Author Archives: vsperry

About vsperry

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

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!!!

how long does it take?

“How long does it take you to make one of these?”

This is the most often asked question and the most difficult one for me to answer. I was asked it again the other day in response to my new basket sculptures. So I pondered it this morning while I was weaving my newest basket sculpture. I decided that there are two answers to this question. One is short and somewhat flippant, the other begs to have an “hour analysis”. This is similar to a cost base analysis, except without the money aspect. It simply takes into account the hours I spend creating a basket. Not making it, creating it. And here is what I came up with:

Ordering steel: 10 minutes

Waiting for steel to arrive: two to three days, depending on weather, when I order it and when the delivery truck is in the area. This usually can provide steel for up to 10 baskets.

Designing/drawing shape to make: 30 minutes to a week…or two. Depends on how inspired I am and how much research I have to do. I start with a shape and sometimes the story comes with it…but it’s usually just a glimmer.

Letting the steel warm up so that I can work with it: three hours.

warming up the rods for the ribbon piece and a couple of baskets

warming up the rods for the ribbon piece and a couple of baskets

Cutting steel rods and base to size: 30 minutes to one hour.

Taking abstract pictures of the materials on the studio floor with my iPhone: two minutes

studio floor

abstract: studio floor

different sizes of round rods

different sizes of round rods

Grinding/sanding rods and base: 30 minutes to one hour.

Curving rods to form the spines: three to four hours depending on quantity and difficulty of bends.

Basket spines

Basket spines; “Forest Floor”

Welding spines onto base: three to four days. This is a tricky part of the process and requires lots of magnets to hold the spines in place. I also have to hold my breath a lot…and no sneezing allowed.

Grinding/sanding welds: one hour.

Delivery time to the painter: one hour there and back.

Waiting for the painter to sandblast and paint: two to four weeks depending on the weather and how many jobs are ahead of mine. The painter only primes the pieces and can work on several baskets at once.

Pick up time from the painter: one hour there and back.

Figuring out what color to paint spines: three to four days.

Painting a color onto the spines: two to three days

spines and shadows

spines and shadows, “Forest Floor”

Figuring out what color yarns to use, trip to yarn shop/Michael’s/JoAnn: three to four hours.

Weaving basket: two days until I figure out that the color choice and yarn choice are all wrong for the basket and I need to try something different.

weaving

weaving…the first time

Unweaving basket: three hours.

Repainting the spines: one to two days.

Another trip to the yarn store to pick through every possible combination: two hours.

Research of other baskets to find inspiration: two hours.

(Please note, the above five steps are sometimes repeated once or twice more until the basket has finally told me which way to go. This often requires finding out which way NOT to go.)

Weaving basket: five or six days.

Finishing the “story”: one day to two weeks depending on how quickly the creativity happens and I find the exact right objects to add.

just a little different than the first try

“Tree House”…just a little different than the first try

Coming up with a title: one hour to several weeks.

Taking pictures to put on website: one to two days.

Adding pix to the website: one hour.

And it’s done!!! Now you know why it’s so hard to answer this question. I can safely say it takes me at least two months if not more to finish a basket.

So if you are still reading this, you’re probably asking what was the short answer?

The short answer is 51 years.

Don’t forget to check out my website for the most recent additions to my basket sculpture collection!

March newsletter

My calendar says it’s March, but by the looks of things outside, it might still be the middle of winter. To say I’m tired of snow would be an understatement. However, there is no doubt that spring is here, the crocuses are blooming, the birds are nesting and I am waiting patiently for the peepers to start their singing. Soon enough the swallows will be claiming their barn rafters and the gardens will start to bloom. And in the meantime, I will wish you all a Happy St. Patrick’s Day, (despite the fact that I’m not Irish, nor do I like green beer or corned beef and cabbage). So, now that we have the weather and the holiday greetings out of the way, what’s new in the studio? LOTS! I have finished not one, but TWO baskets this last month. I am excited about both of them, they were each inspired by nature and yet they are very different. I have also finished the second section of the ribbon piece and am waiting for the afore-mentioned spring weather to actually get here so I can transport it to the painter’s. Read on for all the details…

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The first basket that I finished is a direct result of my trip to Yellowstone. One evening we were driving along the road in the Lamar Valley and when I looked behind us I noticed an amazing sight. One of the mountain peaks was lit up by the setting sun, while the other range directly behind it was a stunning dark blue.

drama

drama

I was lucky enough to be able to stand and watch this scene for quite some time. As a result, when I got back home, the evening was firmly imprinted in my psyche. After a false beginning, I came up with what I think is a stunning basket using the blues and whites that were there that night.

Spiral Basket

Spiral Basket

To see more pictures and details of this basket click on the picture.

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As I mentioned in my last newsletter, the second basket was inspired by a book named The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly. This is a charming book about a twelve year old girl who lives in northern Texas in 1899 and who struggles between the expected norms for a girl of her time versus her intense love of the outdoors and learning everything about it. Yes, you guessed it, this book really spoke to me and without my consciously thinking about it, the basket that I have been struggling with for the past month evolved into a wonderful portrayal of this story. I was so taken with the book that I wrote the author and she said she would be honored if I were to give this piece the same title as her book. So…

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

To see more pictures and details of this basket, click on the picture.

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And finally, I wrote about my trip to Yellowstone in the February newsletter but I thought I would share my proof that we saw wolves. They are a shy sort and very smart. But if you are quiet and patient and good and kind…

wolf in Yellowstone

wolf in Yellowstone

This picture was taken by one of our guides through the telescope with my iPhone. If you are interested in reading more about my trip, visit my blog, Muse-ings or click on this link  “gone and back”. This is the first of several posts about my trip.

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So, with some warmer weather on its way (please?) and some more space in the welding studio, I am planning on creating a few more basket forms and starting the third section of the ribbon piece next month! Wish me luck…

february newsletter

Greetings from Virginia Sperry Studio!

It’s been a crazy, busy time for me this past month, I’ve had to squeeze studio time in between two awesome trips, one to New Jersey and one to Yellowstone National Park. I know, I know, how on earth does New Jersey rate with Yellowstone? Yes, they were very different trips, the first one a professional experience and the second, well, it was magical. But more on that later.

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NJASLA:

booth/table

booth/table

From January 26 to 28 I attended the NJ chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects. (NJASLA). I was invited to be one of four artisans to start a new section of exhibitors. I brought a few of my smaller works and set up a slide show and met some awesome people. I have found that landscape architects are professional, courteous and really love what they do. This made it easier to connect with them and enjoy their company. The response to my artwork was overwhelmingly positive and gave me lots of ideas for future works. In addition, I have more of a respect for the work that they do, especially how much they have to dance around county and state politics. The amount of paperwork, permits and rules that have to be adhered to is staggering.

Me and Hawk Effigy

Me and Hawk Effigy

To me, the connection between outdoor sculpture and landscaping is a no-brainer. The whole point of both is to enhance the experience of being in a certain outdoor location. So why not incorporate the sculpture into the landscaping. Sculpture can be a tool to connect with emotions, meditation or a sense of humor. It can be used as a focal point for a pathway. Sometimes, it can be a conversation piece. Of course, in the case of a certain humongous sculpture outside of the train station in Baltimore, MD, it can invoke some rather negative comments. 

This is why I was pleased to have been invited to join the conference. I was able to show my work to people who understand that connection and have the power and means to put the two together. I think it’s the beginning of a wonderful conversation, one that I hope will be fruitful to everyone.

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STUDIO NEWS:

I am oh-so-close to finishing a basket. I was hoping to have pictures in time for this newsletter, but, alas, you will have to be patient. I will give you a hint though…I am reading (or listening to) a book called The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly. It is a delightful book about an eleven year old girl who, in 1899, has to balance her mother’s desire to have a “ladylike” girl with her innate tendencies to explore the natural world. Supported by her naturalist grandfather, Callie is constantly walking the line between what is expected of her and what she loves to do. That is all I will tell you, you will have to check back in March to see what I have come up with…and if you get a chance, read the book. You might find it in the children’s section of the library but it is definitely NOT just a kid’s book.

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YELLOWSTONE:

And finally, I just got back from an awesome winter trip to Yellowstone National Park. It was with a tour group called Natural Habitat and the focus was looking at the wildlife of the park, specifically the wolves. We had two naturalist guides who were incredibly knowledgeable about pretty much everything and we saw lots of wildlife including bison, split horned deer, wolves, coyotes, foxes, moose, bald eagles, golden eagles, a porcupine, elk, rough-legged hawks…the list goes on. If you want to see some of my pix, click here and work your way through my posts.

There is no doubt that this trip was magical, it’s hard not to be affected by the beauty of the landscape and the simplicity of the animals. I managed to take my time snowshoeing at one point, and just stood, contemplating the vastness surrounding me. I have been asked if I was inspired to create something after this trip. In reality, I have no particular thing that I will make, but you can rest assured that Yellowstone will find its way into my work at some point…I just have to let it percolate a little bit more.

snowy bison, foraging for food

snowy bison, foraging for food

January newsletter addendum

I wanted to let everyone know that I have been tweaking my website in preparation for this weekend. Of course, being an artist can be frustrating in the computer world. I have grandiose ideas in my head but am without the computer chills to make them happen. Someone once told me that a computer person finds it easier to create on a commuter for just this reason…they know what the programs are capable and create within those parameters.

In order to keep my site simple, easily readable and totally within my control, I must forego some of the “flash” and stick to the basics. I think you will agree, though, that it has a certain classiness to it. I think it shows up my work in a really pleasing way. Let me know what you think!!!

And, as always, if there is something you want to know more about, whether it’s how something was made or a sculpture that you would like to purchase, feel free to contact me!

 

Hop on over to:

www.virginiasperry.com

January Newsletter

Okay folks…I have now decided that Studio Chatter will be a monthly newsletter for everything that is going on in the studio. This will be the first of 2014 and hopefully I will write one in the middle of every month.

So, here goes!

The ribbon piece is going gangbusters, I finished attaching the masonry nails yesterday and am excited to see what it looks like out in the field. I just have to do the finishing welds and get it painted but I am really happy with how it turned out.

ribbon, section 2

ribbon, section 2

detail

detail

see? I really do weld!

see? I really do weld!

happy to have the nails all attached

happy to have the nails all attached

Next, I am off to Atlantic City, NJ on Sunday to participate in the New Jersey Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (NJ ASLA) conference. I will have a table where I will be exhibiting my sculptures. I am super excited about this experience. I am hoping to make some strong contacts in the landscape architecture world and I think that my outdoor pieces will be very popular. If you are a landscape architect in the Mid Atlantic region, check out their website at  http://www.njasla.net.

The new basket spines came back from the painter’s on Friday. Well, three of them did, the fourth needed a little resuscitation. Of course I am thrilled to have them back as I love love love the weaving part of the process. I won’t tell you anything about them, it will have to be a surprise in the next newsletter. Or you can keep an eye on my website to see if anything new pops up in the next few weeks.

And finally, I will be taking a short break from the studio in February in order to travel to Yellowstone to see wolves and other wildlife. Yes, it will be cold. Yes, I have lots of warm things to wear. Yes, I will be taking my camera. It is going to be a pretty magical experience and I’m hoping to get lots of inspiration and a bit of a breather from the rigors of welding. See you in February!

why?

Okay, I don’t usually like commercials or happy “this is how you should live your life” quotes, but I was watching the commercial for iPad air and they had the voice-over of Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society. This was the part that caught my ear and says exactly why I want to be an artist. I may not be feeding people, or coming up with the cure for cancer but…

We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.

If you want to see the whole commercial, which has some stunning photography in it (including the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona which I talked about in a post on my personal blog Muse-ings) click on this link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jiyIcz7wUH0

For what it’s worth, this is definitely NOT an endorsement of Apple or the iPad Air…I trust you to make your own decisions about what electronics to buy. And just as an aside…this is the kind of electronics I learned to type on.

writing, the old-fashioned way

writing, the old-fashioned way

the power of a welder’s light

Chances are that if you live in or have visited a major city (and some not-so-major ones) in the US you have seen one of Mark diSuvero’s work. Think colored I-Beams. Big, colored I-Beams. In a Pick Up Sticks kinda way. (FYI, My apologies, I don’t recall the titles of these pieces, the pictures were taken on a visit to Storm King in the summer of 2009)

at Storm King, 2009

at Storm King, 2009

close up

close up

I don’t mean to demean Mr. diSuvero’s work, I am totally in awe of the size and scale and prolific output he has had. He is one of a group of artists that has changed our concept of outdoor sculpture. Bronze is no longer considered the primary medium of choice, figural sculpture has given way to architectural, geometrical lines and shapes. Emotion is felt viscerally rather than mentally. Experiencing sculpture has become a whole body activity, not just a visual one.

When I was in Seattle recently, I was walking at the bottom of the outdoor sculpture park that is right on the waterfront. It is a place that used to be literally a dump and has been “gentrified” or “renaissanced” (is renaissance a verb?) into a wonderful outdoor park with lots of space for gigantic outdoor sculptures. One of Mr. diSuvero’s works was on the path at the bottom of the hill. I decided to stop and read the accompanying plaque. It was so fascinating, I had to take a picture of it and share it with you.

Quote by Mark DiSuvero

Quote by Mark DiSuvero

I then took a picture of the welds.

Close up of Mark diSuvero''s work

Close up of Mark diSuvero”s work

I think this quote is pretty powerful, and I like to read it a lot, simply because each time I see something different in it. I’m not totally convinced that it speaks a universal truth, but I can see how it speaks to diSuvero’s truth. The one part that I can agree with is that a sculpture has to make contact with its surroundings. I think most sculptures don’t these days, for one reason or another. Many sculptures seem dwarfed by the outdoors. I know this is true of my giraffe. When I pulled it from the studio to my yard, it seemed much smaller, especially compared with the mature pines that flanked it’s back end. Now it is in a park setting, nestled in a smaller area and it seems to fit the space.

from afar

from afar

in situ

in situ

close up

close up

So I would question whether the sculpture must fit the surroundings or whether the surroundings must fit the sculpture. Either way, it is a constant exploration of placement. And it must be a conscious exploration, one that takes into account not only how the environment interacts with it and vice versa, but also how humans can interact with it. Is this something that needs to be viewed from afar? Or should there be a pathway to bring the observer closer to it, or even in contact with it?

And if, as diSuvero suggests, the fire goes out and the energy departs, does it matter where a sculpture is placed? If there is no energy, no connection with the living world, will it eventually die a slow death with no one to even see it, connect with it, love it?

Hmmmmm. Ponder away, mere mortals, only the Muses know the answer.

 

 

 

 

art or craft?

I am sending my four basket spines off to the painter’s today. They should be finished when I get back from the holidays and then I can get down to the fun part…the weaving. Who knows what they’ll end up looking like but I like the basic forms I am working with.

In other news, I have been busy looking at different baskets, forms, vessels…in the hopes of getting more ideas or figuring out the best way to finish my baskets. My search has led me around the internet to contemporary baskets, weaving websites, and most recently, the American Craft magazine. As some of you may know I have always straddled the line between craft and art. My later polymer clay pieces definitely strained the boundaries between the two. At times I have pondered the age old question, is it art or is it craft?

Last night I was reading an interview with Robert Lee Morris in the latest American Craft issue. He is a famous jewelry designer who has worked with the likes Calvin Klein and Donna Karan. His work has spanned a few decades and he has a lot of wisdom to impart about creating and marketing. The question that most intrigued me was “Are you a craftsperson or an artist?” Here’s his answer:

“…I realized that art jewelry is on the same level as any other fine art that’s in a museum. Long ago, I decided “Just smash it, make it a stupid question; it’s no longer relevant. Craft? Fashion? Art? Who cares? What matters is what you do and how you change the world and what you leave behind-and how much your pieces go for on eBay!”

So I have decided that I no longer care about categorizing myself. I make stuff. It is beautiful, thought-provoking and fun. That’s all that matters.

what’s cooking?

Just to keep you updated on what’s cooking in the studio…

BASKETS!!!

Four new baskets are in the works, spines have been welded on to bases, finishing touches are being made in preparation for them to be shipped off to the painter’s. Forms and ideas are becoming more solidified in my mind (seedpods, flower buds etc.) and I am excited! 

Three spines and 5 lb hammer

Three spines and 5 lb hammer

opening flower

opening flower

seed pod

seed pod

large vessel from above

large vessel from above

large vessel spines

large vessel spines

bowl spines

bowl spines

I will take a brief rest after Christmas to attend to some family celebrations on the left coast, but am planning to start weaving after the beginning of the new year!!!