with Jennifer McCurdy
Jennifer McCurdy Harnesses an Island’s Natural Rhythms in Captivating Porcelain Vessels
The natural patterns of turning tides and changing seasons illuminate the delicate porcelain sculptures of Martha’s Vineyard-based artist Jennifer McCurdy. Responding to the shifts of island life—and “island time”—she draws inspiration from the surrounding environment and organic forms, like “the cracked conch shell on the beach revealing its perfect spiral to the milkweed pod burst in the field, its brilliant airborne seeds streaming into the sunlight,” she explains in a statement. Her wheel-thrown porcelain vessels capture both subtle and dramatic shifts in light and shadow, mimicking waves, gales, smoke, and flames.
In 2020, when, like many, McCurdy was obliged to slow down and approach her studio practice under the constraints of canceled exhibitions, she seized the opportunity to re-evaluate her own work, telling Colossal that “once my panic receded, I settled into the mindset of the sabbatical, exploring new forms and testing different carving patterns in the porcelain for optimal movement in the firing.” She broadened the questions she asked of her process and the influence it took from nature, such as how the rocks and shoreline met the surrounding sea or whether she could generate the energy of constant movement in her sculptures. “I think the direction of my work did not change, but it gained clarity from focusing on the space between and around each form,” she says.
McCurdy uses a translucent porcelain that she first shapes on a potter’s wheel and then manipulates, slices, or molds to create a sense of motion, often with a swirling or spiraling effect. A series of “pattern studies” highlight dynamic cuts that extend and slump with the assistance of gravity when fired upside-down in a kiln heated to cone ten—or 2,350 degrees Fahrenheit. With the addition of gold or platinum leaf on the interior, which is applied by the artist’s long-time collaborator, former sign painter, and husband Tom McCurdy, the vessels reflect light and evoke warmth, as if formed around a heat source
McCurdy’s work will be on display in Florida at Art Wynwood and The Palm Beach Show with Steidel Fine Art from February 16 to 19. In May, she will also exhibit in the Smithsonian Craft + Design Show in Washington, D.C. Find more on her website and Instagram.
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Porcelain Vessels Inspired by the Ocean Sculpted by Jennifer McCurdy
Guided in her ceramics studio by nature’s symmetrical and asymmetrical forms, artist Jennifer McCurdy works with inspiration from everyday objects, producing vessels that imitate natural specimens such as malformed conch shells and burst milkweed pods. Her sculptures are habitually one color, a white the same shade as the ocean’s surf. Keeping a very limited palette allows McCurdy to highlight the hollow areas of her pieces, casting shadows from her chiseled patterns.
“I use a translucent porcelain body because it has a beautiful surface, and it conveys the qualities of light and shadow that I wish to express,” said McCurdy in her artist statement. “After throwing my vessel on the potter’s wheel, I alter the form to set up a movement of soft shadow. When the porcelain is leather hard, I carve patterns to add energy and counterpoint. I fire my work to cone 10, where the porcelain becomes non-porous and translucent.”
McCurdy occasionally adds 23 carat gold leaf detail to the inside of her pieces, allowing them to glow from the inside. You can see more of her ocean-inspired vessels on her website, as well as within the pages of the book The New Age of Ceramics.
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Highlights below. For the full collection click here.