And she’s off!

And She's Off! | the dirt | Jenni Ward ceramic sculptureYesterday afternoon, my art went out on an adventure! A crate of sculptural parts is on its way to Sweden and I’ll be meeting it on the other side in a few weeks. Fingers crossed that it makes it there ok!

I know I’ve spoken about this before but the pressure of creating installational artwork is always a thrill. I really never know if it will all work out until it has. This installation in Sweden is no exception. I’m shipping all the parts which I hope will arrive ok, then I’m counting on my team in Sweden to help me assemble and install this piece in a place I’ve never been before. I’m also trusting all of my testing and consultations with experts that the clay will be able to survive the winters there. All the moving parts of this project make for a slew of opportunities where everything can go wrong, but that’s all part of the fun!

More to come on this project in a few weeks!

Making Progress…

I’m so thrilled to be making and installing a permanent sculpture in Mariestad Sweden next month, but it is no easy feat of logistics. I never installed a piece internationally in a place I haven’t been to before while working with people I’ve never met, so it’s exciting and nerve wracking at the same time!

Making Progress... | the dirt | Jenni Ward ceramic sculpture

So far, I’ve tackled international shipping rates, logistics of travel, concerns over the clay being in frozen temperatures, crate building (which really the credit goes to my husband Nate for this one), working between the english and metric system, the physics of installing a top heavy sculpture without potential injury to the general public, and oh yeah, making the artwork. When you have to ask questions like, ‘Will the ground be too frozen to dig a hole for the base of the sculpture?’ or ‘Will the wood on my crate make it through customs without an agriculture concern?’ or answer ‘Yes. Yes, I am boiling my clay in a crock pot to test its absorption rate.’ you know you’ve entered a whole new realm of sculpture installation.

All that said, I’m feeling confident that the artwork will look great, that the team I’m working with will be fantastic, and that the logistics will all fall into place. I also think this is a great learning opportunity for me and it’s been fantastic to be able to reach out to my peers and clay colleagues with questions about their own experiences, it makes me realize that we’re all learning as we go and that the challenge is all a part of the fun! Stay tuned, more to come on this art adventure!

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 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.

When your series has a Gen 2…

I work in series. It’s a way for me to use a concept, process or technique and experiment with all the possible variables of those working parts. Generally, I come to an end with a series when I feel satisfied in my exploration or when the series evolves and changes so much that it develops into something completely new, occasionally I revisit a series years later with new inspiration.

I’ve been working in my Bone Series taking inspiration from the forms, textures and structures of bones for many years now with many different results. I don’t think that I’m anywhere close to being done with this exploration but I do think that I’ve created a second generation of this series- which seems weird to me.

When I was at my residency at the Buffalo Creek Art Center and I was experimenting with porcelain, I wasn’t really trying to make something, I was just experimenting with new materials and seeing how far I could push them. What I ended up with was what I’m now nicknaming the Gen 2 of my Bone Series.

Take a look at these two pieces side by side. The one on the left is from 2015 and was used in an In the Field Installation on a shipwreck in the Atlantic Ocean, it’s made from stoneware with a matte white glaze and has high temperature wire ‘tentacles’.  The one on the right is from last month, made from extremely thin porcelain, no glaze and also has high temperature wire ‘tentacles’. The two are totally different and totally the same. I’ve never had this happen in a series before and I’m not sure where this will lead but I really like the way it’s going so I’m going to follow…

When your series has a Gen 2... | the dirt | Jenni Ward ceramic sculpture

Week Three of my Residency at Buffalo Creek Art Center

My third week at Buffalo Creek gave me my best results yet! I learned a lot in the previous two weeks and the kiln loads of those experiments but ultimately I ended up tossing most of that work. Using what I learned from those failures, I created another batch of the thin flanged porcelain forms and I also experimented with making the same forms but in terracotta (another clay I don’t use often!). Nearly all of these pieces came out of the kiln unscathed – yay! – success!

Week Three of my Residency at Buffalo Creek Art Center | the dirt | Jenni Ward ceramic sculpture

I also installed a piece from the Umbel Series on the grounds as a part of the permanent sculpture collection. These pieces are soooo tedious to make, every tiny wire is cut and placed and dipped in clay to create the tips of each of the flowers. I swore I would never make more of these flowers but the whole point of a residency is having the time to just make. And so I did. You can see more images of this piece here.

umbel series | buffalo creek art center | installations | Jenni Ward ceramic sculpture

Oh! And as the field trip for the week, we got to tour the Cress Kiln Manufacturing facility which is based just up the road in Carson City… it was pretty cool to see the process of the kilns being made and assembled.

Week Three of my Residency at Buffalo Creek Art Center | the dirt | Jenni Ward ceramic sculpture

Only one more week to go before I head back into my real life… lots to finish up here and I definitely need to climb another mountain before I go!

Taking the Show on the Road!

I hit the road on Monday with the van fully packed with art and headed north to Oregon. The Grants Pass Museum of Art is a beautiful second story space in the downtown area and I’m grateful to show my work here. All the work arrived safely – except for one snafu- I realized I left two boxes behind in the studio! Luckily they are being shipped up here and will arrive in time for the opening of the show – whew! After a year of planning and a tiring day one of install, a lot of the work is ready to go and I’m really happy with the way it’s turning out. I’ll post more photos and videos of the install as things develop!

Taking the Show on the Road! | the dirt | Jenni Ward ceramic sculpture