Inspiration at the aquarium

It’s not hard to get inspired about nature, the ocean and all its amazing creatures when you visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I’ve been many times but hadn’t been there in many years and it was such a good reminder of was an incredible resource it is and it’s less than an hour away from my studio.

While the swaying kelp forests and swirling anchovy tanks are reliably hypnotic, they just opened their newest exhibition Into the Deep, which showcases the strangest of creatures from the depths of the ocean floor. The Japanese Spider Crabs were so gigantic, they almost looked fake and the Basket Starfish is otherworldly. But really, I can’t stop watching this video I took of a bloody belly comb jelly, it’s only red when spotlit since the red light spectrum is gone at that depth allowing it to hide in plain site….nature is the best artist.

Eloise Pickard Smith Gallery Visit at UCSC

I went up to Eloise Pickard Smith Gallery this week with curator Tauna Coulson to see the gallery space and toss around ideas for my upcoming exhibition there this fall. It’s a beautiful space nestled into the redwoods that I hadn’t been to a million years. As a bonus, I got to see the current exhibition on display.

Warp & Weft is about how textiles are integral in our lives, yet often overlooked. The exhibit showcases nine artists work with themes of family, community and politics through weaving and the history of cloth. Here are a few images I took of the show…

I know the parking is awful, but they are open Thursday nights until 7 and on Saturdays 12-5, so if you get a chance get up there and check it out!

For more information…

water inspiration…

I’ve been spending a lot more time in the water these days…it’s freezing but also exhilarating, I always feel better after a swim, as if the whole day can be reset by a good dunking. Swimming has always been a place of meditation for me, and water has always been an inspiration. Lately, I’ve been diving deeper (pun not intended!) into the science of water; reading more, learning more and thinking more about all the ways we encounter water. How we take its resource for granted, how we live in the subtle balance of having too much or too little water, how our bodies literally 60% water and really paying attention to what’s below the surface.

These images below are of radiolarian skeletons under an electron microscope, radiolarians are single cell planktons that live in all oceans, they trap carbon from the atmosphere and make up the majority of siliceous ooze at the bottom of the deep oceans. I’ve been fascinated by their complex forms for a long time and have based many works of art around these forms.

Over the coming months, I’ll be working on a number of new pieces using these as inspiration working towards an exhibition at Smith Gallery on the UCSC campus. I’m most excited that through the university, I will be partnering up with professors and students who are studying these creatures, their impact on the larger animals of the ocean, climate change and how we are all connected. I can’t wait to geek out on the science side of all this and use my art as the vehicle to share that knowledge in the upcoming exhibition. I am inspired.

Throwback Thursday…

Recently reorganizing files led me to going through some vintage works and also made me realize that I’ve been taking my art out into nature for nearly ten years now. A sense of place and belonging to that place has become so much a part of the work and my installations, that I don’t think about the work without thinking about these places, even through the connections are as ephemeral as a shadow.

In the beginning there were experiments, some that were more successful than others. Some work didn’t connect with the space as well as others, it took some paying attention to the spaces and the work that was naturally coming out of the studio to find those connections. To figure out which pieces were more terrestrial and which more aquatic, but it felt that somehow the circle was complete by placing these pieces back where their original inspiration began, like returning the clay to the earth.

When I’ve encountered other people during the placement of these pieces, they always assume that I found the work growing or washed up or reveled somehow and wonder what anomaly of nature they are – so I guess they do look like they belong there. Below are some early images from the start of this process. If you want to check out some more images and newer ‘in the field’ installations, click here. There will be more to come in the future, I don’t see me stopping this part of my creative process any time soon… enjoy.

Nest Series in the Stone Pools in Nisene Marks State Park Aptos California | 2013
Hive Series Manresa State Beach Watsonville California | 2013
Jenni Ward ceramic sculpture | in the field | bone series
Bone Series Fragments | Purple Sand Beach Big Sur California | 2014

inspired by baja

It was so wonderful to return to my happy place in the desert, work with creative and talented people while also getting some time to just watch the sun move across the sky. In these few weeks, my quartz rock collection grew, I saw more sunsets than I missed, and I watched the whales start to arrive at their southern destination. There is something about the quiet determination to thrive in the desert, that definitely inspires.

My weekend workshop at Barro Sur was a fantastic event, the participants were eager to learn new ways of working with clay and to be inspired by the flora and fauna of the region. Students came from all over to participate in this class. We spent two days building, let the work dry on a very slow bisque firing and then had a glazing opportunity in the days that followed. The results were beautiful and I hope that it inspired everyone to reconnect with the nature that surrounds them. On a personal level, it was great to meet and connect with new members of this small town’s community.

I hope to return again in a few months and get another dose of inspiration, in the meantime I’ll have to hang onto those sunsets in my mind.

Baja Bound…

In a few days, I’ll be headed off to our property in Todos Santos, Baja Sur to teach a weekend workshop all inspired by the desert, the ocean, the flora and the fruit of the area.

I’ll be posting photos and updates as it happens. Can’t wait to meet my students and play with clay at studio Barro Sur!

And a grande GRACIAS to all of you who donated to create two scholarships spots for inspiring local artists to attend my workshop! You guys are amazing!!

price sculpture forest installation part II

Day three working on the installation was spent getting the 4th section of the composition installed and laying out the last section. It was a shorter working day because I was invited to a potluck by local artists and supporters of the Price Sculpture Forest. It was so lovely to meet everyone and get a chance to take in the gorgeous views the island has to offer. The community here has been so welcoming and supportive of my contribution to the forest. I will definitely be back here again but for playtime instead of work next time.

Day four was filled with finishing up the last section of the circle and then pouring concrete underneath the last three sections. It was tricky to get the concrete to run everywhere but we made it work and eventually everything was covered, with some drainage areas designed in too. There is so much that goes into creating a site specific installation like this; so many hours, so much labor and materials that are beyond the main medium of ceramics. The ceramic pieces are obviously the focus, but all the support systems that are built to showcase the ceramic pieces are often more work, cost and effort and yet go sort of unseen. Tomorrow will be the final work day on site and we’ll backfill over the concrete so the forest floor can return to its natural state and the piece will become a part of the landscape.

I’m really grateful for all the help I received to make this piece possible, from my husband Nate with design and fabrication ideas, to my artist neighbors sourcing materials for me and offering advice and to Scott Price for his vision on this sculpture forest, and who has been getting his hands dirty everyday helping me make this installation a reality. It takes a village to raise and artist and I’m so grateful to my village.

Final photos will be coming next week… stay tuned!

Price Sculpture Forest Installation Week Part I

After a two day drive north, I arrived at the Price Sculpture Forest on beautiful Whidbey Island last weekend to start the process of installing my site specific piece entitled Lichen Series | Spore Patterns. I arrived in the middle of a random summer rain storm which seems perfectly appropriate for the Pacific Northwest, everything was lush and green. I was given a personal tour of the forest by founder Scott Price and got details on the artists and works in the collection. Then we got to work scheming and scheduling all the components of this installation. Scott’s dad also got involved designing a custom contraption that would safely and cleanly distribute the concrete to the base of the work in the days to come.

All of the ceramic parts and steel rods were unloaded from the van and carted box by box down the trail to my site including over a ton of concrete that will be used to hold the pieces in place. I got to work on laying out five separate sections of the radial composition and laying out all of the pieces.

Then started installing the over 300 ceramic pieces onto steel rods that had been predesigned to hold them. I even had friends who took a day out of their vacation in the area to help me get started installing and who kept me laughing all day. By the end of the first day, 2 sections had been installed and were ready for concrete. By the end of the second day we successfully used the concrete contraption and poured two sections with concrete and had another section installed.

It’s been long and laborious days, but the installation is really looking great, so it’s all worth it. It’s also great to hear the interest from visitors who are walking by on the trail, everyone is very excited to see what the piece will look like and to learn all about it. The next few days will reveal the final installation and it’s my goal that by the time I pack up all the tools and boxes, replace the underbrush of the forest floor, and let the birds return peacefully, it will seem like the installation has grown in the forest all on it’s own.

updates from baja…

updates from baja... | the dirt | Jenni Ward ceramic sculpture

As much as I love my studio in Santa Cruz, it has been such a calming and restorative experience to spend a few weeks at our property in Baja Sur by myself. I’ve been sleeping outside under the stars and waking with the sun and the birds.

I’ve been able to take care of some projects like getting out solar system up and running and have been organizing and upgrading our glamping situation here. As a bonus, I’ve had visits with my friends and clay people down here and am making plans for some clay workshops and studio time here in the future.

I was even able to get my little Umbel flower which was fired in the last multi-fuel firing at Taller de Terreno and planted it in my cactus garden where it seems very much at home.

I’ll return to my studio soon, but until then, I’m very much enjoying some time in the desert finding inspiration through exploration.