Guild Spotlight:The Orlando Area Polymer Clay Guild

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Florida Fun, Sun, Clay, and Fandango, Too!

by Charline Ahlgreen

Flaming-Ingo_OAPCG_MascotThe Orlando Area Polymer Clay Guild (OAPCG) was the brainchild of Mary Jenkins, who was, at the time, a member of the Ocala Polymer Clay Guild. Mary approached Laurie D'Ambrosio in October 2003 to propose starting a polymer clay guild in Orlando. As they were in a stamping store, Laurie approached the owner, who agreed that they could use the store's back room for their meetings. The room was miniscule, so it's a good thing that the group started out small (the first meeting, on 29 Nov. 2003, had 9 attendees).

At the first meeting, among other plans for the newly formed OAPCG (demonstrations and tutorials by group members, guild library, swaps, raffles, etc.), they decided that they would become active in the Bottles of Hope project. The original attendees designed, completed, and sent off their first efforts to the Arnold Palmer Women's and Children's Hospital at the end of that first meeting. By the third meeting, they had delivered over 40 BOHs, and our involvement in the BOH project has been ongoing every month since.  

As often happens, within months, the group had to start searching for a new home. Not only was the stamping-store owner thinking about moving/closing her shop, but the group was well on its way, like goldfish, to exceeding the size of their "bowl." Our next location became an Orlando suburb's public library meeting room. Over the next two years, we branched out into demonstrating polymer clay and staffing our guild booth at the Central Florida Fair, decorating trees for the annual Festival of Trees, and participating in the Orlando Bead Fest.

Then, in February 2006, the first-ever Orlando Area Polymer Clay Guild Retreat was born! We got the idea from a letter Donna Kato sent to Laurie in 2005 about having a "Mega Workshop" with three teachers teaching the same class three days in a row to a rotating a group of 60 clayers (20 at a time per instructor). Originally called "Florida in February," the retreat was held at the Lake Yale Conference Center in Leesburg, FL, with instructors Donna Kato, Judy Belcher, and Leslie Blackford (if you're going to do something, there's no reason to start out small, right?) and a "retreat only" option for those who didn't want to take structured classes but wanted to get together with friends and fellow clay addicts for the extended claying experience.

Donna, Judy, and Leslie returned to provide instruction for the 2007 "February in Florida" retreat at our Lake Yale site. In 2008, the name of the retreat had to be changed because the retreat dates moved to March, and we became the proud hosts of the "Orlando Clay Fandango Retreat," with instructors Maureen Carlson, Christi Friesen, and Sarah Shriver—again at the lovely Lake Yale Conference Center. In the midst of 2007-08, we relocated our monthly meetings again, this time to the community center of an RV park.

By 2009, our Fandango name was here to stay, but the location changed, so we enjoyed the teaching styles of Dan Cormier and Tracy Holmes, Penny Jo Couch, Christi Friesen, and Lynne Ann Schwarzenberg on beautiful St. Augustine Beach. Clayful experiences, wonderful teachers, the sounds of the surf, the smell of the orange blossoms, and the feeling of sand between your toes in March – what could be better?? Nothing except a return to the wonderful Lake Yale campus in 2010, where we once again sat at the feet of the Masters (Sarah, Christi, and newcomer—at least to our event —Julie Picarello, with demonstrators Maureen and Barbara McGuire).

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