Disembodied faces and fingers encircle the surreal vessels created by Canopic Studio, a Los Angeles-based practice helmed by Claire and Curran Wedner. Known for their ceramics that display human anatomy in a repetitious pattern, the husband and wife recently diverged from the black-and-white works previously mentioned on Colossal to create a series entirely in celadon, a jade color with a rich history.
The translucent glaze originated in China and was prominent throughout the country for centuries before being replaced by blue-and-white porcelain. It’s traditionally made with a bit of iron oxide—too little creates a blue color, while too much produces a darker olive or black—and then fired in a reducing kiln at a high temperature.
Curran says he first experimented with the glaze in 2004 as part of a ceramics class and returned to it now after researching cone 10 gas firing and reduction, or the process of decreasing oxygen in the kiln. The resulting pieces shift in color with the light, a trait that dovetails with the studio’s interest in mutable identities and idiosyncrasies that shows up in the shape of their works.
Pieces are created using the same mold to produce similar, but not identical, body parts. When attached in rows on the mug or bowl, the single face or finger becomes one of many, each defined by its slight difference. “I’m interested in identity and how it shifts when we go from being alone to being a part of a crowd,” Curran says. He explains:
I like prodding that space in between, where identity feels almost pliable or molten, then hardens, then shifts again, and so on. When the face I’m using is pulled from a single mold, it has a surreal quality—so identical it’s almost eerie, and all the tiny flaws and differences come forward when they otherwise wouldn’t.
Right now, Canopic Studio is in the process of creating a line of face medallions finished with 22 karat gold. The duo list new pieces bi-monthly on Etsy, and you can keep an eye out for shop updates and see works-in-progress on Instagram.
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“I have always viewed the body as a transitory object,” writes artist Christina Bothwell. From human-animal hybrids to pregnant creatures to figures fused together, Bothwell’s oeuvre suspends various life forms in states of flux: a baby precariously rests on a mother’s back, a young girl grasps onto another’s legs, and others peer into the distance as if they’re about to move forward.
The artist’s subject matter is rooted in the ethereal and embodies the delicate ways spirits and physical figures change over time. Her process, however, mirrors that focus on transformation. From her studio in rural Pennsylvania, Bothwell begins each multi-media piece with a sketch before translating the head into a clay form. To create the weathered appearance, she utilizes pit firing, which involves covering the sculpture with hay or leaves and burning them. The smoke from the fire leaves behind a carbon residue on the clay.
When working with glass, Bothwell sculpts warm beeswax that she uses to cast a plaster-and-silica mold. She then fills the empty shape with chunks of colored glass, which are placed in a kiln for annealing, cooled in cold water, and finally sanded and chiseled down. Hand-painted details adorn the sculpture’s exterior, along with found objects like antique prosthetic eyes, deer antlers, and ball feet.
The result of this months-long technique is a surreal collection that merges the organic forms and processes of nature with uncanny details. Each lusterless piece explores the relationship between the alluring oddities of the exterior and the translucent insides, which Bothwell explains:
Changing the body is merely adjusting the outer wrapping, as far as I can see… I am intrigued with the spirit world, and I imagine that we pass in and out of it, into the physical realm with bodies, then out of it at the end of life into lighter, energy bodies… And along the way throughout our lives, we transform ourselves constantly, reinventing who we are on a daily basis.
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Fanni Sandor has been fascinated by miniatures since childhood, constructing her first sculpture from toothpicks, candle wax, paper, and glue at six years old. “In my country, there (are) no traditions of the 1:12 scale miniature making. In my twenties, I met the first professional miniaturist’s work through the internet. I was completely fascinated,” she tells Colossal.
Today, the Hungary-based biologist and artist fashions minuscule baby bluejays clamoring for food, a mouse peeking out from a bit of bread, and a waddling family of mallards. Inspired by her background in biology, the miniatures feature incredibly accurate details, and most fit easily on the tip of a finger.
Sandor will spend anywhere from two days to two weeks on a single piece, noting that the robin’s nest alone took three days. Her process is multifaceted and begins with collecting photographs of the species before sketching a prototype. Forgoing molds, the artist employs embossing and pin-ending tools to sculpt the animal figures from polymer clay and wire. After baking, she chisels a few more details, paints, and attaches the fur and feathers where necessary.
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Tomohiro Yasui is best known as the creator of the paper robot wrestlers called kami-robo, but that’s not the only medium his imagination has conquered. Using wire and cheap rubber duckies, squirting frogs, and plastic hammers, the Japanese artist builds posable action figures that deserve their own Saturday morning cartoons and comic books.
Having spent the past 35 years designing paper robots and plastic toys, Yasui is an expert when it comes to humanoid anatomy in dynamic poses. Multiples of the same donor toys were used to create the chiseled physiques, which means that all of the pieces match in texture and color and did not have to be repainted. If the fantasy figures were packaged and displayed on a shelf in the toy section, no one would be able to guess that they were cut, reconfigured, and assembled by hand.
To see more of these unlikely heroes come to life, follow Yasui on Twitter.
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Japanese artist En Iwamura creates large ceramic sculptures of heads with minimalist facial features. Holes and slits reference eyes and mouths on the oddly-shaped forms, while uniform grooves traverse the clay surfaces in complex patterns. With site-responsive installations, the artist introduces viewers to the Japanese philosophy of Ma—the relationship between viewers, objects, and negative space—and gives them the opportunity to experience it first-hand.
Born in Kyoto to artist parents, Iwamura studied at Kanazawa College of Craft and Art where he earned MFA and BFA in Crafts/Ceramics. In 2013, he traveled to the United States to study at Clemson University and was later invited to give artist talks and lead workshops in New Hampshire and Montana. Through lectures, his artistic practice, and exhibitions with New York-based Ross + Kramer Gallery, Iwamura has explored ways of altering audience experiences while introducing them to the uniquely Japanese concept of Ma. “People constantly read and measure different Ma between themselves,” the artist said in a statement, “and finding the proper or comfortable Ma between people or places can provide a specific relationship at a given moment.”
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Using small polymer clay shapes, Justyna Wołodkiewicz (previously) creates embroidered works that extend beyond the fabric within the hoop. The Poland-based artist molds clay into tiny colorful pieces that she punctures with holes, positions at various angles, and binds with multi-colored thread. “What you see in my embroideries is highly filtered visual and sonic information'” Wolodkiewicz tells Colossal. “It travels through my eyes, brain, and hands, landing in the physical world again, this time in the shape of my hand-stitched pieces.”
The artist’s choice of color, composition, and texture are crucial components in her “micro-worlds” because “they convey a strong emotional message innate to human beings. They suggest very complicated nets of relationships. The upward stitches symbolize the way people are bonded with all that surrounds them,” she says.
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