Jan 22, 2011

Artist Interview: Beat Black

If you've been loitering around the Deviant Art community or in the handmade selections on Etsy, you may have stumbled on the creations of Sarah Norton, the owner of Beat Black.

We had chatted a few times online, but I actually got to meet Sarah when she had a booth at Fan Expo in Toronto, Ontario, last year. She happened to be at a booth in the aisle behind mine. It was a three day event that kept us both busy, but on the last day I finally had some time to check out her creations up close and personal. I have to say, though, that even though her photos are well taken, vivid, and bright... they certainly don't do the real thing justice!

If I didn't have to be back at my booth, I probably could have spent all day staring and just going through each and every piece, touching it and seeing all the little delicate details that go into every creation. The bases of her designs are well shaped and thought through, the colours are vibrant and fun, and the details really pop with the application of a black acrylic patina. And they're so small!

After she got some time to peel away from her booth as well, she got over to my booth to check out my wares. We had agreed on the spot that at some point we must do a trade, and a few months later - we did!

I now have the pleasure of owning two pieces of Beat Black jewellery - and both of them in Monster Kookies colours! How that made me smile. I got a one-eyed mutant cupcake in purple and green, and a lovely grenande in a bright lime green - the little pin (made from a jumpring) is just the perfect little detail that finishes it off. As you can see above, I took a photo of them in my hand.

These were a trade for one of my Mechanical Birdies - she ended up naming him Nutmeg. I'm sure he's got a good home with her.

In addition to owning a few of her pieces, I decided to ask a few questions so that I could post the photos of my newly aquired Beat Black wares along with a look into what she does as an artist. I asked her several questions, but I am going to share some of my favourites.


Where did you first discover polymer clay? What inspired you to use it?
On Etsy, directly after I signed up. I saw these incredible little food pieces that I couldn't get enough of. Little steaks and cupcakes and ice cream! At first I didn't know what they were made of so I would search "mini food" over and over again then just eeeee and awww at them all.

There were SO many ideas I'd been carrying with me for years that I had no idea how to make. I'd tried modeling clay and those plastic sticks you melt in hot water but nothing was cutting it. If I only knew of polymer clay in high school... Nothing was going to stop me from using it after I learned the name.

Describe a day in the life of Beat Black. Do you have a routine?
Every day is different but I generally start by stumbling to the kettle/coffeemaker for a hot drink and turn on some music. Lately its been Petty or The Distillers to wake me up. If I'm really stoked about something I was working on before I went to bed I'll pick it right back up again before I even have a drink in my hand. From there it may be time to take and edit photos. After I'm fully awake I might walk to the post office. From there I usually find a place with wireless and sit with my laptop for an hour or so answering mail and such. If I'm not feeling very social or didn't bother blow drying my hair (or washing any paint off my hands) I'll pick a library otherwise its a cafe or friends house. Once that's taken care of its free time or home to work on finishing some pieces. When I have a show coming up its always straight home. Nearly all of the clay work I do is very late at night when there are less distractions. I literally fall asleep to the buzzing of the toaster oven as it bakes the clay.
What is your favourite/least favourite colour of clay to work with?
My favorites have always been orange and yellow but I don't get why. If I could get paid to make bananas all day I'd be in heaven. Least favorite is white because of all the dust and cross colour contamination.

Is there something that you want to make in the future, but haven't yet? What would it be?
Oooo yes. A ton of things from many different mediums. I've been planning out and researching ways to create a stop motion film. That's probably one of the more exciting up and comers... for myself anyways.

What is your favourite claying tool to use?
I have two tools that I use; a refill blade for a box cutter, and a pin. The pin is my favorite. I do have other tools for clay, but I guess I like keepin' it ghetto.

Where does your inspiration come from?
Absolutely everything in my day to day life, present and past. The anatomy theme comes from growing up with a nurse for a mother, a combination of the movies I love with the plants in the garden have inspired my newest figures, books, tattoos, the stupid time management games I play too much of, photography, food I eat, dust balls, sketches that end up taking on a look I wasn't going for... literally everything.

If you could give a polymer clay beginner any wisdom, what would it be?
I often get asked for tips or secrets by people who are just starting out with clay. I almost feel like they're disappointed with my answer, but it remains the same. You really have to practice and keep at it to be really good. I was the suck when I first started but practice made all the difference. If you don't want to waste your clay, even just sculpting and re-sculpting the same piece without baking is a great way to learn.

If you would like to see more of Sarah Nortons creations, I suggest that you take a look at the Beat Black Gallery on DeviantArt. Make sure to take the time to visit her Website and browse her Etsy Shop, as well.

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