A week of install…

This is what nearly a years worth of prepping, planning and stressing comes down to. One week. And here’s one big blog post to wrap it up…

Pre-Install Day: Due to Hurricane Dorian, our shipping crates were behind schedule for delivery. We decided it would be best to pick them up at the transfer location in Jacksonville Florida and deliver them ourselves to the University of Florida Gainesville campus. Then about a third of our way there, we received a notice that they were already out for delivery. So the crates arrived at the university just about the same time we did. A little chaotic but it all worked out. We met with the staff at the Career Connections Center who got us and our work space situated. We also met with the scaffolding company who took their measurements and made plans for install the following day. So far, despite a hurricane, we were there, the art was there and we were still on schedule…not too bad!

Day 1: The scaffolding went up, but it was easy to tell that it was a more involved job than the scaffold company had planned for, yet they rose to the occasion and made it happen. While they dragged in parts, built, unbuilt and re-built our three story jungle gym, we unpacked the crates and templates and prepped for the day ahead.

Day 2: Paper templates went up on the walls, anchor points for each of the 6 installations were finalized and then my heart pounded as the first holes were drilled into the walls. I should add that we practiced and planned a lot at the studio before we installed these anchors which needed to support a lot of weight and tension so we should of been really confident in our work, but you never know what you are going to find behind drywall AND there are two huge walls with custom wallpaper on them, so there was really no room for error. After my morning series of panic attacks, we did finally settle into a routine getting a few critical weight bearing anchors up for each piece and we got 4 of the smaller pieces up on the wall. Stressful but successful.

Day 3: We started today with a little more confidence and we got the final two largest installations hung on the wall. It was really amazing to move a 20’x 16′ modular piece with only 3 people, over, under and around three flights of scaffolding without breaking anything. There were a few moments of stress, lots of giggles and just a little bit of untangling to do as we got the piece into place. But by the end of the day, everything was up… it wasn’t finished or pretty but it was up off the floor dangling from a few upper anchors.

A week of install | the dirt | Jenni Ward ceramic sculpture

Day 4: The very first hole drilled this day went into a spot where there was conduit behind it blocking the hole too much to be able to use a toggle anchor- Arrg. There was no way to tell before hand but we had to abandon that hole and (luckily it was not on a wall paper wall!). A little gun-shy we moved on but by the end of the day 4 of the 6 installations were finalized and some of the paper templates had come down revealing a really nice peek of how the installations will look against the charcoal grey walls. Feeling pretty good about how the final outcome will look!

Day 5: Today was a slower day, we were definitely feeling the bodily effects of climbing all over the scaffolding for the past three days but we took it easy getting the final two installations finished up and pulling the paper templates down. I also spent some time just staring at the walls, making sure that everything flowed around the space smoothly and that there weren’t any lines or shapes that looked awkwardly placed which is kind of a hard task when the scaffolding is in the way of nearly every viewpoint. By the end of the day, I was satisfied and we were ready for the scaffolding to come down.

I had also planned for all of my shipping materials to be repurposed to art students on campus, within hours of sending out the word that my wood crates, packing foam and bubble wrap was available, it was all gone. I’m so thrilled to keep all of that out of the landfill while also helping out some students with free materials.

A week of install | the dirt | Jenni Ward ceramic sculpture

Day 6: The scaffolding came down (way faster than it went up!). I held my breath as each of the parts was disconnected and handed down to the lower levels, hoping that the artwork would not be touched in the process. Finally getting to see the installations fully for the first time was a little nerve-wracking, seeing as there was nothing to be done about fixing anything now that the scaffolding was gone. While there are always things to improve on and tweak here and there, I feel really good that all of my planning and staging of the work in my studio paid off and I very happy with the final results! Photos of the final installation are posted here: Bone Series : Biophilia Connections

Who is the “we” I keep mentioning here…

I always say ‘it takes a village to raise an artist’ and I know that it’s my name that goes on this project but really it would not of been possible without the skills of my husband Nate who drilled and set every anchor (possibly cursing and sweating through each one!), assisted me on the planning, prep and execution of the entire project from day one and got me a cold beer at the end of every day. In addition, we had our lifelong friend Beth roped into this adventure who is always willing to jump in regardless of the task, make us laugh in all of the stressful moments, and charm anyone who walks in the room and wonders what the hell is going on. These two did it all, on top of a million other tiny tasks that made it all appear seamless. I’m forever grateful.

Thanks for joining me on this art adventure, and if you’re ever in Gainesville, be sure to check out this installation in person! Hope you enjoyed the process and the art! Join me next time as I leave for an art residency in Taiwan in two weeks – yikes, I need to pack!

hurricanes, gators, oh my!

No one said installing public art on the other side of the country was going to be an easy feat, but I really didn’t expect a hurricane to play a part in my plans. And truth be told, I consider myself extremely lucky; one, we did not get caught in a hurricane, our flight arrived without drama, and despite shipping the crates out of the studio later than I planned annnd Hurricane Dorian closing the university for a few days delaying the crates delivery to the university, it all ended up working out just on time and we are officially on schedule- whew!

Today, I met onsite with the scaffold company as they got their final measurements and plan for exactly how to get me and my art 20+ feet up in the air. Scaffolding will be installed tomorrow while we unpack the crates and start to prep the templates. Can’t wait to see the art go up in the next week!

hurricanes, gators, oh my! | the dirt | Jenni Ward ceramic sculpture

In the lead up waiting for art to arrive, I spent my time taking in the flora, fauna and culture of Florida. The above photos show an amazing black bat flower growing in my friends yard, just one of the many kilns at the Morean Center for Clay and close up encounters with gators at Gatorland before we got down to business meeting the crates of art and the scaffold installers.

And so it begins…

As you read this I will be flying across the country to meet my crates of artwork in Gainesville Florida for their public art placement, so excited that installation time has arrived! I’ll be spending a few days in the area negotiating the last details and visiting with a friend in the area and then it all begins. I will be sure to post lots of photos of the install and the final results as we work through the process.

And so it begins... | the dirt | Jenni Ward ceramic sculpture

My husband snapped this photo of me perched on top of the ladder struggling to photograph the last and largest piece in its entirety, can’t wait to see it in it’s final location. Fingers crossed that everything arrives ok, and that all the planning and planning and planning actually work in real life! Thanks for your support on this creative journey!

Florida or bust!

Well, hopefully there’s no actual busting of these crates as they make their way to Gainesville Florida!

In these two boxes are all the parts for my site specific installation of the Bone Series for the University of Florida Gainesville’s Career Connections Center stairwell. They will head out next week and I’ll be following behind them at the end of the month. Welcoming all fingers crossed as these guys head out on their cross country road trip!

Florida or bust... | the dirt | Jenni Ward ceramic sculpture

Latest Commissions Installed!

As many of you know, I’ve been working on a big public art project the past few months, but what you may not of been aware of is I was also simultaneously working on two custom commissions for a private residence. And they just went in this week! I’m thrilled to share the results with you and so grateful for the opportunity to have my work in this gorgeous space.

A whole bunch of Umbels dot the shady area of the yard like colorful fallen fruit in varying shade of yellow and ochres with little bits of red accents and the Bone Series wave wiggles down the fence line leaving gorgeous shadows in the late afternoon sunlight.

Latest Commissions Installed! | the dirt | Jenni Ward ceramic sculpture

the art of shipping and handling

We have become so accustomed to ‘shipping and handling’ being a free bonus to the bottom line of our online orders, it’s easy to forget that there is a person on the other end. Someone who actually protects your purchase, puts it in a box, makes sure it gets to your home and (hopefully) arrives there in one piece. And ok, shipping has human power and fuel costs associated with it that seem obvious to be worthy of paying a fee for but ‘handling’ ceramics is a much finer art form that often can go unnoticed.

Over the years, shipping my art has become such an adventure in itself, that I could sit around telling the equivalent of ghost stories around the campfire about the things my art has been through in the shipping industry. The piece that gets chipped or lost is one kind of tragedy, but when I’m planning on shipping a huge, multipart installation, the balance between risk and cost effectiveness could fall into a whole other kind of tragedy. So much so that I’ve dedicated weeks in my planning schedule to just work on the art of shipping and handling of this upcoming public art piece. Exciting stuff, right?

There are options. I could hire a professional art shipper to take my work, pack it and ship it. It would probably arrive in perfect condition. All I would have to do it pay a huge bill for that piece of mind. I would also have to resolve in my mind that they would be purchasing brand new materials to wrap and protect my work, most likely ones that would not be recyclable, compostable or made of post consumer waste. I struggle with that (and that big bill too). So I choose to pack and ship my work myself.

This means that it takes me time to find the right materials to protect the work correctly. I also want the materials to be reusable, recyclable or repurposed as much as possible. I also have to balance all of that with the cost. A reused crate that’s too big for what I need will cost more to ship. Equally, wrapping my work in 1000 pieces of reused bubble wrap might not be the best protection. I also have to consider the person who’s receiving it on the other end who probably doesn’t want all the packing peanuts I’ve ever saved.

So far, on this project, I’ve been able to reuse all the bubble wrap, hard foam, filler material and interior boxes. I did concede that I needed to purchase some soft foam to protect the art properly. Two new wood crates will also be built. They will be designed using all the wood as effectively as possible, so that there is hardly any scrap leftover. They will also be as small as possible while still protecting the work inside. Since these crates and packing material won’t be returning to my studio, I plan to contact the art department on campus where I’m installing for first dibs on the free materials. No matter what, I don’t want them to end up in the land fill after I’m done with them.

Why do I share this ramble with you? Mainly because this is what’s going on in my studio (and brain) right now and the struggle is real! But also to offer a little behind the scenes look at what those handling fees really mean. To think about that artist who took the hours – literally – to package your purchase carefully. The artist who wrote you a little thank you note or doodled a little drawing on the box. To remember that there is an art to shipping and handling and that these skills and those materials are what you are actually paying for.

ps: Keep your fingers crossed that everything arrives in perfect condition! Thx!

even more progress…

Lately, I feel like my blog posts are like groundhog day, still working on the same public art project again and again but every day, progress is being made! Plane tickets have been purchased, installation dates have been scheduled and crate building has started happening – exciting times in the studio!

I’m still working on the final wall section of the installation, mainly because I realized that I needed to make some more parts but those are firing through the kiln as I type and by the end of next week all sections should be finished. It’s definitely thrilling to have been offered a project like this, but I will be equally thrilled when it’s complete!

even more progress... | the dirt | Jenni Ward ceramic sculpture

As many of you know, I was accepted to be an artist in residence at the Yinnge Ceramic Museum in Taiwan starting in October, so I’m simultaneously planning for leaving my studio for 3 months right after this public art project is completed. Sometimes I feel like I’ve got to many balls in the air but I’m trying to find balance by still spending time in nature as much as in the studio, taking the time to breathe and reminding myself that ‘I’ve got this’. Thanks for being along on this journey with me!

Making Progress…

These are just studio shots of my work-in-progress public art project, so please pardon the dirty walls! I wanted to share all of the progress I’ve made on this project, dare I say that I’m in the home stretch!?! …well, with the building and assembling part of the project anyway… there’s still crating, shipping AND installing to go!

I start on the floor laying out the ceramic discs in a composition that I think will work best for the space, then I start connecting all the pieces together with the steel cables. Once I have a good idea of where the connection points to the wall will be, I will group a few tails together and assign them an anchor point. Then the paper template goes up on the studio wall and I place the anchors. For now I’m just using screws in the wall, the final installation will have some really nice eyebolts for anchor hardware. Then I start to hang the crazy web of parts, it’s a little tricky since everything is moving and could break if they knock into each other.

Next up is the editing process, adjusting of all the cables to be functional and visually dynamic. Gravity effects these installations in ways that I could never predict when assembling on the floor, so there are always cables to be cut and replaced. Once everything is connected, I usually just stare at them for awhile. I take the time to see if some part catches my eye and needs to be changed or if a piece needs to be added or subtracted. When I feel I’ve got them all in their happy places, I’ll mark the template for the final anchor locations and remove the paper template to photograph them.

There are 6 installation locations for this project and I’m down to the finishing up the final one, but it’s also the largest one at over 16′ wide, so it will be quite the challenge. Below are some images of the smaller ones that are completed and ready for packing up. Can’t wait to see these all finish in their permanent home soon!

Making Progress... | the dirt | Jenni Ward ceramic sculpture