Interview with Suzanne Stumpf, Interactive sculptures - Techniques, April 2012

TECHNIQUES, April 2012: Suzanne Stumpf, Interactive sculptures

/ Read the full interview in Ceramics Now - Issue Two

Ceramics Now Magazine
: The versatility of your work is very inspiring and makes the viewer ask himself whether he should play with your works or just to admire their universe. When did you begin to create such intricate pieces?

Suzanne Stumpf: Thank you for your kind words. I began to create interactive sculptural pieces about 7-8 years ago, after I had been working in clay for about about three years or so. From the outset, drawing the audience in to touch and explore has always been a goal. But also, I have intended for each work to have its own strong essence that invites contemplation/reflection.

Modularity and interactivity are two main characteristics of your work. How much time does it take to complete a new work? Do you make many sketches?

My interactive sculptures generally take many weeks. The germination of an idea and realization of each work can also be a lengthy process, particularly when there are complicated construction or even “engineering” issues involved. I can sometimes spend a couple of months in the “head-scratching” stage and work on other projects while I sort out the steps and best approaches. I do keep a notebook with sketches and notes, but I do not personally find it easy to translate some of these projects onto the page. With a fairly good aptitude for spatial relations, I hold much of the planning in my head initially. Because I build primarily in porcelain, extremely slow drying is key — I cannot emphasize this enough. And, of course, this also adds to an already long creation process.

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Suzanne Stumpf Interactive sculptures, Contemporary Ceramics
Spike, 2008, 5.5”h x 8”w x 3” d, wheelthrown and altered porcelain with handbuilt components; black slip and shellac resist; oxidation fired to cone 10 - View her works

Some of your works consist in multi-component pieces that, put together, metamorphose each time in different compositions. Do your Interactive Sculptures illustrate the ludic dimension of art? How important is this element for you?

My answer depends on the tenor of the word “ludic”. Although the mere invitation to rearrange components may seem a playful act and some of my sculptures may even possess qualities of games, the interaction by the audience has never seemed aimless to me. To the contrary, I witness people being extremely thoughtful about what they are creating as they rearrange components. The idea with these works is that there are nearly innumerable permutations that the viewer can create, all of which will reveal different aspects of the sculpture’s essence for contemplation.

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Suzanne Stumpf: Nest with Eggs III, 2011, 10”w x 2.5”h, altered wheelthrown with handbuilt components; porcelain and porcelain paperclay; oxidation fired to cone 10
Both nests and eggs hold important concepts for reflection and meditation for me. Eggs represent new beginnings, promise, mystery, and fragility. Nests signify “home,” with the intention of comfort and protection, and in the case of wildlife, camouflage. As an avid birdwatcher, amateur naturalist, and sculptor, I am intrigued by the variety of nests found in nature for both their architectural inspiration and symbolism. These three works are from a series of nest sculptures I am making.

Suzanne Stumpf: Nest with Eggs III, 2011, 10”w x 2.5”h, altered wheelthrown with handbuilt components; porcelain and porcelain paperclay; oxidation fired to cone 10

Both nests and eggs hold important concepts for reflection and meditation for me. Eggs represent new beginnings, promise, mystery, and fragility. Nests signify “home,” with the intention of comfort and protection, and in the case of wildlife, camouflage. As an avid birdwatcher, amateur naturalist, and sculptor, I am intrigued by the variety of nests found in nature for both their architectural inspiration and symbolism. These three works are from a series of nest sculptures I am making.

Suzanne Stumpf: Nest with Eggs V, 2011, 9”w x 2”h, wheelthrown with handbuilt components; porcelain; oxidation fired to cone 10

Suzanne Stumpf: Nest with Eggs V, 2011, 9”w x 2”h, wheelthrown with handbuilt components; porcelain; oxidation fired to cone 10

Suzanne Stumpf: Diatoms, 2011, 16”w x 11”d x 3.5”h, handbuilt with wheelthrown components; porcelain and porcelain paperclay; oxidation fired to cone 10Interactive sculpture inspired by the beauty of these mysterious single-celled organisms. Upon learning that diatoms may also help against global warming, I was even more driven to “interpret” them.

Suzanne Stumpf: Diatoms, 2011, 16”w x 11”d x 3.5”h, handbuilt with wheelthrown components; porcelain and porcelain paperclay; oxidation fired to cone 10

Interactive sculpture inspired by the beauty of these mysterious single-celled organisms. Upon learning that diatoms may also help against global warming, I was even more driven to “interpret” them.

Suzanne Stumpf: Interactive Sculpture No. 9, 2008, 16”h x 8”w x 8”d, wheelthrown porcelain with handbuilt components; black slip and shellac resist; oxidation fired to cone 10Although Interactive Sculpture No. 9 appears at first glance to be some sort of game, there are no rules here. It is intended for the playful pleasure of the viewer to arrange the sticks with their different colored tips entirely to their own whim. (When all the sticks are removed the work is a trompe l’oeil with the raised black dots hiding its holes.)

Suzanne Stumpf: Interactive Sculpture No. 9, 2008, 16”h x 8”w x 8”d, wheelthrown porcelain with handbuilt components; black slip and shellac resist; oxidation fired to cone 10

Although Interactive Sculpture No. 9 appears at first glance to be some sort of game, there are no rules here. It is intended for the playful pleasure of the viewer to arrange the sticks with their different colored tips entirely to their own whim. (When all the sticks are removed the work is a trompe l’oeil with the raised black dots hiding its holes.)

Suzanne Stumpf: Egg Shell Nest, 2011, 16”w x 9.5”h x 10”d, handbuilt with porcelain paperclay; oxidation fired to cone 10Both nests and eggs hold important concepts for reflection and meditation for me. Eggs represent new beginnings, promise, mystery, and fragility. Nests signify “home,” with the intention of comfort and protection, and in the case of wildlife, camouflage. As an avid birdwatcher, amateur naturalist, and sculptor, I am intrigued by the variety of nests found in nature for both their architectural inspiration and symbolism. These three works are from a series of nest sculptures I am making.

Suzanne Stumpf: Egg Shell Nest, 2011, 16”w x 9.5”h x 10”d, handbuilt with porcelain paperclay; oxidation fired to cone 10

Both nests and eggs hold important concepts for reflection and meditation for me. Eggs represent new beginnings, promise, mystery, and fragility. Nests signify “home,” with the intention of comfort and protection, and in the case of wildlife, camouflage. As an avid birdwatcher, amateur naturalist, and sculptor, I am intrigued by the variety of nests found in nature for both their architectural inspiration and symbolism. These three works are from a series of nest sculptures I am making.

Suzanne Stumpf: Tubos, 2010, 28’w x 7”d x 11”h (total area as shown), handbuilt with porcelain paperclay; reduction fired to cone 10Interactive sculpture: evocative of deep sea life, but inspired by organ pipes.

Suzanne Stumpf: Tubos, 2010, 28’w x 7”d x 11”h (total area as shown), handbuilt with porcelain paperclay; reduction fired to cone 10

Interactive sculpture: evocative of deep sea life, but inspired by organ pipes.

Suzanne Stumpf: Changeable Views, 2007, 15.5”w x 6”h x 4.5” d (window structure), handbuilt porcelain; reduction fired to cone 10The interactive sculpture Changeable Views is a very modular work—the windows may be left open or up to four of the twelve tiles may be inserted to create many varied views. The tiles have colors on one side and patterns of black and white on the reverse. Although the tiles were lined up flat and adjacent to each other when a number of colored glazes were applied (so technically there is an “order” to the tiles), the tiles “dialogue” and create interest in any number of combinations.Metaphorically, windows offer the opportunities to look outward, inward, more deeply, and in new directions. The interactive play possible in this piece is intended as a meditation for its audience.

Suzanne Stumpf: Changeable Views, 2007, 15.5”w x 6”h x 4.5” d (window structure), handbuilt porcelain; reduction fired to cone 10

The interactive sculpture Changeable Views is a very modular work—the windows may be left open or up to four of the twelve tiles may be inserted to create many varied views. The tiles have colors on one side and patterns of black and white on the reverse. Although the tiles were lined up flat and adjacent to each other when a number of colored glazes were applied (so technically there is an “order” to the tiles), the tiles “dialogue” and create interest in any number of combinations.

Metaphorically, windows offer the opportunities to look outward, inward, more deeply, and in new directions. The interactive play possible in this piece is intended as a meditation for its audience.

Suzanne Stumpf: Urchin, 2010, 3”h x 11” w x 11” d, handbuilt porcelain with wheelthrown components; oxidation fired to cone 10Urchin is an interactive sculpture as well as a puzzle. There are 13 barnacle-like components that have been attached (through firing) to the perimeter of Urchin, and there are 10 others that are removable. The movable “barnacles” can be used to make multiple arrangements (on and off Urchin). However, Urchin is also a puzzle: there is only one way that the free “barnacles” can all be fit securely and comfortably into the center space.

Suzanne Stumpf: Urchin, 2010, 3”h x 11” w x 11” d, handbuilt porcelain with wheelthrown components; oxidation fired to cone 10

Urchin is an interactive sculpture as well as a puzzle. There are 13 barnacle-like components that have been attached (through firing) to the perimeter of Urchin, and there are 10 others that are removable. The movable “barnacles” can be used to make multiple arrangements (on and off Urchin). However, Urchin is also a puzzle: there is only one way that the free “barnacles” can all be fit securely and comfortably into the center space.

Suzanne Stumpf: Whale Sounds, 2007, 8” h x 29” w x 20”d, porcelain or porcelain paperclay; handbuilt with thrown necks; reduction fired to cone 10.Whale Sounds is a multi-component, interactive sculptures. The shapes were inspired by listening to a recording of whales in which the whales’ calls ballooned rapidly and diminished into fine, thin, high endings. (Although some of the objects can elicit tones when blown, this was not my intention.)

Suzanne Stumpf: Whale Sounds, 2007, 8” h x 29” w x 20”d, porcelain or porcelain paperclay; handbuilt with thrown necks; reduction fired to cone 10.

Whale Sounds is a multi-component, interactive sculptures. The shapes were inspired by listening to a recording of whales in which the whales’ calls ballooned rapidly and diminished into fine, thin, high endings. (Although some of the objects can elicit tones when blown, this was not my intention.)

Suzanne Stumpf: Spike, 2008, 5.5”h x 8”w x 3” d, wheelthrown and altered porcelain with handbuilt components; black slip and shellac resist; oxidation fired to cone 10I am yet to meet a woman who does not smile knowingly or even laugh out loud when viewing “Spike.” “Für die Schönheit muß man leiden” — “For beauty, one must suffer.”
The fashion industry only seduced me into wearing too-high heels for a short time in my life. It was a long time ago, yet I do have a strong physical memory of how my feet felt after walking an unplanned distance or standing longer than anticipated in them.
“Spike” has innumerable permutations for viewing. When all of the black, orange, yellow, and white “pins” are removed, Spike is somewhat of a trompe l’oeil with the raised black dots disguising its holes. The pins at first glance seem to be playful pain indicators. Yet, because the pins are pointed on both ends, when we place them into Spike, can we feel also a wee bit of revenge?

Suzanne Stumpf: Spike, 2008, 5.5”h x 8”w x 3” d, wheelthrown and altered porcelain with handbuilt components; black slip and shellac resist; oxidation fired to cone 10

I am yet to meet a woman who does not smile knowingly or even laugh out loud when viewing “Spike.” “Für die Schönheit muß man leiden” — “For beauty, one must suffer.”

The fashion industry only seduced me into wearing too-high heels for a short time in my life. It was a long time ago, yet I do have a strong physical memory of how my feet felt after walking an unplanned distance or standing longer than anticipated in them.

“Spike” has innumerable permutations for viewing. When all of the black, orange, yellow, and white “pins” are removed, Spike is somewhat of a trompe l’oeil with the raised black dots disguising its holes. The pins at first glance seem to be playful pain indicators. Yet, because the pins are pointed on both ends, when we place them into Spike, can we feel also a wee bit of revenge?