Umbel Update

I’m starting to see the very yellow light at the end of this umbel tunnel! The pile of finished Umbel Flowers has gotten drastically larger than the unfinished pile and I’m getting ready to install them in a few weeks- I’m very excited about this installation. I’ve had some help from my studio assistants Nina and Sequoia with getting through the glazing process and helping load and unload the kilns which has been extremely helpful in making progress. Below is a current panorama shot of my studio table, I know, it’s a little crazy.

Umbel Update | the dirt | Jenni Ward ceramic sculpture

The other part of this project that had to be taken care of was cutting all the steel rods that will be the stems for each flower. Local metal artist Roy Holmberg helped me order the right materials, curator Susana Arias loaned me her brand new saw and my husband Nate took the better part of a day to cut the 800′ of steel rod into 2.5′ pieces and grind the cut ends of each one. Now they are all piled up neatly waiting to be hammered into the ground. I am so grateful for all of this help, it truly takes a village to raise an artist.

Umbel Update | the dirt | Jenni Ward ceramic sculpture

Slow and steady, this project is really starting to take shape! The exhibition opens May 20th with a reception for the artists and will run through late November. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the installation changes as the landscape makes its own seasonal changes. The Umbel Flower installation will close with a ‘picking day’ where visitors can purchase and pick the flowers from the field to transplant into their own gardens.

Video: Umbel Series | Work in Progress

Here’s a quick video showing assembling the pieces from my Umbel Series. This piece will be exhibited at the UCSC Arboretum as a part of the Art at the Arboretum “Site Specific Environmental Installations” this spring. To learn more about this installation…

Work in Progress: Umbel Series

For those of you that have swung through my studio in the past few weeks you may have noticed an army of spiky flower forms covering my tables and have probably wondered if I’ve lost my marbles. Well, I assure you that there is a method to my madness! This is the start of my new Umbel Series which will be installed at the UCSC Arboretum this spring as a part of Site Specific Environmental Installations; a new exhibit for Art at the Arboretum curated by Susana Arias. This exhibit will be up for an entire year so you can visit the installations and see how they change and respond to the environments as the seasons change. Here are a few photos of the work in progress, and I’ll be sure to share more as things develop.

Work In Progress: Umbel Series | the dirt | Jenni Ward ceramic sculpture

About the Installation:

I have forever been intrigued by natural structures and the biology of how things work in nature. Lately, I have specifically been looking at umbel shapes in flower structures which is a flower whose shape resembles an umbrella. I’m attracted to these structures for the visual volume they create while remaining delicate and light at the same time. In researching flower structures, I also came upon a story of the wild mustard plants of California. The story has many variations and most are believed to be folklore but the basic premise is that the Padres and explorers to form the Missions left behind a trail of mustard seeds as they traveled from Mexico to California so that the seeds would grow and the bright yellow mustard flowers would color the path between each mission for the 800 mile pilgrimage. I love the idea of being able to track your path through the wilds of the world by following a color. While wild mustard flowers in reality are not the umbel shaped forms I’ve been researching, I loved this story so much I thought I could combine these concepts together to create an impactful installation.

Work In Progress: Umbel Series | the dirt | Jenni Ward ceramic sculpture
I plan to build 200+ abstract ceramic flowers that will have an umbel form to them using high temperature wire to help create the delicateness of the structure and they will be glazed in the bright yellow color of wild mustard. Each flower form will be supported by a steel stake that will be driven into the ground as a ‘stem’ so the flowers can hover a few feet above ground level. It is my hope that the impact of number of flowers and the yellow spot of color in contrast to its surroundings will create a dynamic installation that will engage the viewer and encourage them to explore the landscape.Work In Progress: Umbel Series | the dirt | Jenni Ward ceramic sculpture