Tag Archives: art

Indulging My Inner Geek

I hope you will forgive me for getting my geek on as I am about to do. Although I rarely discuss my early influences, I find on this particular occasion, an irresistible force compels me to do so.

In 1977, I saw Star Wars on the big screen and my eyes were immediately adjusted to what storytelling could be. I was eight years old and knew at that moment I would be an artist and a storyteller. Up to that point, my imaginary worlds were mainly inhabited by dinosaurs, army men and matchbox cars – fueled by reruns of Lost in Space, the original Star Trek and Godzilla movies on Saturday afternoons. While these certainly offered fuel enough for my overactive imagination to work with, Star Wars gave me blasters, light sabers, an evil empire with incredibly cool costumes, aliens, dogfighting starships hurdling through a galaxy far, far away and … the force. All these things were revealed through a story that seemed vast, deeply satisfying, strange and yet somehow familiar.

Darth Aric and Princess Cassie

I was obsessed with the universe that Lucas had created and wished I could live there in the way many people now wish to live on Pandora (the world of James Cameron’s Avatar). I collected the action figures and dressed up as Darth Vader for Halloween (that’s me, dueling with my friend, Cassie, who obligingly agreed to go as Princess Leia.) Being an industrial designer, my father made the costume with which I won a city wide contest, complete with prize money and a photo op with the mayor that ran in our local newspaper. The lights of the chest plate blinked, the dome of the helmet was sculpted from Bondo with about 20 coats of auto-grade glossy black paint … it was truly awesome.

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Like so many artists of my generation, I credit the experience of seeing Star Wars for the first time with jolting me awake, opening my imagination in the same way a stick of dynamite would open a pop can – mind blown. Since that day, the Star Wars universe has offered me a wellspring of inspiration – but it did more than that. Wishing to understand how Lucas came up with his world and the story that so engaged me, I began looking into the things that inspired him, hoping one day that this would lead me to create a world of my own. I learned that he was drawing on two of his personal interests – history (especially World War II) and the works of Joseph Campbell (professor and author of many books on the comparative study of world religions/mythology including Hero With A Thousand Faces and The Power of Myth). This got me interested in these areas and lead me ultimately to the historical, cultural and myth-based art I create today.

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The prequels came out when I was an adult and like most who grew up with the original trilogy, this return to Star Wars left me disappointed. I hated several of the characters (like Jar Jar), plot points (midi-chlorians) as well as the over-use (and in some cases oddly ineffectual use) of CGI. I also found the humor in these new scripts agonizing. Consequently, I wrote these new films off as “written for children” and wondered if my adult mind was simply immune to the magic of future Star Wars films. This never really rang true however and I hoped one day there might be something new worth celebrating in the Star Wars universe that could make me feel the same exhilaration I had felt as a child.

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So, when I heard that Lucas sold Lucasfilm to Disney, I had intensely mixed emotions. I felt betrayed by Lucas who started out as a rebel director fighting the evil empire that was the American film industry only to forge his own empire – now ultimately to sell that empire to an even larger one. Simply put, he had started out as Luke and was now Darth Vader. Facebook memes showing Leia Organa as “the next Disney princess” made my stomach turn. On the other hand, I felt cautiously optimistic that Disney would find a way back to the original Star Wars universe I loved.

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Successfully avoiding all spoilers (I only allowed myself to watch the official trailers), I walked into the IMax 3D theater with my wife and daughter a few days after Christmas without a clue what to expect.

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So, what is my reaction to seeing The Force Awakens? I want to call director, J.J. Abrams, and the producers at Disney/Lucasfilm and thank them for breathing new life into the muse I have drawn on for as long as I can remember. It is good to see Star Wars alive and well again after its long hibernation and I look forward to many more films exploring the far reaches of that galaxy far, far away.

-Aric Jorn

Springing Into Summer: Show Recap & Announcements

Thank you to everyone who came to my spring shows. Whether you bought one of my pieces or simply stopped in to chat, it was a pleasure sharing my art with so many visitors and meeting several of my online customers in person. I think that is the real magic of an art show – the chance to speak directly to the artists and they with their patrons.

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Despite a few bouts of poor weather, the spring shows were wonderful. It was exciting to break in my new tent at Art Birmingham and the East Lansing Art Festival and I was delighted to be invited to share the story behind my work with Fox 2’s Robin Murdock, the Dearborn Press & Guide, and WKAR.

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Perhaps the most exciting thing took place at Art on the Grand in Farmington where I was awarded “Best in Show.” There were so many talented artists in attendance, the honor came as a surprise.

With the spring shows behind me, it’s time to announce my summer schedule. I invite you to visit me at any of the following events…

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JULY 15-18
I kick off the summer season with a big one, the Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair. With more than 500,000 people attending each year, this four-day show is by far the largest around and I am very excited to participate in this event as a member of The Guild of Artists and Artisans. I can be found on Liberty just East of Main in BOOTH #258.

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JULY 25-26
Less than a week after striking my tent in A2, I’ll be setting up shop in the heart of West Bloomfield, MI, for the Orchard Lake Fine Art Show. This show has ranked in the top 100 shows in the nation for eight straight years with a strong emphasis on artistic quality and originality. I can be found on Daly road near the parking lot for Beaumont Medical Center in BOOTH #108. The fair itself can be found just West of Orchard Lake rd between 14 mile and Maple roads.

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1j-art-and-applesSEPTEMBER 11-13
Nestled in a beautiful 30-acre wooded park, the Art and Apples Festival is a joy to walk through, divided in two by a winding stream. Now celebrating its 50th anniversary, it consistently ranks among the top 30 fairs in the country with 290 artists engaging with 200,000 visitors. I’ve walked this fair as a visitor and am overjoyed to be participating this year as one of its artists. (You can find me in BOOTH #107.)

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SEPTEMBER 19-20
I’ll wrap up my summer show schedule with Common Ground’s Birmingham Street Art Fair. Celebrating it’s 41st anniversary, this show (along with the Ann Arbor Street Fair) is of special personal significance because it is one of the shows I grew up attending when my mother was active as a fiber artist. Now, as an adult and working artist in my own right, it is wonderful to find myself doing the very same shows I remember from my childhood. (You can find me in BOOTH #101.)

Thank you once again to everyone who stopped by my booth this spring – both for your interest and your support. This has been quite an adventure and I hope to see many of you again this summer.

~Aric Jorn

Sculpting Myth: Hugin and Munin

The next piece in my “Sculpting Myth” series (available in my Jivotica gallery store and limited to 150 signed/numbered castings) explores another symbol from my Norse heritage, the pair of ravens who served none other than Odin, the All Father, himself. Their names are Hugin and Munin and they were sent out each day to fly around Midgard (Earth) and report back on the events of the world (it is in this way that Odin achieved something like Omniscience.) 

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The ravens are shown intertwined in knotwork to symbolize their interconnectedness – not only to each other, but also to Odin, the physical world and the knowledge they seek. They are perched on a rune stone upon which is carved a sampling of Futhark (the Norse alphabet) and a depiction of Odin astride his eight-legged horse, Sleipnir.

This piece is fashioned from four separate reliefs using cold-cast bronze, nickel silver and stone-infused resin. Next, patinas, inks and paints are applied and the pieces are buffed to bring out highlights. They are then assembled, covered with a clear coat and mounted in a beautiful black shadowbox frame.

Because they are closely associated with the seeking of knowledge and the king archetype, people often display images of Hugin and munin in their library, study, office or wherever they do their most profound thinking or make their biggest decisions.

Digging deeper into the story of Hugin and Munin…

The Eddic poem Grímnismál mentions Odin’s thoughts on Hugin and Munin:

Hugin and Munin
Fly every day
Over all the world;
I worry for Hugin
That he might not return,
But I worry for Munin more.

The names Hugin and Munin are commonly translated as “thought” and “memory” respectively. While it is widely accepted that the name Hugin does indeed mean “thought” (derived from the Old Norse “hugr”), given that the Old Norse word for memory is “minni,” it is more likely that Munin is derived from the Old Norse word “munr” meaning “desire.”

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So, with this alternate translation in mind, Odin seems then to be saying that he is worried about losing his mental faculties (thought), but is more worried about losing his zest for life (desire). I think this expresses the importance placed on a raw passion for life that is fundamental to the Viking world view.

For additional information on Hugin and Munin (and other tales of Norse mythology), I strongly recommend the site Norse-Mythology.org

This piece has joined the others on my Etsy store and I will also have them available at the Ann Arbor Artisan Market. As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions.

~Aric Jorn

Brighton behind me and Ann Arbor ahead

Thanks to all those who stopped by my booth at the Brighton Fine Arts and Acoustic Music Festival this past weekend. Uncertain whether my work would be a good fit for this show, I was very pleased at the response it received. I was fortunate in other areas as well…

Despite a forecast that included daily showers and a possible thunder storm, not a single drop fell on my tent the entire weekend. Following a celebratory dinner at Stout’s Irish Pub Sunday evening, we packed up, drove back to the studio, unpacked everything and closed the door. Not even a minute later, as though the heavens had been waiting for us to finish, there was a torrential downpour.

Looking forward, and for those who didn’t make it to Brighton, I will be setting up shop at the Ann Arbor Artisan Market for the balance of August. Confirmed dates are August 10, 17, 24 and 31 (weather permitting). Additional dates will be added in September and October as I can fit them in.

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One of the best things about the A2 Artisan Market is that the roster changes from week to week, so there are always new artists to discover.

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The Artisan Market is located at 315 Detroit Street in the heart of Ann Arbor’s historic Kerrytown shopping district at the intersection of Detroit Street and 5th Avenue. An outdoor show, it runs Sundays from 11am to 4pm April through December.

I hope to see many of you there!
~Aric

Aric has been shot!

It’s all over. The camera crew is gone, the shoot has wrapped and a sense of normalcy has returned to my studio. My head has stopped spinning and after a day spent unwinding and picking up some fresh supplies (including a badly needed lamp), I’ve managed to ground myself once more.

But let me back up a bit…

About a month ago, I was contacted by a producer of the 2014 Emmy Award winning PBS show, Detroit Performs, and told they were interested in featuring me on an episode. This was all thanks to someone I had met years ago who turns out to be on the advisory committee for the show (unbeknownst to me). When the themes for the upcoming season were announced, she thought my work would be a good fit and submitted my name.

A few days later, the phone rang and I had a delightful conversation with the show’s producer. We set the date, I sent her the information she needed to prepare for the segment and I waited for July 9th to roll around.

So it came to be that yesterday, I had a production crew shadowing me as I lived out a day as a working artist. In the morning, we were at my home studio talking about my work as a sculptor while I roughed in two new pieces for my Sculpting Myth series.

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In the afternoon, we relocated to The Henry Ford where I demonstrated early American pottery decorating techniques like slip trailing and sgraffito.

It was a surreal experience to spend a day with a camera crew in tow. It was exciting, eye-opening and genuinely fun and I hope for the chance to do it again someday.

The episodes have yet to be placed on the fall schedule but I will post the date as soon as I know it. You will also be able to find it on the Detroit Performs Website (following the air date which will be sometime this fall/winter.)

My deepest thanks to the wonderful people at PBS-Detroit for their kindness, patience and professionalism – particularly to the creative team, Sarah, Matthew, Kim and Tina and to the wonderfully synergistic Colleen who thought of me and was kind enough to make the connection on my behalf. Thanks also to my family who had to put up with my craziness as the shoot date loomed near.

I have been blessed this year and I thank everyone who has helped support me as I make my way down the left-hand path.

~Aric

Aric on Display: Brighton

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This is an invitation to see my work and have a chat at the 31st annual Brighton Fine Art & Accoustic Music Festival, AUGUST 1-3, 2014

While shopping for art online can be a convenient, inspiring and at times overwhelming way to discover artists who would have otherwise remained unknown to you, the experience cannot compare to seeing the work in person accompanied by the opportunity to speak directly with the artists who make it.

Going to an art fair gives you the chance to ask questions, discover what motivated the artists to create their art and generally become more informed about each piece before you buy it. For the artists, it is an opportunity to better understand their patrons and gain insight into what attracts people to one piece over another.

Despite these advantages, many artists prefer to show exclusively in galleries, shops and online venues where face-to-face encounters are rarely required. Personally, I am always looking for opportunities to share my art in more interactive ways and love discussing my work with people who are drawn to it.

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So, for those of you in Michigan during the first weekend in August, I will be showing my work at the 2014 Brighton Fine Art & Acoustic Music Festival. This is a wonderful mid-sized event tucked alongside the beautiful Mill Pond in downtown Brighton. It’s a scenic walk filled with a wide variety of fine art, acoustic music, good food and quaint shops.

While I greatly appreciate all those who have bought my pieces online, I am looking forward to meeting many of you in person. Can’t make this event? Not to worry, I have several more announcements coming up, so stay tuned.

~Aric Jorn

Creativity in the Face of Oppression

My art does not tend to be political. I am more interested in exploring the human imagination and its quest for meaning as revealed through myth, culture and story. However, today was June 4 and, upon its 25th anniversary, I found myself reflecting upon China’s 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre – and not for the reason you might think. tank man I was attending art school at the time, my sophomore year about to give way to summer break, so those young protestors putting themselves in harm’s way were the same age I was – full of ideas and a natural human desire to express them. They were attempting to secure for themselves those fundamental freedoms that I in the United States took for granted.

So it was, as I attended a college actively teaching me how to think outside the box and encouraging me to express my ideas openly and creatively, that I suddenly became fully aware of the billions of people who live in political systems where freedom of speech and of expression is far from guaranteed and often nonexistent – places where it is literally dangerous to claim these simple freedoms as basic human rights. My understanding of such places to that point had been purely intellectual – seeing the instantly famous images like the one of the loan student facing down an entire column of tanks made it real for me. Here were young people putting their lives on the line for something I woke up with every morning – the freedom to express themselves without fear.

Only a handful of places can compare with the level of government censorship endured by the people of China. Surely North Korea has taken it to even greater extremes and I cannot help but pity those who are forced to live in such abject darkness. But however distasteful I find the suffering of those living in that type of closed-circuit system – shut off as they are from the world around them – what gave me reason to reflect was an article in the Los Angeles Times. It tells the story of how, despite the government’s best efforts to seal them, people continue to find creative new ways to shine slivers of light through the cracks. tank man uncropped Every year, it seems, there is a dangerous game of cat and mouse being played between small groups of citizens trying to keep the memory of Tiananmen Square alive and the government who is trying to eradicate all record of it. This has forced protestors to be innovative and to find ever more creative ways of sharing their story.

Just as 9-11 has become short hand for one of the greatest tragedies in American history, many Chinese came to refer to the events at Tiananmen Square as simply 6-4. When censors realized this, they established a ban on this number combination for weeks before and after the infamous date. People reacted by calling it May 35th or 63+1 to get past the censors and I imagine this worked a few times before officials caught on. As stated in the article, “as the date gets closer, even words as innocuous as tomorrow and today are often banned from the Chinese Internet.”

Since signs and banners are prohibited in the square, one group tried to get thousands of people to come to the site and join together to perform “Do You Hear the People Sing?” from Les Miserables. I have yet to hear whether this flash mob style protest succeeded and, if it did, I am waiting with fingers crossed to see if someone managed to capture it on their smartphone and smuggle it onto the internet. Playing cards at Tiananmen Square Innovation and creativity has kept the events of 1989 alive. Again the article tells how someone armed only with a deck of playing cards took a photo at the square directly behind a guard, arranging a hand to display cards that read 8,9,6,4 (in reference to the date) and A,K,4,7 (referring to the rifles that cut down so many innocent students 25 years ago). They blocked their face with the fanned out display to avoid the punishment that would surely befall them were they to be caught by authorities.

To me, these attempts and the hundreds like them, demonstrate that the human spirit will always find a way to express itself despite any and all attempts to oppress it and that the capacity of the human imagination to find a crack no matter how thick the wall, is truly boundless.

~Aric Jorn

You can read the Los Angeles Times article in its entirety here.

Sculpting Myths: Yggdrasil

As promised, today I am sharing the next piece in my SCULPTING MYTHS series, YGGDRASIL: the Tree of Life.

Whether we speak of the Bodhi tree under which the Buddha sat, the tree(s) of knowledge in the Garden of Eden, the tree of life so central to the Celtic tradition; or those found in the mythologies of ancient Egypt, China, India and countless others, trees have played a major role in stories that seek to explain the world and our place in it. In many of them, the tree represents the connection between mortal man, the heavens and the other realms and often it is seen as the very thing that holds them in place and binds each to the other.

To this day, trees continue to be a staple in storytelling, from J.R.R. Tolkein’s Trees of Valinor in Middle Earth to James Cameron’s Home Tree of Pandora in Avatar.

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I chose to name this particular design YGGDRASIL which is the Tree of Life in the Norse tradition. It is the tree that connects all 9 realms of the Norse mythology and it is upon this tree that Odin, the All-Father sacrificed himself (to himself) as a means of acquiring knowledge. But whatever name I give it, the design is intended to represent trees appearing in all our myths and traditions and I hope it will bring you a sense of connectedness to the natural world.

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This sculptural relief is 10 inches in diameter. It can be hung as a plaque and is also available framed in a high-quality shadowbox. Offered initially in three finishes – cold cast bronze, copper and stone – it is hand weathered and sealed for a long life, stamped on the back and accompanied by a signed certificate.

Made in the USA from start to finish and offered to the world in humble gratitude.

~Aric Jorn

Sgraffito at The Henry Ford

With just under two weeks before I announce the next piece in my Sculpting Mythology series, I thought to share a technique from another part of my life that I have yet to discuss on this blog. 2-3 days per week, I work as an historical presenter and decorative artist at The Henry Ford’s Pottery Shop.

The Pottery has a line of around 250 different items. We make in excess of 10,000 pieces each year, go through a ton of clay per month and have a staff of seven. It is a production shop that supplies THF’s gift stores, catalogs, historic buildings and restaurants but we also demonstrate how pottery was made in North America from the colonial era through to the twentieth century. In fact, some of the equipment we use is of historical interest in its own right – including a belt-driven potter’s wheel from the 1870s.

One of my favorite techniques to demonstrate is sgraffito, which most commonly took the form of decorative plates. German immigrants brought the style with them to the new world and it was popular in North America during the 1700’s and early 1800’s. A time consuming (and expensive) technique, you would not have seen a set of these around the dining table of a colonial home as much as a single plate hanging over the mantle – likely a cherished wedding gift.

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Sgraffito comes from an Italian word meaning to scratch or scrape and this describes precisely the technique.

I start by drape-molding a red ware plate over a plaster form to ensure consistency in size and shape. I then pour a paper-thin coating of slip (watered down clay) onto the inner surface of the plate and allow it to dry to the touch – a process that takes 3-5 days in a damp cabinet.    [note: The slip appears gray but will fire to a buttery yellow.]

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Once the proper level of moisture in the clay has been achieved (referred to as leather hard), I trim the plate on the potter’s wheel and then use simple loop and needle tools to carve my design through the top layer thereby revealing the red clay beneath.

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The carving completed, I allow it to dry fully in the open air for about a week. At this stage, the surface must be gently sanded using nylon netting and any dust or debris cleaned off with an air compressor. Next, I selectively brush on a highly diluted copper paste that will turn green when fired.

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The finished piece gets fired twice at 1800-2000 degrees Fahrenheit with a coating of clear glass frit (glaze) applied between firings.

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The process takes about 30 days from clay cabinet to store shelf.

Greenfield Village and the Liberty Craftworks (part of The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan) will reopen to the public for the 2014 season on April 15. If you happen by the pottery, stop in and say hello!

~Aric Jorn

Sculpting Myths: Mjölnir

Last year, I made the decision to walk away from several other ventures to concentrate on my sculpting and bring my vision for Jivotica to life.  That vision is to create art that celebrates the human spirit and imagination as it finds expression through culture, myth and story.

Perhaps it is my Scandinavian blood, fired up by Thursday night’s season premier of Vikings but I couldn’t be more excited to introduce the first piece in my new line of relief and free-standing sculptures – Mjölnir: the Hammer of Thor.

My inspiration for this piece is a well-documented artifact found in Skåne, Sweden that is held in the collections at the Historical Museum in Stockholm. Although I put my own spin on this raven-headed hammer, I also wanted to remain true to the original. There have been many attempts to capture Mjolnir as wearable art, but I wanted to create something larger that could be framed and hung on the wall – something that looked like an artifact from an archeological dig.

Initially offered in two finishes – stone and steel – they are produced in durable stone/metal-infused resin, accented with a lowlight painting technique to bring out every detail and sealed to ensure a long life. Each piece is then mounted and showcased in a high-quality shadow box.

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This piece is the first of many reliefs and sculptures in this line, a new addition to which will be unveiled at the end of every month along with information on any upcoming shows where you can see my work in person. Each piece will also be available at the Jivotica store on Etsy.

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I’d love to hear what you all think of this piece, and welcome comments below.

~Aric Jorn