Shishi San’s Vibrant Tufted Sculptures Celebrate the Colorful Motifs of Chinese Vases
The soft pile of tufted yarn meets vibrant color in Brussels-based artist Shishi San’s bold sculptures. She began tufting in 2019, working on two-dimensional pieces that feature playful flowers, insects, and other creatures, and last year, she propelled her practice into the three-dimensional realm. Inspired by the shape, hues, and patterns of Chinese vases, she began a series of nine voluminous vessels that draw on traditional motifs in a series titled Fluffy Collection. “I wanted to create my own version of them, inspired both by my own experiences and by their visual identity,” she tells Colossal.
San is currently working on her biggest project to date, so you can keep an eye out for updates on Instagram, and find more on That’s What X Said.
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Elegant Animals Commune and Contemplate in Hand-Carved Wooden Sculptures by Nikichi
From the long, graceful turn of a rabbit’s ears to the cozy embrace of polar bears, Nikichi summons the emotional nuances of intimacy, solitude, and contemplation in his delicately carved sculptures. Carefully exposed wood grain shapes knees and cheeks, paws clasp together in repose, and winged visitors perch on delicately-hewn noses.
The Hokkaido-based artist has been sculpting animals for around a decade, interested in the ways that people relate to fluffy, recognizable creatures like bunnies and cats by anthropomorphizing their expressions and actions as a means of understanding and connecting to them. He fuses human and animal characteristics to explore what he describes as “the story of human sociality and life by overlapping the wildness and instinctiveness of animals,” populating a harmonious, mythical world.
Find more of Nikichi’s work on Instagram.
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Otherwordly Ceramic Forms by Janny Baek Evoke Growth and Transformation
“I’ve always been drawn to art in different ways, but sculpting clay by hand seems to come most naturally to me. I think it is my most effective means of communication,” says Janny Baek, whose playful, abstract ceramics blur the line between form and function. Drawing on fundamental compositional elements like color, line, and volume, she creates characterful shapes from clay that “advocate for the strange, uncategorized, undefined, changeable, hybrid, multiple, alien, and pleasurable.”
After studying ceramics in college, Baek worked as a sculptor for animation and toys before pursuing graduate studies and a career in architecture. As an architect, she used digital tools like parametric 3D modeling, which employs computer algorithms to create advanced designs, and while she enjoys the possibilities of technology, she was pulled toward working with her hands. “As life becomes increasingly screen-based, I also made an intentional choice to engage in a physical mode of making. I’m learning a lot about sculpting with each piece I make,” she says. “Even though I do it a lot, I still find it very intriguing and mysterious.”
Baek’s pieces incorporate colors in gradients or patterns onto textured surfaces that show where she has rhythmically pushed and formed and the clay with her fingers, emphasizing the connection between maker and object. Asymmetrical and bulbous, her otherworldly sculptures are redolent of boulders, cacti, coral, or micro-organisms. Ambiguity is a core tenet of her practice, especially as it relates to transformation and growth. “This is a central theme in my work because I think this active moment is an opportunity for questions rather than answers and wondering rather than deciding.” She continues:
I make forms that may seem like hybrids of familiar things or something with unexpected qualities that may make something appear strange or foreign. I see this as a entry point for questioning our assumptions and allowing ourselves space for reflection and curiosity. As a Korean immigrant growing up in the U.S., I understood that minimizing my differences was important in order to cause less friction or discomfort to others. Now, I perhaps feel some strength and joy in revealing the stranger side of something through my work.
Baek’s first solo exhibition The Pleasure of Growth continues through May 20 at Culture Object in New York. Find more on her website, and follow updates on Instagram.
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Join Us for a Colossal Workshop on Decorative Ceramic Techniques with Sophie Woodrow
Artist Sophie Woodrow (previously) joins Colossal for a technique workshop on decorative patterns for clay. In this two-hour session, Woodrow will teach students how to create the textured motifs she utilizes in her figurative porcelain works on small pinch pots. Attendees are invited to work on their preferred material to learn coiling, chequering, dotting, and more, which can be translated to a variety of projects. As this is a technique workshop—see some examples of motifs below—the goal is not necessarily to finish the session with a completed project, although participants may do so.
Register here, and if you’re a Colossal Member, be sure to use the code in your account for $10 off. 10 percent of the proceeds for this workshop will benefit the Chicago Abortion Fund.
Woodrow’s ethereal porcelain figures make connections between human culture and the natural world. She first coils then incises and imprints to create a richly textured surface that harmonizes with a simple graphic form. References are conjured to cultures far away and long ago, engaging our memories and imaginations.
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Aman Khanna’s Clever Clay Characters Exude Universal Expressions of Tenderness and Emotion
With a background in graphic design and illustration, New Delhi-based artist Aman Khanna has always had a knack for expressing human emotions and experiences in his quirky, playful personalities. Over time, he yearned to build something three-dimensional with his hands as a way to complement his predominantly digital, two-dimensional process of graphic design. An opportunity to explore this new direction arose when he attended the 2013 Pictoplasma Academy, an annual character art conference in Berlin.
Khanna experimented with shaping clay for the first time as he prepared for the Pictoplasma group show, and he hasn’t looked back. “I began to create small clay sculptures that were inspired by human feelings, emotions, and interactions,” he says, sharing that he enjoys working with the material because of its ancient history and connection to the earth. “The fact that it can be moulded into any shape or form is fascinating to me.”
The figures, which he calls Claymen, portray a spectrum of expressions inspired by the intricacies of the human condition. Some sport legs and arms or participate in activities like scuba diving and relaxing with friends, while others’ simplified, disc-like faces depict a range of feelings. “The emotions evoked in us through our actions, reactions, and how we interact with one another has led me to understand how fragile we are,” he says, “and I find that clay allows me to communicate that.”
Khanna works alongside a team of 15 assistants in the Claymen studio, and you can find more of his work on his website and Instagram.
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Kaci Smith Weaves Colorful Patterns into Miniature Looms Fashioned from Wishbones and Branches
In autumn of 2020, artist Kaci Smith was faced with a compound dilemma: daily life was still affected by the pandemic while devastating wildfires spread around her home in Northern California. “The air was so filled with smoke that even my studio became off limits,” she says. “The first branch weaving was just a way to pass some time and do something creative while being stuck indoors.” Smith had previously turned to the craft as a calming and meditative complement to her collage and painting practice, so when she began to forage for twigs that she could transform into delicate looms, she was excited about the possibilities and a new challenge.
Weaving colorful weft threads through plain warp threads, Smith’s interventions suspend web-like miniature tapestries in natural frames. Depending on the size of the branch or the complexity of the pattern, a piece can take several days to complete. A few months ago, she was inspired to utilize a leftover wishbone as “a way to honor the turkey that fed my family on Thanksgiving,” she says, and sources additional pieces online as byproducts of the poultry industry. “Even though tapestry is basically ‘painting with yarn,’ you can never rush it. The very nature of it teaches patience, and there is a special rhythm in the repetition.”
Find more of Smith’s work on her website and Instagram.
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Editor's Picks: Craft
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.