New Work for Phil Museum Show

“Serenity” is finished and she turned out beautifully.  She’s one of our new cargo vessels.  The Cargo Vessel Series carry something symbolic on their deck–a gift, a boon a treasure in the form of a nest or flowers.  “Serenity” has a recessed deck carved to simulate gentle ripples on the surface of the water.  She has hand-painted clay flowers on a hull of carved basswood with a crackled and painted finish.  The open flower has silver wire stamens and the boat rests on a walnut base.

While the symbolism of the water-lily varies from one culture to another, it is interesting to note that the scientific name for them is Nymphaea, from the Greek word for nymph referring to the feminine spirit inhabiting bodies of water.  In this sculpture I’ve chosen the water-lily to represent the importance of nature on our journey.  For me personally, it is also representative of my teenage daughter, the would-be marine biologist, whose life was lost in the water, during the bloom of the water-lilies.

detail-serenity

serenity-detail

 

 

 

 

 

We are also showing the first two sculptures from a concept by Robin, called “The Life Boat Series”.  These boats will all have a box, sometimes hidden in the hull and others carrying it on the deck.  The box is for the interment of a loved one’s ashes or mementos of a life.  Shown here is “Reflections” which carries a hand-hammered and patinaed copper box with a clay scarab, symbol of eternity.  This box may hold a portion of one’s ashes or wedding rings or other mementos.  reflections

 

 

 

 

“Voyager” has a hammered copper clad deck and a large hidden box within the hull.  Resting on the lid, is a copper nest, home to a single golden rose, symbol of love.  voyager voyager-detailThese sculptures and more will be exhibited in our booth Nov 10-13 at the Phil Convention Center, in the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Fine Craft Show.

“Serenity”

The water-lily boat already has a name–“Serenity”.  Robin snapped this photo as I’m refining the arrangement pattern for the 3 flowers and 2 proposed lilypads.  The flowers are unfired–the clay I use is gray while wet and fires to a snow-white.  Since this photo was taken the hull of the boat has been  crackled and awaits the painting process after several days curing and 2 lilypads, shown here are cardboard patterns I’ve made,  have been sculpted in clay also.

serenity-arrangement

The Latest Progress

Amazing what new glasses can do for you! I recently greatly increased the power of my readers and wow, that with a closer light source  has made all the difference in the world on the detail and surface work in my clay building.  Consequently, I’m discarding most of the flowers I had made and fired before the July Ann Arbor Show.  The amount of time required for each flower is three to fourfold what it was, but it is worth it.  The ability to see so much more detail has allowed my forms and the surfaces to become more refined.   I’ve slowed down and  I’m loving every minute of it.

Images here are of two water-lily buds in the drying process.   There were many hours in experimenting on how best to form the petals and then how best to construct the flower.    I’m pleased with the result, pre-firing.  water-lily-budsThis is the water-lily that will be fully open when finished.  After this photo was taken, the outer petals were propped up over night before adding more petals.  The addition of the flowers to some of the boats is both an aesthetic and symbolic choice.  I’ll have more to say about the symbolism of each flower as I write about each finished boat.water-lily-in-progressThese water lilies are designed to go on a sleek wooden boat that Robin has recently finished carving.  He decided to gouge carve the bottom of the inset deck, requiring an additional three days to sand it after the carving was finished.  img_0862

More in the next posts on the chrysanthemums, Robin’s “Life Boat Series” and my “Hanging Boat Series” which will be introduced at the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Fine Craft Show this November.

Boats: Symbols of Life’s Journey

A boat once tragically altered my life and later a canoe signaled the beginning of my life with Robin, my best friend, my husband, my collaborator.  One of the important interests that Robin and I have shared from the beginning is our love of mythology, legend and symbolism.  It’s no wonder then that the boat has come front and center of our work.

We first employed the boat shape back in the 90’s, making relief sculpture for the wall.  Some of the best of these experiments was the Goddess of the Grove series which used the boat shape as a “cocoon” to house a goddess.  There were originally five of these 4′ sculptures, two of which are shown here:

We also made a sixth one which is larger and is in our personal collection and can be seen on our web-site under collaborative work.

The boats we began designing two years ago are quite different however.  The new ones are a celebration of the many varied journeys taken by humans.  As such, the shape of the boat, the materials used, the presentation and the objects accompanying it will vary.

Our preparations are in full swing now for our participation in this November’s prestigious Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Fine Craft Show.  In the past, all of our boats have been carved of wood.  Because together, we have skills in woodworking, painting, enameling, metalworking, metal patination and hand-building clay, we highly value the ability to utilize the materials we know and understand to produce the effect we’re after.  Because of this, we’ve been able to add clay flowers to the boat.  On one level that is just a wonderful aesthetic choice.  But on a deeper level, it symbolizes the importance of sheltering and caring for nature on one’s journey through life.  Saving the planet from man-made destruction to our environment is of the utmost importance.

Just as we’ve added clay objects to the wooden boats, we are now making some boats of clay.  The choice of whether to use wood or clay is made depending on what qualities we want the structure to have.  I’m using clay, when a more complex shape and surface is desired.  Wood is still our choice for the larger vessels and those with sleek shapes, such as this one, “Calla Lily Boat”.  People often mistake our wooden boats with their crackled finish for clay.  One artist commented recently that one of the most interesting aspects of our work is the air of mystery of how we do what we do and what we’re doing it with!calla-lily-vessel-detaileDetail of “Calla Lily Boat”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another August Passing

Debra's pondAnother August is passing.  This one has been very productive in that I’ve designed a two new series of boats, The Hanging Boats and The Flying Boats.  I expect to have three Hanging Boats completed to show  at The Philadelphia Museum Show in November.  One of them is an ode to youth lost too soon.  It will hang by silk threads and butterflies.  An artist doesn’t escape from their life experience.   Our lives get intertwined with our art making and so our art, our personal life and our business is forged together.

Roses Adrift on the Sea

Trying out titles for one of the two new boats we will show at the Ann Arbor Original Art Fair in less than two weeks.  I’ve had to put aside my clay Earth Goddess work for a while–since it is not a collaborative piece we can’t show it in the shows we’ve juried into this year.  A previous blog tells more about her and she is half painted and waiting.  In the meantime I’ve been making clay roses to be placed in a long, sleek boat.  Here are some drying before firing.IMG_1606

After making 30-some roses, they must be left to dry for a considerable time–I error on the side of caution and left mine for about 3 weeks.

Loaded into the kiln along with some calla lilies and ready for firing at cone 05 (approx. 1885 degrees)IMG_1989[1]

It’s a 48 hour wait for the firing and complete cool down.  Opening the kiln before it is cooled completely can cause thermal shock, cracking and spoiling the sculpture.  In the meantime, I’ve crackled the boat that Robin carved into which I will arrange these roses after they’re painted.  Here’s the boat before I began painting it.

IMG_1991And, now that the roses and boat are painted, the double pedestal made and everything assembled, the finished sculpture is spectacular!

Roses Adrift on the Seae

Opening the Kiln

Working in clay has its own mystery and nothing about it is more exhilarating than opening the kiln.  The kiln gods have always smiled upon me thus far.  Sometimes a ceramist opens the kiln to find that something has blown up from having a trapped air bubble somewhere in the clay, or the sculpture or pottery has been fired while it was still green, a term for describing clay before it has dried out sufficiently.  I fired the ‘garden goddess’ this week along with a ceramic boat and a bunch of calla lily flowers I made for some of our wooden boats as well as the centerpiece of her garden which I’m keeping secret for the moment.  It was with much anticipation that we opened the kiln this morning to find this:

Success!  I’m anxious to begin the finishing of this goddess with acrylic paint, oil glazes and possibly prismacolor to create a reminder  of the Earth Mother Goddess, the symbol of The Gaia Theory.