I must have been born to play with clay. There’s something about the ooey-gooey goodness of it that speaks to me. Sculpting is an altogether different kind of clay play, but just as incredible.
I had the opportunity to give it a go Tuesday last week (Nov. 19) at The Florence Studio. The studio is owned and operated by Canadians Tom Rekrut and Laura Thompson, who moved to the city in 2010. Laura teaches drawing and painting, and her work is amazing. She smiles a lot and is very encouraging. Tom is the sculptor and, therefore, was my instructor. He, too, is a very talented artist. He’s a bit of a pisser, though; a curmudgeon. Apparently, he’s prone to do the work for you instead of teaching you how to sculpt, which I always find to be a challenge. Laura scolded him a few times, playfully shooing him away. “Stop doing the work, Tom, you’re supposed to be teaching her!” He argued that he was just getting it started for me. She said, “She doesn’t even have any clay on her hands yet, because you’re doing the work.” He’d tell her to be quiet. “I’ve been married to you long enough to know exactly what you’re doing,” she persisted. He growled unpleasantly, “Yeah, thanks a lot for reminding me how long we’ve been married,” suggesting that it’s been misery for him.
Laura came back to check on me a few times. She taught me to use a sheet of paper to quickly eyeball my symmetry and true-up my lines. “It’s the same as in drawing,” she explained. She taught me how the eyes see what it wants to see sometimes, referring to light and shadows and contrast.
I gave it three hours and did my best to not get irritated when Tom worked on my piece and to ignore him, at Laura’s insistence, when he’d say, “Don’t worry about making the surface smooth,” then come back 20 minutes later and say, “You really need to work on smoothing out the surface of the clay.” I watched silently as his thumbs smoothed my clay for me.
All in all, I didn’t do too poorly, and I discovered that there just might be a sculptor in me trying to get out. In the end, both artists gave me their stamp of approval.
Before I left, Tom promised to wrap my sculpture in plastic and told me to come back “Friday or whenever” to pick it up and take home with me. “We’re here every day, so come anytime,” he said. I asked, “Will it make it through Customs?” He shrugged and said, “I don’t know.”
Dane returned to the studio Saturday to retrieve my pregnant torso while I packed. He returned to the hotel and said, “That guy’s a dick.” He said Tom growled at him; that he’d written me off after I failed to show Friday. Laura told him to behave, but he continued to growl. Dane said, “Look, I’m just here to pick it up for her.” Laura found it, apologized for her husband’s behavior, and Dane quickly moved to extract himself from Tom’s banter, which remained sullen albeit sprinkled with a desire to chat. He brought my clay torso to the hotel but, as it turned out, I had no room in my checked suitcase or my carryon to transport what now seemed a massive artifact, so I left it there on the floor, next to the small garbage receptacle, certain it would never have made it through Border Patrol or Customs anyway.
At least I have these photos by which to remember my pregnant torso and the two lovely kooks (well, one lovelier than the other) who introduced me to the art of sculpting. The torso was modeled after a woman named Camille, by the way. There’s a life-size version of it at The Florence Studio.