Week Three: Residency at Beatrice Wood Center

This week is a continuation of being in studio all day and working towards a body of work to leave with the Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts.  Also, Kevin Wallace, the Center's Director, and I have had several discussions about my website and it went live this week.  If you have not done so yet, please check it out at www.olenaellis.com

In my last blog, I showed pre-fired sculptures with the promise that they would look different after firing and I am here to tell you that I delivered on that promise!!! 

Sculpture image from last week


The jars behind the sculptures are Beato's original containers with her handwriting

Finished sculpture fired in Beatrice Wood's gas kiln!

This is the part of the blog where I deliver on my sculpture looking significantly different after firing!  One of my sculptures exploded during firing.  Why would I share this?  This is a reality with clay, as there are many steps throughout the process in which your work can be destroyed or look "significantly different".  I have been told that Beatrice has a way of doing kiln critiques.  I would absolutely agree with her critique on this sculpture, as the legs were too thin, however I came here not to play it safe, but to push the clay and learn.  Okay, I may have gone just a little too far.  Seriously think about it, I get to play with fire and blow things up, is there any doubt why I love clay?!...  So, the only things damaged in the firing were the legs on my two large sculptures, which is amazing since they were like sticks of dynamite.   In the clay world, this means back to the drawing board to either destroy what is left of the sculptures or find an alternative, referred to in our studio as "celebrate or eradicate".  I chose both. 


Sculpture remains - eradicated

There is a saying to “never say never,” because it is like a spell to ensure that the “never” event will happen.  I had sworn off throwing on the wheel last semester saying never again, however at the nudging of Kevin (Beatrice Wood Center’s Director) to create some of my combined vessel sculptures, I caved.  I threw 50 lbs of Soldate on Beatrice Wood’s wheel.  Wait, let me just say that again, I got to throw on Beatrice Wood’s wheel!!!!   Okay, back to reality, due to no catch pan, I did dry throwing with as little water, as possible.  This is a challenge in itself, however quickly adjusted to the process.   Out of these pots, I now have two bases to replace the dynamite legs on one of my sculptures, plus two more sculptures to leave for the Beatrice Wood Center to sell in helping to fund my residency and give support to the Center. 

Did I mention I got to throw on Beatrice Wood’s wheel?!

I met with Kevin this week to discuss the importance of a cohesive body of work and my identity as an artist.  My understanding of "cohesive" is that there is a common theme that runs throughout the body of work. As we looked at my work, we had a discussion of how the pieces fit together and then there were some pieces that simply did not work within this body of work.  He suggested that these could be a part of a different series, as it is important to explore different themes.  Working in a series allows you to fully explore the ideas and flesh them out allowing time to see if its a workable concept.  It was great to walk/talk through this process with Kevin and to have a better understanding of a “body of work” and the thought process creating it. 

We had a second firing this week, which I had several successful pieces come out of the kiln and I am really excited that my work passed Beatrice’s kiln critique.  Phew!

Inspired by Blackfoot War club with a figurative handle and rattle

We had a surprise visitor at the Center this week, Nina de Creeft Ward, who is a sculptural artist of who I am a total fan!  We had a nice discussion about art and life.  She is a fantastic artist and wonderful person, I feel so blessed (fan girlin’ again!) to have met her.  Check out her work at ninadecreeftward.com