Mar 13, 2009

Polymer Clay Mokume Gane or Mokume Nendo

There has been quite the heated thread going on about misrepresentation of a technique. Metal Artists have complained on an Etsy thread that some polymer clay artists are using the term "mokume gane" in the tag line for their projects and that it is inappropriate. Some very negative things were thrown at Polymer Clay Artists such as:

"polymer clay is a BIG insult to the actual technique! If only the polymer clay makers knew what a bit of LABOR goes into the REAL Mokume Gane!!!!!!!"
"What on earth has that got to do with smooshing some polymer clay together and calling it Mokume Gane???"
"stealing the term to advance the value of the clay"
"terrible disservice to the talented metal smiths who make the real thing"
"it's highly insulting and devaluing to see people calling it the same thing"
"it cheapens it for the metalworker studying it and builds up the image for the clay artist"
"artificially increasing the value of your work by appropriating a term that is steeped in historical and cultural significance."
"it is an insult to them to call a polymer clay approximation of their labour by *their* name. I could not do it; I would be ashamed to do so."
"it makes the polymer clay artists look like -- excuse me for saying it -- posers."

Then the positives:

And also, since we're quoting, here's some positives:
"I do recognize that poly clay is an art form, and I recognize its practioners as artists."
"In truth, I think your art is valuable enough to stand on its own two feet..."
"The clay one in no way takes as long. That does not detract from its beauty or aesthetic."
"Well in all fairness here, the clay artists here on etsy didnt start this..."
"Who is denying the clay items are not the result of hard work and talent??"
"I do appreciate polymer and precious metal clay work..."
"I think its a fine media, and definitely is at times just gorgeous stuff."

The negativity toward us artists who have come on such a long road to educate people that Fimo is not Filo! that polymer clay is not cheap plastic stuff! and that 'no' it is not a kid's toy! only to be devalued again by metal smith artists as 'posers' is an insult, to say the least. We borrow terms from other materials all the time, when we make stone, wood, ceramic and metal. And Mokume Gane...aren't metal smiths just imitating wood grain?! there there, calm down, lol....

Moku (wood) Me (Eye) Gane (Metal) has been applied to polymer clay as an imitative technique for some time.
It has been suggested that the term "mokume nendo" (nendo - clay) would be more appropriate, and even though I like it personally, why should we have to change it when after all we are simulating...

In the end some Metal Artists say they never meant to attack Polymer Clay as an art medium, but some are still stuck on the thought that polymer clay is EASY!!!! ahem, ok...while some have natural talents and it may come easy to them...come on try it, I say and then repeat that it is 'easy', lol

Oh boy, what is next...millefiore caning?


2 Good Claymates said...

That is so interesting -- Frankly, I think they are all just jealous!

Julie said...

I (obviously) think polymer clay is a valid art form, and boy do I know how labor intensive it can be, but honestly I've always sort of thought we should call it "faux" mokume gane.

Jem said...

I've always referred to the technique as "Mokume" and dropped the "Gane" part because it's not an accurate description when you're not using metal.
Mokume Nendo is another good option.

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