What to do when you retire? Sharon Wagner was faced with just that problem seven years ago when she left the U.S. Forest Service and decided to learn to work with clay.
Drawn to the sensual feel and pliability of the material, she focused on hand building rather than using a clay wheel. Although she has created functional wares, she prefers to create sculptural works.
Wagner lives on a bike path, with her house located on the corner of Alberta Court and NE 37th Avenue. Her yard is alive with windsocks and whirligigs, and in the tree near the road is a life size figure of a boy made out of clay.
Using photos of her friend’s twin boys, Wagner made “Dream Boy” in four clay pieces: the head, two halves of the torso plus a leg and a backpack that sits at the foot of the tree. The pieces were created at the Multnomah Art Center and assembled after the last firing.
The work took her a year to finish with months needed to dry the clay before it could go into the kiln to be fired. One bubble left in the clay or even residual moisture could cause the clay to break or even explode when fired.
“One of the biggest challenges of making Dream Boy had to do with the shape of the tree and the shrinkage of the clay,” she said. The clay she used shrinks almost 11% from wet clay after it is fired, making it a real challenge to ensure the work would sit perfectly into the crux of the tree.
Through her big front window, Sharon can watch as people enjoy her artwork. “The public space between our houses and the streets is ours to take care of for the good of everyone. This is my way of taking care of it.”
Michel Reeverts, aka Maquette, holds a master of arts degree in art education and serves Alberta Art Works as director and Alberta Street Gallery as a board member. She is also a practicing artist. Contact her at Maquette@AlbertaArtWorks.org.