First of new series completed

First completed piece of my newly evolving series, working title for the series: “If You’re Not Laughing, You’re Not Paying Attention.” Approx. 12 x 12 x 6, wall mount, hand-built one of a kind fired ceramic w/underglaze, SOLD (thanks C&L of Portland).

More about this piece in previous post.

I say ‘evolving’ series because I still feel like more of an observer of my current work than an originator of it — the meaning is still in the process of settling in. The most obvious common denominator is laughter. Some pieces look like “hearty laughter.” Others look more tweaked, perhaps drifting closer to maniacal laughter…which is fine by me, I can easily identify with that…maniacal laughter seems a perfectly rational response to much going on around me in these strange times economically and politically.

I’m in the midst of being a guinea pig in my own experiment: experiencing the positive endorphins released in the process of sculpting big laughs. It’s hard to be all hang dog when face to face with huge laughter.

New piece underway, similar to previous so far

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12/12 finessed ears and teeth. Think I’m about done with sculpting phase. Was going to do some other things with this, but kind of like it the way it is so may leave it. I was going to do the same things to the previous similar one, but decided to keep it as it was…I can just keep making more until I’m ready to try the modifications on one…

13w x 14h x 8d in wet clay stage — pretty big.

12/11 revision with oversized ears roughed in…think I’ll leave them this big for comic effect; will refine them tomorrow after the clay has had a chance to firm up a bit.

Soooo time consuming! but fun.

My inner critic is heckling me for spending so much time on these faces without knowing if they will sell for enough to make even minimum wage for my time. So far it’s not getting to me…I’m too busy enjoying the process, which for now is worth more than money to me.

2010 is still here, and I’m savoring it

A year ago I was optimistic and excited about living the futuristic sounding year 2010, and it has not disappointed! It’s been tumultuous for us, but momentous as well. I’m sorry it’s nearing its end, but it’s not over yet. There’s still 1/14th of the year left.

Many good things going on artistically:

–A local couple made a very encouraging purchase from me today, they bought one of the brand new pieces I’m working on before I’ve even finished it! It still needs one more trip through the kiln to fire on the underglaze. I’ll post a photo of it later with its final finish, but you can see it in wet clay form here: If You’re Not Laughing, You’re Not Paying Attention. Thanks C & L from Portland! This was a wonderful affirmation for me as I continue to experiment with this new series. Visitors to our just-completed Open Studios event saw me working on another in this series, not named yet, shown in the slideshow a couple entries below (female face, ram’s horns), which I finished sculpting today.

–I like my new studio. I know I’ve said that before, but if I can’t repeat it to my blog, where can I say it?!? Today I had fun showing dozens of Open Studio visitors my new space and new sculptures in process or fresh out of the kiln.

–The positive response to our Open Studio event (five days over two weekends) was energizing and motivating! I want to populate my tall white walls with a crowd of sculpted faces!

–I’m looking forward to my next piece, based on a photo of a boy letting out a roar of a laugh! I contacted the photographer who immediately gave me his blessing to use it as reference. It may well end up looking like an old man simultaneously with looking like a youngster, which would be fine by me…that’s kind of how I feel! Anyway, I’m anxious to be “surprised” by how it turns out over the next several days. I’ll add new photos to the slideshow below as it progresses (12/10 update: sculpting phase complete as shown in final slide):

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Wood Sculpture…kind of

Quick sketch on an envelope…

…in short order turned into a sturdy, adjustable angle sculpture stand.

It’s so nice to have a DRY indoor area to build things like this in our new location! I can do woodworking any hour of of the day or night in the large hallway right outside the studio door.

I began my current face/head sculpture on a vertical board. The clay stayed put just fine until I added a lot more weight with the curling horns…I’m lucky the whole thing didn’t plop facefirst onto the floor, but fortunately it gave me some warning by suddenly but uneventfully coming unstuck and gapping about half an inch from the supporting board. So I leaned it at an angle temporarily while I built the above adjustable tilt stand to use in just such situations. I’ve been wanting such a stand for a long time, now I have it!

Sculpting the Sculptor

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By ‘sculpting the sculptor’ I don’t mean a self portrait, but rather working on my real flesh and blood self moment by moment day by day month by month year by year decade by decade until death do me part. It’s not rocket science, but more like gardening…hacking away at what I don’t want, planting and cultivating attributes I do want. Nor is it usually very interesting or exciting; more often it’s boring and tedious, like weeding. And, like weeding, once isn’t enough. The weeds keep coming back.

So every day I’m alive, entropy happens, and it’s up to me to take proactive steps to counter it.

I’m encouraged to persevere in my biological sculpting efforts by research in the field of neuroplasticity, defined on Wikipedia as follows:

Neuroplasticity (also known as cortical re-mapping) refers to the ability of the human brain to change as a result of one’s experience, that the brain is ‘plastic’ and ‘malleable’. The discovery of this feature of the brain is rather modern; the previous belief amongst scientists was that the brain does not change after the critical period of infancy.

If I’m diligent in my efforts to supplant negative traits with better ones, I’m actually changing the structure of my brain. Sculpting neurons.

I’m bringing up this topic because this past weekend we had a lot of folks come to our first ever event in our new space (thank you one and all, it was a big success!), and I noticed how much it took out of me to talk about my work and/or show people my in-process work in my new studio space. Part of me would rather keep all that to myself until the work is completed. But I know I appreciate it when other artists open up about their process, their insecurities, their energy swings, so it’s not fair for me not to. I’d like to get past the reticence though, grow thicker skin…get to the point where such experiences energize me rather than drain me. I can use the vague sense of inadequacy stirred up by such interactions to spur me to dig even deeper, work even harder to develop my creative skills and work habits. To develop a lattice of neurons robust enough to shake off occasional scrutiny, whether from my own inner critic or studio visitors.

I think part of the issue is that I create work for myself, not for “the public.” I’m just not much of a social animal, I guess…I’d rather let my sculpture do the talking.

‘Stressed but OK’

Quick sketch, about a foot high.  SOLD  Fired, underglazed…may just wax it and leave it pretty much like this photo. I resonated with this while sculpting it, decided to leave it alone when I grabbed the head and pulled upward, causing neck to appear strained. ‘Stressed but OK’ is a common modus operandi for many of us these days.

“If You’re Not Laughing, You’re Not Paying Attention!”

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Another experiment with a wall mounted piece; working title, “If You’re Not Laughing, You’re Not Paying Attention!” It’s almost life size. (photo of finished piece added 12/23)

This one happened without any preconceived idea of what to make today…just pawed through some reference clippings first thing this morning in the studio and used a postage stamp size mug shot of some random guy as a jumping off point. It was fun to be “surprised” by the day’s work. No I don’t have any idea what kind of ears those are…except that they are NOT intended to be rabbit ears! I roughed in various shapes and sizes of horns and hair tufts, but these ears seemed the funniest so I went with them.

Not sure where if anywhere this is a step toward, but at least I’m making wall mountable work for a change instead of work that needs a pedestal/table/ledge to live on.

I think of “sketches” like this one as experiments/explorations because I feel like I’m flailing about in new territory. I learned from such things as:

–I first made the neck straight under the head, then impulsively sliced off one side and added to the other, instantly making the pose more interesting to me.

–moving the irises/pupils to one side enhanced the “turning his head” effect (extrapolating from the ram’s horn experiment a few days ago where I directed the gaze sideward/downward, in that case to engage the viewer as she/he comes along the hall toward the studio door)

–still didn’t get the lips flat enough…it looks like he’s saying “Heyyy” or something…difficult to convince my brain to flatten the lips out against the teeth as they would be when smiling broadly. (It isn’t obvious in the photo, but that’s his tongue, not lower teeth, just inside the lower lip.)

–nostrils widened since they are attached to the skin that is pulled back by the cheek muscles

–I’ll correct it before the clay dries, but when I snapped this photo I had forgotten to add clay underneath his left eye (right in the photo) where it would be pooched up from the rising cheeks. This makes his left eye look more like it’s looking, and his right eye look more like it’s laughing.

–experimenting with muscles in forehead and their contribution to the emotions conveyed

–it’s difficult for me to get wrinkles right…to get a solid material to look like supple skin…I feel I made some progress on this piece, but have a long way to go.

–I’m curious why a certain shape looked “funnier” to me (horns/hair/ears)? Is it the extreme sideways positioning of the ears? Are moose inherently funnier looking than deer? Is it because predators faces are often more vertical (eyes closer together and smaller), and harmless creatures’ ears are usually larger (to hear predators)? Chihuahuas do look funny with their big side mounted ears, vs a dobie with clipped vertical ears.

So, while the resulting sculpture is the most obvious product of a sculpting session, it’s definitely not the only product; I’m also enlarging my repertoire of ideas and skills to use on future projects.

Another nice by-product when it happens, as it did today: enjoyment of the process!

Ram horns experiment

Progress as of Tuesday night. It was about 8 p.m. when I was ready to slice off the horns, so I asked one of the moped guys next door to catch them. With horns out of the way, I sculpted regular human ears underneath…but then covered them mostly back up with hair. Sculpting phase is over, let the hollowing out begin.


Partially done — hope to finish the sculpting phase on Sunday. About 12″ high. Noodling around for something to put over the door to my new studio space…originally intended for this to be a small maquette, but it grew along the way, so maybe if it turns out OK it can serve as the final, at least for awhile.

‘Obsession’ show write-up

Nice write-up by Teri Sund about the ‘Obsession’ show:

Steve Eichenberger refers to himself as ‘sculptor,’ yet that term seems limited in describing his artistic accomplishments. Perhaps the titles builder, engineer, architect and alchemist all contribute to the understanding of what is involved in the creation of each work of art. For Eichenberger, who works primarily in clay, the finished piece is the end result of a long developed process of “how to.” His obsession lies within the challenge to do what appears to be the impossible. While his imagery is strong, direct and uniquely profound, for Eichenberger it is not the crux of his drive and/or passion as an artist. His obsession lies in deciphering what needs to be developed to achieve the monumental sculpture he is known for.

That being said, Eichenberger’s imagery cannot be taken lightly. When discussing his work, he states, “Sculpture is my attempt to combine desirable and/or necessary attributes for navigating our post–911 world into symbolic form. It’s a messy business trying to decide what’s ‘right’! For example, gentleness sounds good, but too much of it and tyrants will rule. Heroism sounds good, but what if the saved aren’t worthy of the hero’s sacrifice?” These are considerations of Eichenberger’s as he utilizes the three dimensional realm to convey the complex question of what it means to be human. He incorporates such things as massive musculature, impossible balance, direct meaningful gaze, the tension of posture, animal analogy, as well as scale to reflect the delicate battle of balance within mankind, as an individual or a society. “I don’t mind looking strange to others as I struggle to concoct the optimum balance of attributes to ethically deal with today’s out-of-balance world. The privilege of being alive is so enormous that I don’t mind putting enormous effort into appreciating it, observing it, and reflecting on it…and I use sculpture to do so.”


And here’s the statement I wrote for the ‘Obsession’ show:

Artists’ Statement:

Steve Eichenberger

A person who is obsessed may well not consider themselves to be. This has been the case for me. I’ve simply been going along with what appeared in my sketchbook, trying to stay out of the way. And rabbit ears kept showing up. On everything.

The obsession’s first project was the physical challenge of keeping tall ears from falling down in the wet clay stage. I propped and skewered and accepted whatever motley shapes I could get to stand up. The familiar inner response of “that’s cool, but you can do better” compelled me to keep trying again, and again, to form the perfect pair of hare’s ears. By “perfect” I don’t mean anatomically correct, but rather a vivid, insistent inner vision I was compelled to replicate in reality.

I was/am mesmerized by the long slow curves, the tapering of the thickness of the clay, the ear shape’s inherent structural integrity, the volume enclosed, the interaction of negative space between the ears, the flow of line from nose to eartip.

Dozens of iterations later, after developing better armatures and refining sculpting techniques, I have come much closer to matching that inner ideal of form/shape…and the obsession is vindicated as I draw my fingers along fired curves.

Just as romance can be diminished by over-analyzing, an obsession can dry up when exposed to light and air by rational critique. Is it even possible to purposely generate an obsession? wouldn’t it then be a “pursuit”? I experience strong right and left brain influences simultaneously. Too often this means my left brain heckles the right brain into submission. So I value a good obsession once in awhile. The trick is to look the other way and let it play out.

RiverSea Preview Opening

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RiverSea Gallery “Obsession” show on Preview night, November 6, 2010.

This coming Saturday, November 13 from 5 to 8 Jackie and I (and Shannon) will be there again for the “regular” opening when locals converge on downtown Astroria for Second Saturday walkabout.

The trend toward having two openings — a “preview” night for art lovers and a second one for the masses — is ironically the result of the success of “gallery walks” nationwide. We’ve seen it happen in Portland; First Thursdays have become a party night where everyone parades themselves around downtown. Gallery hopping fills up some galleries with wine-sipping hipsters to the extent that it’s hard to see the art or get a word in edgewise with a gallerist. Hence the trend toward preview events for art lovers.

The preview at RiverSea went well, with each of us — Jackie, Shannon and myself — giving a brief “artist’s talk” to genuinely interested patrons. Everyone was quiet and attentive. Good questions were asked. Appreciation was expressed. Red dots were placed. This “art first” atmosphere would be less likely on “citywide party night.”

RiverSea show Nov 6, Mtn views, new Raven birth

I’ll be in a three person show at RiverSea Gallery in Astoria, opening Nov 6 with a reception from 5 to 8. I took four of my large sculptures to be in the show. Jackie will have lots of work in it too. We’ll be interviewed on a local radio station, live, about the show on Friday afternoon the 5th.

New Raven sculpture completed for my line of cast ravens/crows available through galleries.

Mt Hood from my new studio location on Milwaukie Ave.

False color rendition of Mt St Helens looking to the north from my new sculpture studio location. If it weren’t for a willow tree precisely placed to block the exact outline of her, I’d be able to see Mt St Helens out my window as I work. I only have to go a few paces to get this view though.

Time Keeps on Slipping…Into the Future…

Just completed our first full week of full production in our new studio spaces and it went very well! There are still many minor things I need/want to do — hang more shelves and lights, organize my own space now that I’ve organized everyone else’s, remove and replace the door so it opens out instead of into our space in the big room — but lots of work is getting done, the wire racks are filling up with work that will eventually go to galleries or tile dealers, we fired three kiln loads of work.

I started this blog for discussing/showing my large scale ceramic sculptures, but I think it may be a few weeks before I can get back to sculpting my large signature works. In the meantime, I need to give some attention to my line of cast crows/ravens (worked on new molds yesterday and today), and maybe make some letters/numerals, and fun tiles like grasshoppers or whatever…to sell through galleries.

Now that the move is mostly completed, I hope to now have time to get back to regular exercise — to stoke my energy engines. And maybe even do one or two hours a week of non-work related activities!

I like my new studio. Now I need me “back” so I have somebody to work in it. All in good time……….

In other news, I’ve accepted an invitation to be in a three person show at RiverSea Gallery in Astoria next month. It’s with Jackie, and Shannon Richardson (painter).

Belated photo of my booth space at Art in the Pearl a month ago:


I’ve birthed a new studio! At least that’s what it’s felt like…lots of PUSHING to get everything installed and ready for us and our assistants to work productively/efficiently at 5040 SE Milwaukie in Portland.

Fast Lane

I haven’t updated because I haven’t had any spare moments! I don’t now either, stealing sleep time for a quick update:

–Art in the Pearl was not as good a selling show as the Bellevue Arts Museum show was for me, but I had a great time seeing lots of friends and relatives since it was a hometown show. I made triple my expenses, which beats going in the hole! The AIP crowd seemed to be interested in coming for art’s sake. LOTS of encouraging comments about my work, which go a long way toward energizing me to keep on sculpting. Thanks to all of you who took the time to visit my booth and share your thoughts.

— Two weeks or so before Art in the Pearl we started moving our studios to a commercial space 10 miles away. It’s a monumental undertaking, largely dependent on me to do wiring, plumbing, carpentry, ventilation, and general logistics, so I’m in the fast lane from waking to falling into bed, seven days a week.

— Got an e-mail today from a regional community college asking for my work in an invitational sculpture show in Feb/Mar 2011. An honor to be asked, to be noticed. Said they’d attempt to get television and magazine coverage. I don’t think it would be a selling show, but I certainly have motivations other than $$ for sculpting…or else I wouldn’t be doing it! It might end up costing quite a bit for delivery expenses…I’d have to rent a truck. Too busy in my brain to figure out all the pros and cons at the moment…but as I said it’s nice to be noticed!

BAM was a success!

My first-ever show  — was a success! Thanks to the customers who supported me with purchases, I can now justify continuing to sculpt my self-expressive works! This is huge! This show was truly a career changer. I’m already planning to apply to more shows in 2011.

Thanks, T., M. & H. for everything.

Meanwhile, it’s only 37 days till the Art in the Pearl show, so it’s back out to Studio G for me. If I push it, and if the weather stays warm to dry out the clay quickly, I might be able to get one or two new pieces done in time to show them. I’m definitely feeling motivated after the validation my work received at BAM — it will be such a relief to have more positive energy, less fear of failure to fight against.


July 20 update

I added official photos of my newest pieces to the Portfolio section tonight, complete with dimensions and statements.

Welcome to any new visitors just tuning in from BAM (Bellevue Arts Museum ArtsFair show)!

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