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September 24th, 2010 - Christina Nihira

Councilwoman Sody Clements stays sane by getting crafty

The worlds of politics and art typically don\'t intersect, but Nichols Hills City Councilwoman Sody Clements moves between both with confidence and grace.

SodyClements371sca_7-06x9-56cmSody Clements. Photo/Shannon Cornman
The worlds of politics and art typically don't intersect, but Nichols Hills City Councilwoman Sody Clements moves between both with confidence and grace.

Each month, at city council meetings, she is surrounded by stacks of paper and presented with lengthy agendas. Working with fellow members, it is her duty to lead and make decisions on issues that face the small municipality.

Clements, however, is more than just an elected official. She's also an artist blessed with a wicked wealth of talent. Born in New York, she attributes her introduction to art to her parents.

"My parents are big do-it-yourselfers," she says. "My dad was a big gardener and made furniture. My mother is an artist. It was natural for me to figure out ways to do things."

The first thing she learned at an early age was how to sew. Then she studied quilting and painting, among other arts and crafts.

Even with a career, marriage and children, her need for creative expression remained. Between carpool and sports practices, she found time to do bookbinding of fine, decorative paper, hand-painting the results for personalization. Yet there was a desire to improve her skills beyond traditional projects. Having no formal training, the self-taught artist enrolled in several courses.

Probably the most fascinating find during this period of self-exploration was box-making. Clements discovered she had an incredible gift for making them, using all types of materials and items in their construction.

"I am definitely a hoarder. I like having all (kinds of) stuff around," she says.

To hone her talents further, she studied calligraphy at the John Campbell School in North Carolina a couple years ago. When she was not in a workshop, she explored other classes, observing how different craftsmen such as blacksmiths, silversmiths and basket weavers all put "stuff" together.
Clements found the experience life-changing. For one, she discovered calligraphy wasn't her thing.

"Calligraphy takes a whole life, and I don't have that long," she says. "I needed to move on to something faster."

More importantly, she came away with a renewed spirit and more confidence for her work. Clements considers this to be the point where she transitioned from being an amateur to more of a professional artisan.

"The crowd of people was an inspiration," she says. "To study with (other) people refined my skills. ... I liked seeing what other people were doing. I never follow the directions or the rules. I take an idea and turn it into a different idea."

As luck may have it, those ideas are gaining popularity. Recently, she was the featured artist at The Studio Gallery's spring art show. A collection of her handmade boxes was displayed, including a few with handles that came from unlikely sources, such as loose buttons or plain ol' plastic junk.

"There is always a surprise in a box," she says. "You never know what you might find inside."

The boxes are the most popular of her artwork, most of which she tends to give away for gifts or other special occasions. She does not have a tug to become a working artist. Rather, it is the process of putting together a project that she loves so much. Her only problems are that she can't decide what to do ... or how to steer clear of housework.

"I am not doing what every other housewife does. I am not interested in cooking. I am not making beds," she says. "Art keeps me sane. It's like breathing."

photo Sody Clements. Photo/Shannon Cornman
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