Layl McDill grew up in Gillette, Wyoming where she began creating things at a very young age. Her first Story Boxes were dollhouses and even an entire Smurf Village in the basement. Out in the wild west most of her exposure to art were cards and stickers in the local gift shop and western paintings and bronze sculptures. She learned a variety of different arts and crafts techniques in 4-H, everything from dough art to taxidermy. This exposure to trying different techniques gave her the confidence to venture into any technique she felt the whim to try.
When Layl was 17 she saw modern art for the first time on a family trip to Washington DC and New York City. She was extremely excited about the endless possibilities of mixed media when she saw pop art that used everyday objects and oil painting and whatever else. Suddenly her creativity was unleashed, art was more than just painting and drawing. She could make ANYTHING! Her senior year of high school was spent making numerous sculptures that were both 3D and 2D at the same time- a lot like pop up sculptures that are always popped up.
After a year of creating an attic full of sculptures she decided to be more practical and choose a major that had actual job prospects. She majored in illustration in art school at the Columbus College of Art and Design with plans to write and illustrate children’s books but the mixed media materials she used in the community outreach programs she taught continued to intrigue her. 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. She found she could actually make a living making what she really loved to make. Layl made Story Boxes, Story Quilts, Story Scraps, and Story Vests made of fabric, found objects, and polymer clay. Over the years polymer clay has become her dominant medium. In the past few years she has worked primarily in clay creating series of work that tell stories about her life as a mother. She still uses mixed media objects as accents and enjoys working with kids using her collections of found materials. Even though she is not creating the work herself it’s exciting to see a pile of stuff transform into creatures, settings and to see the stories come to life.
Layl now lives and creates in Minneapolis with her two daughters and husband. In 1999 she and her husband, Josh Blanc, opened their studio and 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 throughout the year and teaches artist-in-residencies and after school programs.