Author Archives: vsperry

About vsperry

I am a sculptor working in steel, polymer clay and other materials.

October newsletter

Have you ever made an executive/life decision that felt incredibly right? Have you ever had one of those moments when everything that has been in the “dream” column finally gets to move to the “make it reality” column?

I had one of those “aha” moments two days after I wrote the last newsletter. I had not been feeling quite right about where I was headed as an artist. Don’t get me wrong, I love the baskets, making them has been an incredible journey for me as an artist. But things weren’t gelling and I was feeling a bit out of sorts. So I went for a walk with my sister.

This has always been a default for me, when feeling cloudy, pensive and unclear as to which way to go in life I call one or both of my sisters. Each one has a different take on life. I call my oldest sister when I need emotional support, she is the quintessential earth-mama and has talked me through some rough emotional times. My other sister is the brain sister. She’s the one to talk to when I need to rationally walk through a problem and finish with a solution. This is the sister I talked to on that particular Sunday in September.

Since I don’t want you to give up on reading this (well, if you’re bored…I give you permission to skip ahead) I will try to cut to the chase. After walking around the lake, I came to the conclusion that it was time to do something I have wanted to do since I moved to this property.

I am bringing home all my sculptures that are in various places in the country and plunking them down around the house. And then I am going to do what I’ve been wanting to do since we moved into this house…I’m going to open a sculpture garden. I am still fleshing out the details but I am planning to be open to the community a couple of times a year, as well as being open by appointment or for small art/photo classes.

Last week I started by bringing home the giraffe which has been on loan at Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis MD for 6 years or so. I have very much appreciated the opportunity to show her there and I know that many people have visited her repeatedly. It was a hard decision to bring her home but I am really enjoying having her back in my yard. I can see her from my reading chair which really gives me a lot of pleasure.

"Vulnerability"

“Vulnerability”

 

view from my office window

view from my reading chair

Max is enjoying her as well.

Max has claimed the giraffe

Max has claimed the giraffe

I see you...

I see you…

I have a little work to do with her, six years is a long time for a sculpture to go without any maintenance. And I took some pieces off of her so they wouldn’t fall off when she was in transit. This is another reason to bring all of them home, I get to care for them on a more regular basis.

Next May the musk ox and egg will come home. By that time I am hoping to have a new sculpture to add to the menagerie…a kangaroo!

I am in the beginning stages of design on this one, as you can see, lots of books have been taken out from the library and some sketching has been achieved. Life-sized sketches are in process and in the next week or so I hope to start the armature. It’s been a long time since I made a new animal but I am really excited about this one. If you are as well, keep an eye on the next few newsletters, I will post more pictures of the process. So, see you in November!!!

rough sketch

rough sketch

 

P.S. I’m gonna pretend that I have written a book or won an award of some sort…I wanted to take the time to thank some people for helping me bring the giraffe home. First of all, the Friends of Quiet Waters Park were primarily responsible for letting the giraffe have a home in the park.  I know she was well loved and will be missed. I hope you keep adding sculptures to the park, I think they make a huge difference! Thanks to the director of the park, Brad Hunt for sticking with me through our scheduling difficulties. Another thanks to the staff at the park for taking good care of her and transporting her to her special spot six years ago as well as back onto the truck to come home. (I hope you have all dried out since then, it was a bit wet!)

Thanks to Carl Wallace at Wally’s Iron Works for working with the crazy scheduling process so that I could use his flatbed trailer to get the giraffe home. Junior was a prince, making sure she was tied down safely and driving carefully all the way from Annapolis to Eldersburg (yup…in the rain!).

And always, a big thank you to my husband who had a huge grin on his face because he got to drive an all-terrain forklift to get her off the trailer despite the fact that he was chewing large divots in his beloved lawn. You rock!

 

 

 

september newsletter

There’s so much in this newsletter, I don’t even know where to start!


As an artist I work with Process and Product. The process of creating can be long, frustrating, exhilarating, boring and extremely addictive. The whole time I am creating, I am pushing myself to end up with a finished product that excites me, pleases me and above all, one which I can happily put out to the world.

That being said, this newsletter is about my process and my latest products…


Ribbon piece:

The ribbon piece is moving along. I am almost done with the third section which is a good thing. It is too big to fit into my studio comfortably and so it is in the center of the barn which is not exactly climate controlled. I am hurrying to get it done before the cold weather really settles in.

section three upside down

section three upside down

There is a good chance that I will make it which is a relief. The fourth section is sitting in the studio waiting for me to finish it as well.

section four upside down

section four upside down

Today I was opening up the doors of the barn to begin welding the ribbon when out of the corner of my eye I saw something that was definitely NOT metal. This guy apparently decided to come inspect my work. He is a baby black rat snake, not more than a foot long. He traveled up and down the piece providing me with some great photo-ops. Needless to say, work was postponed during inspection. Fortunately, he didn’t stick around long and I was able to get some work done this afternoon.

P1000758

the inspector



Vessels:

One of the reasons for the delay of this newsletter (yes, I noticed that it was a tad bit late) was the fact that sometimes process is not very interesting to show to other people. I mean, how many times can  you show pictures of vessels half done and piles of yarn snarled up on the floor? Okay, just this once…

process

process

Products:

Which brings me to the fun part of this newsletter, the products!  I have actually finished two pieces which are now on my website. (Click on the pictures to get to their website page). They are both very simple in design so that the shape and texture become extremely visible. They, like the ones before them, are extremely tactile, inviting anyone to touch them and feel how soft they are. In addition, each one has a wonderful and surprising interior. Take some time to look around the website, you may find something you haven’t seen before!

To See Within

To See Within

Blue

Blue


 

And finally, don’t forget that Virginia Sperry Studio has a Facebook page…if you join, you will be able to keep even more up to date on all the happenings in the studio! Tell your friends too, the more the merrier!!!

August newsletter

Things are popping in the studio! I have recently returned from three weeks of classes, I have a new assistant, and I am so excited to be creating again! Read on for more details!


Natural Dyes class

I took a week long class at Common Ground on the Hill at the beginning of July. CGOTH takes place in Westminster, MD for two weeks every summer. They have classes on traditional arts and crafts and lots of chances to play and/or hear good fiddle and banjo music.

I chose to take the Natural Dyes class with Pat Brodowski. Pat is the vegetable gardener at Monticello and knows a huge amount of information about the plant world. I have been wanting to learn how to dye things using the plants around my house and so I was thrilled to spend five mornings gaining lots of useful information. To be honest, I’m not sure I will take the time to harvest and prepare the natural dyes, but it was thrilling to see the magic that is involved with changing a simple piece of white fiber into an awesome color.

 


 

Sculptural Weaving Class

The day after the natural dyes class I packed up my car and trundled off to Penland School of Crafts  in NC. I have been wanting to take a class here for years. After doing some research, I found that Nathalie Miebach was teaching a two week class on Sculptural Weaving at Penland. I signed up immediately and was fortunate enough to be first on the waiting list. I was thrilled when I got into the class!

First of all, Penland is a magical place. The setting is awesome, it is nestled on the side of one of the mountains. I won’t go into all the history of the place, you can read about it on their website. It’s goal, however, is to foster creativity in all the craft media, from glass to iron to jewelry…and on and on. To spend two weeks surrounded by other excited artists having to answer to no one but myself and to create something amazing…well it was just heaven. And the food is really good too!

Nathalie is a great teacher, very organized, passionate and curious. Every day there were at least two demonstration lectures plus a series of power point presentations. The studio was open 24 hours and I made use of many of them.

I learned many traditional basket weaving techniques which has already sparked some changes in how I think about my work. My mind is swirling with new terms: spokes, weavers, twining, plaiting, hexagonal weave, paper rush, reed, etc. We were encouraged to push the boundaries, discard the idea of basket as vessel and create wonderful sculptures.

I could write for hours on my experience, but instead I will leave you with some visual reminders of my time there including my finished sculpture. The creative process was fascinating, lots of angst, some problem solving at 3:30 a.m. and a lot of letting go of preconceived notions. (Check out my blog post about the process of creating this piece.) The title of the sculpture is Contemplation of a Life. All I will say about it is that it is a response to having to clean out my parent’s house last summer. For more pictures of this sculpture, go to my website.


Studio Assistant

And my final bit of news is that I have a studio assistant! Willy Mueller just graduated from high school and works full time for a kitchen cabinetry company until he starts college this fall. He knows how to use power tools (a definite bonus in my world), is big and strong enough to lift heavy objects (another bonus) and works very hard. In the short time that he has been helping me out, we have finished the frames of the last two sections of the ribbon piece and prepped four baskets. If this keeps up my production is going to be through the roof! Okay, maybe I am exaggerating a little bit, but it is still thrilling to get so much work done in a weekend.

hard at work on the belt sander

hard at work on the belt sander

 


Look for my next newsletter to come out at the beginning of September!

 

Drawing in air

I recently attended a class at Penland School of Crafts on sculptural weaving with Nathalie Miebach. I purposely chose this class as I thought it would be a really good addition to my knowledge base about basket weaving. In the class, we were taught the traditional methods and materials of weaving a basket, then urged to “think outside the basket” almost literally. In other words, our assignment was to take the knowledge that we gained and create a non-vessel expression of a story that we had brought with us to class. 

The class presented a problem from the beginning as I don’t usually work by starting with a story, I tend to allow it to write itself as I create. Many artists have an idea, a sketch and then reproduce it three dimensionally. I don’t seem to be able to do that. I usually start with a shape or a material that intrigues me. I then let it grow. Sometimes the growth happens smoothly, sometimes I have to tear away large sections and start again…in essence I have to go backwards in order to go forwards.

This morning I told this to my friend Melinda Byrd of Byrdcall Studio. She made the observation that what I do is sketch three-dimensionally. I really liked that way of describing my process. Since I find it difficult to sketch a three dimensional piece, I must do it on the piece itself. I am hoping that his mindset will diminish some of the frustration I feel when I have worked myself into a corner. Perhaps if I realize that everything is just a sketch until I actually sign the piece, then I won’t be so hard on myself for having to tear stuff off and start again. As my teacher said, sometimes you have to actually put something there before you can find out that it doesn’t work.

Allow me to show you a few of the fits and starts of the piece from Penland. I tried so hard to make it about my story (I had picked The 13 Clocks by Thurber) but I decided to let that go after a couple of days. Then I was trying to figure out what to do with the start of the basket form and problem solved one night at 3:00 a.m. (Problem solving at night does not usually work, but I tried it anyway.) I struggled with that 3-D sketch for a few days and then tore away two thirds of it and started over. It was at this point that some objects that I had brought from home “jumped into my hands” and the story began to tell itself. There were some more sketches that didn’t work before I finished the piece. Some of these did not get photographed unfortunately, but I think you’ll get the picture (pun intended). To see the finished piece, visit www.virginiasperry.com/contemplation-of-a-life

the beginning of an open based basket

the beginning of an open based basket

twined with fiber rush

twined with fiber rush

drawn at 3:30 a.m.

drawn at 3:30 a.m.

fiber rush, fabric yarn, steel welding rods

fiber rush, fabric yarn, reed dowels

totally different

totally different

a very little basket made from twine

a very little basket made from twine

trying to add color to the backside

trying to add color to the backside

As a final thought, I am still intrigued with the shape I drew in the early morning hours and am looking forward to starting a new sculpture with that shape.

 

June Newsletter

Classes, studio help and sneak peeks…read on!


 

Like most people, I am always searching for ways to stretch myself personally and professionally. Sometimes that means perusing the museums/galleries/internet for artists who catch my eye or artwork that intrigues me and that I want to try to incorporate into my own work. Sometimes it means having exciting adventures like going to see wolves in Yellowstone. Next month this search is leading me to take two workshops, one close to home and the other in North Carolina. Three weeks of learning, developing and growing…what a treat!


 

The first workshop is taking place just up the road in Westminster, MD at the annual Common Ground on the Hill. This is a wonderful gathering of artist, craft people and musicians who get together and teach, learn and perform for two weeks. There are also seminars and guest speakers on social and environmental topics. I will be taking a class on Natural Dyeing with Pat Brodowski where, according to the catalog, I will explore “ancient traditions of foraging for color from natural materials and…techniques to manipulate their application to surfaces using printing, clamping, and resists, for use in making authentic colors for historic clothing, fiber arts, and basketry, and for creating drawing and printing inks.”

Recently I have wanted more control over the colors in the fibers that I use to weave my vessels and I think that I can learn some amazing things in this workshop!


 

The second workshop that I will be taking is at Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina. The school is located in the Appalachian Mountains and is one of the most beautiful areas of the country.

This two week class is taught by an amazing weaver/sculptor named Nathalie Miebach. It is super difficult to describe what she does, I am showing a picture but I advise you to check out her web-site.

Nathalie Miebach

Nathalie Miebach

She was also featured on the cover of the Dec/Jan 2014 issue of American Craft Magazine. You can probably guess why I am excited to be taking this particular class. The focus is on learning techniques of basket weaving (which I am actually in need of) and playing, tinkering and generally having fun weaving a sculpture. I would be very surprised if I don’t come away with total brain overload of ideas and new directions for my work!


 

June’s sneek peak:

painted steel and fisherman's wool

painted steel and fisherman’s wool


And finally, I wanted to remind you that my piece, “Contained” is at the Rouse Gallery in Columbia Maryland. The artist’s reception is Tuesday the 24th of June from 5:30 to 7:30. For more information about “Things That Scare You” and The Columbia Festival of the Arts, click HERE.

in situ

in situ


 

Keep a lookout for the July newsletter where I will show off all the things I learned…it may be a little late in coming because I won’t be back until the middle of the month but be patient, I promise a fun-filled newsletter! Don’t forget to “like” my Facebook page to get more recent updates and sneak peeks of my work!!!

May Newsletter

Such excitement in the studio! Read on to find out what’s what.


 

DEADLINE ACCOMPLISHED!!!

I was commissioned to make a piece for an exhibit that is running concurrently with the Columbia Festival of the Arts. The title of the exhibit is “Things That Scare You”. I have to admit that I was resistant to even thinking about this subject at first, I spend a lot of time purposely trying NOT to look at the things that scare me. I also didn’t want to make something too personal or too scary as it might not invite anyone to purchase it (which is, after all, one of the goals of this business). So I took that idea of hiding one’s fears and tried to portray it in a more abstract light. Despite my penchant for hiding my fears from myself as well as from others, I know from experience that doing this makes them more scary. Anyone with an imagination can dramatize that which isn’t seen, known or understood. Contained is my way of embodying that concept.

(Click on the picture to see this piece on my website)

Contained

Contained

For more information about “Things That Scare You and The Columbia Festival of the Arts, click HERE


 

HIRSUTAE VOLUCRI

Along with Contained, I finished a second piece this past month. Hirsutae Vólucri, which means Shaggy Bird in Latin, was somewhat of an antidote for the intensity of Contained. I just started weaving fuzzy stuff onto this round little form. Eventually the bird face was added (no, it was definitely NOT intended to be a bird at the beginning) and voilà! Silliness abounds!

(Click on the picture to see this piece on my website)

Hirsutae Vólucri

Hirsutae Velucri


 

RIBBON

The second section of the ribbon piece is finally finished and installed!!! Section three will be started soon.

I’m loving the pink color during the spring, it compliments the yellow of the buttercups so nicely don’t you think???

 

in situ

in situ

spring is almost finished!

spring is almost finished!

 

See you in June!

April Newsletter

Tax day has come and gone, the cherry trees are bursting and if we’re lucky, we won’t see any more snow. (But don’t hold your breath.) It’s time to let you know what’s happening this month at Virginia Sperry Studio! I’ve been very busy, as evidenced by the colossal mess on one of my work tables…

messy

messy


  In the Exciting News Category…

I have been asked to participate in an invitational art exhibit running concurrently with The Columbia Festival of the Arts this June and July. The Columbia Festival of the Arts is a long-running program that showcases local, national and international talent in all the arts forms, in Columbia, MD a thriving community located between Baltimore and Washington, DC.

I was contacted by the head of the gallery space at Howard Community College which is hosting an invitational exhibit titled “Things That Scare Me”. The director, Rebecca Bafford, and I go back a few years, when she was the director of the Columbia Arts Center and I was just starting out as an artist/crafter. So when she e-mailed me to ask if I would participate, I was delighted. Of course, I don’t have anything that works for this particular theme, so stay tuned for the development of a new piece…I”ll try not to make it too scary! The Rouse Gallery is located on the campus of Howard Community College and the exhibit runs from June 12 to July 27. The opening reception is on June 24 from 5:30 to 7:30. For more information on the exhibit and the festival CLICK HERE.


Newest Basket…

If you think this newsletter seems a bit on the late side…you are right. It is because I have been ever so close to finishing a basket and wanted to wait until I had something to show before I sent this month’s issue out. This particular basket has kicked my butt from the very beginning and the end was no exception. I spent four frustrating days trying to figure out what the story was about. I actually went off on one tangent that was really exciting until I realized that for some reason I couldn’t pull off the idea that was floating around in my head. I despaired of ever finishing it but a trip to Michael’s (and a night out with a friend) gave me a whole new lease on life. Sometimes inspiration comes from the oddest of places and this one was found in the wedding decorating aisle in Michaels…who knew??? Anyway, I digress…here it is, the newest in the collection. Titled “Pod”, this piece measures approximately 30″ high by 10″ diameter. For more details, click on the picture.full view

Pod, full view


The Next Generation…

I have been busy in the welding studio creating some new forms to weave. There are different shapes and sizes, from the small and round to the tall, thin and wispy variety. I am pushing my comfort zone and am working on one that will be five feet tall…I expect that one to take a while. To peak your interest, here is the smallest of the lot, measuring about 12″ tall.

little puff ball

little puff ball


The Ribbon Piece…

And finally, the second section of the ribbon piece is at the painter’s and hopefully will be positioned next to the first section by the time the next newsletter rolls out of the printing press. See you in May!!!