Irene Semanchuk says, “I didn’t set out to do this for a living. A couple of lifetimes ago, I worked for small manufacturing companies (children’s clothing and consumer electronics) in customer service, purchasing/procurement, marketing assistance, repairs, shipping, and more. Later, I basically fell into the world of crafts and learned how satisfying it is to make things by hand, those experiences gave me the skills I needed to earn a living creating and selling my work. Because art/craft is essentially manufacturing.”
Irene grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia where she worked for those small manufacturing companies until her mid-20’s when she moved to Folly Beach, South Carolina where she swam in the ocean, waited tables, and lived in a run-down beachfront apartment. But Hurricane Hugo moved her off the island and she finally landed in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains in 1992.
Irene took a job in the shipping department of a craft supply store where employees were encouraged to try everything. She wove a rug, marbled paper, poured candles, dyed fabric, painted silk, sewed a pair of leather moccasins, knitted a few inches of a sweater, and got her hands on polymer clay. That’s when and where it started. She is self-taught, for the most part, but learned (and continues to learn) from books, articles, workshops, and the internet.
In 1999, Lark Books approached Irene about writing and producing work for a beginner-level polymer clay book. She eventually authored and created work for three books, and her writing and work is featured in numerous others.
In 2001, she was accepted into the Southern Highland Craft Guild, and provides educational demonstrations in the lobby of the Folk Art Center a few times each year. This is where Juniper Art Gallery Owner, Jaime Sweany, discovered Irene’s beautiful polymer clay switch plates! Irene has also taught at John C. Campbell Folk School, Arrowmont School, as well as for a regional polymer clay guild. Juniper Art Gallery is thrilled to share Irene’s work with our Midwestern customers and art patrons.