I am a maker and creative being to the core. I have painted, woven, felted, sculpted, sketched, and more, but still hadn't thought of myself as an artist. I knew that I needed to create in order to stay balanced and centered in my life. Art was more of a by-product of what I was doing — whether that was cooking, baking, gardening, or basket-weaving, art would infiltrate in as a driving philosophy, both consciously and subconsciously. Growing up in California, I took art classes in high school and entered college as an art major. Intimidated by the art world, I quickly switched majors and ended up getting a degree in Cultural Ecology with an emphasis in agriculture and became a gardener and herbalist by trade.
I spent the next few years working on Organic and Biodynamic farms in Indiana, New Jersey, and Tennessee. Eventually I landed on 150 acres in the backwoods of Tennessee where a lifelong dream of homesteading with a small community of friends was brought to fruition. Five years later, yearning for the waters and mountains of the Pacific Northwest, I ended up settling in Washington State on Lopez Island. I still live there today with my husband and daughter in the home we built. I did a lot of exploring and creating during this period but I didn’t do much classic ‘art.’
It was not until I was dealing with a medical condition in 2012 that I really opened up to art again. In the process surrounding my condition I thought a lot about the finite reality of life, and the dreams I still wanted to manifest. Sculpting stone was high on that list, so I contacted Tamara Buchanan, a local stone sculptor and long time NWSSA member. We scheduled a class a few weeks out. As soon as I put chisel to stone I was hooked, and have been carving stone ever since. Tamara has been my teacher, mentor and dear friend, sharing her studio, tools, and wisdom. Working with Tamara Buchanan, taking classes, participating in Symposiums and being a member of the NWSSA have all played very key roles in my development as a stone sculptor.
In March of 2019 Tamara, Sue Taves and I traveled to Italy where we rented studio space and carved side by side for nearly five weeks. In Italy, I found it fascinating how the appreciation for art is so deeply infused in the culture. As some locals pointed out, it doesn’t even need to be good art to be appreciated; the experience of the creative process - making it, sharing it - that is what is important.
Plants, rocks, moss, and trees are the first thing my eye is drawn to in a new environment. I am an earth centered person, and have always preferred to work with natural materials and plants. This is what first drew me to working with stone, as it is such a basic natural material.
The first stone that I started carving was a piece of limestone. Carving forced me to dive into my essence and find the form which could express my inner self. Of course, this was much easier said than done. I worked on it for a few months, only to realize the finished carving I saw in my head was way beyond my skill level at the time. It wasn’t until January of 2013 when I was at the King Tut exhibit in Seattle when one piece in particular caught my eye. It was a sculpture of Hatshepsut, carved over 3,000 years ago. Hatshepsut was depicted kneeling, offering a bowl to the gods. It was nearly the same form as the idea that I originally had for my limestone. The similarity between this ancient carving and what I had begun floored me. I loved the idea that I was tapping into an ancient archetype. Inspired by this experience, I was able to re-engage with my limestone sculpture until it was completed. Originally I had felt that the bowl in my carving was one of burdens but as I started carving on it again it transformed into a bowl of light. I decided to line it with copper leaf to accentuate the effect. The piece is titled “Offering.”
While taking a break from “Offering,” vessels became my focus. Exploring the concept of the feminine as a vessel was inspired by the ancient metaphor of the chalice and the blade. I explored this concept in various sizes, ranging from hand held to about 12 inches. For larger vessels I used soft stones like alabaster, and for the smaller ones I used local granite. The idea was to create an everyday item that reminded and inspired us of the sacredness of life in the four elements: Earth, Water, Fire and Air.
As I’ve gotten to know my sculptor-self better I have found that I like to have balance in my creative process as I work and often have multiple pieces going at once. There is always at least one piece I am working exclusively with hand tools, often in limestone. The basic hammer and chisel are my favorite. It is something I can pick up at any time and sink back into the fundamental relationship of stone and sculptor. On the flip side, I fully enjoy grabbing a power tool and grinding away. There is nothing like gearing up and diving into my own personal world and shaping some stone.
Moving with the form of a stone to create curves and undulations that flow together inspires me. The sensual experience of fingers flowing across the finished sculpture, guided by the created shape; this becomes a major focus when finishing a piece. Texture, color, play of light, how the eye moves across a piece - all those basic elements of sculpture dominate my own personal carving experience.
I believe in the power of beauty to make the world a better place. I feel that beauty and function should go hand in hand. My work isn’t precise. My garden beds aren’t perfectly organized, and I weave with a “rustic” style. But rather than see these as less-than-perfect, I prefer to see my work as a process of the integration of beauty and function. I tend to create objects that are more solid in nature; stronger, and able to withstand everyday life, while still holding a beauty about them. I endeavor to share the beauty that I see in nature through creations that have a place in everyday life.
In the sculpture “Purpose”, living moss is a part of the evolving sculptural form. This is a concept I look forward to integrating more deeply in future pieces. Combining plants and stone keeps inspiring me, and another idea that’s been dancing around in my mind for a while is to combine the sculptural elements of willow and stone. Down the road, I’m looking forward to sharing the physical manifestation of these concepts. Along with combining natural materials, I am also excited to carve some larger figurative sculptures with the marble I brought back from Italy.
All my life I have struggled to label and own myself as an artist; it wasn’t until I was in my mid 40’s working in the studio with Tamara that I finally was able to say it. I am a maker, an earth-centered creative person, and now, thanks to my explorations in stone I can confidently say that I am an artist as well.