In this series, the artists working at Creative Gateways give us a behind-the-scenes insight into their current works in progress, inspiration and creative challenges. Today, Marika tells us about a recent piece and the question it raised for her about the nature of the work we do…
Keeping things simple
Back in April, I quietly crossed a big milestone off my list: I completed the first bowl of the year.
It was very simple, emerald green with a streaky white stripe running through it. I’ve been doing a lot of experimenting this year, trying out new techniques and learning more about working in glass. So it was refreshing to do something I was pretty sure would turn out how I expected it to. Something simple and easy; to give me that sense of accomplishment that comes when I finish a piece.
I needed to see something completed! I couldn’t believe it had been four months already – it was April, and I still hadn’t finished a piece yet. I wanted to finish something simple. It turned out exactly how I pictured it, and that was comforting.
Sometimes simpler is better
After the green bowl had turned out so well, I was excited to make more art! I started another bowl and the process was even easier. It’s the biggest bowl I’ve made so far, about 17 inches in diameter, and I made it from one sheet of my favorite glass. The glass is a streaky blend of colors and it’s actually a “striker”, meaning that the colors change upon firing.
So I took a big sheet of that beautiful glass, and cut a circle. Then I capped it with a layer of clear, and fired it at a contour fuse. After some cold-working of the edges, it went into the kiln once more for a slump in a shallow mold, and that’s it. It’s so beautiful! It looks amazing, but the funny thing is, I feel like can’t take a whole lot of credit for it. I didn’t really do much to it – just recognized the beauty of the material, and used basic fusing techniques to turn it into a bowl.
So it’s raised a whole lot of questions for me internally. Is this still art?
What makes art?
I remember my art teacher in high school asking us a question: If you took a branch or a stick from nature and placed on your mantel, would it be art? I say yes. The stick may have just been part of a tree, but how else would it have made it to the mantel if not for you?
That’s kind of what I’ve done here. The glass already had the colors in it, but I recognized the beauty within the material and chose to DO something with it. And if I hadn’t made the decision to use that sheet of glass and make something of it, it would still be sitting on a shelf… unappreciated. In this case, I didn’t feel that decorating it more would make it more beautiful. If I had decorated it at all, it would have been only to make me feel better, more like I was “doing something”. But those embellishments would have taken away from the innate beauty of the piece.
So in answer to the question “What makes art?”, I’d have to say that sometimes it’s about keeping things simple. When the beauty is already there, your role as the artist is to draw it out, and make it as visible to the world as it is to you. When you trust the direction that the medium is taking you as much as you trust your own eyes and hands, you can’t help but make great art.
What do you think is art?
Our gallery showcases work from many different artists – from abstract paintings to lifelike animal ceramics, there’s something for everyone. We welcome you into our working studios anytime to absorb all of the creativity and hear about what YOU think is art. Click here to find us!