“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.
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.
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.
Another 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.
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!
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.
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.