With the sad news of the flooding in Houston, I’m reminded of the wonderful Texas patrons we have. Though we’ve never done a show in Houston, we’ve done several shows in Austin and the Dallas-Fort Worth area several times with my work, Robin’s and our collaborative work. Some of my most loyal patrons are from Austin, Richardson and the Fort Worth area.
Just this spring at the Northern VA Fine Art Festival in Reston, a couple walked into our booth and with a surprised look on their faces, inquired if we’d done the Fort Worth Art Fair 15 years ago. They recognized my surfaces, and coincidentally we have now returned to the boat shape, something we worked on many years ago. They told us how much they’ve enjoyed the sculpture they purchased then and informed us of their “canoes” voyage from Texas to St. Louis, Mo and then on to Reston, VA.
This is the sculpture they purchased in Texas, and much to our joy, they purchased a little gondola with calla lilies and a copper base on that spring day this year in Reston.
“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.
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.
“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. These 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.
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. This 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.These 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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
And, now that the roses and boat are painted, the double pedestal made and everything assembled, the finished sculpture is spectacular!
So my concept began with the idea of using the female torso sculpted in clay to express the nature of our relationship to the rest of the planet. Historically, humans have related to the creative force of the universe anthropomorphically. It’s a concept that makes sense to us on several levels. And in the 20th Century there was a theory put forth by the chemist James Lovelock and the microbiologist Lynn Margulis in the 1970’s. On its most basic level it is the idea that the Earth is a living organism, of which we are a part. It’s a theory that’s never garnered much appreciation, however it had a big and positive impact on my world view.
Loosely interpreted, the theory can support the image of Earth as our mother, a goddess, that provides us with an idyllic world in which to thrive. Now that we humans have the capability to destroy that world, it begs the question what are we going to do with that power?
And so for this first sculpture I chose to start in a very straightforward manner, marrying the image of the goddess’ body with a garden. And so early last month I started hand-building the earthenware. I use a grey clay, that fires white–the perfect base for later finish work with colored pigments. It’s been 2 years since I last worked in clay, and I am anxious, impatient and rusty. The result is I built the slabs a little too quickly at first, resulting in some slumping. My philosophy is that what I lack in skill, I have to make up in creative adaptation. What began like this,
ended up looking much more voluptuous like the Venus of Willendorf, which appealed to me anyway, so I moved on to the making of the garden.
The clay calls to me. That’s how it’s always been, since I was little, playing with the mud, making pies and things. That feel of the wet clay is powerful. That you can make something awesome from it is the seduction. I’ve been on a lifelong journey though I’ve not always recognized the path. Often it looked to me as though life was just happening and that there wasn’t any meaningful way. Like a bunch of unrelated incidents loosely clumped together called “my life”. At other times it seemed that events were taking me on a course I didn’t want to traverse. But I can see more clearly now. That is the blessing of age. I’ve followed a course that has a goal and all of the steps before have been necessary to bring together the skills and experience and philosophy and wisdom to accomplish my purpose in this life.
Though I had always had a close connection to the landscape and nature, I had little regard for environmental issues before my late 20’s. And even then it was more a sense of the power of nature and an appreciation for her beauty. It wasn’t until I discovered The Gaia Theory, the way of indigenous peoples, Jungian archetypes and Joseph Campbell’s theories that I began to see a connection to be made with my art and what I deemed important in this life. As the years went by, much of my work reflected these studies. I painted mythical landscapes and made mandala-like sculptures inspired by sacred geometry and celestial bodies. Sprinkled throughout were anguished self-portraits, lucrative design pieces for the wall that made it possible to care for this sacred land we call home and studio, and most recently boats and nests and books wrought with symbolic imagery.
But still she calls to me. The goddess speaks to me through the clay and it’s clear now what I can and will do. It all comes down to the most pressing issue of our time, namely the environment. We are destroying the natural world at an increasing rate to fuel our consumer mentality. To ignore the fate of the planet at this juncture in time spells disaster for life on Earth. To act now in a responsible way is all that truly matters. And quite simply, my purpose, the reason I was born into this life was to help awaken people to the crisis. If I can alter the mindset of a few people, I will succeed in doing my small part, and together with other artists and teachers and scientists we can save the planet. The Earth Goddess is the soul of our living planet, of which we are a part, and she’s calling to us.
So while I will continue to collaborate with Robin making boats and other mixed media sculpture, I’m squeezing time in here and there to play in the mud. I began a new clay figure recently and we’ll see where it goes. I’ll post more as she moves along.
As we’ve stated in the past, we are inspired by the boat shape as a sculptural form because of the deep meaning associated with boats as the symbol for the spiritual journey. Each of us takes our own path through life and into the next. As our paths are so very different, then our attraction to a specific boat’s shape, size, details and color also varies. We see that in the spirit of each boat we design and make. Here’s a sampling of our latest. See the details on each boat on our web-site, under collaborative work: www.WolfCreekStudio.com
“Amber Ark” She’s sleek, chic & a world traveler
“Yellow Dugout Canoe” Vessel for the loner’s journey