Intersection is a wall installation made up of approximately 1000 thrown and reassembled porcelain cylinders covering a wall 24 feet long and 8 feet tall. The idea for the installation came as a reaction to the various textures and patterns that I saw on a trip to Spain and the Netherlands. I was especially interested in the marketplaces filled with stacks of flowers, fruit, vegetables, etc. Then there was the tile work at the awe-inspiring Alhambra Palace, a building that is both organic and regulated in its form. Upon my return, I had the idea to create a wall installation from thrown parts. I wanted to create a texture and space using the thrown form that would envelop one’s vision and create a sense of place. I received a Minnesota State Arts Board grant to work on this project and a scheduled exhibition at Northern Clay Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, gave me a deadline.
Making a Plan
Making and preparing for the installation went hand in hand as I needed to know how I was going to install these pieces before I actually made them. I used thrown and reassembled cylinders as the building blocks. Each piece has a small, nail-sized hole on the back for hanging directly on the wall. The bigger issue was figuring out the template. This was the largest installation I had made up to this point and I did not want to make the template after the fact. I also wanted the piece to retain as organic a form as possible.
I had two 8-foot×42-inch tables to work on so this became the template size. I divided it into six 8-foot×42-inch sections. This provided me with the greatest flexibility while creating the 24-foot-long piece. I made a template for each section and a work schedule to complete the enormous task.
The schedule for each section went like this: day one was throwing; day two assembling; day three composing on a template; day four numbering each piece, making the nail holes, and tracing the placement on the template. I repeated this making schedule over the course of about three months.
I created the template first on the table to determine the design and mark the placement of the clay pieces, then repositioned it to the wall for exact placement of the pieces. I used Tyvek house wrap to create the template. This enabled me to work with one template from start to finish as the house wrap is water resistant and very tough. I could place freshly thrown pieces directly on the template and continue to work on them as they dried without ruining the template. I could also write directly on the house wrap with a permanent marker to trace the pieces and mark the nail placement. This made installation easier since I could tape the template directly to the wall, nail right through it, then remove the template without destroying it.
Fitting the Pieces for the Wall
After I finalized the composition of each section, I made the nail holes. I wanted the pieces to fit flush against the wall, so I made the holes about an inch down from the top and ½ inch to ¾ inch deep at a 45° angle and with a wide enough diameter at the deepest point for the nail to fit. I used headless nails between ½ inch and 2 inches long, depending upon the size and weight of the piece.
Since all the pieces were different sizes and shapes, it ended up being a fairly intuitive thing to figure out the weight and balance of how the individual pieces would actually hang. On some of the larger pieces, the hole needed to be made farther in toward the center or off to the side to create the correct balance. When it came to actually hanging the pieces, museum wax made it easy to make slight adjustments.
To make the holes I used three tools, a small arrow-shaped metal carving tool, a fettling knife, and a sponge. I used the arrow tool to drill a hole at a 45° angle, the fettling knife to ensure it was wide enough at the deepest point for the nail to fit in fully, and the sponge to round the edges of the hole to prevent chipping. Since these pieces were made from porcelain and fired to cone 10, I was confident that this was a strong hanging method. Finally each piece was numbered to match the template.
The Story of Intersection becoming Intersections
Intersection began as a personal journey; The making was a huge endeavor spurred on by a number of events coming together. The death of my mother along with my son’s graduation from college became the two markers in my life that fueled the creative energy necessary for such a huge project. My mother had always told me to be true to myself, to make what was in my head because no one else would.
Months after the original show at Northern Clay Center was taken down and Intersection had been packed up in its 20 boxes, I received an email from the non-profit organization, LifeSource. They were building a new headquarters and wanted to talk to me about creating a piece for their new space. I thought that they had seen my show and the piece, Intersection. At the meeting it became apparent that they had not. When I showed them an image of Intersection, they immediately connected with the piece, you could feel it in the room. LifeSource is a non-profit organization that facilitates organ and tissue transplants; they saw their mission in my piece. It was quite humbling. Over the next four months I worked to transform the original Intersection into Intersections. It grew to 35 feet long and 5 feet tall. The installation in their new building became a collaborative effort as many employees in the organization signed up for shifts to help throughout the two-week-long installation.
After the installation, I told the people at LifeSource: “Intersections has become its own and it is at home at LifeSource. It is like watching your child grow up. They begin as part of you then they become their own person, stronger and more wonderful than you could ever have imagined.”
the author Monica Rudquist is a studio artist living in Minneapolis, Minnesota and currently teaches at St. Catherine University in St. Paul. To see more you can follow her on Facebook and Instagram at Monica Rudquist Clay or visit http://monicarudquist.com.
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