Stories Within Stories, 2023
Air-Dry Clay, Polymer Clay, and Acrylic Paint on Cardboard
My artwork is a clay structure. It is a physical representation of a scene from the novel Spy School Revolution, by Stuart Gibbs. The scene takes place in the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress. The subjects are two main characters, Erica Hale and Zoe Zibbell. This is an important scene because Zoe betrays her classmate and friend. Zoe is wielding a sword while Erica steps back in surprise at the betrayal.
I chose to create this artwork because I wanted to try something completely new. Clay is a material I have little experience with, and I have never tried to sculpt detailed walls or figures of characters. I decided on this book because my go-to answer when asked about my favorite author or series used to be Gibbs’s Spy School series. My artwork does not address a personal or social issue. It is a homage to an author whose books I enjoyed very much, now that I am no longer in his target demographic.
To create the walls of the building, I used air-dry clay and tools from a clay-sculpting kit. My structure has only a vague resemblance to the actual Jefferson Building because I realized very early on that I would not be able to recreate all the details of the walls. I focused on the big picture and repeated designs. I shaped the clay into flat rectangles and made cutouts for the windows. After the clay dried, I fixed the cracks and carved the clay, then glued the flat clay walls to cardboard. I used armature wire and polymer clay to create the people. Lastly, I painted everything with acrylic paint, added a sealer, and assembled the pieces. The final product features movement (through the multiple lines and edges), emphasis on the people in the building, and was meant to have symmetry and balance.
My goal was to recreate a scene from a book, and I got the general idea. I did have to leave out many details and modify the scene to fit my abilities. I learned that air-dry clay does not dry exactly the way it is left, which resulted in the final piece not being as clean or detailed as I hoped.
Receiving this grant has given me the opportunity and drive to try a new project. I had something to look forward to and do with my time. It presented me with multiple challenges to work through and helped me learn about my skills and clay as a medium.