Meet Sally Squire. Walking through Sally Squire’s studio, I am continually amazed by the flights of fancy her imagination takes. She thinks she “wants to get to the point where I call myself an experimental artist.” I think she got there years ago. I see all kinds of things around the studio, some highlighting her artistic history, some giving us a hint at what’s to come. We’re rushing around her home so she can share it all with me. I’m blown away. She shows me a piece that is mounted to a curved piece of wood, reminiscent of a keyboard, called ‘Bell Canto’. It is a very colorful piece (see photo) created in 3 tiers. The inspiration behind this piece is a quote from the book, Bell Canto: “Some people are born to make great art and others are born to appreciate it. … It is a kind of talent in itself, to be an audience, whether you are the spectator in the gallery or you are listening to the voice of the world’s greatest soprano. Not everyone can be the artist. There have to be those who witness the art, who love and appreciate what they have been privileged to see.” But the real genius – each letter of the alphabet is given a different color, and the art piece spells out the quote.
Sally graduated with a degree in architecture and was in facility management for a number of years. Then she took a metalworking class, and just started making things. Since then she has worked making jewelry, then moved on to paper price tags with fabric dye and salt crystals on them. She started working with clay around that time, and took classes with Kristy Lombard. She just kept evolving and working. Polymer clay informs her earth clay period. “Most of my work in polymer was jewelry centered. Jewelry is just small sculpture, and it was a natural progression, as the urge to go larger got stronger, to seek out materials and techniques that supported that expression.” She sees a lot of patterns in things, and texture is really important to her.
Sally showed me a cabinet that contains some of the wealth of materials she has acquired, including strapping, paper price tags, plastic fasteners, coffee stirrers, dryer vent material, ear specula, and more, which she usually finds simply by looking around her. “I get a kick out of figuring out how each piece will go together, and I like to vary the challenge. So while I may produce a series, I move on to new materials fairly rapidly. That’s where my breadth of different art processes, and a background in building things really pays off.”
She admits to me that she doesn’t have a problem with inspiration, only a problem with what to do next. By this time I’m wondering if she has a blog and if I can follow along for the ride. “While I might be inspired by a medium or material, the idea comes first, then I figure out how to make it. It is usually the opposite with earth clay [I usually use a porcelain clay that is infused with paper fibers that are burned out during firing]. Working with clay is sensuous and I coax and caress the sculpture out of the raw clay. It is not unusual for my non-clay work to involve engineering and analytical processes in the design. In clay, and in my recent smoke work, the composition comes out of manipulation of the materials with only high-level planning in the beginning.”
Smoke and Mirrors
Sally’s current work includes a number of new processes, as well as new vistas in her already exciting clay work. “I’m using smoke a lot, both on paper and on porcelain. I have been drawn to fire in the last year for several reasons. The elemental nature is a balancing force to my reliance on electronics; it feels like the world is on fire; and I have had a year of health issues that challenged my outlook on life. With the recent forest fires impacting our lives, the work I do with flame and soot has another layer of meaning.
”The techniques that I use include smoking (fuming), branding, melting, origami, rubbing, mirroring, singeing, toasting, and liquid dropping. My materials include soot, paraffin, candle wax, conte, pigment, and hemp particles. Almost all these different processes involve carbon. Carbon as a mark maker. Most of the wall pieces all involve carbon on paper, and carbon introduced as a finish on the ceramics.”
Sally’s current work on paper includes smoke on origami and paper. A lot of her origami involves crinkling or ‘squishing’ paper, which allows her to find pathways, to which she introduces color and/or smoke, giving the piece depth. For me, these pieces are reminiscent of Tolkien’s maps of Middle Earth.
Her ‘shadow people’ are created using water, candle wax, paraffin, soot and flame scorch on paper. “If we could see people at their core, this is what I imagine it would look like. People – in groups of 2, 3 and 4 – interacting with their crowns of feelings emanating out of their heads.”
At the same time she is working with mirroring, which involves several processes including burning hemp twine, laying it on paper, covering with another sheet, then pulling the twine, creating mirror images.
Mirroring is a common theme for her. ”Often, in my spare time (ha-ha), I work with digital images as an exercise in color and form. I explore mirroring. The reason I often alter the images is to practice ‘seeing’ – that is to see the patterns and shapes and seek a new understanding rooted in imagination rather than ‘reality’. The [greeting] cards let me show off all the creative energy that pours out of me. It’s kind of a good record too!” She will have these cards for sale during the Tour.
Also for the tour, Sally is thinking of demoing the process she has begun using on her ‘Scutes’, which she has scorched with burning hemp twine. This produces a toasted look and the detritus of the burning twine gets incorporated as little black marks. She has also used this process on a wall piece that she will be working on during the tour made from small pieces of clay, cut, then mounted.
Sally Squire is curious, constantly exploring and experimenting. “My art reflects my broad interests and finds its expression through varied materials and mediums. You see the expression of the rhythm of my life – patterns and lines – in clusters and groupings of similar shapes. My non-objective style engages the senses of seeing and touch. Recently, this expression has blended into sensuous curves, peaks and valleys through ceramic and smoke. My work draws you in and invites you to explore its landscape and kinetic stories.”