Sara Swink, studio visit Portland

On our road trip through Oregon Coast, we stopped overnight at Clint Brown’s to see his fabulous dramatic figurative drawings then headed up to Portland, visiting 2 more figurative artists along the way. Sara Swink's large and well laid out studio is behind her home in a large garden, tidily arranged with large tables for her students and her own figurative ceramic sculpture studio time. She started working with clay as a kid then life got busy. She started back into ceramics again in 1997, into wheel throwing and then hand building with her sculpture mentor Coeleen Kiebert.

"The possibilities with ceramics are endless." To feed the inspiration well, she builds collages on paper, adds doodling and then brings aspects of those things into the clay. All the women in her family were involved in fabric arts; knitting, crochet, quilting. Binge watching Project Runway on TV in 2009 and seeing them putting together all those materials together reminded her of these women’s influence in her life and her artwork at the time. The family textile artists are an ongoing influence, even though they’re gone now.

She was featured on a PBS TV show which is travelling around the country and now buyers are finding her from other locations.

Sara used the design from this Jill Mayberg print Striped Tree, Flower Sky on the dress of her sculpture titled Predator Princess in Mayberg Gown, waiting to go into the kiln.

The music and tea center, an important spot in a shared work space.

Sara throws functional pots from time to time. She participates in the Portland Open Studios show and shows her own and her students works in an Open Holiday sale in early December in conjunction with a nearby greenhouse sale with 22 artists.

Sara mainly fires at cone 5. She uses glazes and some underglazes. She uses the smaller kiln for test firing and the larger one for a full load and her larger pieces. Her PBS TV show really put her on the map so the kilns are hopping.

Here are some small bisque fired pieces, waiting for the next surface decoration stage, so cute and tasty like delicious sugar cookies just waiting for icing. Seeing the smooth well worked surfaces of the clay made me want to emboss some clay myself, something I used to do back in college. I’d definitely take a class from her if I lived nearby.

Clay is a very wonderful medium, ready to take whatever you want to throw at it as long as you play by the rules of the medium. Here are some of her tools. I still have my ceramic modelling tools, scrapers and embossing sprig molds from college and my days of hand made polyform buttons and jewellery. Maybe I'll get my hands back into some clay but not just now, having too much fun with paint.

On our way out, Sara showed us Harold Oxley's painting studio, her partner of a long engagement of just about 20 years. This wonderful interior was just one indication of Harold's many talents and skills. He has a fabulous wood shop where he works his magic and also photographs Sara's ceramic sculptures for publication quality images which you can see over on her own website here.

This very large tree whose width stood up to my chest had just been felled from behind her studio and was going to be hauled away and chopped up into firewood for needy folks in the area by a local charity.

Thanks Sara for a wonderful visit. From Sara's, we went on to Kicki Masthem's, arriving just in time for a little glass of wine before arriving in Portland itself.
Sara Swink

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