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Blocks of Jelutong wood ready and waiting to be made into....

A direction to head in and a sculpture challenge

Blocks of Jelutong wood ready and waiting to be made into sculptures and masks over the next week
Blocks of Jelutong wood ready and waiting to be made into….

I have always had trouble deciding on which direction I want my art to go in, actually that’s not strictly true. Other people have always told me I have trouble deciding what to do, that I am indecisive. I feel that I have only had trouble since I left uni, when I was there I hit on a direction and whole heartedly went with it. It was quite personal work based around me and my feelings and my confidence and I was not sure that I wanted to continue along that line afterwards. I backed away from basing my work around myself completely and have spent years trying to figure out what to do instead…which mostly ended up being nothing…I have finally come to the conclusion that I have no other choice, I have to do that which is inside of me, I have to have some personal meaning in my work. Well at least in a part of my work I have to satisfy that urge, scratch that itch if you like. It may sound like an almost trivial decision but it has taken me a long time to reach that conclusion.

One thing that I have realised recently is that although I have said since I was small that I wanted to be a sculptor I had never actually worked out what kind of sculpture I wanted to do, what material, what theme, what area, no specific detail. Looking back I feel that may be due to it being frowned upon, even in a creative family, and I didn’t rebel enough to just go and do it so I was feeling unfulfilled for a long time but doing nothing about it and not even working out what I really wanted.

The work I produced for my degree show was sculptural, more sculptural than the tutors on my course liked, but after that I just seemed to let it dwindle away. And once I took over the frame carving business it seemed to disappear altogether as I had other things right in front of me that needed to be dealt with first, namely making work that would be guaranteed to be paid for, work on commission.

I have over the past few years realised that something is missing, I don’t feel right, there is more that I want and need to do. I have never stopped having ideas, nor being inspired, nor coming up with things to make yet I have never really pursued any of them. I am very good at setting up my own barriers and stopping myself moving forwards, after all being right where I am is quite nice and comfortable and not at all scary or anything.

But the time has come to change that, I need for my soul to sing, I need to give myself a good hard shove out of my comfort zone and see where I end up. Up till now I have done that quite gently by trying different things, Netsuke, portrait sculpture, life drawing, corset making, latex clothing, chainsaw carving, but I haven’t really shared all that much with anyone, as I’ve not been sure where I’m headed I’ve just done it for myself.

And I have discovered that I have trouble finishing things that are done just for me, well if you don’t finish it you can’t show it to anyone can you? Commissioned frames I do not have trouble with, they are always finished on deadline. And I also got into the habit of if I did decide to share something I was trying I would not start talking about it until I knew it was going to work out. All things that I need to work on, and I have made a start by posting my life drawing when it was half way through and I didn’t know how it would turn out, you can see the first part here and the second part here. Yes I finished it and I shared it and even though it was a scary experience no puppies have died and nothing bad has happened…I think I may well do it again…in fact I am going to do it again, hence this post.

I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out answers to my own questions of direction and what kind of sculpture I want to make and I feel that I finally have some inkling of where I am going to start. I have realised that I can only choose a starting point and see where it takes me, I cannot plan out the whole thing, I cannot guess where I’m going to end up. Attempting to do that is what has caused me to not even start in the past. I have to concentrate on the now and trust that it will lead to somewhere and not try to work out that end point. The only thing that I do know is that I would like it to be some form of sculpture, although there is no actual guarantee that it will end up as such.

The starting point I have decided on is my fascination with faces, and people, and their bodies, and personalities, and emotion, and how much you cannot tell about someone just by looking at them, the things that are hidden, the things that cannot be seen. I am not quite sure how this will manifest itself, but I am going to give myself the starting point of exploring this by looking at masks…..

I have devised myself a challenge, something to get me making and finishing work and all to a set time deadline. For the next 5 days I will make one piece per day, based around the emotions and feelings I am having on the day. I will get each piece to a finished state in that day and then I will share it with you. At this time I have no real idea what size I will be making the pieces, I’m guessing I will find out what I can do in the time that I have available as I still have other work to do as well. The woodchips (my newsletter) readers will get to see the finished result first on the morning of the following day and then I will post here on the blog in the afternoon. I may well be posting sneak peeks of the pieces as I work on them on instagram and twitter. If you would like to be among the first to see what I am up to then please do sign up to get woodchips in your inbox here.

I am really excited about this and so looking forward to it, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind since I only decided to do this late last week. I have some pieces of wood on standby to give me some choice of size and shape (you can see some of them in the photo in this post). It’s going to be a busy week but I know that it will be worth it. I cannot wait to meet the pieces I am going to make. I do hope that you will come along with me….




Jutta M Stiller is a wood carver and sculptor specialising in Sculpture, Netsuke and Couture frames click here to subscribe to her newsletter ‘Tales From the Woodcarving Bench’ .