An Artist's Life
The Art of Imperfection
I do not begin sculptures with a vision of a finished piece. I donâ€™t even make preliminary sketches. I start with a spark of an idea and discover the sculpture as it takes shape. This dialogue of creation inspires me. I don't try to control the piece. I try to catch a little magic, seeking character and personality rather than perfection.
To banish imperfection is to destroy expression ... to paralyze vitality â€“ John Ruskin.
There is space for imperfection at every stage of my sculpting. Building from different colored clays is one of my signature techniques. I incorporate as many as five different clay bodies into a single piece. Hereâ€™s the tricky part: every clay shrinks at a different rate! Every bag of clay has a different moisture content AND each colored clay has a characteristic shrinkage rate. Over the years I have learned how to help the different clays work with each other but gaps and cracks appear. Generally, I like them!
After the first bisque firing to a â€œlowâ€ temperature of 1911Âº F I cover the sculptures with a pasty aqua stain that I then wipe off, trusting the remaining stain to settle where it should. The stain turns black in the final firing (2165Âº F), adding dimension to the sculpture. It also adds unpredictability.
When I began to incorporate antique toys into my sculptures, I found that I preferred toys with â€œbattle scars.â€ I love the texture and color of rust. A lost wheel lessens the chance of the toy rolling off the table. And these signs of use speak to a history that makes the toy truly one-of-a-kind.
To my eyes, the emergent qualities of the sculpture, the little cracks, the unpredictable effects of stain, and even the brokenness of an antique toy add to the charm and uniqueness of the piece. Little flaws make the piece more lovable and sometimes itâ€™s the imperfections that bring the sculpture to life.
The missing canopy and driver in this antique ice cream truck left room for a polar bear vendor to serve his penguin customers.