool chest. It often plays key supporting roles – to level the back of a found object, as a spacer or as grout to hold materials together. He especially appreciates polymer’s ability to hold onto say, gold leaf. It often fits the bill for a specific color or texture. Or, given polymer’s many faces it can also be perfectly neutral and “exert no real influence on the materials around it. In this way, the use of Chameleon in the title of Tory’s book is a very apt description.”brickpin.jpg


In Dancik’s hands, polymer can act as the star of the work or it can play a supporting role. “I am also really fond of how utterly enigmatic polymer can be.”
He is often asked to identify the material he uses. Often his work juxtaposes polymer clay with other materials so that not only can’t one tell that there is polymer clay being used, but the identity of the other material is altered by, or lost in, the clay.
Dancik’s use of various materials is driven by what he has to say. To him, recognizable materials have some sort of reference, a history and/or association. “If I want to imply an aspect of permanence in a piece, I may choose to use concrete, as that is part of its association. If it’s more about pure design, I may go to Plexiglas or Faux Bone™ since they have less of an identifiable reference. If I want to show wear and tear by having lots of marks, scratches, dents, and dings, I might use copper or silver and oxidize it and then rub off some of the oxidation to enhance the characteristics of age. Marks, on any of these materials, imply the passing of time and I like to play with how much time and use a piece has seen by the type and placement of such marks.”
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It is clear to anyone taking a class from Robert that he is keen to learn from his students even as he is teaching. He is a member of a number of different guilds and organizations. “I do believe strongly in artistic communities of varying types and constituencies. I think it is vital to be able to glean information from people who are working in a particular field as well as to share what we know with anyone interested. Even if I’m not involved with the group for a while, it’s really nice to know that I can go back and get something I need (or offer something someone else needs), no matter if it is information, guidance, or just a bit of encouragement.”
“ It is important to forward the arts in anyway possible. To this end, the idea of local guilds and grassroots groups feeding into a larger organization is an effective way to exercise the power needed to get things done and to be heard amongst the crowd. I belong to one such guild, a local chapter of the PMC guild, and find that I can call on anyone in that group for any of the things I mentioned. I like the idea of brainstorming about technical problems, exploring new avenues to get to a solution, and being part of a community that is moving forward.”
Dancik’s workshops are journeys of discovery. Attend one and come home ready to explore a whole new way of expressing yourself using polymer clay and an array of materials and techniques.
For more of Dancik’s work go to: www.robertdancik.com To order his new Faux Bone™ visit: www.fauxbone.com

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For a tip from Robert Dancik, click here .

For Robert's workshop schedule, click here .

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