Wednesday, September 23, 2009

New Body of Work

Nothing like a commitment or deadline to get ideas out of your head and into the kiln!

For a while, I've had in mind a new body of work that combines human and animal figurative sculpture.  So, way back in May, I signed up to create a Masterwork for the Carolina Designer Craftsmen show.  It's held every year in Raleigh, NC, over Thanksgiving weekend.  This is the guild's 40th anniversary.

Several ideas ran through my head, but I felt most passionate about creating a series of pieces on people and their companion animals.  Here is a brief overview of how the Masterwork piece came to be.  

People often bring their dogs to outdoor art shows and,  in recent years, I noticed a lot of pugs, French bulldogs and Boston terriers.  I hadn't seen a Boston terrier since childhood, a long time ago!  So I became interested in why these breeds are enjoying a resurgence.  Consensus is they are great family dogs, and do well with couples who live in apartments and can't let dogs run loose.

We have a lot of dogs, but all have pointy noses, so I challenged myself to sculpt the aforementioned breeds as part of my "Big Dog" series.  (By the way, if you read my previous post, 5 dogs, including pointy nosed Opal and a fictitious daschund I named Madge are currently at the show at the Center for Creative Leadership, in Greensboro, NC. ) 

The piece, entitled, "Bodyguard," is inspired by a photo I found searching the Internet (I think I keyed in "people holding dogs").  Up came an image of a girl holding a Boston terrier.  It made me gasp aloud, "That's it!"  OK, being somewhat compulsive, I continued my search, but this photo was clearly the keystone for the series.  

The photo was taken several years ago.  The girl, Phoebe Thompson, is the daughter of  Julie Zickefoose and Bill Thompson III.  The dog (or is he a person in a dog suit?) is Chet Baker, named after a famous jazz musician.  To me, Phoebe has a mysterious Mona Lisa smile, with a touch of attitude, and Chet has a "Just try and mess with my person" look.  Of course, I'm not sure what Phoebe and Chet were actually  thinking, but my initial interpretation was that these two would fiercely protect each other.

Phoebe and Chet--the photo that inspired the Masterwork.  (Photo from Julie's blog, included here with her permission)

Since the image is 2-dimensional and the sculpture is 3-D, I needed to be able to represent Phoebe and Chet from different angles.  After this initial discovery, I've been following Julie's blog (check it out at, where she posts many photos of Chet ("Chet fixes"), along with many other wonderful photos.  [Quick digression--Julie is a Renaissance woman!  Bill is editor of Bird Watcher's Digest--his blog is . (Check out the end of the telescope.)  They know everything here is to know about birds and Nature!] 

That has been most helpful.  However, it was obvious I needed a live model.  I didn't know anyone who had a similar look, but our friend Sheri did....

Savannah came to the studio and was very patient as I took some photos and measurements--if you stand like Phoebe, what do you look like from the side and back; how long are arms relative to hands, relative to face, etc.   Since our dogs are either too big or too wiggly, Savannah held a beach towel part of the time.

Savannah--a most patient model!

I incorporated a lot of realism, but also took some artistic license (see post on Harried Possum).  And, although my initial vision was a red-haired, blue-eyed girl that may change, too.  Hope you don't mind, Phoebe and Savannah!

Per the rules of the Carolina Designer Craftsmen Masterworks Program, Bodyguard may not be shown in any exhibition before the guild show in November.  However, I am allowed to show photos.  So here is a preview--


Bodyguard, close up

As I write this, the piece is drying slowly in my studio.  Please send good karma that it gets through its firings safely (and that I can get it into the kiln!  It's heavy!). 

Currently, I'm working on two other pieces (a middle aged woman cuddling a small dog and an elderly man with an old dog) for this body of work.  More on those later.

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