Studio Hustle

In the depths of Winter Robin and I are each pursuing our own goals.  Robin is showing solo, a decision we made jointly last year.  He has come to like cladding copper over wooden supports–it is much lighter weight than his previous work.  Before we began collaborating 6 or 7 years ago, his sculpture was a much heavier copper, brass or steel sheet that he mounted onto bronze or steel angle framework.   He still intends to do some of that, but most of his new work will be copper cladding. We had to stop showing his former work because I had three accidents, one surgery and one broken bone all in one year and could no longer safely help him load and unload the van, set up the booth, etc.   So, yes I wrecked his career, just when he was creating marvelous work, getting into all of the top shows and winning important awards.  As I type I can hear him in his studio, tap.tap.tap  In two weeks he’ll be headed for Winter Park, FL for their wonderful show.  He will be taking new work that you can see here in progress:

2′ x 5′ Bentwood, copper clad

Several new 12″ Expressions undergoing patination

Meanwhile I’m having a bit of a second childhood playing in clay.  My latest sculpture is one with the working title “Tree Woman”.  She’s small, only just over a foot tall, without a pedestal.  Haven’t decided how she will be finished after firing. 

 

The Magic of Texture and Color

For all of our adult lives, Robin and I have been interested in mythology, symbolism, nature and meditation.  From the I Ching to the Tarot Cards, the poetry of Rumi, the way of the Samurai, Mother Earth Spirituality, and the teachings of Jesus we glean wisdom to live by.  Our collaborative art has I suppose been more than anything else, about making meditative icons.  We seek to make art of quiet contemplation to enhance living and working spaces.  Our newest sculpture places Robin’s patina work on center stage.  Making bentwood frames which he clads in copper or brass he’s been exploring wrapped patinas with hammered surfaces.  The result has been remarkable.  We’ve added found objects, enamel on copper and some painted wood elements to his designs.  Our new work can be seen Sept 7-9th in Clayton, MO at the highly esteemed St. Louis Art Fair and the following weekend, Sept 15-16 in Naperville, Il at the Riverwalk Art Fair, as well as on our web-site http://www.WolfCreekStudio.com

A Study in Texture 24″ x 60″

New Beginnings/Solar Flare

Some sculptures have a history and one of our newest ones is a perfect example.  We made “New Beginnings” and finished and signed it New Year’s Day 2014.   I never quite felt satisfied with it.  We rarely showed it in the several years since.  But just recently we did and someone liked the concept, but in different colors and with the “waves” horizontally positioned.  Se we removed the orb, the stainless, brass and copper.  I’m using those elements on another backplate, in a different color palette for them.   In the meantime, I’ve used this backplate and made a new square and added an enamel on copper orb.  The old version is here and the new version is below it.  The new one will be shown this weekend in Highland Park at the Port Clinton Art Fair.  It’s called “New Beginnings/Solar Flare”.New Beginnings euntitled

 

Nature as Inspiration

Ask any artist and you’re likely to be told that they’re inspired by nature.  It’s a given.  Nature is full of wonder and for artists it provides an impetus to create.  We see color, line, form and texture and it gets incorporated into our drawing, painting, and sculpting.

When Robin and I moved onto our 20 acres of woodlands, we immediately began sculpting the landscape by adding shrub borders, flowers and vines.  We relied heavily, though not exclusively on native species in order to support an abundance of wildlife.  Using the “architecture” of the rolling landscape and the tall trees we were blessed with, we’ve created habitat for more pollinators–bees, butterflies, moths, and birds.  We’ve added water features for amphibians, reptiles, dragonflies and fish.  Brush piles in various places in the deep woods provide habitat for mammals.  It’s all good for the health of the environment.

A walk through the “yard” area (approximately 3.5 acres) surrounding the house and studios will give you glimpses of countless species of birds, lizards, amphibians, fish and mammals.  The sights, sounds and smells provide a soothing experience of nature at its best.  We can not help but be inspired to create work that embodies the balance, texture, colors and forms of Mother Nature.  Our collaborative work is all about these things.  It is a discipline based on meditation.  From the crackled surface of the pond mud to the bark on the trees:

Where Ideas Come From

One of the most frequent questions I’m asked by visitors to our booth is how we come up with our ideas.  I can tell you they aren’t forced.  When an artist sits down to create something new, it doesn’t come out of thin air and it cannot be forcibly willed into being.  Rather, several things must come together simultaneously and that creates the magic.  For success, the groundwork must be laid and that means many hours and years of simply making—making work, utilizing tools, experimenting with mediums, drawing, painting, sculpting endlessly.  Whether the end result each time is good or poor or great doesn’t matter as much as putting in the time.  With that experience comes priceless abilities, obtainable in no other way.  It is a growth that builds upon itself endlessly.  In that process the artist develops the mental and physical tools necessary to bring ideas into the physical realm.  It makes possible the transfer of something ethereal in the mind into an object in the “real” world.

Secondly, every person is a result of their own unique physiology and life experience.  As an artist, everything you produce is a result of these two entities. All of your life experiences come together to produce the current you.  There is no way around that, for good or bad.   Every decision, every occurrence changes the person that you are.  And your own unique physiology reacts to every decision and experience further evolving your mind and body.  Therefore the art you create is a direct result of that life experience.  And it is a reflection of your philosophy, whether you consciously realize it or not.

All of that process is necessary, but it’s not enough.  Creating is not copying an idea you’ve already executed, or copying someone else’s idea.  Creating is stirring the pot and dipping out something fresh.  Of course you’re influenced by other artists.  That’s not only inevitable, but actually a good thing.  The key is to keep it as an influence not a replication.

There is a wellspring that is bottomless and it is within every person’s reach.  Tapping into it is necessary for creative growth, but the connection can be fugitive.  When it happens its magic.  This is what I mean when I say it cannot be forced.  It flows into your thoughts when you prepare the mind.  You have to allow it to come forth into the “light”.  This usually occurs in a relaxed state of mind—often when the eyes are closed and you allow unimpeded wandering. Day dreaming is not a waste of time as some would have you think. And often images come into my mind just before falling asleep.    Sometimes it’s erratic, with a quick flash and then it’s gone.  Other times when conditions are more perfect one can tap into a flowing stream of images and ideas.  Getting those down afterwards in sketches and notes is crucial to remembering the gist of the idea as well as the specifics.  And then you have the start of a series and more ideas will flow from that, if you return to that elusive universal flow of energy. We are blessed and it is important to remind ourselves of that.

New Cosmos Series

Books are the physical embodiment of knowledge and enlightenment, the teller of stories, the keeper of secrets, and ultimately the record of our history.  These sculptural icons are our interpretation of this important cultural symbol.

Our little copper books are fun to make and delightful to many patrons.  Each book is a 12″square of wood, clad with copper and then hand-hammered or embossed with texture.  On each we make little books with copper pages that are bound together with silver wire and have a colorful backing.   The pages are hammered on the edges and then usually embossed with an elusive script to add mystery.  In the case of our newest ones, the pages are embossed with readable messages.  The first new set is a Cosmos Series and shown here is the first.Other little books that go with this one say Moon, Star, Sun, Venus, Comets.

 



Bentwood Sculpture

Many years ago, I began making bentwood frames for sculpture.  The process involves making a framework over which a specialty laminated wood can be bent over the frame, clamped together and left overnight for the glue to cure.  Shown here are a couple of the bentwood sculptures I did in the past.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More recently we’ve made some bentwood sculptures like these:  

 

“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”