Layl McDill grew up in Gillette, Wyoming where she began creating things at a very young age. She majored in illustration in art school at the Columbus College of Art and Design with plans to write and illustrate children’s books. Layl did illustrate three books for a small publishing company in Columbus, Ohio but the restraints of working on a flat surface were too frustrating. When Layl found success selling her art at arts festivals even when she was still in art school she began to realize conventional illustration was not her real love. Now she works primarily in polymer clay creating series of work that tell stories about whimsical worlds including animals, women, bugs, flowers and whatever else pops into her imagination. She is a master of the millefiore technique where she creates tiny pictures in the clay which cover all of her creations. Layl lives and creates in NE Minneapolis with her two daughters and husband. In 1999 she and her husband, Josh Blanc, opened their studio/showroom Clay Squared to Infinity in North East Minneapolis. Here she sells her work and Josh makes and sells tiles. She still does many festivals through out the year and teaches her clay technique to children and adults.
Tell me about your work? What are you currently working on? How is this different from past projects?
I create playful imaginative sculptures from polymer clay (a colorful oven baked clay), glitter, found objects and Apoxy Scupt (an air dry clay). Most of my pieces are wall pieces ranging in size from a few inches to 4 to 5 feet. My goal with my art is to provoke a feeling of wonder that is similar to what it felt like to be a kid experiencing the world for the first time. I like to embed whimsical stories into my work- sometimes with actual words but mostly with scenes that make you wonder what will happen next or why something is happening. In the last two years my work has steadily gotten bigger and more involved than it had been since I first switched to the mediums I use now. In a lot of ways I am going full circle back to the types of works I made as far back as high school when I had a feeling of "anything can be created".
My upcoming show at the Bloomington Art Center with the large amount of space to fill has really given me the incentive to make these larger more involved pieces. A lot of thought has to go into structural issues when using my medium of polymer clay (which is usually used for jewelry). Larger pieces also give me a chance to slow down and work on one piece for a much longer time and really enjoy the trip that the piece takes me on. Many of these pieces have revealed truths to me about myself and life in general that I didn't realize until the piece was actually finished.
In particular I didn't see the resemblance to my own life in "She Made it Look Easy to Control the Rhino Puppet Show" until this piece was finished. Another new aspect to my work as been the integration of sketches into my pieces. I have been making a series of 1 foot square pieces that start with a sketch applied to the painted board and then dimensional clay pieces are added to create the final piece.
The story goes in my family that as soon as I could talk I declared "I want to be an Artist and a Mother" and this is what I have done. I always knew both would be equally important to me and I took on the challenge of making this work. I never slowed down when I had my daughters who are now 12 and 15. When they were newborns I even brought them to art fairs and nursed them as I sold work! It has helped to have a husband who is also an artist. I am driven to create no matter what I am lucky that I get to do it everyday of my life.
What was the best advice given to you as an artist?
When I was at an art camp as a teenager an artist said "There is a market for every kind of art you just have to find it".
This sticks in my mind anytime I find myself doubting that I can sell something that I plan to make. A large part of making my art is finding an eventual home for it (otherwise it would fill up my house!) so I am always thinking about who will be it's eventual owner but it is also important for me to feel free to create on a whim without knowing for sure who will own it one day. So I constantly remind myself of this concept.
Many artists struggle to find ways to sell their art. How do you sell your work? How do you market yourself?
Art fairs have been my primary selling opportunity since 1993. I really enjoy all aspects of the art fair- even packing up my car which is always a fun puzzle. I love to meet people and talk to them. It is true that art fairs have been less profitable than in the "old days" but I still find that they are the best way to get my work out there. It is a great way to be seen by a lot of people even if they don't all buy. I also like to show my work in the many amazing art centers in the Twin Cities. I may not sell a lot at these venues but this gives me a new audience besides those that go to art fairs.
and http://www.facebook.com/pages/Silly-Millies/47507292705 ) It is a great way to interact with fans all over the country and I have had many sales directly related to my facebook postings. My husband Josh Blanc and I also have a permanent showroom in the Keg House in NE Minneapolis- this means everyday I have a chance to show and sell my work to whoever walks in the door. I also teach a lot of classes which has really become popular since the recession.
And my new favorite is Flow Arts Gallery (http://www.flowartspace.com/) which is in the basement of the Keg House - . Melissa Metzler puts together juried shows along themes and brings in works from all over the country. The variety is outstanding and it's right below our studio/showroom!
Etsy.com also has great pointers on marketing but I mostly go there to look for art inspiration- I like their system of putting people in your circle because you can follow what other artists like and see more art along the same theme.
Pintrest.com - I have just started to get into this world but I still find that I can find more interesting art on Etsy.
And some of my friends on Facebook post some pretty cool stuff
Do you have any exhibits to promote in the near future?
My show "Fresh Baked Stories" at the Bloomington Art Center runs from July 26th to September 9th in the Atrium Gallery.
Most of the pieces in this show will be being shown for the very first time.