What a roller-coaster ride we’ve been on this past year and a half. The pandemic has certainly changed the way a lot of businesses operate. Many, including some art galleries have switched to online or semi-online business models with varying degrees of success. But, for sculpture, a photo doesn’t always do justice to the three dimensional aspect of this art form. Sculpture is something you have to experience by moving around it . . . by looking at it at different times of the day under different lighting . . . even by touch.
As sculptural artists, the members of the National Capital Network of Sculptors have missed being able to show our work in person. Our inspiration and motivation is fuelled by our interaction with our audience. We miss you!
That’s why we are so happy to announce our feature exhibition, Sculpture EXPO is BACK! But this time as a Pop-Up Show in one of the empty retail spaces at Lansdowne Park. There were many factors that didn’t make going back to the Horticulture Building feasible this year – the biggest being the last minute availability of the space which didn’t give us enough time to put on a show of that size. We were facing another cancelled show – BUT – gratefully and thanks to the Trinity Group we were able to secure the retail space formerly occupied by South Street Burger. Located on the stadium side of Exhibition Way at Lansdowne, the space is sandwiched between Goodlife Fitness and the Cigar Shop, across from Joey’s Restaurant.
The great thing is that we will be there for 10 days. September 30 to October 10th!
Over 20 artists and over 60 sculpture works will be on display over the first weekend and new works will be added over the second weekend. We will be open to the public Thursday to Sunday from 10am to 6pm. The full schedule is shown below.
With all that said, we want to cordially invite you to visit our Sculpture EXPO Pop-Up Show. We can’t tell you enough how much we are looking forward to seeing you and showing you what we have been creating. See you in a couple of weeks!
900 Exhibition Way, #108
Stadium Side (Formerly South Street Burger)
Thursday, September 30th to Sunday, October 3rd – 10am to 6pm
Thursday, October 7th to Saturday, October 9 – 10am to 6pm
Uwe Foehring moved to Ottawa 25 years ago, he lived an adventurous life in international development, living and working in many countries which he found more meaningful than in private industry. He was influenced and amazed by the new cultures that he encountered. He saw art was a common language that is cherished in every society, regardless of riches or development. His first placement in Malawi, southern Africa, was rich in beautiful people who have integrated art in their daily lives, applying pictures and reliefs on their clay houses. Foehring says he never really learned the local language, but surely understood their art.
In his earlier years, he had a friend in Germany, Ludwig Brumme, who was a successful stone sculptor. Their conversations and interactions planted ideas and shapes in Foehring’s head that he drew upon many years later. He turned those dormant ideas into stone when he started carving about 15 years ago. Although he had not received any formal training in the arts, he looked to courses to improve certain skills, whenever he felt the need to refine his craft.
Working in stone has a powerful emotional connection for him. He has also tried his hand at building sculpture in cement, and more recently in ice and snow. Each of these mediums requires a different set of skills and experience, but Foehring remains focused on stone carving.
To obtain raw stone can be quite costly. When living in Sri Lanka for 3 years in various work assignments, Foehring admired beautiful Sri Lankan works made from cheap cement. Naturally, being a creative soul, he tested the skills needed to build up a work in cement, so different from carving which requires removing stone. However, cement was a good alternative for him, especially for larger sculptures. At a Colombo art school, he found a teacher for large cement sculptures, Upali Ananda, who agreed to have the students build a Moai. Although the teacher didn’t speak any English and Foehring doesn’t speak Sinhala, they connected. Working with ones’ hands and the language of art doesn’t necessarily require words.
He often visualizes a final outcome before starting. But the longer he ruminates on that image the more it changes. But that’s only the first step in the artistic process. Another is to adapt the image to paper or stone or a musical instrument, where again it is changed by the tools and media we use, our personality, the mood of the day and who knows what else…. This, in essence, is ‘Expressionism. An expressionist will accept all these influences as part of reality and as part of their art pieces. For Uwe Foehring, art is a language that expresses things that he cannot say verbally. Even if the viewer does not understand the meaning right away, she will see that he has a message. He does not carve stone to show his beautiful skills. Foehring appreciates the freedom to do his own thing. He loves the crazy and comical – Marx Brothers and Freewheeling Franklin. He has no big ambitions or plans – until a new idea sparks his imagination.
When Foehring starts a stone carving, he usually has a rough idea of what he wants to create, but he says that at some point in the process his hands take over from his brain in the shaping process. Sometimes too, news events, injustices, nature or other factors may influence the outcome. Cement sculpture requires more planning and preparation – setting up the form work using wire of different strengthsand internal fill to reduce the thickness and weight of the cement while still providing the needed structural stability. Then he needs to mix the cement ingredients and apply it to the work at the right time so that it doesn’t end up sliding onto the floor.
For anyone wanting to start on the sculpture pathway, he is clear – practice, practice, practice, as with any skill. Foehring explains that skills and art are two different things – you can be the most skilful craftsman without being an artist. Art is in the urge to bring a message across while craft is the vehicle, however imperfect, to deliver the message. No matter what the art form, music, acting, painting, the message can be the same, but the skill-set will be different.
Uwe’s final message is ‘’Be in charge of your own training – don’t let market forces or fashion or teachers tell you what is good and proper art.’’
Taunyee Robbins was raised by the sea in the small town of Rockport, Massachusetts. She lived in Cape Ann, an artist’s community with a long tradition of famous painters who came to represent the beautiful scenery en plein air. Her mother, Mary Robbins, was a fabulous watercolour painter and taught Taunyee how to paint when she was around ten years old. She was surrounded by an appreciation for all the arts, and continued her studies at the Massachusetts College of Art.
One summer while she was waitressing, she served a family who were speaking French, of which she had a beginner’s knowledge. Taunyee wondered if they were from France, but they responded that no, they were from Quebec. “Quebec?” she queried. “Canada”, they replied. During her school years, Canada was shown as entirely white on the map… snow obviously, she had imagined. Obviously not! She wanted to know more, so asked a girlfriend to join her on a road trip to a place called Quebec City, and off they drove. That little road trip in the summer of 1969 introduced her to a whole new culture and a whole new country.
She fell in love with all of it and returned home to announce that she was going to go live in Quebec for a while. But she told her family not to worry, she would be still connected by land so she could always find her way home!
On New Year’s Eve, of that year Taunyee became a landed immigrant in Canada and changed the whole course of her life in the blink of an eye. However, when she arrived in Quebec, she quickly realized that, her high school French skill was not going to get her far! As a new immigrant she was offered French classes with all the other immigrants. They had a terrific teacher and enjoyed that time. She became a Canadian citizen around 1980 and holds dual citizenship.
Taunyee has wanderlust -She says that she prefers the more exotic countries such as Morocco, Jordan and Egypt, as well as some of the Caribbean islands. They stir her imagination with their colors, fragrances and music! But over the years she has lived in Montreal, St. John’s, and Roddickton Newfoundland (a village on the Great Northern Peninsula) and rural Quebec.
When she arrived in Montreal, she was fortunate to land a job with The Montreal Star newspaper. They taught her how to paste-up, design ads, and do graphic design. She continued in that field for a couple of years before she married and started a family.
In 1985, after her marriage ended, Taunyee moved to Ottawa with her three children. She also met Allen Stanish then, who would become her future husband in 1990, at a Centretown community center where aspiring jugglers and unicyclists practiced.
Taunyee re-entered the field of graphic design at Maruska Studios in Ottawa’s lively Market area. What a wonderful creative job! She designed, created colour mock-ups, cut and pasted… everything was hands on. Then in 1986 the company design work ‘transitioned’ to a square box called an Apple computer.
She missed hands-on creating and enrolled at the Ottawa School of Art in a sculpture class. Her first oeuvre was a life size bust in solid clay and she needed a forklift to move the head around. She created a plaster mold of her work and cast it in concrete. She says that she never had so much fun in her life! So, that was the beginning…
Garden sculpture had always appealed to her and she decided, with her newfound skills, to make some for herself. She designed a series of sculptures based on mythic creatures, gargoyles, lions, Greek gods, the Sun, the Windman, the Green man… Friends and family were taken by them and wanted her sculptures too. That was the start of Taunyee’s own business, Cosmoz Design (Capricious Compositions of a Peculiar Nature). Her husband Allen learned how to make molds and cast the pieces in concrete, accompanying each sculpture with a fable or story. They continued the business until 1999, when they moved back to Massachusetts to stay with her mother for a while. They were prepared to return to Canada in 2008 after her mother passed away, but then the American financial market crashed and they only made it back in 2014.Two years later Allen passed away.
In time, Taunyee began to work in clay again, only this time in fired ceramics. It was a whole different ballgame! It was a challenge to create a hollow clay sculpture and to learn the different techniques of fabrication and firing. She discovered the engineering side of her brain! She had to keep the sculpture from blowing up in the kiln and discover the million different ways to finish the piece. She began using simple oxides and has recently been experimenting with underglazes and a scratched design technique called sgraffito. Cold finishes such as acrylic paint and even pastel were also explored. Taunyee feels that she just touched the surface of what is possible.
Over the years she has worked in every medium she could find: oil and acrylic painting, print and paper making, pastel, ink, multimedia, concrete and clay. Each experiment in these media has contributed to her creative expression.
In her clay work, Taunyee is moved by an idea first, and then determines how to express that idea in clay. She makes a number of loose sketches to capture the attitude or flow of the piece. If it is a face, the expression is the most important to her. However, a sketch doesn’t take you very far in the three dimensional world. After the idea, she must figure out how to construct it, which is the most difficult part and challenging for her. It’s called trial and error! However, once things are settled, she allows the clay to express itself. Taunyee loves how her animal and human characters take shape. They seem to emerge out of the clay by their own volition, a sign of her receptivity to new ideas.
Her only plan for her future work is to carry on exploring. She has really just begun and there is so much she wants to learn and try.
The advice she has for anyone starting out is to take some classes for the basics, and then just keep working at it. Taunyee quotes the poet Rumi “Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.”
Taunyee wants to touch people on an emotional level, to uplift their hearts or invite them to look deeper. That is her special skill.
She joined the National Capital Network of Sculptors in September 2017, where she found like-minded artists and has exhibited at the annual sculpture show since then. She also sells work when people contact her from her Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/Taunyeesculptor
His passion for art matches his enthusiasm for travel. He served 34 years with the Canadian Armed Forces and has been to all provinces of Canada. Having visited over 48 countries on five continents, so why does he specialize in stone bear carving?
While living in Rome, Patrick was moved by its great sculptures and was captured by Bernini’s and Michelangelo’s abilities to make stone come alive. In nearby Carrara he took a workshop in carving a new stone – marble.
Over his lifetime, he has experimented in many artistic media and all types of glasswork, but he has been hooked on carving stone bears – elegant or whimsey, depending on what the stone tells him it should become. It was in his youth that Patrick began to whittle wood as a pastime and developed his skill as a wood carver. A stampede theme of bronco riding tested his wood carving abilities while Calgary was home. Then In Quebec City, Patrick’s interest in stone carving was piqued by delightful Inuit soapstone dancing bears. He was intrigued by their liveliness and challenged himself to learn soapstone carving. By roaming the internet, he learned these techniques and enthusiastically explored that material before working in other soft stones. Patrick carved bears at first because they had drawn him to stonework. He loves the soft curves that make his stone sculpture so appealing. Carving bears is a passion that focuses his attention and takes him to an inner place. After trying to carve other subjects, he found the soft stone did not hold small details and he returned to carving bears with their smooth round forms. We often imbue animals with human characteristics. Building on this association, Patrick evokes human emotions and movement in some of his pieces.In others, he seeks to capture the grace and majesty of the bears. He has highlighted the tragedy of shrinking arctic ice and climate change in several works but does not see his artwork as a political statement. Patrick loves the process and thanks those who acquire his sculptures.
More recently in a cruise port in Alaska, a small bear carved in selenite was spied. Sunlight illuminated the little bear’s movement in the gleaming crystalline stone. Patrick was intrigued, so after the cruise, he searched for selenite pieces large enough to carve. Although it is a challenging stone to carve, its shimmering whiteness makes it a perfect material for carving polar bears.
Patrick’s work in many other mediums helps him to integrate them into his stone sculpture. Glass fish, Muskoka chairs and wooden kayak paddles have served as whimsical props for his humanised bears. He is always on the lookout for other materials to integrate into his sculptures.
Patrick has plenty of stone waiting to inspire him to carve. At times he has an idea and searches for the right stone. When idea and stone converge, carving begins. First, he rough cuts the stone with a hand saw or angle grinder, then hand files and rasps to shape the stone. The process requires a lot of sanding – first dry sanding, then wet sanding and polishing using different grits of abrasive. The final finish is usually a hot wax – Patrick oven heats the stone, and then applies paraffin wax to it. After cooling, he buffs with a soft cloth to give it a satiny finish. At any point in the process, even after waxing, if dissatisfied, Patrick may rework the carving and repeat the process. Until the work is signed, it is not finished.
Patrick’s favorite part of the process is the wet sanding- when the stone reveals its true colours and character. This is the point when the stone comes alive. The rough carving start is his least favorite activity. Although he is enthused to capture his original idea, he also sees other possibilities in the stone as he works.
Aficionados of his work may have tried their hands at these techniques during his many workshops, such as those as the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa. His carving workshop is also a popular event at the fall Sculpture Show of the National Capital Network of Sculptors at Lansdowne Park. His fans also appreciate his participation in the annual Canadian Stone Carving Festival which raises funds for the Ottawa Innercity Ministries.
His future plans include taking the challenge of tackling hard stone– jade, lapis lazuli and fluorite which involve messy wet grinding. He also looks toward making larger outdoor pieces in harder stone.
For people who may wish to take up sculpture, Patrick recommends workshops. He suggests trying different mediums to find a connection with your personal affinities. Workshops are a way to experience different mediums without the cost or burden of the tools or special equipment. You will also get insight and discover tricks of the trade from an experienced artist. All in all, you will have a better experience, saving time and frustration.
Join a group, like the National Capital Network of Sculptors, where there is a range of artists working in different mediums, using different techniques and are at different points in their artistic endeavours from hobby to professional.
Maria Saracino is a bold and energetic artist. She is community-minded and generous, brimming with project ideas. Her artistic accomplishments are many and inspiring. She is also a calm but energizing teacher of her craft. Her abilities as a character sculptor are admired everywhere that it is on display and her work is in high demand.
Maria was born in Ottawa of an Italian immigrant family, one of the first to reside in The Glebe. In 1962 she started kindergarten although she did not yet speak English. She was shy and introverted- even self-conscious of her dark hair among so many blondes and redheads. But Grade One was a blossoming for her, when her teacher became enthralled by Maria’s drawing of a family picnic- astounded by the fact that Maria’s people were drawn in perspective with the children growing progressively smaller the further away they were in the scene. This was a life-changing moment for Maria as her teacher admired her work and invited others to acknowledge it. She was no longer invisible and became known as the class artist, the go-to person for classroom art projects, an identity that followed her into high school.
She dreamed of becoming an artist, but her parents saw little value there for her. For her immigrant parents, life was about survival and an artist’s life didn’t make sense to them. As a result, she went to Carleton University with a major in Political Science, which was not a good fit for her. The only course that she truly enjoyed was Art History. One other bright spot was that Maria met her husband Leo there and because of him, she found herself working as an artist. In marketing and sales, he found her a few jobs designing and creating illustrations for restaurant menus, then ads for the travel and bridal market. Although she had no formal training, she had the gift of visualisation. Maria took classes and workshops whenever she could and began to work closely with the graphics department of the Ottawa Citizen newspaper. She learned typesetting with a darkroom wet processor and was hand-drawing the graphics before technology changed the industry.
After 18 years in the advertising business, both Maria and Leo were burned out. Technology had exploded and they had to decide whether to invest in new equipment and training or move on to a second career. Leo made a lateral move in sales but encouraged Maria to follow her dream of becoming a full-time artist. This was about the time that she first discovered polymer clay. In 1995 polymer clay was relatively new as an art medium. Over the years, Maria had taken painting and drawing courses, print making and even dabbled in some pottery, but discovering polymer was an ah-ha moment for her. The 3-dimensional aspect of creating figures enthralled her and allowed her to incorporate some of her other passions such as sewing fabrics. Another plus was that her techniques did not require any expensive equipment.
Some of Maria’s first pieces seem somewhat primitive to her, but soon her work improved to the point that people started to notice it. Her first big breakthrough was a special piece for the cover of Lee Valley Tools. That piece also won an American competition One of a Kind Classic. Maria was creating Doll Art at that time and subsequently won a DOTY, Doll Of The Year award which was like the Oscars of the Doll world. This award changed her career direction and led to the creation of limited editions for the seasonal Christmas market. This 10-year period was lucrative but also very stressful and required lots of travel, competitiveness and the legal battles of copyright theft. After 10 years, the fun had disappeared and once again Maria found herself burned out. At this point she took a few years off to regroup and rethink what she wanted to do.
What she recognized was that she feels best when creating – it gives her pleasure, satisfaction and sense of purpose. At that point she pivoted from doll artist to figurative artist. She wanted acceptance as a fine artist in the medium of polymer clay that was traditionally seen as a craft rather than an art form.
Maria has worked in watercolours, acrylics, portraiture, pen and ink -almost everything! But probably if she was not doing what she is now, her other passion is fashion design and sewing. She creates her own patterns and sews all the clothes and bodies of her character sculptures.
The Figureworks art show in 2013 was a pivotal moment for her. Winning 1st place in this competition opened the doors to representation by the Orange Art Gallery as well as other galleries over the years. “For me, this was the moment I stepped out of the craft and doll world into the fine art world.”
Her process in developing her expressive Norman Rockwell-esque characters starts with sculpting the head and face. From that Maria scales the character’s body proportions. The body is constructed of wood, wire and fabric. A two way stretch fabric is the final skin which she can augment and contour for the final shape. Next, she creates the costumes and hair. Finally, the hands and feet are sculpted and set in the appropriate position. During the body construction, if any props or a setting needs to be created, she starts this process as well and uses it to position the figure.
Her favourite part of the process is sculpting the head and face. “I try to capture an emotion or a sense of the moment in time. “ Sometimes it’s the tilt of the head or the position of the eyes. Subtle little details can make such a difference in the final work and the reaction by the audience. Her least favorite part is sculpting feet and shoes, for no reason other than it is tedious work and by that point she is anxious to see the piece finished.
Maria has always loved the work of American illustrator, Norman Rockwell and Quebec painter, John Der. They capture moments in time, like snapshots in your mind. Serious moments, humorous moments, everyday moments that evoke a sense of familiarity and nostalgia. “I hope to capture in sculpture what they did through their illustrations and paintings.”
Maria often works in series with a topic that appeals or interests her. Fathers and their children, Moments in Time, Seniors, Hockey, Circus Pieces, Drag Queens are just a few that she has explored. She enjoys portraiture and continues to take commissions for that work. It’s a little more stressful to her, but very satisfying especially when she receives an emotional response from the client.
Maria has other interests too. She teaches sculpting in polymer clay both at the Orange Art School, in-studio and online. But now with Covid19 she has more involved in creating online workshops. She is also teaching two new workshops in an international online conference called Art Connection Summit. You can learn more about it at www.artconnection.gallery or on her blog www.mariasaracino.com
As she has done, Maria believes you should follow your passion. Take as many classes or workshops as you can. Learn what other artists have to offer and from that, develop your own style. Never stop learning and developing. Put the hours and the work in and just keep creating art. Don’t get attached to your work, your new favorite piece will be the next thing you work on. Also, don’t wait for someone to notice you – develop a thick skin and keep putting your work out there, there’s room for everyone.
And last but not least, Maria Saracino is president of the National Capital Network of Sculptors and is helping to guide this diverse group of sculptors through the year of COVID19! You can see more of Maria’s work at
It was a steel wire sculpture made by eight-year old Bastien Martel that set his future direction in art. A camp project of twisting wire into a three dimensional figure was a revelation that he could not forget. His journey in education and art subsequently took many twists and turns – business school, wood working, furniture design and production, painting, drawing and sculpture all had important lessons for him as they lead him from Montreal to Victoriaville, Toronto and then to Honolulu.
2003 was a turning point in his life, when Bastien left his day job to attend the Saidye Bronfman School of Fine Arts in Montreal where he connected with two mentors who encouraged him to continue his passion in the arts and sculpture: Bastien was selected as sculpture studio assistant under France Andrée Sevillano. Eventually, he was invited to work for Jean-Louis Emond in his Montreal studio. 2003 was the start of his professional sculpture practice.
Bastien considered welding classes and programmes but they all seemed too long and involved at the time. It is when he joined Jean-Louis in his studio in Montreal that he had the opportunity to discover metal cutting and welding. It was the perfect opportunity to learn sculptural skills. It also led to discussions: What is art? What makes someone an artist? What does being an artist entail? Bastien was exposed to the many facets of the art world. New techniques were tried –
J-L Émond had been using clay to work with steel for a long time. It is this technique that Bastien adopted to create the desired 3D shapes, in both small and large format. As experience accrued, his rough sculptures became more polished and detailed.
Martel has worked with wood and stone but found both unforgiving materials. Steel allows him to rapidly create an image and it easily accepts additions or reductions. Steel has the strength to tolerate the abuse of the journey. Bastien’s experience in furniture production and design taught him design concepts, preparation work, planning, measurements and inventory. But mostly it confirmed his love of steel and metals.
For Bastien, all visual imagery – from nature to comic books, billboards, commercial and industrial design, architecture and artwork- influence our creative choices as we live in a visually busy world. He has had the pleasure and privilege to visit art museums in Toronto, Montréal, Honolulu, Italy, France and New York City. Seeing other artist’s works always propels his desire to create his own work. It is his continuation of the visual conversation with contemporaries and artists of the past.
In recent years Bastien has explored the breakthroughs of 20th centrury modernist painters using contemporary 3D welded steel. He continues the tradition of objets d’art.
His steel sculptures give him the ability to create volume, lightness and airiness. He cuts steel into various shapes and assembles them like a 3D jigsaw puzzle onto clay forms which he models. Then he welds the pieces together. With a grinder Bastien continues to dig, shape and smooth the surface. The sculpture is completed once it is polished and painted.
Beyond the actual pleasure of creating a unique object, Bastien’s attraction to his method is the hands-on experience: creating the clay shapes, shaping the metal pieces, and finally welding, grinding and shaping to realise the completer piece. The least pleasurable for him is the applying of protective coating, which demands more precision and attention.
Bastien usually starts with an image in his head that fluctuates and only seems to settle once the work starts. That is why he has no sketches, just a few guiding scribbles. The piece takes shape as the material and physical constraints slowly limit choices. Meaning usually comes after completion of the piece, but it is not always that which brings it forth. Over time pieces seem to fall into categories: bowler hats as a symbol of anonymity and conformity; abstraction as emotional expression; homage in portraits of struggling artists. They all seem to reflect sentiments of existential struggle and the challenges of being.
The work offers many directions for Bastien to explore. He believes that artists can work till their lives end, for there is always work to be done, imagination endless. “We can imagine the smallest particles to the whole universe or even multiple universes. It is our physical state, time and materials that limit us.”
Bastien recently completed series of figurative, portrait and surrealist sculptures, exploring themes of loneliness and isolation. His current exploration is abstraction. He was looking for a quick creative release for feelings of anxiety and confusion created by our imposed Covid confinement. He delved into these emotional states using his clay work technique with welded steel pieces, using the differently shaped metal pieces as his color palette. Between chaos and control, the variously shaped pieces were dropped or thrown onto the clay surface and welded together, in gesturally expressive abstract sculptures.
For others who may wish to take up sculpture, Bastien encourages a studio-based education through college or university, including large components of business management. He recommends this to be followed by apprenticeship with an established artist. There are so many hats an artist must wear and so many skills required for success.
Bastien Martel’s work can be seen on his website at www.bastienmartel.com, as well as the National Capital Network of Sculptors Facebook page, and at www.sculptureottawa.ca. He also exposes at the Canadian Sculpture Center in Toronto. He has many exhibitions and prizes for his art, but due the Covid pandemic, his next 2020 exhibitions have been postponed. However, sculpture lovers should keep these venues in mind: Intermède, Arts Network Exhibition Space, Ottawa; Tension, Eugene-Racette Art Gallery, Ottawa; Da Artisti Studio & Gallery, Cumberland Village.
At a young age, Rocky Bivens’ interest in art was first piqued by museum shows such as a Van Gogh exhibition at the Detroit institute of Art, but he did not engage in the art world at that time. Although he has been a clay artist for over 40 years, Rocky started his adult life in mathematics and philosophy at Oakland University in Michigan. He immigrated to Canada and moved to Toronto working at a warehouse. Then about two years later, he joined a commune in Wabaushene Ontario where he and associates designed and built a geodesic dome, one of the first privately built in Ontario.
It was there that a friend introduced Rocky to pottery. Enthused by the possibilities of three-dimensional creation, he attended art school at Cambrian College in Sudbury. In his second year, he began to teach classes at night. Once he graduated, the school asked him to teach full time. He was drawn to the sculpture-making process in a visceral way, interested in abstract work and insisting on being spontaneous in his methods.
He taught in the art department at the College and also in math and computer science. It was at Cambrian that he met his wife Liz, a fellow student. Liz is a fibre and tapestry artist and former president of the Ontario Handweavers and Spinners Association. Although separate in their own creative fields, they help each other to evolve by discussing and critiquing the other’s work. When their two adult children moved to the Ottawa area, the Bivens followed them, allowing them to be closer to their children and grandchildren. They have never lost their enthusiasm for art.
Rocky favours three-dimensional work. Functional and decorative pottery was his initial interest, but he welcomed the challenge and possibilities of clay sculpture, as he became less enamoured in making traditional pottery. He glazed his early sculpture but found that he wanted more control of colour. Now he chooses to glaze some sculptures and for others he employs acrylic paint, playing with colour and texture. Bivens’ sculptures are primarily abstract, anthropomorphic forms. He is strongly moved by form -“from the human abstractions of Henry Moore and essential forms of Constantin Brancusi to the soft, flowing beauty of Auguste Rodin’s La Danaïde and his emotive Burghers of Calais”.
Rocky plans his work to a degree, but finds that over planning can dampen his creativity. He loves the freedom and the emotive responses that sculpture can evoke. Spontaneity is extremely important to him – if he fully captures an idea on paper or even in his mind, he can lose interest in actually making the object. He leans toward Romantic traditions which are more aligned with emotion and feelings rather than the more intellectually based Classical traditions.
He builds his structures using coils of clay, leaving a hollow centre, important in the drying and kiln firing technicalities. Interestingly, it takes as much time for him to finish the work by smoothing or texturing, as does the construction. Once complete and fully dry, the kiln is fired to about 1,000 degrees Celsius. If he decides to glaze it, he then re-fires the piece to around 1,250 degrees. He may decide instead to use an unfired glaze, such as acrylic paint. Once completed, the painted work is coated with an outdoor rated varnish-like finish.
When the intended work is too large to fit in his kiln, he works in concrete. For that process he makes a small rough maquette in clay, then blocks out a piece of rigid foam to the desired size and shape. This light-weight form is then covered in wire mesh and finally a thin layer of concrete. Rocky is proud of a concrete mural he made for his daughter’s house in Ottawa.
Sculptors love problem solving – their creations need balance, strength and to be seen from any direction. Rocky challenges himself to make his forms come alive by accentuating a slight curve or sharp edge. Working instinctively and infusing the work with emotion while keeping the composition stable and poised is important to him. Rocky believes that working in an improvised way allows him to accomplish this.
Rocky encourages everyone interested in making art to visit museums and galleries, as he does. Discover what touches you. As a former teacher, he recommends an art school that will help you develop the basic skills, technique, composition and to discover your personal subject matter. However, an artist’s education does not end there, rather it is only the beginning.
Inspired by the curves and flow of soft paper clay, Hengameh Kamal Rad responds as the clay guides her quest. She is a sensitive soul and responds to the touch of clay and to the human condition.
Hengameh’s interest in art began before she left her native land. Although women were not permitted to study pottery in Iran, she persisted in her desire to learn that craft at the ministry of culture in Tehran at the age of 28. Over a period of several years and her courage and determination against denial, she learned wheel throwing and improved her skills by making many vases, opening the way for other women. But she found her life constrained by the political sentiments of the time where authorities forbade the uncovered appearance of the human body in artwork, particularly if the subject was female. People were punished for thinking or dreaming outside of their appointed cultural conditions. Today, her drive to social justice springs from the injustice that she witnessed under the dictatorship. She strives to make us aware that this cruelty will happen in every country if we close our eyes to what is really happening. Hengameh cites a Persian poem that describes her belief:
“If you have no sympathy for human pain
The name of human you cannot retain.”
Hengameh immigrated to Canada from Iran in 1999 with her husband and three children aged 9, 11 and 12. At first, finding suitable employment for the couple was a challenge. Her first work was babysitting in the apartment where she lived. Then, following training through an Ottawa agency, she began as a personal support worker. She left that work in 2017 when she became disillusioned by the lack of support that PSWs received from her employer.
But clay had left an indelible attraction for Hengameh, and she returned to that medium when she became familiar with the Ottawa art community. She became a member of the Ottawa Guild of Potters to connect to clay artists and began courses at Sunnyside Community Centre, where she could have her work kiln-fired and glazed. Her first Guild sponsored ceramic exhibition was in 1999 when she was accepted to the Guild’s annual pottery sale. This encouraged her to keep improving her skills. When the Sunnyside clay studio was closed, she found the Dempsey Community Centre to continue her passion for clay – hand building rather than wheel thrown work. As Dempsey did not have a kiln, she worked with unfired paper clay, applying an oil patina to solidify the work. Her sculptures were free flowing, following the inspiration that hand-building clay gives her. She designed the pieces for wall hanging, where her delicate pieces would not be damaged. Her process begins with a clay base into which she incorporates elements for hanging her works. Once this preparation is done, she engages with the soft clay, building confidently, moving the clay according to its bidding, moulding the curves with her deepest feelings.
In 2011, Hengameh Kamal Rad joined the National Capital Network of Sculptors. The fact that two of her juried works of fired paper clay were part of the 2013 sculpture exhibition at the Museum of Nature in Ottawa, gave her positive feedback. Her sculptural work is energized by the outdoors – the glorious flow of water and snow. The mysteries of design in nature and space, of life and reproduction are all part of her creations.
To Hengameh, human consciousness remains an enigma. Her work is abstract with a figurative element. She also has maintained her sense of frustration over political bullying and expresses her defiance in recent works. Lately her art has taken a more figurative expression. You might see an angry Trumpian character in one of them.
Now, with her children grown, she lives with her mother and sees a granddaughter frequently, but she has more time to grow her work. Last year Hengameh had a month-long solo exhibition Glimpse into the Human Conscience at the Nepean Atrium Gallery in which she employed two-dimensional wall pieces as well as 3-D sculptural pieces on plinths. She continues to explore the theme of human consciousness with new work and is seeking more exposure of her work. A recent large piece titled Avalanche was sparked by an image from nature and formed by her hands negotiating with clay.
To see more of her work, visit her webpage at www.hengameh.ca and in Facebook at hengameh.kamalrad
Edna’s life had a somewhat royal beginning, as her parents were employed by Britain’s Royal Household and they lived in the Royal Mews in London, England. As a girl she had wonderful freedom to roam and explore the stables, and nearby St. James Park and Hyde Park. Her life was filled with visions of huge horses, carriages, blacksmithing, all manner of birds, fish, flowers and trees that have become inspiration for her artwork. Edna’s first art impulses were sparked by the colourful and free illustrations of impressionists Van Gogh and Gaugin in her school classrooms. After high school she turned to courses in technical illustration. Adept at this work, she was later able to skillfully translate the plans and elevations of mechanical equipment into 3-dimensional drawings, a skill still useful in building her 3D sculptures.
In 1962, newly married, she and her husband Clement moved to Quebec City where he became a professor at Université Laval. As their family grew from none to four children, Edna took evening art classes where she was introduced to new concepts each month, such as leather work and painting nature. She found it a relief to be engaged in these creative activities while adjusting to her new home and new language.
She began painting wildlife in her spare time in Quebec, but Edna found more creative space in her life when the family moved to Ottawa and she enrolled in an Honours programme of Visual Arts at the University of Ottawa. She was particularly enamoured by printing – which closely resembled her black and white illustrations. She always anticipated the surprise of seeing the first print emerge. She also began making light boxes, whimsical flying people in papier mâché and fanciful painted penguins in seascapes using old fashion mannequin props.
With some colleagues after university, they found rental space in unused buildings where they worked on projects together and even rented advertising space in buses to show their work. It was very reassuring to Edna to be with other artists and to see their unique patterns of work. When the studio spaces became unavailable, Edna began to work from home, but she needed, in Virginia Wolf’s words, “a room of one’s own”. Her personal studio became a creative world of her own. This space gave Edna the freedom to develop her artistic individuality. She says that it’s a very messy place but a personal oasis for her to expand and grow.
Papier mâché captured her attention when she spied the work of Victor Tolgesy hanging from the ceiling of the Byward Market Building. She contacted him for information about the process and she found him very accommodating and kind. Tolgesy’s work appealed to Edna’s sense of play and joy. She was also influenced by René Magritte as she recognized that he changed visual reality into his own creative reality where anything was possible.
As a teenager Edna remembers having dreams of flying with birds, an amazing sense of freedom and she uses that motif in some of her work, but she does not want to be constrained in her ideas. Her designs begin with an image in her mind which is not well defined. Using papier mâché allows her to make changes and offers her hands the impetus toward her vision of the finished product. This process begins by drawing on a foam board. She then builds a skeleton using strong wire which is glued to the foam core. At this stage the framework can be twisted and bent to achieve the desired shape. Multiple layers of newspaper are applied with glue to build the shape. The glue, Natura, is allowed to dry between each additional layer. For the final layer, paper towels are applied before finishing the work with acrylic paint.
The musical “Come from Away” has a special deep meaning for Edna and is the stimulus for future creations. It was a reminder of her mother who related that, eight months pregnant with Edna, she was evacuated to Windsor with Edna’s older sister at the beginning of the war in 1939. They travelled by train with many other families. Upon arrival, all the families were lined up on the platform as strangers walked by and chose which family would live with them. Her mother and sister were the last ones to be chosen, but we lived with those strangers for the duration of the war and became good friends.
A humorous future project that Edna anticipates with relish is to compose a cartoon of a certain president trying to prevent birds from entering the United States on their southern migration.
The Covid-19 pandemic has taken a toll on all our lives and the economy. As our city starts trying to regain some type of normalcy I hope that we make the effort to support small independent business. I’m sure you’ve seen all the posts telling you how the big box stores and chains will survive, but it’s the small businesses that need our help. This holds true for local artists as well. Art galleries, studios, spring and summer studio tours and shows have all been cancelled. This has been a hard blow for our local artists.
Inukshuks by Uwe Foehring. Various stones and colours $15. each
Many galleries are offering online services. Even though many in the art world say an online viewing cannot replace the firsthand experience of encountering a painting or a sculpture in person, more and more collectors are getting comfortable with the online gallery experience. When you visit an online gallery people don’t have to know you’re looking. You don’t even have to buy art to look at the Online Gallery, but if something interests you then it’s the first step in making contact with the artists and arranging a private viewing.
Birthdays, Father’s Day, weddings and anniversaries are still happening, even while we are social distancing. If you are shopping for unique gifts of art, then we encourage you to support our local artists. With the National Capital Network of Sculptors Online Gallery, you can select from over 50 original works that start as low as $15. The artists are listed in alphabetical order so it’s easy to find your favourite artist or just scroll through the photos. If there is something that you are interested in, you contact the artist directly and the work is either shipped or delivered, or you can make arrangements for a private and safe viewing. No commissions, no fees, 100% of the sale goes to the artist.