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


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2 thoughts on “Work in Progress: Umbel Series

  1. Hi Jenni, Umbels are my favorite form of flower architecture. I particularly like the Angelica group but other plants like parsley and dill have amazing flowers & leaves too. There are so many wonderful umbels. Looking forward to seeing your creations!

    1. Hey Ernie!
      Yes, I’m loving the umbel shapes too! I’ve been looking mostly at hemlock and wild fennel since that’s mainly what I encounter hiking. Hope you get to see this installation at the UCSC Arboretum when it goes up! : )

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