Behind the scenes of my sculpture studio

Behind the scenes of my sculpture studio from Small Company ArtworksWhen guests visit my art studio, or when I first tell people that I sculpt, the same seven questions seem to come up. As a socially-awkward introvert who composes lists of questions to ask strangers before networking events, I find myself wondering if they're collaborating on their lists to ask me the same seven questions. While this seems unlikely, who knows what extraverts get up to in their free time?

In any case, I realized that you, my Gentle Readers, may occasionally wonder the same things that random strangers and curious friends wonder. So here are my answers, without any unnecessary networking smalltalk or little skewers of rubber chicken.

how did you start sculpting?

I don't think I've ever heard of an artist who didn't answer this question with, "I've been doing this all my life." In my case, I've always loved using my hands to make messes. First with blueberry jam and peanut butter, then later with spaghetti and anything pleasantly gooey.

But I didn't stop with the usual toddler food-smearing. I fondly remember digging my little kindergartener hands into bowls of meatloaf. My mom had to limit my interaction with the meatloaf, because I'd keep going for pretty much ever, until the meatloaf was overworked and kind of gross. I mean grosser than the average kindergartener's hands would make it.

About the same time, my sister liked challenging me to make (and eat, for the record) mud pies. I suspect my mom first bought me playdoh in defense from soil-born illnesses. From there it was a slippery slope to plasticine and anything that would hold a shape when pinched. My favorite things to make were horses, and I kept a little collection of my handmade creations on my dresser until the clay got all dusty and icky.

when did you know you wanted to be a sculptor?

Funny thing about art in kids: they so often grow out of it. I kind of stopped doing anything with clay in high school. Then in college I did the Sensible Thing and got a Reasonable Degree, which served me very well for 17 years of modest professional success.

I played with sculpting as a business once in my twenties, but failed abysmally. It's clear to me now that I needed far more business experience to make a go of it. Now I hope I've gotten all that business stuff out of my system, because I'm pretty sure I want to be a sculptor when I grow up.

how long does it take to make one of your sculptures?

Since we're talking all confidential-like, I'm going to let you in on a secret: I hate this question. I never know how to answer it. Do I say "about an hour" for those times that my fingers are flying and can do no wrong? Or do I say "six episodes of Castle before it jumped the shark" for those times that I can't remember whether the shoulder opens this way or that way?  Dammit, just smash the head in and start over.

And that's just the first pass. I usually come back and tweak, nudge, smooth, adjust, and generally improve. Then it's baked and cooled. Then assuming it didn't collapse in the oven, I paint (one episode of Sherlock), let it dry, paint again, dry, paint. Then it sits and cures for a couple of days, then it gets varnish...

You get the idea. So... short answer: a week if my fingers are cooperating. Ten days, if not.

which sculptures are most popular?

Depends on the occasion. For birthdays, people really respond to the muses, or the yoga and pet sculpture. For wedding gifts, some of the romantic sculpture resonates, and the praying couples really strike a chord with some customers.

Couples buy all kinds of things for each other, but mostly kissing sculpture or Love Tokens. (Side note: I'm privy to some of the most romantic, wonderful, tear-jerking messages of love between people. I love my job.)

And hugs are popular for every occasion, most especially (of course) for grief or loss. 

what do you like to sculpt most? least?

They're all pretty much the same, in terms of how fun they are to make. The challenges vary by whether I'm making a 1/2-inch Golden Retriever, for example, or shaping a realistic wedding dress skirt that won't collapse in the oven. My favorite part of sculpting is coming up with the poses and seeing how expressive I can make them.

On the other side of that question, I think the hug sculpture takes the most out of me. Whenever I sculpt a hug, I know that it could go to someone experiencing a horrible loss in their life, and I find myself pouring as much comfort into the clay as I can. If that makes any sense at all.

But the body part I like least is legs. My gosh, why do they have to have such complicated folding mechanisms? If it bends this way, the hip joint has to turn that way, but watch out for the excess clay there, and then what about that knee? And whoa, baby, that joint doesn't bend that way at all. And oh, look, it's all about an inch too long. Let's start over.

I'm considering a line of merpeople just to avoid legs altogether.

what artists inspire you?

Pretty much any artist who has made the absurd choice to spit in the face of reason, good sense, and fiscal stability, and proclaim their Art Self to the world, inspires me. But more particularly, I'm especially fond of Henry Moore, whose sculpture never fails to make me want to shape rock with my hands. I might need to get a superhero cape for that one.

how did you come up with the name for you company?

I asked my Kinder Half what I should call my company. He said, "You should call it Small Company. Because you're making little pieces of art to keep people company."

Seriously, that's what happened. He has a gift.

So there you have my seven most-asked questions, answered. What else would you like to know?


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