Alexandra Sheldon collage + Phoebe Sheldon ceramics
The Two Sisters exhibit features the collages of mixed media artist Alexandra Sheldon and functional ceramics from sister Phoebe Sheldon. Although each sister works in a different medium to express their artistic vision, with Alexandra working primarily in paper and paint and Phoebe working in clay, both women’s work has been greatly influenced by the natural world around them, both in terms of imagery and color palette.
Often I will walk my dog at the reservoir and come directly into my studio afterwards to mix up the colors of that particular day and season. I am also interested, like Pollock, in the nature of myself as a human being compelled to make marks. I want to be surprised in my studio and to go into unexcavated territory. I play with the materials: sanding, painting, drawing, printing, scratching, etc. I try to wrestle the process away from the control of the mind and go towards something physical and spontaneous. Above all else, I make art because it is, for me, a form of positive prayer in a troubled world.
I am currently working exclusively in high fire porcelain. Over a period of 15 years, I have learned to inlay layers of colored slips into the surfaces of my pieces. As I explored this technique, originally developed in Korea and called “mishima,” I found myself drawn into a fascinating world of pattern and color. At first, I was only able to inlay one or two layers of color, but then, bit by bit, I found ways to use more layers and hence more colors. I scrape the layers down to make the surface even and also to expose the white clay body, which has been etched using a steel point.
Over the last two years, I found that I could scrape the surface in such a way as to leave more of the underlying colors and expose less of the white clay, which has added another dimension to the work but has also greatly added to its difficult and pain-staking nature.
My pieces are all functional and simple in design. They have to be both simple and strong to survive all the etching, painting, and scraping and also to be able to support the complexity of the surface patterns. I have always tended to use images of birds, fish, and water in my designs. Very recently I have begun to do some pots where there are ‘shadow’ areas as if the piece had been broken and reconstructed or had a shadow cast upon it.