My most recent work investigates 3D clay-printed geometric vessels, alluding to both the mathematical symmetry of Platonic Solids and to the abstracted gesture and stance of the human figure. I am fascinated by historic anthropomorphic vessels, which convey narrative vignettes about relationships--connections and disconnections, meetings and partings.

During Covid lock-down, I taught myself Blender, a 3D modeling software, by watching YouTube videos. There is an interesting tension between control in designing on the computer and chance in the printing of clay. Unexpected variations in surface texture from “accidents” in the 3D clay-printing process give warmth to CAD forms. I want to bring my tactile sense of form into the digital sphere. The materiality of clay…How clay responds to gravity during extrusion, its viscosity—softness or hardness—you can’t see any of that on the computer screen. But I can still have a conversation with the “material” on the screen, manipulating the forms in myriad ways before printing it.

Using this new technology stimulates discovery, expanding possibilities of creating ceramic form. I bring to the process all my experience of clay as a material, my knowledge of ceramic history, as well as MY sense of form. My intention is what it always has been--to create unique, personal forms, which resonate, whether they are functional, metaphorical, or somewhere in between.

I have always been interested in the ability of a ceramic vessel to point to something beyond itself—to function as metaphor. Ceramic vessels, physically structured with necks, shoulders, bellies, and feet, can evoke the gesture and anthropomorphized stance of the human body; they also reveal deep aspects of human experience and of the natural world. Inspired by diverse cultural traditions, my work explores the ceramic vessel form in a variety of series. These series represent different but related expressive interests:

The ceramic vessel as a wellspring or womb, with possibilities of both fecundity and barrenness.

The vessel as Bottle, whose forms evoke the elongated posture of Cycladic idols and the scarified texture of Yoruba terracotta heads.

The Planet Series explores swirling colored surfaces on rounded orbs, suggesting planets as well as depths of earthly strata.

The Totem Series, departs from the vessel tradition, though is indebted to it. These totems express contemporary feminist sensibilities, while referencing archaic fertility figures such as Cycladic idols and the Venus of Willendorf. 

Each piece in these series are part of continually evolving solutions to a set of questions or parameters I have chosen to work within. The parameters, themselves, may change as the series evolve. My father used to say that we can keep reinventing ourselves through our lives. I am lucky to have the example of my mother, who at age 95, works in her sculpture studio every day. In my own studio practice, I continue to ask myself questions—What if? What does it evoke? Is that what I meant?--Exploring new forms and techniques. As I tell my students, there’s always more than one answer to a question. And so, my work changes over time. 

                                                                                        Ellen Schön