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.

Hot From the Kiln

The newest bentwood set of three are finished.  This tryptich titled “Fractured I, II and III” incorporate enamel on copper, hammered and patinated brass and paint on wood.  Enameling is a process of firing ground glass onto a metal surface, in this case copper.  The glass is fired at 1480 degrees for approximately 4 minutes.  It goes in looking like fine colored sand and comes out glowing red.  As it cools the colors develop.  Robin has achieved beautiful patterns of colors on these.  For details on this series, including sizes, materials, prices, etc., see our link Jewelry for the Wall on our webpage http://www.WolfCreekStudio.com

 

New Bentwoods

Robin and I are continuing our progression of the bentwoods, only now the surfaces are partially or completely clad with copper.  The contrast of the metal surface with the painted crackled wood surface is very pleasing.  This set also includes stainless steel chain, enamel on copper and hammered brass square rods with chemical patina

 

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.

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.

In All Her Glory

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,

Beginningended 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.

In the Beginning