Video: Walking the Umbels

A little taste of what it’s like to walk the trail of Umbels..

About the Umbel Series Installation:
The saffron colored trail of abstract ceramic flowers is inspired by the folklore of bright yellow mustard flowers leading the way from mission to mission along the Camino Real. The installation is named the Umbel Series due to the umbrella shaped flower structures that inspired the forms.

Click here to pre-order your Umbels…

Looking Back…

Going through old photos and cds over the weekend and I discovered some gems, I’ll share some goodies with you over the next week of posts. The thing that was amazing was seeing the continuity of my work over a decade of making it.Looking Back | the dirt | Jenni Ward ceramic sculpture

The piece on the left was made in 2001, with some leftover clay I managed to snag, fired in someone else’s kiln before I had my own studio and carved with a sandblaster at someone else’s studio I was working at then. Basically, I was just out of school didn’t have the equipment or studio space but somehow I managed to create this piece and someone bought it the first time I exhibited it at a local show. And I still kinda like it, which is rare for older work.

The piece on the right was made in 2013. This one was made with a clay I knew would work best for this process, it was tended to, carried carefully around the studio, padded with foam as it dried to help insure its survival. It was one of over a hundred pieces in this series, had hours of trial and error to make it not collapse in the firing process. It too sold at its first exhibit and I still like it.

Over a decade of working with the same form, the same technique of removing clay, still trying to find the balance between the organic and geometric and still not sure if I’ve figured it out yet. I love that the process of learning and creating never seems to have an end.

More from the Nest Series here…

Kristen O’Neill answers “How long did it take to make that?”

The re-post below is from my sister-in-law, painter Kristen O’Neill. She is a fantastic contemporary landscape painter who paints portraits of places in nature. She finds the essence of those spaces and lets you into that world. I’m so lucky to have her paintings in my house and her skilled eye to critique me when I’ve lost my artistic way. The post below is her answer to the question every artist has heard at an exhibit, “How long did it take to make that?” I’ve thought about writing my own answer to this question but I really couldn’t say it any better…

By the way, you can commission or buy a painting from her here: Kristen O’ Neill Art    Enjoy!

How long did it take to paint that?

The most common question I hear at a gallery opening or a festival show is “how long did it take you to paint that?”

It is a fair question. It is also an easy and safe question. People ask this when they are interested in my work and my process. They may possibly be asking in relation to my price (is it really worth $800?).

I want to have an answer for you. But I don’t. Not because I haven’t tracked my hours spent at my easel (because I have). Not because I lost track of how many hours went to that particular painting (I may have, but could rough out an answer because I know my process). The truth lies in the fact that the question is too small for my answer.

Let’s pretend I spent 20 hours on it, in front of the easel time. That is probably the answer I should give, but it is an incomplete answer.

I spent 5 minutes mixing the gray for the rock.

I spent 15 minutes mixing an EXACT copy of that color when I realized I wanted to change the way the edge of that color interacted the next day and no longer had the color mixed on palette.

I spent 20 minutes on clean up (brush cleaning, palette scraping, general clean up tasks) every time I was interrupted for more than a few minutes, or at the end of each painting session. Or when the baby decided she really wasn’t going to take that nap.

I spent a lot more time just looking at it. There is a great scene in the Netflix show “Grace and Frankie” where Lily Tomlin’s character states that she and her painting “aren’t talking right now.” As I write this I am currently casting sidelong looks at an uncooperative painting. Earlier I was trying the silent treatment. The painting always wins these silent wars. I have kept works in progress in my bedroom. I stare at them as I fall asleep, and when I wake up I am looking again for some sort of answer I swear it must have in it. Often I find my answer. Sometimes I find that my answer is that I have a critical error and must start again.

This painting hangs in my bedroom. I’ve spent countless hours staring at it.“Amongst the Redwood Sorrel” from the Henry Cowell series.

My favorite painting is one that I hang in my bedroom in and find no areas that I want to fix.

But if we put what I’ll call “skill development” aside there is still research and inspiration. I am currently working on a series centered around the beautiful Umpqua National Forest. It takes time to drive there, and hike to the spots that I am painting. I took over 850 photos on my last hike. It would have been more, but I ran my battery completely down from a full charge. Sometimes when I take a photo I know I will be painting that scene. Something feels right. Sometimes I spend a couple of hours pouring over the images figuring out which  are the closest that show what I felt from the place.I have painted since my first watercolor set in preschool. But lets discount the first 15 years of painting and go with college level and beyond. When I make a painting now, it isn’t a stand alone moment. It is years of practice and learning and experimentation poured into it. It is a slow development of techniques. Hours of practice mixed with hours of research. Hours of time spent in museums, galleries, festivals and fairs looking at art.

More then once I have had to return to the very spot to solve a problem. What does it look like with more sunlight? Was that a far away tree or a close up branch? What happened in that dark spot there? Often the issue is color. The camera decisions and my decisions are not the same. It likes to turn the whole world blue when I’m not looking.

So when you ask me how long it took, I’ll say 20 hours. But feel free to ask me more because that isn’t the real answer.

Little River at Wolf Creek Trailhead

“Little River at Wolf Creek Trailhead” is an example of my Umpqua National Forest series.

In this painting you can see the smooth yet contoured river bed rocks that are normally under several feet of water. During the drought they became visible and made these interesting and graphic patterns. It was fun to explore them with painterly brushstrokes. I also loved the way the late afternoon sun broke apart as it fell across them. Like it was hopping across the river rock.

This painting is available for sale here and took 5 hours to paint, a 3 hour hike, and 3 hours in the car round trip, not including bathroom breaks for the kids.

Why Make Art? – Richard Serra

If you need a little inspiration pick-me-up, check out this short interview with sculptor Richard Serra brought to you by the SFMOMA. Why make art? He explains that he creates art as a way to solve interesting problems about life, and believes that artistic creation influences the way we see the world. I couldn’t agree more.

Words of Inspiration

Jenni Ward ceramic sculpture | the dirt | words of inspiration
The work of Jasmine Kay Uy for her University of Texas at Austin Department of Art and Art History Digital Foundations class with Bethany Johnson titled “Art is Pointless…”. The prompt was to create a work that investigated site-specificity, public setting, and text-based art using Illustrator and the vinyl cutter.

Ceramics as a Material

Jenni Ward ceramic sculpture | the dirt | happy earth day!I have been asked over and over again in interviews “why clay?”, “why don’t you call yourself a potter?” and “what does it mean to be a ceramic sculptor?”.  I sympathize with this quote by David R Harper about working with a material like ceramics: “No one likes feeling like they belong on the outside and that they have to defend their material … especially when their material is older than any other material,” he says. “But we do.” This article is such a great discussion on the role ceramics as a material plays in the world of art and craft. Click the link to read on…

The new age of ceramics blurs the lines between art and craft
by LAURA BEESTON | The Globe and Mail
“In the world of ceramics, there has been a curious – and compelling – blurring of lines between art and craft. While contemporary artists embrace the medium and play with form, artisans are elevating everyday items to objets d’art”

Series Showcase: Hive

The simple hollow cone shapes of the Hive Series, which have one end hand-carved with an abstract hole pattern, have taken many compositions over the years that I’ve worked with them. I have always loved the way that the pieces seem to interact and talk to each other which creates a dynamic energy in the finished work. The same pieces were used in the hanging installations as in the In the Field clusters but each of those compositions has a very different feel to it. I enjoy being able to play with placement of wall, pedestal, suspended, interior or exterior options as way of physically experimenting with the same body of work.
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Conceptually, the Hive Series installations are an expression of the energy between opposing forces. In nature, a hive illustrates the natural balance between strength and fragility, curiosity and avoidance, security and vulnerability. In these arrangements, these concepts are explored using a geometric configuration of multiple ceramic forms. The combination of these elements create an abstract interpretation of a hive structure both physically and conceptually.

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These pieces have been beautifully installed in large museum spaces, small galleries, private homes, gardens and a redwood forest. While many arrangments of the Hive Series pieces have already been sold, there are still over 200 parts waiting to find the right home. If you are interested in working with me to create an installation in your home, garden or commercial space, please contact me to discuss the options- I’d love to work with you!

Emerging Inspiration

At this year’s NCECA event, Roberto Lugo was chosen as one of the events honored emerging artists. I missed his presentation live, but there was such a buzz going around social media afterwards that I had to check it out. When a link was posted on the NCECA blog, it did not disappoint, check it out for yourself…

Roberto Lugo describes himself as a “potter, activist, culture-maker, rapper, poet and educator.”

What is it?

Visual artists are often asked to explain their work through a tedious bit of copy called an “Artist Statement”. Its just about the most dreadful thing to have to create as an artist and its the first thing any application or gallery or curator will ask you to provide. Ultimately, you need it, and you need it to explain clearly and concisely: why do you make your art?, what inspires you and what is it?  The other thing is that your artist statement is always evolving, just as your work evolves, so you can’t just write this up and use it for the rest of your artistic life, you need to update, write and re-write…

In your head, you instinctively know the answers to these questions, but can verbalize them all in a few minutes? Probably not. It takes me the better part of a day to create these few precious lines and I’ll still revisit them days or weeks later to make sure I’m still making sense. BUT, there is an upside to this process. Once you slug through all the deep thoughts of your art and ideas, you appear on the other side with some very clear ideas about who you are and what you do- this is so empowering as an artist. For me, I find it clears away some of the clutter and allows me to focus on what is really important to my work- from a technique, a conceptual idea or just my purpose.  It also gives the viewer/buyer of your work a story or an understanding of what your work is about, and if you can tell your story clearly, they can spread your story clearly to others. So I invite you to read my latest artist statement, feedback is the best medicine for a new statement, so please click the link: About and let me know what you think!

On this same topic, I encourage you to watch Shea Hembrey’s Ted Talk on “How I became 100 artists” where he impersonates 100 fictional artists for an exhibition and needs to create a statement and body of work for each artist – his guidelines include the fact that his grandmother needs to understand what each artist’s work is about. Its very clever, so enjoy!