week four: artist in residence at the fish factory

This is my final week in the tiny village of Stodvarfjordur in remote eastern Iceland and I can say already that I am definitely going to miss this place. But, I am very excited to do a bit of exploring as I make my way back to Reykjavic driving along the southern coast road. I’m also very excited that my husband Nate will be joining me for that adventure! But before I move on to other adventures, here’s what happened in my very busy last week in Iceland…

week four: artist in residence at the fish factory | the dirt | Jenni Ward ceramic sculpture

Everything came out of the kiln perfect, which was great. I was able to unload my pieces and start experimenting with all the parts I’d made. We had the luck of having a few days of really nice weather so I decided to start with my ‘in the field’ installation idea of putting the radiolarian inspired forms into the water of the fjord. There were a few technical difficulties in planning this but eventually those got sorted and I got access to a small boat, made some contraptions to hang the pieces from and tested out a few shots with my underwater camera- which came out great! Then, my underwater camera promptly flooded and I was literally dead in the water with this photoshoot idea. So that happened. It appears to be glitch with the all important seal and locking mechanism on the door which protects all the innards. Meh.

week four: artist in residence at the fish factory | the dirt | Jenni Ward ceramic sculpture

Sooo, while trying to figure out plan b with that whole situation, I started making stems for my Angelica inspired Umbel flowers. These came out beautiful and I was able to take them for a photo shoot in the mountains above the village among the real Angelica blooms. I’m still editing photos and video from that shoot, but it was really fun to see the ceramic flowers mixed in among the real ones, they truly looked like they belonged there.

Since the ceramic flowers are extremely fragile, I decided that I wasn’t going to attempt to bring them home to my studio. But I wanted to display them in a really finished way if I was leaving them at the Fish Factory. So I scoured through the endless supplies of materials here and found some formed acrylic pieces that were heavily scratched but just the right size for making a wall mounted holder for the flowers. I took the time to sand the whole surface of the acrylic to faux frost the surface which hid all the scratches. I also drilled holes to put the stems through and made small anchors to fix the base of each of the stems in place. The whole dealio was mounted in the stairwell leading from the offices to the entrance of the factory, there was a window on one side which cast soft light on the pieces and I think it ended up being a perfect spot for them to live out their lives.

week four: artist in residence at the fish factory | the dirt | Jenni Ward ceramic sculpture

Regarding plan b with the radiolarian forms and underwater photoshoot, I am in contact with the manufacturer about replacement of the camera and in the meantime, my husband is bringing out another one when he comes. So hopefully if the weather cooperates, I still have a chance of getting some really beautiful underwater shots of my radiolarian forms. Once they have taken a dip in the fjord, I have big plans for these forms once I get home. I made a mini experimental version here which I’m also leaving behind. I decided to use this time to play and experiment with new ideas rather than worrying about making finished work or a new body of work. I’m at such a good jumping off point for so many new ideas I want to pursue, I’m just thrilled with my time here and I look forward to really seeing these ideas through when I’m back in my studio.

Thank you again to all of you that made it possible!

Consensus: Iceland is amazing, get here at some point in your life if you can! I’m so grateful for all the other talented artists and the team at the Fish Factory who have become friends and colleagues – they really make this experience unforgettable. And I’m so pleased with the new work, concepts and plans that have been created in such a short time. Only complaint… I have been here for four weeks and I have yet to see the aurora – maybe it’s the universe’s way of telling me I need to come back!

Open Studios Preview Exhibit at SCAL

Plan your tour!

Umbel Series | shop | Jenni Ward ceramic sculptureWork by all artists participating in Open Studios will be available for a preview exhibition at the Santa Cruz Art League. Come and meet the artists and preview the amazing work and creativity in Santa Cruz County!

Santa Cruz Art League
526 Broadway in Santa Cruz

Reception for the Artists:
September 30th 3 – 6pm
Exhibition Dates:
September 29th – October 21st

week three: artist in residence at the fish factory

This week is the transition week for me. I stopped building with wet clay early in the week and gave everything a few days to dry out completely, then we loaded up the kiln. It’s still cooling off so you’ll have to wait for next weeks post to find out the results.

week three: artist in residence at the fish factory | the dirt | Jenni Ward ceramic sculpture

But, in the meantime, I took some time to work on some applications for future art events, catch up on office stuff, took the hour long ride to the closest grocery store to refill on supplies but most importantly I’ve started planning out what I’m going to do with all these pieces that I’ve made.

Assuming that everything comes out of the kiln ok…
I have a pretty clear idea of what I want to do with the Angelica inspired flower forms. They will be assembled, attached to their metal stems and planted in the hills above the village where I’ve been hiking. I’ll document them in place and then find a permanent place to plant them at the studio. I think they will be too fragile to attempt bringing back home, but if any of you reading this are in Iceland and would like to purchase them- they will be available!

week three: artist in residence at the fish factory | the dirt | Jenni Ward ceramic sculpture

The radiolarian forms I’ve been making I would like to document in the fjord but I’m still figuring out how to photograph them in the water. The challenge mainly being that the water is just too damn cold to jump in their with them as I normally do for a water photoshoot but I’m sure that I’ll be able to figure it out by building some sort of armature and maybe borrowing a kayak or some hip waders? Once the ‘in the field’ photo shoot is done, I’ll be attaching some of these pieces to acrylic circles to give them their microscopic view and I’m going hang the circles. I’m not sure if these will come back to California with me or not yet, it sort of depends on how they can be packaged up. Fingers crossed that my ideas evolve into interesting results!

If things don’t come out of the kiln ok…
I’ll be telling you all about ‘plan b’ next week! Stay tuned!

The art of trying…

Building really thin, fragile forms in clay is challenging but what if you’ve figured out how to do that with success, what’s next? You go big! That’s what!

But then, you fail. And really it shouldn’t be called a fail, because what is really happening is a learning experience without anything tangible to show for it in the end. It’s the art of trying. So I gave going big a try, here’s a few images of a basketball sized piece I attempted to make with the same building techniques I have been using on the smaller versions (see the smaller handheld sized one next to it for scale).

The art of Trying... | the dirt | Jenni Ward ceramic sculpture

It sort of worked but there were some compromised spots that even if I tried to repair them, I’m pretty certain that they would of cracked in the firing process. So rather than waste the space in the kiln and the clay itself, I decided to toss the piece and recycle the clay for another attempt. A few of my studio mates were a little horrified to watch me do that, but the ability to let go is one of the most important lessons clay can teach you. Beyond knowing where the piece was failing, I also thought about how I could preempt those problems in future pieces and I think that I’ve figured it out. That’s not to say that they next one won’t fail too but hopefully I’ll be one step closer to a successful piece I can be proud of showing.

This piece was two full studio days to make and with nothing tangible to show in the end, it’s easy to look at it as a waste of time, but I think that is exactly what these residencies are for. There is time to experiment, time to try and time to fail. Feeling really grateful that I’ve got this time.

 

 

 

Week Two: Artist in Residence at the Fish Factory

Finishing out week two of a month long residency is a little bittersweet. On one hand, you hit your stride, you have a game plan, you are in a rhythm of studio life and communal living with your fellow artists. On the other hand, the reality that you only have two weeks left starts to creep into your brain and the pressure of fitting in everything that you want to do brings on a small tingle of anxiety. I’m trying to balance that out with priorities, working backwards in my schedule and hiking… it’s eased the anxiety, but just a little. It sure will be hard to leave this place for a multitude of reasons!

Week Two: Artist in Residence at the Fish Factory | the dirt | Jenni Ward ceramic sculpture

In the studio, I’ve been working on creating thin porcelain forms inspired by the skeletons of radiolarians (single cell plankton) and I’ve been happy with the forms and how they have evolved from my recent Bone Series pieces, but I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to mount or display them. The good news is that The Fish Factory has a huge room filled with materials that are accessible to the artists and after digging through a few piles, I found a number of colored acrylic circle pieces. These reminded me of the microscopic view I had been looking at in online images of the skeletons of radiolarians and so I thought they would be perfect. Once fired in the kiln, I plan to attach ceramic pieces to both sides of these circles and suspend the circles. I’m also planning an In the Field installation with these pieces here in the fjord, you can take a peek at an experimental video I did dissolving one of these unfired raw forms back into the earth here. This small breakthrough of ideas and working with a new material excites me to continue on with these possibilities when I’m back home.

Week Two: Artist in Residence at the Fish Factory | the dirt | Jenni Ward ceramic sculpture

Simultaneously, I’ve been working on some modified forms combining my recent Bone Series and Umbel Series, which have been inspired by the seed pods, angelica flower blooms and lichen I’ve found on my hikes here. These pieces feel familiar and comfortable to make on a small scale now so I attempted to make one about basketball size which only sort of worked but that’s a story for another post. I’m still not sure exactly what I’ll end up with at the end of this month, but I know that I’ve already learned a ton and I’m constantly reminding myself that the important thing is to keep challenging myself creatively and technically with clay, which is really the whole point of taking the time to do these residencies. Feeling pretty grateful for the opportunity.

Week Two: Artist in Residence at the Fish Factory | the dirt | Jenni Ward ceramic sculpture

New Video: Dust to Dust | Fish Factory Residency Iceland

This is an experiment with a raw clay form returning to the earth. The piece settled on a bed of seaweed while the waves gently washed in and sped up the reclaiming process. I love the little bubbles and sound of the water permeating the clay. (sorry for the vertical format!)

 

Week One: Artist in Residence at the Fish Factory

Greetings from Iceland!

After the jealously of watching all my friends travel photos appear on Facebook in the past few years, I can finally cross Iceland off my bucket list…and it does not disappoint! I arrived in Reykjavik and spent one night in the city with enough time to wander around town before leaving for the eastern coast of Iceland the following morning. The corrugated steel houses with their simple design and bold colors and the Icelandic lambs and horses grazing in epic landscapes makes it very easy to fall in love with Iceland.

Week One: Artist in Residence at the Fish Factory | the dirt | Jenni Ward ceramic sculpture

In the photo above you can see a little village along the fjord called Stovardfjordur and that is what I’m calling home for the next few weeks. It’s a remote little fishing village of around 200 residents, many of whom worked at the Fish Factory, when it was an actual fish factory up until the early 2000’s. When the factory closed, the town was decimated and many local businesses left along with a lot of the population. In an effort to save the building from demolition and revitalize the village, a group of founders coordinated buying the factory and turned it into the creative space that it is today. Over the past four years, they have done a ton of work with their own hands on the enormous building while the entire group was and still is operating on a completely volunteer basis. Along with the artist-in-residence program that has shared and private studios, they also host local concerts and events, have a working print shop, dark room, wood, metal, textiles & ceramics studios, plus a professional recording studio that is -almost- finished. And of course they have plans and dreams for lots more. The founders of the Fish Factory believe that you can’t have a thriving village without culture, so they are being the change they want to see in their world and their commitment is inspiring.

Week One: Artist in Residence at the Fish Factory | the dirt | Jenni Ward ceramic sculpture

In addition to being bowled over by the incredible scenery here and completely impressed with what this small group of art entrepreneurs have created from an abandoned fish factory, I’ve simultaneously settled into my corner of the shared studio space and started making art. I came with a foggy plan in my head of what I thought I’d like to make, but there is so much inspiration here it’s hard to not get distracted onto side projects too. So I’ve been 3-D sketching/doodling to help me filter out ideas with more potential for completion in my time here and I’ve got some promising starts.

I’m using the translucent porcelain clay that I was experimenting with while on my last residency in June (yes, it survived being in my checked luggage!) and I would like to create enough pieces to do an ‘in the field’ photoshoot onsite, I’m just not sure if there will be one or two (or maybe three!) site specific installations. I’m playing with some ideas from seeding plants I’ve found on my hikes as inspiration (see image above) for some land installations, which I think could be very successful. The work I had planned on making is based on radiolarian forms (lace-like skeleton structures of single cell ocean dwelling plankton) which would be a water based installation. And then of course there are the other ideas that can’t help but sneak into my studio practice, we will see if there is enough time for them to come to fruition. I realize that I’m being a little vague about my plans, but I’m not exactly sure where it’s all going yet, so here’s a sneak peak at my current studio table, I’ll let you know how it progresses as I head into week two here…

Week One: Artist in Residence at the Fish Factory | the dirt | Jenni Ward ceramic sculpture

And remember, if you want to keep up with what’s going on with me on a daily basis, you can follow my Instagram account for works in progress, inspiration through exploration snapshots and just musings on life as an artist.

Goodbye California, Hello Iceland!

And I’m off!

I board a red-eye flight bound for Reykjavik tonight and probably by the time you read this I will have officially landed on Icelandic soil. After an overnight in the big city, I will be making my way across the island to the eastern side and eventually arrive in the small village of Stoovarfjordur.

Goodbye California, Hello Iceland! | the dirt | Jenni Ward ceramic sculpture
I have everything I need for lots of hiking and exploring plus my studio tools packed and ready to go. I decided to bring clay with me in my checked luggage – which I’m sure will trigger a bag search- but since I’ve been working with a beautiful translucent porcelain, I wanted to make sure that I had the right materials to work with at the Fish Factory. If you want to follow along on a daily basis, I’ll be posting to my Instagram account regularly and I’ll be writing once a week posts right here on ‘the dirt’, so be sure to keep in touch while I’m gone!

I look forward to this amazing five week art adventure and thank everyone who donated to my residency with all my heart! You guys are the best!

Going back to Nevada…

Going back to Nevada... | the dirt | Jenni Ward ceramic sculptureIn order to squeeze in just one more art event before I flee the country, this past weekend we headed back out to the Buffalo Creek Art Center in Gardnerville Nevada for an end of summer bbq art show. I brought my three Lichen Trees with me and a few pieces from the Bone Series | Medusas that I had made while I was an artist in residence there this past June. It was so nice to be back, meet some of the other artists and enjoy the beauty of the eastern sierras again.

The event had nearly 100 visitors come to the ranch and meet the artists and their work. It was great to talk about my time there and the process of making my work with everyone. I can’t say enough about the owners Steve & Lana and the caretakers Bill & Mel, they welcomed me with open arms from day one and I’m so grateful for the opportunity I had in working there this summer.