As an architect, Vicki Grant worked to fit together pieces of a puzzle. Although she recently retired from her professional career, Grant, 53, puts in full days on her artwork. To create her striking ceramic and wood sculptural vessels and wall hangings, she's still thinking like an architect.
"I'm concerned with how the pieces fold into each other and how they're intertwined," Grant said. "I look at pattern, color, materials. My brain is working the same way as it did with architecture, but it's a little bit easier with this because it's hands on. You can pick something up and lay it next to something and say, 'Oh, God, that's all wrong,' or 'That's exactly it.'"
Apparently Grant has come up with a large number of "exactly its." Her work flew off the walls during a summer show at the prestigious Blue Spiral 1 gallery in Asheville.
Vicki talks about how it began: "My mother was one who gave the family an appreciation of art," Grant said of Frances Walker. "She was a ceramicist and ceramic sculptor, and now she does fiber and paper collage. She had her own gallery in Maryland and has a book of poetry." Meanwhile, her scientific leanings come from her father, Ronald, who holds a doctorate in physics and became a fine-art woodworker in his retirement.
Clay and wood: Grant's fondness for science and math, coupled with art and design, found a home in architecture, which she did for 30 years. For an artistic outlet, she sketched and did stained glass. Then about a decade ago, Grant got the ceramics bug.
"I took my kids to a summer pottery class and it looked like too much fun, so I signed up for an adult class," she said. "It was addictive. "
Changes of scenery: Meanwhile, in 1999 Grant and her husband, Ronald, left the Washington area for a less-urban life in Raleigh. She became heavily involved in the Festival of the Arts program at Wakefield High School, where their three daughters, now 19, 20, and 22, went to school. For the last several years, Grant worked as an architect at Little Diversified Architectural Consulting in Durham.
She is now curator for a series of public art exhibits at the firm's office on the American Tobacco campus. This year, the Grants moved to their longtime second home on Lake Gaston and the artist has set up shop in a large studio over the garage.
Series of work: Grant works in series, and her latest two are called "Architectural Landscapes" and "Windows to Earth," with the former being whimsical and bright and the other weighty in feeling and size. Both boast clean lines and angles; the darker work has an Asian feel. Grant's urge to produce large pieces is part of what led her to add wooden elements. "I had a midsized electric kiln and these allowed me to make my work more complex. If you put something on a wooden stand, it can be twice as tall."
Family project: In Grant's studio one day in August, porcelain vessels and wall pieces in various stages of progress were laid out on long counters. Grant sketches out every piece.
Nature's help: After sketching out designs, Grants carves them into the clay, adding textures and choosing colors. Instead of glaze, she applies "layers and layers and layers of pigment." She often adds and arranges other elements into the piece. "I look at shape, texture, size, color. I'm inspired by natural pieces, like wood and stone," she said. Works in progress were embellished with such items as nautilus shells, driftwood, metal, lichen, a sea urchin, and even a bit of rust. "A lot of people send me weird stuff," said Grant. "They figure, 'This is bizarre, it looks like something Vicki could use.' I have alligator teeth, porcupine shells." Two of her daughters, both environmental studies students, recently brought her a collection of pods from their trip to the Galapagos Islands.
New connections: Completing a piece of art instead of an architectural project "feels very different," Grant said. "Architecture is a big collaborative effort. That's a great feeling. But this is just me, and that's a great feeling too." Grant doesn't have a name yet for her next series, "but it's kind of interconnecting pieces, and focused on the connectors, like leather strapping, with pieces that fit together like puzzles." And again, an architect's intellect will be channeled into the hands of an artist.
To see some of the pieces we have to purchase at Carolina Creations click here.