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Journal

News from Dowd House Studios: places to find our pottery, exhibitions, classes & workshops, new forms and exciting projects.

Filtering by Category: Sculpture

Making a puppet

Jenny Dowd

It can be difficult to share process photos and explain projects that are still mostly living in my head. However, I’m finding that this is a helpful part of my process, plus I’m excited to share this project.

Sam and I are currently working on a huge project - we are making a pole puppet! In June we had the opportunity to work with Eric and Ines Bass from Sandglass Theater in a collaboration with Dancers’ Workshop. This project will culminate with a parade and performance on August 16. (Stay tuned!) Our puppet is 1 of 5 beasts, each based on one of the Chinese Five Elements: Earth, Water, Metal, Wood, Fire. Our beast is Metal, and is loosely based on an armadillo.

The Chinese Five Elements contain a lot of interesting layers; Metal also refers to the emotion: sadness, color: white, and flavor: pungent.

We spent 4 days working on the body structure, the tail and head will be added later.

The base of the creature was made out of cardboard, with the double layers helping to keep the reed armature in place. After shaping the vertical hoops, I attached the horizontal reeds with tightly tied bike tubes. I really wanted the puppet body to articulate in two directions - up and down and side to side. However, after attaching a fabric hinge and trying to move the creature, I discovered that it was too bulky to have that much movement. Up and down was more important, so the hinges were remade to easily shift the mass up and down - as seen in the bottom right image.

Poles were installed under the base - they are fitted to the backpack worn by the puppeteer. A pole was inserted into the front half so the body will articulate up and down. Both me and Sam tried on the backpack to make these adjustments.

So, now that the structure is nearly complete, it’s time for the details! Although, these are still complicated and require a bit of engineering and careful thought. This is just the body of the puppet - the head and tail are still seperate at this point and will each have their own pole and puppeteer. Our beast will be operated by 3 people!

I’ve started covering the armature with fabric, including the soft underbelly of the beast, in silver and metallic blue. Next, the scaly armor will be attached, plus a neck, head, and tail.

Remember that the Chinese element Metal also includes the color white? My plan is for the colors to fade from deep metallic blue on the inside to silver and white as they progress from the body.

A few of the details here - Sam is gluing nostrils onto the head and I’ve started sewing the tip of the tail. I think we are over halfway finished, but there is still lots to be done.

Stay tuned for more updates and information on the performance and parade on August 16th in Jackson!

Wait for it

Jenny Dowd

Most of the time art requires a vast amount of patience. Sometimes the patience is totally surprising.

In 2004 I was invited to participate in the public art event, Art Inside the Park, in Jefferson City, MO. I made tons of porcelain stacks - a sort of growth formation / pancake stack. There were probably hundreds of stacks of the bright white fired porcelain pieces, installed in a wide meadow and between the trees. They were meant to seem almost natural, as if perhaps they actually grew there. I remember standing back at the opening of the park, watching as some people did a double-take when they noticed “Growth,” while others walked on by without noticing. Both reactions totally perfect.

After the exhibition was over, the pieces were packed up and a friend took some for her garden, my parents took some for their yard, and I probably threw some away.

So here it is, spring 2019. Every time I visit my parents I’m reminded of these pieces. My dad has patiently placed them in the yard, tucking the stacks between rocks, plants, and trees. He glues them together in an attempt to prevent a squirrel from knocking them over (I think the squirrel is winning.)

The best thing is that I always forget about these pieces. Every single time. I look out in the backyard and think about how peaceful it is and how the trees and plant have grown so much over the years. Then suddenly… what? What is that? During the most recent visit in April I actually got about a foot away from them before I recognized what they were. Sitting outside for 15 years has resulted in a surface I could only have ever dreamed of. The somewhat porous clay has been stained and is growing the most beautiful moss. It’s a different piece than it was in that park, bright white against the green grass.

It’s a good lesson to let go. I loved the piece when it was installed because it was exactly what I imagined. After the show was over I felt no attachment to these pieces as they had served their purpose. Once again I am reminded that patience wins the day and the things beyond imagination are often better than the rigid ideas in my head.

Sketch to Life

Jenny Dowd

My sketching process is really messy, sketchbooks get torn up and little scraps of paper usually hold the best ideas. Often I can’t figure out how to define the idea on paper and the sketch becomes 3D - clay or wire, and then gets recycled.

The past few weeks I’ve been cleaning and organizing my studio space as well as attempting to wrangle art images into files and onto my websites. This is a good way to find odd things and reminders of past projects. Here are 2 of the most vague sketches I found and their resulting sculptures…

Believe it or not this was the final sketch for a ceramic and steel chandelier made for a project in 2016. It was just enough information on paper for me to move on to clay. I remember showing this drawing to a few people who seemed to understand it and were really excited… maybe my verbal description was more coherent, or maybe they were just being polite. Either way, this is what the sketch turned into:

Wyoming Sky Lantern was commissioned by Agnes Bourne for the foyer of the Designer Show House at the 2016 Western Design Conference. Read all about this project in this past Journal entry. The chandelier is now permanently living in a private home, the owner shared these images and I absolutely love them. I never would have guessed how the porcelain would change color with the lighting and environment. Maybe that is why my sketches are so vague?

This sketch was from a project last summer, I collaborated with Matt Daly to make 12 thaumatropes that were installed around Emily Steven’s Pond. This project was part of FoundSpace, a project designed by Jackson Hole Public Art and the Jackson Hole Land Trust. Once again, a very simple sketch became something quite complicated.

Read more about this project and see images of all the thaumatropes on my website.

FoundSpace: Update

Jenny Dowd

I'm used to projects offering more challenges than initially expected. Most things are not as simple as they seem, and making working thaumatropes proved that statement true over and over this summer.

Despite, or perhaps because of the difficulties, these are the projects I love the most. In frustration I'll leave my studio to take a walk, returning with another idea that I'm eager to try. I'll turn a difficult project around in my mind while working on something that makes sense- then when that project turns on me I'll go back to the other one.

To read about the first installment check out this past post and to read about the whole FoundSpace project check out this past post.

Thanks to installation by Matt Daly all 12 thaumatropes are now on display until the middle of August at Emily Steven's Park!

I got really serious about making the thaumatropes sturdy and functional, so for this final version each disk spins on an axle. The wood disks are glued and screwed together (learned from another early mistake.) The screws are counter-sunk on the last 4 disks so the drawing surface is smoother.

Each illustration was completed on paper, then transferred to the wooden disk using carbon paper and drawn/painted with acrylic paint pens. The illustration for the mottled sculpin was made on paper as well as vellum so I could check the overlap. When the disk spins both images are visible at once- for this image the mottled sculpin needed to look like he was under water- or more precisely, in a riffle.

After the logistics of creating spinning thaumatropes was figured out, the illustrations came easily as accompaniments to Matt's poems. 

One of the coolest things about working with Matt on this project was learning about these little critters. When I looked up images of the Bushy-tailed Woodrat I also learned that they will drop whatever edible thing they are carrying back to their stash in favor of a shiny object- like a spoon or coins!

I had no idea what a Mottled Sculpin was- and that they are tiny- end of a finger tiny! 

Plus the humor- while it may seem funny and light-hearted to authropormophise animals, it might also be serious. They might actually find each other obnoxious.

And cicadas might actually be pretty excited to graduate from nymph-hood!

The best part is that this project has made me look differently at this area I've lived in for over 10 years... there is always something to learn and something to see.

Stop by Emily Steven's Park to see all 12 before August 20th!

FoundSpace 2018: Part 2

Jenny Dowd

This week FoundSpace 2018 was unveiled at Emily Steven's Park! This art will be on display until August 8, and there is plenty to explore. I'm one of 5 artists invited by the JH Land Trust and JH Public art to create a temporary installation that will bring awareness to our public wild spaces. At FoundSpace, the challenge is to create something that will help visitors see the space in a different way- and hopefully discover something new every time they visit.

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This awesome map, designed by Cal Brackin, was screen printed onto bandanas by Walt Gerald

FoundPrints by the Sun

Brittany Hill took inspiration from the organic material found in this location to create naturally dyed flags. Each represent a species that has been transferred to the fabric through printmaking processes that rely on the sun.

Looksees

Bronwyn Minton invites viewers to come over and take a looksee. Her large sculptures are hard to resist and each offer spyglass holes- look through and you might just see something.

The Small Village of Treepoli

Bland Hoke enticed the small occupants of Treeopoli to construct a tiny village of hanging houses and rope ladders. Look closely, many details are hidden within the village.

Chronicles of the Introverted Minifauna

Matt Daly and I have created thaumatropes (check out last week's blog post for details) that tell stories about the little critters that are easily overlooked. So far we have installed 4... but keep an eye out, we will be installing more around the park over the next month!

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Ensemble

Jenny Dowd

It's time for the Laramie County Library annual book arts exhibition, Inspiration and the Artist Book. As usual, this year's theme left me stumped for a few months: Ensemble. I rolled the idea around in my head as I worked on other projects and brainstormed with my dad (now you know my secret!)

This time I went tiny, deciding to make an ensemble of clothing. But it's not just any clothing- these items are made from the pages of an old book.

I started out by making tiny patterns and testing how to fold the paper with the fewest number of folds or overlaps. 

I really wanted a hat as part of this wardrobe, it took me a few tries to figure out how to display it. At first I made a stand-alone hat rack, but that seemed too complicated. In the end I added a little hook onto the clothing stand so all the little pieces would be together.

The clothing rack and hangers are made from black wire. I like the gestural line quality and felt it fit well with the pages of text.

The final piece is very small, 8 inches tall by 10 inches long.

Book Jackets

Each person is a book. We are each an ensemble of ideas, information, fact, fiction, stories, dreams and musings. In order to face the day we wrap ourselves in what we have, leaving space in the wardrobe for more items and changing styles.

By mixing and matching we create a story to be presented to the world, adding and sharing pages and pieces through conversation, reading, living, and researching.

This tiny delicate piece was also a challenge to pack for shipping. In the end it occupied a much larger box than I would have imagined for such a small piece... but the box only weighed 4 pounds!

Visit this book sculpture in person and see how all the other artists interpreted "Ensemble." The show will be on display at the Laramie County Library in Cheyenne, WY from June 8 - August 8, 2018.