Sounds of Summer

by Heather McQueen

Well, maybe it's wishful thinking since it's still early May at the time of writing... but the Spring flowers are fading and thunderstorms are building.  To me that means Summer is knocking at the door!  

This has been such a busy year already; my drums are looking and sounding great, with the new 'Fade' design hitting the shelves this Spring and Summer.  Let's hear it for more color!  I'm really happy that even in the midst of a full-on residency season I'm getting to push forward on new work.

I see myself as a ceramic vessel sculptor.  While I make and enjoy such a variety of artforms, this realm of sculpture is what has made me the happiest over the years.  If I trace my bio correctly, they began during my time as an exchange student at Dundee University's Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, Scotland.  Coincidentally, this was also the time when I became a cave explorer and mountain hiker.

Watercolor sketch, 2015.  Paine Grande, Torres del Paine, Chilean Patagonia

Last year was one of the biggest transitions of my life.  It's personal, so if you know, you know.  If you don't, then it doesn't really matter except to say I've been challenged to seek, find and redefine myself.  For me, this is done by taking time out, writing and sketching.

In the fall of last year I began a sketch series reflecting both my inner workings and my newly adopted environment.  My current studio is located in the West Town neighborhood of Chicago, on Hubbard Street.  There are rows of brick warehouses here; those East of Damen Avenue are now largely occupied by event companies and caterers, interspersed with remnants of the meat packing and grocery industries.  "The Sacred Garage," as it is affectionately known, lies to the West and is surrounded by factories making wooden pallets, metalwork, and my favorite for some reason, the mailing tube factory.  

A bicycle accident last fall gave me a grounding, quite literally: I had to stop biking for several months.  Moving around the city by public transit and walking, I was reminded of how much I like to go about on foot.  There's something great about moving slowly through the gritty, working landscape of Hubbard, Carroll and Fulton Streets, and I saw this creep into my sketchbook.  The forms that repeated over and over were ones surrounded in scaffolding, and blocks devised to protect freight dock doors.

Under the working title "Scaffolds & Bumpers" I've slowly grown them, from sketchbook to mini-models and now tabletop size.  This series is still incubating, but I am in a place ready to share the first drafts of these works in progress.  I envision them much larger, to fill the size of my current kiln (roughly 30" high and 24" diameter).  Right now they would be great bookends, and you'll probably find them listed as such in my online store (soon!).

I have to laugh at myself, though.  Remembering my days as a young art history student I thought, how could artists ever run out of paper?  It happened to all the best, yet seemed such an available and inexpensive material, just like the clay.  And here I am, once again thwarted by my own process because I'm down to my last 20 lbs. of clay!  History repeats itself.  Fortunately I have the means to fix this problem, and I hope to get more of these out of the kiln before I take off for the summer.

My parting view is a sunset picture from the village in Italy where I plan to refuge for the months of July and August.  Apparently I was born a wanderer, even though I love heavy objects like pianos and kickwheels.  There is a marble quarry not far away from town... so who knows what could happen. 

If you're wanting an order from my shop, do it now before it's too late!  I'll be disappearing into the sky along with the fireworks after the 4th of July, and then you'll be out of luck until Fall... Meanwhile I'm sure to drop in every now and again to the Heather McQueen Studio page on Facebook.  Stay tuned!