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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

Clouds & Cupcakes: Part 2

Jenny Dowd

Clouds & Cupcakes opened this past week at Mystery Print Gallery and Frame in Pinedale, WY. I was so excited about the show that I completely forgot to take any photos - so thank you to everyone who photographed the work and posted it on Facebook! Now I have another excuse to travel back to the gallery and see the work… next time I’ll remember to photograph it.

In my last post, Clouds & Cupcakes: Part 1, I showed some process behind my work for the show. Here, all the work by Shannon Troxler, Matt Daly, and Connie Wieneke come together and for sweet and cloudy conversations.

I turned the window into a bake shop, plus covered another gallery table with porcelain sweets - cakes, petit fours, cherries, and fortune cookies. Scattered in are a few small paintings of sweets and clouds by Shannon.

Shannon captured the fleeting nature of clouds with oils, which also look as if they will change any second.

Matt projected cloud fortunes onto layers of silk hanging in the middle of the space, the projected words and light passing through the layers and onto the walls with cloud-like ripples. The fortunes are the type he imagines clouds would receive if they went out to dinner together and received fortune cookies at the end of the meal.

As a bonus, the light caused extra shadows in the cloud studies that hang below.

Connie wrote a cloud ephemeris, inspired by the human need to pin things down, and to feel like we know what will happen - despite the nature of the ephemeral.

At the end of the gallery I hung a bulletin board with little drawings of photos of memories of clouds. More cloud studies in shadow boxes hang next to Shannon’s oil paintings of clouds - these float off the wall just above a silver leaf background.

The fortune cookies do contain fortunes - though most will have to be broken in order to be read. I see this as potential. A fortune cookie holds many possibilities, in this case, perhaps they will sit and wait, to be opened and read at just the right time.

I’ll be back to take more photographs soon. And the show is on display until November 1. Check it out if you are in the area, gallery details can be found at the Facebook page for Mystery Print Gallery & Frame

Clouds & Cupcakes: Part 1

Jenny Dowd

Clouds & Cupcakes has been in the works for over a year - and as usual, most of the physical work has happened in the past few months. I’m always happy to have a show deadline on the calendar, it seems so far off with endless possibilities. Even though the final few months is always a scramble - it’s actually a carefully controlled chaos of a scramble because there has been so much time to think, and plan, and test, and dream.

Clouds & Cupcakes will open at Mystery Print Gallery & Frame in Pinedale on September 5 and will be on display until November 1. If you are in the area stop by for the opening reception from 5 - 7, with an artist talk at 6.

This is a show I’ve been turning over in the back of my head for close to 2 years and initially invited painter Shannon Troxler to tackle the space with me. The title didn’t emerge until this past very snowy cold January, and came from a specific feeling that I’ve found difficult to put into a few words. We started talking about this dreamy idea of clouds & cakes and that led to inviting poets Matt Daly and Connie Wieneke to join.

Today we are installing the show and I can’t wait to see all the work come together. I’ll publish the second half of this entry next Saturday with all the work in the gallery space. For now here is more on my process and how the show idea evolved…

I had an idea for prints, but something happened before I could even start them. While teaching a monotype class in the early spring I accidentally got a drop of white ink on my brayer that was already rolled up with blue ink. I proceeded with my demo - thinking this would be a good example of why you should keep a clean station - and ended up so excited and completely drawn down a tunnel of mark making. The small prints ended up with a lot of depth and wispy cloud-like forms. They were interesting on their own but also called for something more sculptural.

I like the idea of adding an element that can cast a shadow or move in a breeze, so after making a bunch of little porcelain clouds, I pinned them to the prints or hung them in the shadowbox frames.

While everything else was swirling around in my head, the prints anchored my thoughts for the show. Shannon and I met at Persephone Bakery one morning for sweet treats and brainstorming - which led to a desire to make the gallery window into a sweet shop.

Very flexible and thin porcelain paperclay was ideal for making fortune cookies. The paper here was just to help hold a side open during the firing. They fired an icy white and make a satisfying crunch when broken. Which, yes, you might just have to break the cookie to get to the fortune inside - each unique fortune written by Matt Daly.

My studio turned into a bakery as I made layer cakes that I could only dream of in a real kitchen. Each decorated with cloudy patterns and and perched atop handmade cardboard stands.

Another element came into place slowly over the summer while out walking. I started really noticing cloud shapes and tried to remember them.

You didn’t see that?

Oh. Well, since you missed it

I drew a photo

Stay tuned next week to see how the show comes together, I can’t wait to share the work created by the other artists!

What follows is my inspiration for this show and how the title came about…

Each year in the deepest moment of winter the same thing happens. Looking around, I think that I can’t stand one more day of the winter landscape. Too much white, too much snow, too much work and planning to get around. Within a few days this feverish feeling breaks. Suddenly the landscape is surreal; the clouds have combined forces with the snowy ground and I’m no longer sure where one begins and the other ends.

Indescribable shapes plus impossible shadows swirled with soft colors leave me unsure of what is concealed… and I’m reminded of frosty icing and the delicate sweetness of cake. Is the ground a cake and the sky frosting? Is it actually the other way around?

Conversely, in the middle of summer, the memory of winter is entirely out of place. The lush green plants growing as fast as possible in the short summer months, the river near my house that I ski over in the winter and paddleboard on in the summer - it’s just too much for me to comprehend. It’s odd, but somehow every summer I forget how high the snow piles and every winter I forget how green the land becomes.

Cupcakes & Clouds is an attempt to wrangle all those nebulous cloudy and wintery thoughts and memories into one space. Shannon Troxler, Matt Daly, and Connie Wieneke have joined me in describing the sweet cloudy mood of our skyscapes.

Making a Puppet: Part 2

Jenny Dowd

More from behind the scenes of making a giant pole puppet, plus the puppet in action!

(Check out my past journal entry Making a puppet to see how this all started)

Trying to reduce added weight, we decided to make the scales for the armadillo-ish beast out of cardboard. Strategically painting the scales with silver, black, and white helped mimic metal. I also made some special scales that were covered in shiny, scaly looking fabrics.

The scales were stitched on with wire, directly onto the fabric covering the armature. After connecting the neck, head, and tail to the body, the shiny scales went on as a transition. I ran out of time while attaching the big sequins, or more accurately, underestimated how long everything would take. However, in this case I think less is more. It was good to constantly remind myself that this very large creature would be seen from a distance, a little sparkle was better than none.

I had a little help… my parents arrived for a visit and were promptly put to work on the final details of the beast. (Thanks!)

And finally! The beast all put together. We designed it to be operated by 3 people: 1 person at the head, 1 at the body, 1 at the tail. In the end only 2 people were needed, the tail was stuffed so it would flop around with the movement of the body.

The performance happened on the lawn at the Center for the Arts where dancers from Dancers’ Workshop were joined by visiting artists from David Dorfman Dance.

There were 5 beasts featuring the Chinese elements: Water, Wood, Fire, Earth, and Metal. I regret that I did not get great photos of them in action.

In a beautiful and touching performance, the beasts were compelled to work together in order to solve a problem.

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What a process and what a performance! I’m honored to have been part of this, I learned a lot and hope this is not my first & last puppet. But next time I might go a tad smaller…

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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.