I have often heard folk speak of art as if it was something alien,
something that only a few could do
and thus relegated to some sort of elite group.
As I was raised by an artist
(both of them were artists in fact),
the concept of art was common to me.
Something I thought everyone did.
Surrounded by my Mother’s Sculptures and Paintings,
I was encouraged to try every medium available.
“There is no difference between them”,
my Mother was speaking about painting,
sculpture and Music.
“They all come from the same place,
the only real difference is how they materialize.”
I took her word for it.
A couple of paintings, sculptures,
needle point and knitting,
bead work and jewelry,
all at once.
Fred Katz ~ First Jazz Cellist
(composer of the music in the original
“Little shop of Horrors”
-black and white version),
Terra Cotta Sculpture
by Althea B. McLaren
How she “coped” with what can be referred to as
“writer’s Block” to an artist
is to continually have a multiple of projects going simultaneously.
In this way should inspiration not ferment on one medium,
to move to the next one.
I have found that is all else fails,
play the piano.
what seems to speak the clearest to me
When working in clay (Terra Cotta)
one starts with a rather undefined lump of clay.
Working with it in your hands
by pinching and shaping,
into the form you are visualizing.
Because the medium has it’s limits,
there are compromises you must make
in order for the piece to take shape.
clay has a tendency to dry out
– and so it should before firing.
However thick clay dries slower than the thin areas,
causing cracks and fissures.
One must either make sure everything is the same thickness
or you can wrap the design’s thinnest portions
with cloth or plastic.
The sculpture’s design is a compromise
between design and the nature of the clay itself.
You can design the piece with these compromises in mind
– but there must be a level of pragmatism involved.
Being too demanding of the clay
and you will get flaws or worse:
a stray air bubble caught in the shell
which in turn explodes in the kiln.
Too much of a slave to the clay will yield blocky
and rather unimaginative sculptures.
My Mother was a master at walking this fine balance
between design and media
and showed me that a compromise
can actually be a part of the discipline.
Terra Cotta sculpture
created by Althea B McLaren
Knowing a weakness,
one can create armatures or use saran wrap at a very thing point,
hallowing our a portion where is isn’t viable can keep a uniform shell
piercing a heavy area of clay and sealing the face can allow areas to dry more evenly.
and there is always the spray bottle.
What I learned in the Studio
I have applied to my life.
Investing one’s self in a multiple of projects in many ways.
Respecting the limits of others, nourishing their vision
and marvel at the way our lives are both sculptures
and what is being sculpted:
a pinch here,
watching how beauty manifests in all things.
The last sculpture I created in her Studio
was the Dance of Shiva,
it was to illustrate my grasp of her instruction
comprehension of religious symbolism
and development in Terra Cotta
(respecting it’s limitations
and working around them).
The last Sculpture I created in
the McLaren Studio Academy
When it was complete
the dutiful son that I was
turned to his mother and mentor
and asked: “well, what do your think?”
(hoping for approval).
She turned to the piece just mounted on Teak,
raised an eyebrow and let out a half smile:
– make more.”