Clay Sculpture

Inspired by my surroundings and life experiences, I create art that tells a story and evokes memories and emotions. My work continues to evolve and the subject matter and surface treatments change as I journey through life and grow in my profession.

I.  People and Their Companion Animals

This body of work explores the intimate and mutually beneficial relationship between humans and their companion animals. I portray situations that may not come immediately to mind – a widower and his constant companion; a woman who is depressed, or perhaps has dementia, holding a dog that brings her comfort; a senior citizen who cherishes her memories of a beloved childhood pet.

I sculpt each piece using coils, slabs or solid forms which are then hollowed out.  Details are important. A dog may wear a collar to signify that he belongs to someone and is loved and cared for. (I spend a fair amount of time deciding what collar the pet owner might choose.)  To invite the viewer in for a closer look, I sometimes include details that may be unexpected.  For example, the numbers on pet’s tag are numeric code for my last name:

2   9  12  5  19

B   I   L   E   S

II. Other Figurative Work

Some of my work explores transformations that occur as part of the human experience.  These involve our desires, concerns, disappointments, victories, hopes, ways of coping, and our need for acceptance.

I use form and surface treatment to convey one or more messages.  Some may seem conflicting or contradictory.  Strength with vulnerability.  Beauty in spite of flaws.  Victory in the face of setback.  Some surfaces are delicate.  Others, though durable, have been abraded. The piece may be poignant or bittersweet, but mostly the message is pensive, hopeful, a celebration of resilience.

III. Vessels

Mother EarthTo me, the vessel, an ancient form used for food and water storage, represents survival, abundance and perpetuation. My black vessels were inspired by pottery created in many Pueblos of the American Southwest.

The technique is similar to that used for thousands of years and is still used in some parts of the world today. These pots are coil built, then carved. Once dry they are sanded with several grades of sandpaper, ending with 400 grit for a very smooth surface. They are then “painted” with two coats of terra sigillata (a solution of very fine clay particles in water that is the consistency of skim milk). They are fired once and emerge from the kiln with a pearly white finish. For their second firing, the pots are placed in metal cans with shredded newspaper.  As the kiln heats up, the paper ignites and carbon in the smoke bonds to the surface of the pots (similar to the process of raku), giving them their satiny black color.