Notes of a Traveler – Maria Guevara

After my trip to the beautiful Fundy National Park in the Summer of 2017, I was impressed by its birch trees. Since then I have used porcelain clay, stains and under glazes in different ways to capture and represent those magnificent organisms. The porcelain shapes and the colors of my pieces depict the texture and the roughness of tree trunks covered in bark. My installation “Notes of a Traveler”, is an abstraction of the birch trees and aims to portray the majesty of the trees and the forest of the Bay of Fundy. My inspiration always comes from what I see and how it makes me feel. Furthermore, I like to think about the viewers and how I can communicate with them through my sculpture and pottery.

Cylinders with texture

The design of “Notes of a Traveler” comprises the creation of cylindrical pieces of large format (16 inches long). First, I used the compressor table to produce large porcelain clay slabs, then the main sculpting process consisted of bending and fusing slabs together to produce the cylindrical shapes of the trees. I believe that the use of porcelain gives to my work the impact that I wanted to transmit – the splendour of the forest during the late summer.

With the support of artsnb via the Arts Infrastructure grant for New and Emerging artists, I was able to acquire a slab-roller indispensable to create the sculptures of my installation. The creative process involved experimentation with porcelain and the roller settings to identify the slab thickness adequate to sculpt the large-format pieces I needed. I also explored with smaller slabs to create small-scale, cylinders, wavy forms and texture. To elaborate the wood marks, bark textures and water waves, I experimented with different iron oxides and stains (Mason). After, I identify the conditions and elements to produce the sculptures and fire the pieces at 1200°C for 9 hours. After firing, the selected cylindrical pieces were attached to their pedestal for display. The pedestal was made with slabs of porcelain with the same process as the cylinders. Finally, a key element of my installation was the creation of the leaf litter of the forest. I created hundreds of dry leaves using small flat porcelain pieces painted with stains and under glazes to imitate the beautiful colors of the leaves, grass, and moss.

Painting and giving texture

I struggled in the process of crafting the sculptures, but I guess being a clay artist has made me a resilient potter. Due to the small size of my kiln, I had to readjust the size of the cylinders. It was challenging to set up the installation at the gallery. These two moments were important to understand my limitations and my reaches as an artist. Another challenge I faced was the combination and optimization of my time as a production potter and the creative processes of my sculptures. Finally I was able to prepare my installation and my pottery simultaneously.

Finished piece

While I was doing the repetitive work of producing mugs, bowls and kitchenware, but also feeling the clay in my hands, or applying glazes, I had the time to picture ideas and think about texture colors and shapes I wanted for the sculpture. The elaboration the sculptures gave me new skills to control the materials and how they behave, now I feel more confident to experiment on sculptural work in diverse areas. I am still learning how to make my sculptural work more approachable and easy to communicate.

I had a great experience having my work at the Art4002 gallery in Saint Andrews NB. Among all the comments I received from the visitors about “Notes of a Traveler”, perhaps the one I keep close to me came from some kids that could not believe that the trees were made out of clay (they were allowed to touch it and feel it in their hands). They said that it looked as if the forest had been moved into the room! When I heard that from such special guests, I felt deeply happy because I my creation became a note of a traveler.

I am happy to be living and becoming a clay artist in this beautiful corner of Canada, with its unique majestic landscape and weather. In New Brunswick I have found my new home and I learned all I know about inspiration and creativity. More importantly, my new profession and the support of my community have given me the opportunity to reach kitchen tables, living rooms and interiors of art galleries around our beautiful Maritimes region. I am grateful.

Details of the process

Artist Statement : Notes of a Traveler

My central motivation for the “Notes of a Traveler” installation was incubated during my participation in the project Beneath the Surface; which was coordinated by Craft New Brunswick. This residency allowed me to explore the forest of The Bay of Fundy National Park for several days. The endless textures and shapes of the trees, the colors of their bark and the sea in movement amazed me. Inspired by the splendour of the Bay of Fundy’s forest in the summer, at that time I assembled a sculptural work using clay slabs, expressing the beauty of the trees’ bark. Now I am presenting the second part of the project, in this case I want to project the splendour of the large trees facing the wind, the textures of the ground surrounding them and the magnificent of the New Brunswick landscape.

This sculpture was made thanks to artsnb. I was the recipient of the Arts Infrastructure Grant for New and Emerging Artists.

Check out this video of Maria at her home studio, working on the installation Notes of a Traveler. The video can also be found on the Art4002 Facebook Page.

Maria was born in Mexico City. She graduated from a BA in Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage. Later she completed a MA studies in Archaeology in Mexico City at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. In the summer 2013 Maria graduated as a Ceramic artist in the Diploma of Advanced studies in Ceramics at the NBCCD in Fredericton NB. In recent years Maria got deeply interested in decorated ceramic techniques. She likes to elaborate ceramic forms using both the throwing wheel and slab work that gives extended surfaces to paint and carve. Maria combines the decoration with coloured engobes, slips and glazes. As an artist, she mostly enjoys two aspects of the creative process: the previous planning and the execution in clay. Maria can spend hours thinking of new shapes and decorating her pots to transmit different ideas to the public.

Maria has a small studio in New Maryland where she has dedicated lately to creating Sgraffito ceramic. Fortunately, her work is also for sale at Fine craft shops around New Brunswick, PEI and Nova Scotia. You can find Maria on Facebook and Instagram at @marupottery.

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