CREATIVE SPIRIT: ‘Soulful Sculpture’ exhibit opens Friday in Westfield

“Soulful Sculpture: Where Art Meets Personality,” a solo exhibition of ceramic artist Marcia Merrins will be on display at the Patterson Library’s Octagon Gallery in Westfield. from April 19 to May 15. The opening reception will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday.

“When I make something with my hands, I put my heart into it too. I hope that people who experience my work will feel this tug on their own hearts — a strange yet very real phenomenon.”

Merrins sculpts a wonderful menagerie of wood fired and raku animal pieces, from hippos to elephants, which are fun and collectible. For the most part, her raku and soda/wood fired animal series focus on threatened and endangered species, in an attempt to raise awareness about them through her art. Marcia’s artistic vision is to create pieces that reflect what that connection means to her and inspire others to feel it as well.

For Merrins, raku and wood firing are two of the most exciting processes in ceramics. Ash, smoke, heat, and other random events result in beauty on clay. For soda/wood fired animals she deliberately avoids using glaze because she prefers the natural, earthy color of the clay to come through in the finished piece. Raku firing is often characterized by its crackled glaze and vibrant colors, making it a sought-after art form for many collectors and enthusiasts.

Every piece is constructed by hand, without the use of a potter’s wheel. She typically combines hand-building methods as she works using slabs that are altered and refined by pinching and gently smoothing the edges. She starts with a hollow core and incorporates basic sculptural features, i.e. eyebrows, shoulders, hips, etc. Their sweet personalities and patterned “hides” make each one unique and lovable.

Merrins also creates signature pieces that are quirky in theme, including bright and sassy “footed bowls”. She is drawn to whimsy and her work reflects what she finds in contemporary footwear and clothing.

The idea of bowls with feet is not new: for example, one can find an iconic Egyptian footed bowl in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her footed bowls are created from stoneware clay slabs and hand-built. They are thematically based on interpretations of popular footwear designs or well known characters; these are the inspirations for these whimsical bowls, which then become beloved personalities who — somewhat uncannily — can express attitude without a face. They can be functional and hold practicalities like keys or candies, or they can add color and whimsy to a space. They can be customized so anyone can have their unique, special footed bowl.

Fairy houses are new in the studio and adorable, popular with children and adults alike. You may also find gnomes, mushrooms and other fantastical creations for your home.

An award-winning mini documentary on Marcia’s work, “Moods, Mountains and Masterpieces: A Portrait of an Artist” was produced by Roslyn Smith, MFA, Associate Professor (Chair), SUNY Fredonia and can be viewed on vimeo.com/231326736. Her studio, Kniti Griti Works, can be found across the internet.

Merrins is also a juried artist at several prestigious craft shows throughout Western New York.


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