It was our recent pleasure to speak with Columbia artist Jennifer Grisham about an exhibit of her work to be displayed at Square Market Cafe & Market, on the square in Columbia.
Q. How long have you been doing your artwork?
A. I have been making sculptures since I took a studio sculpture class in college. Hooked. I had a wide variety of jobs after that but always made sculpture in my spare time.
Q. Why do you do what you do?
A. Three dimensional form is endlessly fascinating for me. People’s eyes and hands have always held my interest for some reason. It’s also gratifying to be able to create a portrait of someone’s family member or pet for them.
Q. What piece are you most proud of?
A. My portrait bust of James K. Polk was catalogued by the Smithsonian Institution, but my favorite sculpture is usually the one I just finished.
Q. Could you explain the process by which your sculptures are created?
A. I make the original sculpture using a polymer clay that can be baked to a leather hardness when finished. I then take the piece to a bronze foundry near Atlanta where a flexible mold is made. From this mold, a wax model is made. I carefully rework the surface to make sure this wax replica is the same as the original. A ceramic mold is then made into which molten bronze is poured. After much filing, sanding and buffing a patina is applied with a blowtorch and a final coat of wax seals the bronze.
If the sculpture is not to be in bronze, I make the mold myself in my studio and cast the piece in resin or a marble/stone mixture.
Q. How do you work?
A. When starting a sculpture I occasionally make a pencil sketch but usually make a small clay model. If it’s to be a large sculpture, an armature or skeleton has to be constructed using PVC pipe, copper pipe, styrofoam and tape. Onto this unlovely configuration, slabs of clay are applied and molded by hand until a general form takes shape. Since my sculpture is extremely detailed, I use a small clay tool I make with a pencil and paper clips attached to the end to do the finishing work.
It’s best to work from life on a portrait, but this is usually impossible because of the time required. I do try to spend some time with the subject, whether its a person or an animal, to get an idea of their personality. In a well done sculpture, this personality will show through. I like to take my own photos of the subject – from all angles and from the top of the head looking down are essential. In working on portraits, I find that looking at the piece through a mirror helps get the proportions right. Also looking at the work in progress the first thing in the morning is most helpful in seeing flaws that weren’t apparent the day before.
Q. Is there a different avenue of art you’d like to pursue?
A. I’d like to explore paper making and using paper as a casting medium for sculpture.
Q. Is it true that your artwork will be displayed at Square Market in Columbia sometime soon?
A. My artwork (relief sculptures and drawings) will be on display at Square Market in downtown Columbia during the month of October. Square Market generously offers space on a long back wall to a different artist every month. This provides good exposure for the artist and an interesting change of scenery for the restaurant patrons. Win/win situation.