It began simply enough, a college requirement was to take an art class. Walking into the clay studio I immediately knew it was where I belonged. Realizing the muck, the mud, could be modeled into anything, into any shape, I was hooked. My hands have experienced many different art mediums along my artistic path, yet I keep coming back to mud, an endearing term for clay. PinchPals are “pinched” from clay.

PinchPals are figurative human-like characters. Did you know your DNA is 99.9% percent identical to the person standing next to you? The PinchPals honor that nearly identical physical form. Humans share countless traits: our vulnerability at birth, our desire to help others, our hope for meaningful employment and purpose. The PinchPals are here to help you acknowledge the joy of friendship, heartbreaking sorrows and challenges we all experience along life’s journey. They are a way for you to connect with others and “let someone know you’ve got their back”.

The Impetus

Why I kept making the same characters over and over began as a personal protest. In 1978 the tragedy of Jonestown shocked me. Over 900 people committed mass suicide, they followed their charismatic leader into the jungle and then obeyed his order to drink the Kool-Aid. The event deeply disturbed me. That so many innocent human beings perished at the hands of another person was unfathomable. I started making these little characters over and over, a salute to those 900 lives. These poor people lost themselves, they became “Clones”.  I was in my early 20s, a formative time for anyone. Pre-internet this news came to me on the radio and then I read about it in the newspaper. Eventually seeing television footage, I was sickened.

As a result of creating quite a collection of “pinched” clay figures I began seeing them as characters for an animated film. Growing  up with stop motion animation: Gumby, Rudolph the Red-nose Reindeer (remember, Berle Ives was the snowman), David & Goliath, it felt like the perfect art medium. I spent my last year at college producing a stop motion animated movie “Media Messiah”, using clay characters I re-capped the story of Jonestown.

In a Nutshell

Fast forward, I played with clay on and off for many years, and kept making more of these characters….I mean hundreds of them, because in my mind they represented community, and they had a job to do: to look out for each other. No one has to “drink the Kool-Aid”.

As we age our physical being resembles how we looked as children…a bit of a belly, simple figures, we all look like “Clones”, copies of one another. The 99% identical DNA is responsible.   The name PinchPals came about thanks to my dear friend Elisa Fleener.  Elisa is an artist, children’s book author,  television writer and wildly creative type. She knew these characters were a part of my world and I asked her to help me figure out what to do with them. After watching me make a few “Clones”, a light went on in her head, and she coined the name PinchPals, because they are pinched from clay, and are here for you in a pinch.

The photo above is from 1978, the “Clones” enjoying a beach sunset in my college town of Sarasota, Florida. And that’s why and where the PinchPals began. PinchPals are all of us! Let someone know you’ve got their back.

  • Susan Prytherch
    Posted at 17:43h, 24 February Reply

    A beautiful thought. Especially at this time when the world or at least the US is so divided. We can use a lot more listening and understanding. Show more attention and kindness to those around us.

  • Beverly Ryan
    Posted at 00:09h, 25 February Reply

    South Korean artist Do Ho Suh has made many small identical characters who together support a large plinth sculpture. Tinier ones support the floor n which viewers stand in a gallery setting……strength in numbers? Or we’re all in this together.?

    • Bonnie Fitzgerald
      Posted at 13:28h, 25 February Reply

      Thank you for sharing this artist, I did not know his work. Very interesting, especially the sculpture you refer to with lots of small beings “carrying the load”. I sincerely appreciate your following the PinchPals and sharing with friends. Yes, we are all in this together!

  • Gwen Cooley
    Posted at 14:08h, 25 February Reply

    I can see using this idea as a way to reach children about their feelings and emotions. Heaven knows many of us need help understanding the world we live in today and how we can be a part of solutions.

  • Susan Lyon
    Posted at 16:16h, 25 February Reply

    A creative concept for our time–PinchPals as mini-Ambassadors of Good Will–sending a message of loving support across the street… or across the world. Can envision them being given to friends facing a challenging medical procedure, or to elderly relatives who aren’t as mobile as they once were. Love Gwen Cooley’s idea of reaching out to children, and can easily see a PinchPal being discovered in a lunchbox to say, “School can be tough and I am rooting for you!” So many creative ways these affordable cuties can remind someone that “I am in your corner!” . Or even “you’re my main ‘squeeze!'” Commence the kindness revolution with these tiny symbols of love!

  • Bonnie Fitzgerald
    Posted at 20:48h, 25 February Reply

    Susan and Gwen, Thank you, such a lovely posts and wonderful ideas! KINDNESS REVOLUTION & AMBASSADORS OF GOOD WILL. Love it!

  • Becky Waite
    Posted at 15:09h, 26 February Reply

    I love knowing the backstory to this. I think PinchPals is such a unique and kind way of reminding us that we aren’t on this earth alone and that we weren’t created to navigate life by ourselves. PinchPals are a sweet and artistic way to show others we care and helps us stay connected. I just absolutely love everything about this.

  • Stephanie Parise
    Posted at 16:03h, 27 February Reply

    Love the story of the PinchPals and how each one is unique. In world with so much darkness and negativity it is beautiful to see something that spreads kindness and love.

  • Kyra
    Posted at 11:10h, 23 March Reply

    I love the photo of the PinchPals watching the sunset together! And what a compelling origin story

  • Carol Zutski
    Posted at 13:26h, 27 April Reply

    One of my favorite things to do as a child was to make mud pies in our back yard. So nice to bring back those carefree simple times of innocence! Jonestown was difficult for anyone to witness. I would love to see your animated film, couldn’t find it with my google search. Thanks for having our backs Bonnie!

  • Lisa
    Posted at 01:50h, 15 July Reply

    I had no idea the Pinch Pals had such a long history! Even more meaningful in our current times. I treasure mine, a reminder of all the artistic wonders you have shared with me and of the need to share art with others.

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