superbloom in the studio

I’ve been making progress on the ceramic components of ‘A Feast of Flowers’ public art project and it’s starting to take over the studio! I’ve got thousands of flower buds in various stages of being processed taking up every surface of the studio and the thrown ceramic forms they will attach to starting to come to life as well. Now I’ve got to come up with a plan for where all of these flowers are going to live while they dry. Excited to see each flowers personality come out with the subtle uniqueness of each form.

About the project: A Feast of Flowers will be six ceramic and steel sculptures inspired by the umbel flower structure of fennel plants. Placed staggered along the sides of the trail and silhouetted against the sky, the installation will create a sense of whimsy and wonder for the thousands of patrons who use the trail as well as bring an awareness to our connection with nature. 

My inspiration for this particular installation comes from my exploration of the natural world, and my curiosity about identifying plants, especially the edible ones. As an amateur forager, every hike in the woods has become like a trip to the grocery store for me. Fennels are one of the most recognized edibles that grow in California, available for the taking, yet there is a tendency to not trust the wild plants. This disconnect we humans have with nature, the loss of knowledge about native plants and how that relates to the global issue of food insecurity are all concepts explored with this project. 

It is also my hope that whimsical oversized flowers will create a fun and dramatic impact for the area, will draw locals and tourists alike outside to connect with nature, learn about local plants and of course take a moment to stop and smell the flowers. 

This project is sponsored by:

A Feast of Flowers | Jenni Ward ceramic sculpture

Updates on the Rail Trail Project

Excited to start ordering materials and making prototypes for the Feast of Flowers public art project for the Santa Cruz Rail Trail!

Travis Adams came to the studio and threw a few large flower head forms so we could play with the shape and size we will need. Later, he trimmed the forms to round out the shapes. Trying to make them sturdy and strong while keeping the weight of them as light as possible is part of the challenge with these guys, but there are definitely some winners here!

600′ of high temperature wire arrived in the studio this week and I got busy cutting it into manageable 15′ lengths, all of which eventually needs to be cut into 3″ long pieces. Whew… it’s going to be awhile to get through this pile

But check out this first prototype! All this work is totally going to be worth it!

This project is sponsored by:

A Feast of Flowers | Jenni Ward ceramic sculpture

A Year in Review

I’ll be taking the final weeks of the year off from writing blog posts as I let this year settle and start exciting plans for 2023 but I wanted to take the time to do a quick look back at all that has happened this year.

I participated in 6 exhibitions including one solo show and one show I co-created and co-curated. I created a large public art piece and have another in the works. I made ~literally~ thousands of porcelain pieces inspired by plankton and I still have a million ideas for more. And on a personal note, I swam dozens of miles this year in the open ocean, and hiked more miles than I could keep track of. Working hard, playing hard. I can’t wait to see what next year brings.

As a reminder, the online shop is always open so take a peek to find something special for yourself or your art loving friends and family. And once again, thank you for your support, it takes a village to raise an artist and I’m grateful that you are my village. Happy Happy, Merry Merry.

making progress…

If feel as though I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole the past week, busily making what feels like a million parts for my upcoming exhibit, Bodies of Water this September at the Eloise Pickard Smith Gallery at UCSC. Working with gallery director Tauna Coulson, we’ve been choosing paint colors to turn the gallery into an ocean, creating templates for a nearly 2000 part site specific installation, selecting work, organizing pedestals, designing the layout and of course making parts.

I hit a point where it seemed daunting, but now I’m rounding the corner and can visualize it all coming together and I’m getting really excited about it. I also l.o.v.e. the color blue we chose for the gallery walls, can’t wait for you to see it!

Making all the art is one part of the job but installing them is a whole other task. I’ve started getting things boxed up to bring them up to the gallery in the coming weeks and start the process. Luckily I’ve got a long lead time since the gallery is technically closed for summer, so I can use that to my advantage and not have to rush installation. Phew! Hope to see you all at the opening September 24th 5-8pm where all these parts will magically transform into a plankton filled ocean gallery!

Bodies of Water | Eloise Pickard Smith Gallery UCSC | Sept 20th – Dec 3rd | Opening reception Sept 24th 5-8pm

video: evolution of an installation

If you come by my studio this year for Open Studios, you’ll get to see this piece in person, but I thought it’d be fun to share a bit of the process making it. I actually wish I took more photos in process, but hopefully this very quick video gives an idea of it’s evolution.

The composition is mimicking the rings of a droplet into water and it’s composed of around 700+ porcelain pieces that are inspired by the bone structure of radiolarians (single cell planktons). Some of the pieces are mounted directly on the wall and some are attached to metal stems so that they can float off the wall, creating depth and casting shadows. If you watch the video closely or repeatedly you’ll notice that some pieces were removed and more space was given between the ripples, sometimes these are things that you can’t predict before you’re actually installing the work. I still need to clean the chalk lines off the wall but the more I live with this piece the more I love it. Hope you all get to come see it in person!

studio life and the environment

I try to keep as ‘green’ of a studio as possible, all the while knowing that I’m working with a material that has been mined from the earth and shipped across hundreds to thousands of miles. So, it’s a bit of a quandary for me but I try to offset that heavy carbon footprint in other ways.

I’ve written posts before about recycling my fired ceramics into the tile/toilet pile at our local landfill, they grind it up and use it as aggregate for other products. Which is a great way to get rid of all my mistakes, broken bits and abandoned ideas. I also recycle all of my wet clay so that every scrap will be used even if it’s dried out on me. And I try to reuse all the packing materials that come into my studio, in addition to a regular recycling of metal, plastics and papers.

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust | the dirt | Jenni Ward ceramic sculpture

Recently I started thinking about my energy usage in the studio in regards to my kiln firings. I started playing with the idea of once firing my work, which for those that aren’t familiar with the process of working with clay means that instead of doing a slow initial firing called the bisque, followed by a second glaze firing, I’m instead going from dry clay to finished ceramic in one firing. With the cost and use of energy to get my kilns up to 2000 degrees, saving one firing seemed to be the way to go.

looking into the kiln

From a technical standpoint it doesn’t always work depending on your clay, glazes, process of building and a million other clay techy things that can go wrong. But for my porcelain pieces that don’t even get glaze put on them, I thought I could make it work. The first few times I tried, the clay seemed slightly pinker in color rather than the true white it should be, so in my last firing, I added a bit more time to the kilns firing program at it’s mature temperature, letting it soak at it’s maturity point and that worked! I’m really exciting that I can get all of these pieces done in one firing now and waste less energy all at the same time!

Any one have other ideas on how to keep a greener clay studio?

Updates from the studio

Remember all those parts I’ve been making? Well, they’ve started to find their way onto the studio walls…

This installation is far from finished but a few hundred pieces are up on the wall. It’s been fun to play with how far off the wall the parts are and the subsequent shadows become a part of the piece. The overall form is inspired by a water droplet and the outward waves of ripples.

I’ve also got my own jellyfish aquarium going here with a whole new batch of Medusas swimming through the studio. These guys are so fun to hang out with in the studio all day!

Life in the studio these days

I almost thought that there wasn’t a reason to even write a blog post this week about what was happening in the studio because for me it’s like Groundhog Day in here. Making hundreds of parts is tedious and monotonous and that’s about all that I’ve been up to. But then I scrolled through my phone photos are realized that I do have a few things to share. So here ya go…

These are the latest batch of Medusas to make their way out of the kiln and I’m pretty happy with them. I love the variety of their wire tendrils and how they add movement to the pieces. Right now these are resting on a towel in the studio but eventually I’ll get them all hung up so that they appear to be drifting through the studio.

I’ve also been experimenting with embedding my porcelain planktons into ice. The trick is making clear ice so that you can see the pieces, which I’m kind of getting the hang of. This is a small block, but I’m hoping to work towards getting a big ol iceberg going. If anyone has any tips or ice related info to share, I’m all ears… who knew freezing ice could be so tricky!?!

And yeah, remember all those parts, still working on that. The piles are getting bigger though!

Video: Work In Progress – making plankton parts

Just a quick, fun video of each of the steps of making my radiolarian (single cell planktons) inspired porcelain parts. Starting with a thin slab of porcelain clay, I roll it even thinner with a rolling pin, then cut out the forms and scrape the edges even thinner with a metal rib tool so they are translucent when they are fired. Next I perforate the circles with even more circles using an x-acto knife, smooth each of the holes with a bit of water on both sides and then set them aside to dry and eventually be fired in the kiln. Hundreds and hundreds of parts later they will be used to create a large scale wall installation, but for now I’m just going to be over here making parts… lots of parts. Enjoy!

Throwback Thursday: First Solo Show circa 2006

It can be embarrassing to look back at work you’ve made in the past, like really embarrassing sometimes…but it’s also a sign that your work has grown and evolved. These images are from my first solo exhibit in 2006 at a gallery that doesn’t even exist anymore, it was a space that had a lot of challenges – mainly ‘how do I put sculptures on a wall?’ since that was the only space available to place work in and I was building very three dimensionally at that time.

But, that challenge led me to designing floating pedestals that my husband made and I still use to this day. It also led me to working with high temperature wire not only as a design element but also as a structural element to attach the pieces to the wall, allowing me to go big (and secure) on the wall. Lots of things were learned in the process of putting this show together.

I still have a few of the vines in my studio and get to visit a number of the other pieces at friends and families homes, I still think about what I could do better or different with all of these works, but overall I’m still pretty pleased with these pieces and really not too embarrassed.