It sat in the garage for about 7 years. Every once in a while I would be rummaging through the garage looking for something and it would catch my attention. I’d look at it and think, “that was a great idea, I should finish it.” Then walk away. Other times I’d look at it and think, “humph, that’s never going to be finished. Why do I still have it?”
It was an art panel I carefully constructed out of plywood and wood strips. On top of it was another layer of plywood I cut out in a shape that I found reminiscent of a modern architectural facade, with a circular inset and a slot. I proceeded to prep most of the surfaces throughout the piece while thinking about details. Then I stopped. Thinking back, I believe I stopped because I didn’t know what to do with the circle where the plywood was tellingly left raw and untouched. This was an indication that I was probably stumped.
The circle must have been in the back of my mind all these years. It suddenly popped into the forefront this past December. I was making my Fleurette tree ornaments one evening and had the Fleurettes haphazardly arranged on the table. I saw when the Fleurettes were grouped together they created a dynamic texture and this, for some reason, led my mind directly to that empty circle. I immediately rushed out and retrieved the cobweb covered panel from the garage. I brought it inside, cleaned it up, and quickly filled the circle with a cluster of Fleurettes. It looked like a monochromatic abstraction of flowers overflowing a rounded flowerbed.
“This is it,” I thought, “ I am finally going to finish it!”
The next day, I took the panel to my studio and played with various layouts of the Fleurettes, my favorite being stacked Fleurettes that added even more texture to an otherwise plain surface. But something still didn’t feel right. So it sat again. This time only for a month.
The original intent of the panel was to reference modernist and brutal architectural forms. It was meant to be a simple monolithic form with cutouts, layers and subtle, flowing plane changes. The Fleurettes felt too organic, flowery, and delicate to be paired with something that was supposed to feel monolithic. I removed the Fleurettes and again stared at the empty plywood circle.
In the meantime, while pondering, I decided to build up the surfaces with more texture. The process was rather cathartic. Instead of using my typical measured movements confined to the hand and fingers, I used my full arm freely and energetically to create the texture. It felt like a good way to channel my internal energy.
I have always enjoyed mid century tile work, the rough hewn, dimensional, relief sculptural kind. It’s a style that I have played around with and has been on my list of things to explore further. It dawned on me that filling the circle with tile would be a great opportunity to start exploring relief tile work.
Getting to Work
I rolled out a clay slab and cutout a circle. Then the question, how to cut up the circle? I looked through various images relating to modernist design, pulled out my books on Bauhaus principles, overlaid typography grids, and studied various proportions. Nothing struck me in particular except that I was trying way too hard. In the end, it was a sketch and drawing lines dividing the circle in a way that felt right. Not a lot of thinking, just allowing the hand to freely draw the lines.
I cut up the circle using my sketch as a guide and decided to press various textures into the clay with textured rollers I had made. There were still many more decisions to make, such as what colors, which glazes for the tiles, to center the tiles on the circle or offset, to leave a gap between the tiles or fit them tightly together, to rotate the tiles at an angle or to keep them parallel? I was starting to feel overwhelmed by how many more details were left. There were seemingly so many options.
After the tiles were fired, I made the push to finally finish. I knew if I didn’t push, these questions would stall my progress again by thinking too much and doubting my decisions. Somewhere along the way, I did decide I liked it much better turned 90 degrees. After that last decision, I put on side blinders and looked straight ahead - to finish.
Mixed media materials: wood, plaster, clay, glaze, oxide, acrylic
Dimensions: 24" x 24" x 1.5"