Forget me knot installation

Forget me knot installationt

Forget me knot installation

Forget me knot installation

4 photos above: Installation at “West Austin Studio Tour” in 2013 | Photos by Kirk Tuck


Forget me knot installationt

Forget me knot installation

Forget me knot installation

3 photos above: Installation at the French Legation in Austin in 2013

Forget me knot







Latest



Forget me knot
In the series 'The ties that bind'
Outdoor installations of 1000 knots, slipcast from 11 seven-piece molds.
Approx. size (h/l/w): 5"/6.5"/11", 13cm/17cm/28cm

A project about memory and loss, installed at the French Legation in Austin in 2013 and also for the Big Medium “West Austin Studio Tour” in 2013 and 2014.

I thought about making a sculptural form pointing to the studio from different directions in the street. So, I started to make maquettes, and in this process a number of memories came to the forefront. I also realized I was not done with the series “the ties that bind,” and the maquettes became knots. And one of those knots spoke to me.

One of the memories that surfaced, while making these maquettes, was a story about an older man, somewhere in war territory, who would use large artillery shells to line main street in his village. He filled the shells with flowers. Significant? Yes!

I also remembered that in my home country, long before the use of cell phones, one would tie a knot in a handkerchief to remind oneself of something. I still have a relative who carries a small piece of rope in his pant pocket for that same purpose.

If forget me nots are symbols of remembrance, and knots are used to help remember, then I can give myself permission to line the street with Forget Me Knots, spending my energy making seemingly senseless things, spending my time, in search of simple joy and beauty. I set out to create a sculptural landscape while remembering the important things, the ties that bind, the worthwile moments, that shouldn’t be forgotten.

And I did it, did it with help from two wonderful people, Christina Coleman, MFA and Curtis Lund, BFA. We worked hard, for a long, long time in a wonderful small workspace. We learned a lot about planning, production, and teamwork. About moldmaking. We also learned a lot about making our own low-fire glazes. We experienced all that can go wrong when making art that requires a production of over 1,000 pieces. Weeks of testing, of being sure we had it solved, only to open the mold or the kiln and know we had not reached the top yet. A wonderful process, stressful at times, and so worthwhile.

Towards the end, excitement started building. We couldn’t wait to share, share my work, share theirs.

More about the series "the ties that bind" >>>
Coming Undone

Coming Undone

Coming Undone







Work



Coming Undone
In the series 'The ties that bind'
Approx. size (h/l/w): 20"/20"/20", 51cm/51cm/51cm

Not really a knot, but I did come undone, having to re-learn the same darn painful lessons I thought I mastered long before. But the sculpture (coming off its base) is good and I know it. That part is new. It is nice to step back and see my potential, to not have lost the sculptor in the turmoil. To know that I nurture my own ideas, that I create my own work, and neither comes about on loan. It is a strong piece, and very different seen from any direction. It holds promises of my future.

More about the series "the ties that bind" >>>
Airborne
Airborne
Airborne
Airborne







Work



Airborne
In the series 'The ties that bind'
Approx. size (h/l/w): 22"/26"/17", 56cm/66cm/43cm

I was reading Simon Schama's "Embarrassment of Riches," an interpretation of Dutch culture in the Golden Age. Schama describes some seemingly insignificant habits of the Dutch which of course resonated with me. One was the polishing of the brass knobs on the entry doors to the houses. Two hundred and fifty years later, my mother still polished our doorknob weekly. If that chore was ever skipped for some reason, it created great anxiety for her. The other habit Schama talked about was kids playing with balloons, made of animal organ skin. And playing with balloons, we did that too, upstairs, in a short corridor, transformed into a volleyball court by a single rope. Sweet dreams, sweet competitions, sweet childhood memories.

I progressed by building a small maquette of this knot, this tip of a balloon, and photographed it in the round. I then enlarged it, using the photos as reference, hollow, from the bottom up, with slabs of clay, in two joined segments. This way I could fit each segment in the kiln. While constructing this work, the biggest problem encountered, was building the top curvature, the mass past the knot, which extends or hangs over quite a distance from the core. You see, slabs of wet clay do not like to be pleated and then suspended in mid air. The solution was to have these slabs of clay dry a bit before use, while hanging in a sheet stapled to two tables and curved somewhat like a hammock. The top was then more or less built in three parts: a bowl, a top to the bowl, and a ring, and these segments were intermittently supported by wood. Remember though that clay, while drying, shrinks, and wood does not. So, remove the wood timely, before it cracks your work.

More about the series "the ties that bind" >>>

Convictions

Convictions

Convictions







Work



Convictions
In the series 'The ties that bind'
Approx. size (h/l/w): 72"/21"/14", 182cm/53cm/35cm

Soon after my arrival in America, I lived in Manhattan, and I remember being shocked when I read a newspaper article about an execution "gone wrong" in Florida. I spent weeks creating a large pointillism drawing of an electric chair. Execution was a foreign subject to me growing up in the Netherlands. I have struggled with this issue ever since. I was and still am against capital punishment.

It is from people who were at the receiving end of all the pain murderers cause that I came to realize that it is easy to have an opinion in a void, and that I could only hope that mine would stand up to such an experience. Little did I know then, that a few years after having finished this sculpture, this void would be filled and that I, and those close to me, had to come to grips with the effects of a gruesome murder in my extended family. The trial is still to come.

While working on "the ties that bind," I purchased a book which shows how different knots are made. One of these knots was a noose. I tied the knot many times with regular rope, and learned about the inner structure of the noose. It prompted research on current day hangings. In the midst of that, a friend brought to my attention that the U.S. Supreme Court had formally recognized the noose as a symbol of racism as well.

Considering also that my kids are Dutch Americans, born from an inter-racial relationship, and that the South-African word "apartheid" is undeniably rooted in the Dutch language, one can understand that I am "bound" to the noose - by geography, language, culture, and tragedy.

I drew the noose numerous times before building it from the bottom up from slabs of clay. I needed to understand what happened with the rope going round and round, around it's core. I drew the bottom of the column in pastels, a wonderful flower like image. I wanted to build it large to contradict the quiet around the regular executions taking place once or twice a month in Huntsville, Texas. I needed it to attract attention, being so large that it could not be denied, demanding from the viewer a reflection on the subject matter. I had tried to make a small maquette for reference but abandoned it. I struggled. In the end, I was not really sure what I was going to do with the overall piece, until I did it. I liked opening the knot up at the top, showing the inner structure of the rope folding within itself a couple of times. I liked disconnecting, opening the noose part of the sculpture. It took a long time to finish. It was a depressing time. I had seen too many photos of hangings in foreign countries, not being able to forget the vibrant colors of their nylon ropes, neon pink and green. If I were to build it again, I would show less of the overall structure, zooming in to where I made it come apart.

More about the series "the ties that bind" >>>
borderline

borderline

borderline







Work



Borderline
In the series 'The ties that bind'
Approx. size (h/l/w): 15"/17"/17", 38cm/43cm/43cm

The idea had been conceived earlier, but the work had been shelved. I needed a sense of completion and decided to build it afterall. You can't escape barbed wire living in Texas. Or the history of it. There are many, many different kinds, used in different periods in time. Neither can you ignore the building of walls and fences near its borders. It is a fascinating world filled with political and human complexities, and one that draws the attention of a permanent resident. It is interesting how often I think the work (and the world) should be redone, just slightly different. It is that yearning for improvement that starts the next project. And then years later, the piece I liked the least when finished, starts finally talking and making sense to me. I just wish I had not thrown out the large, plasticine built maquette. It may have been the strongest version I have seen.

More about the series "the ties that bind" >>>
Descendant







Work



Descendant
In the series 'The ties that bind'
Approx. size (h/l/w): 56.5"/11"/9", 143cm/28cm/23cm

My inspiration for this piece is simple, I gave birth to two children. Each one of them is a personal tie that binds, and they do, they bind. For a long time I was not sure how to portray that tie, that knot, and I did not want it to be child or gender specific, each one of them being as important as the other. And it was also significant to me to set the relationship of mother and child in a larger context, not to give image to Madonna nursing a baby, but to include the prior generations, the grandmother, the great-grandmother, an image of roots, one of strength and endurance, one of pillars, and cultures and places. So the idea arose of a knot, a knot in an umbilical cord, but here the knot was going to be represented as a baby, a descending baby; the one always arriving. In researching umbilical cords and what they looked like, the images I found struck me as being similar to bulging repetitions, like spirals in columns I had seen elsewhere. I found a very small architectural sketch of such a spiral column, similar to the bronze ones of Bernini's High Altar of St. Peter's in Rome. I used it to make sketches and incorporated images of a small plasticine sculpture I had made of a baby years ago.

Building a hollow large sculpture with slabs of wet clay, does not allow for the accuracy needed in the repetition of the Italian spiral column. So, the architectural drawing was enlarged and used to calculate and map the spirals. The profile of this spiral was used to draw and cut a metal form, and this form was used to check the accuracy of a similar plasticine column I was building. I could rotate that column by a wooden stick in its center. A large two-piece plaster mold was then made of this plasticine spiral column. And this plaster mold, after it dried, was then used to form my wet sheets of clay. The plaster mold absorbed the water in the clay to a point where I could remove it, join it, and have the column stand vertically. In the meantime, I had built the hollow baby, using slabs of wet clay as well. And in the end, it was a matter of putting all pieces together, the base, the bottom column, the baby, the top section, and the capital. When building large ceramic pieces it is important to remember that clay shrinks and that you want the whole piece to shrink evenly. To avoid cracks, one aims to put together pieces with similar moisture content.

More about the series "the ties that bind" >>>







Concept drawing of a noose









Work



The series
The ties that bind

So here I am, taking everyday issues and objects, turning them slowly around, allowing myself to see them in a way for the first time; sometimes noticing that I missed certain aspects, and that they are really not what I always thought they were. Maybe this is an attempt to change the way I see things, or maybe I am attempting to see how I could change things.

While my hands learned about clay over the years (I love the feel, the life of it), I started to wrap my brain around it, around art as well. I had taken many close-up photographs of a balloon, but was not yet sure what to do with those images. And so, thinking about the "property of clay," I also started thinking about the things one cannot do with clay. You cannot blow it up, well not really, not like a balloon, or tie it in a knot.

So, I started to think about different knots, a series perhaps, and about the ties that bind these knots. But how could I give you knowledge of the whole object, since the knot is often such a small detail? And, then, what binds me? You and me? Perhaps, I am revisiting personal milestones or obstacles, perhaps I am making social statements, or maybe I am pushing boundaries, but certainly, I am changing and my work is growing. And maybe clay speaks for me because my work might speak to you.


For more information on a specific sculpture:

Forget me knot >>>

Airborne >>>

Convictions >>>

Borderline >>>

Descendant >>>

Coming Undone >>>





Chantal







Work



Chantal
Approx. size (h/l/w): 37"/20"/15", 94cm/51cm/38cm

No title







Work



No title
Approx. size (h/l/w): 43"/25"/17", 109cm/63cm/43cm



No title







Work



No title
Approx. size (h/l/w): 43,5"/25,5"/19", 111cm/65cm/43cm

My side of the river







Work



My side of the river
Approx. size (h/l/w): 60"/23"/16", 152cm/58cm/41cm

The torsos and the life-size sitting female, shown here, were study pieces to learn the "slab" method of building with clay. With those lessons learned, I now create other complicated hollow, clay forms. Small solid clay maquettes, hollowed out before firing, sometimes created in live modeling sessions, are used as reference points while building the larger structures. The torsos are built in two pieces, the top and bottom each having a joint designed for the segments to fit together and not weigh too much. Because each piece can be fired separately, it allows me to build larger work, larger than the size of my kiln. The life-size sitting female is made of six interlocking segments.

Prior to working this large, I also sculpted figurative pieces in plasticine, made large plaster molds to create a wax positive and invested the wax sculpture in preparation of the bronze pour. Suiting up to pouring at the local foundry was a thrill.

Sculpting the human body trains my hands to see better. This exploration has been an on-going process. Following the development of arguments and theories about the female nude has been an eye opening experience and will of course further influence the choices and work I make.



Self portrait







Work



Self portrait
Approx. size (h/l/w): 17"/11"/12", 44cm/28cm/31cm

There came a time in my life, illnesses and wear and tear, that forced me to pause and reflect. A good time to take a look in the mirror, a bit more difficult to do when getting older and when plastic surgery is not for you. A different clay with all its own characteristics. She reminds me of those stoic women in 17th century Dutch art. I am learning to live with her. The arrival of a most wonderful grandson makes life easier and more magical. (This is a study to be used in another project, the maquette has been built, the larger version awaiting a logistic resolve.)





Self portrait


















Making of Descendant







About



Marja
Marja Spearman Photo by Robert James


If my work piques your interest, momentarily stops you, I am pleased. It is unimportant whether it is internationally known, sought after, or not. To like it, or dislike it, you really do not need to know anything about me at all. Yet, for those who are curious about my background, I wrote the following.

If you are a creative person, eager to express yourself, but somehow not quite getting there, stay with it and use your time wisely. Keep developing at least some skills and build upon your knowledge, until that time comes when you can give it your all. What I learned about art over the years, while busy with life's other demands, now comes into play.

Over the course of my adult life, while earning a living full-time and helping to raise my kids, Ahmad and Jihan, I periodically attended an art class. Many years back, I attended classes on Saturdays, at the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam (yes, I am Dutch.) In the early 80's, while living and working in New York, I went to the School of Visual Arts for evening classes. And, while in the Bay Area, I took extended education classes at the California College of Arts and Crafts. I also had fun and learned a lot at lesser-known facilities as well.

Besides working, I drew a lot, often carried a sketch book, used pen and ink, created logos, designed album covers, and other advertising materials. However, I was always a bit frustrated - as if something was missing. It was not until the early 90's that I started to work in clay, and then mostly in figurative form. I was reminded of selecting and paying for bricks of clay at the local hardware store as a young teenager and carrying them home as if they were made of gold. I had forgotten this experience, "the ease" with which I had created 3-dimensional work in the past.

In 2004, shortly after moving to Texas, I was able to study sculpture full-time for a few years, taking classes at The Austin Sculpture Center and later "24/7" at the Austin Sculpture Academy. Lucky me! I then co-founded Atelier 3-D, and two years of hard work later, had laid the foundation for a successful sculpture studio which offers a wide range of classes.

Finally, I had the time to focus, focus on fine art, art history, materials and methods. Now, working specifically with clay with an intensity, motivation and dedication I had fantasized about for years. This eventually led to a series of sculptures referred to as "the ties that bind." Of course, it is always the next piece that one thinks will provide the answers to the artistic questions one pursues. But there are some other ideas I need to carry out too. New business plans are being drafted and the design for a larger workshop and gallery has started. I will keep you updated. For now, enjoy the website.

Exhibit summary
Initially, getting to make my work seemed to have been the focus. Now, however, I am changing, finding it more important to incorporate showing, displaying and selling the work as well. I am beyond toying with the idea to expand, to open a larger work space, to bring others on board. The plans are being realized. Growing older demands physical attention at times, but it is good to have my strength back and feel resilient again. I am really looking forward to the next few years.

2014
Opening of "de stijl, podium for art" (upcoming)
TSOS at the Georgetown Library (upcoming)
TSOS at ABIA (upcoming)
The WEST Austin Studio Tour

2013
The French Legation
The West Austin Studio Tour

2012
The East Austin Studio Tour,
TSOS @ The French Legation

2011
TSOS @ the Georgetown Library, Georgetown

2010
Studio 10, Austin

2009
Brocca Gallery, Austin

2009
The East Austin Studio Tour @ Brocca Gallery

2008
Private sculpture garden in West Austin

2007
The East Austin Studio Tour @ Atelier 3-D

2006
TSOS' Sculptfest @ the Umlauf Museum in Austin

2006
Austin Art Start @ Atelier 3-D

2006
Co-founder Atelier 3-D

2005
KEYE - Sculpture Academy news segment feature

2005
On-site installation
at the Sculpture Academy of Austin

1996
Large annual art show in San Francisco; and

1995
Large annual art show in Berkeley







Chantal





































Contact



My workshop is in Austin, Texas. If you have questions or would like to visit, please email me at:

click here!