“Metal is something I thought I could depend on. But, when I saw molten bronze to be as viscus as water, I realized that it is very much alive …” - the artist
Q: What led you to become a bronze sculptor?
A: I have always had a creative bend, but when I went into college I wasn't sure what I "wanted to be when I grew up" so to speak. I'll never forget a conversation I had with my father at the time. He gave me a piece of advice that has really stuck with me: "take courses that are interesting to you, and keep on signing up for the ones you like. That will show you where to go". So I did just that. The obsession started with two dimensional design and painting. Then I took a basic sculpture course and that really opened my eyes to a whole new world of creation. In painting, you are essentially representing the three dimensional world in two dimensions. With sculpture, you are reaching out into space and pulling a form out of it. That aspect of god-like creation was fascinating and powerful. So, I kept on taking sculpture courses.
Bronze casting was a course only offered during the summer. I was trying to get some of the more difficult courses I needed to graduate out of the way in summer school one year. I thought that I might as well take something fun while I was there, so I signed up for a bronze casting class.
I enjoyed the whole process, but it wasn't until I saw the molten bronze that things clicked for me. All of my life I had considered metal to be a cold, yet reliable material. A great example of this is that we build almost all of our building and bridge infrastructures out of steel. Metal is something I thought I could depend on. But, when I saw molten bronze to be as viscus as water, I realized that it is very much alive and that just a little bit of heat could undo all of that reliability.
In short, it changed the way I thought about the elements and the world. Nothing else in my artistic career has ever done that for me, and I was hooked.
Q: Can you describe your process from conception to finished piece?
A: Usually my process starts with an idea or feeling. It can either be an abstract emotion and I then search for a form that can represent it. Or it starts with a form that captivates me, and I then search for the reason that it moved me. In that case, I usually find a feeling or emotion underneath that initial visual response.
From there, if the idea is very concrete I will usually just dive into working in clay. If the idea, form, or emotion is still a bit elusive then I will draw a few sketches to get a better hold of what it is that I am trying to create.
Either way, I begin creating the piece by building an armature (essentially a skeletal structure that will support the clay) and then working the clay to completion.
During the clay phase, usually there are some considerable changes that occur from initial concept to what actually gets created. There is always a conversation between myself and the clay. Through the process, I am constantly asking why I am creating the piece, what's the reason behind it. At the same time, I have to listen to what the sculpture wants to become. At a certain point, I have to step out of the way and let the clay guide me. The whole thing is a conversation between my hands, the clay, and spirit, muse, or whatever you want to call it.
Once the clay is created, I will send the piece to a mold maker who creates a mold, usually a combination of rubber and plaster, from which all of the editions are cast in wax. From there, I send the piece to a foundry (a facility that casts bronze) and they enter what is called the "lost wax process". It is a one step mold process that takes the piece from wax to bronze. Once the piece is completed in bronze I will come in to patina, or put the final coloring, on the bronze.
Q: Where do you derive your inspiration from?
A: I find that the times I am out in the wilderness are the times that I am most in tune with my own true nature. There is a sense of peace and calm I experience there. Maybe because it is the lack of people, technology, etc. but I like to think that there are spirits in the plants. If you listen closely enough you can hear them whisper the wisdom of the ages, reminding whoever will listen of who we really are.
These whispering’s are where I draw my inspiration. I use the life forms I encounter in the mountains and forests I live in as a vehicle to explore various aspects of personality, human experience, and the dichotomy between mortality and immortality.
Q: Is there some underlying message you like to portray via your art?
A: At it's core, my work is a meditation on the ephemeral. It is the way I process the juxtaposition between the temporality of life with the deeper aspects of self and spirit.
Q: What do you hope for viewers to take away from your art?
A; I hope that viewers walk away from my art with the sense of calm and clarity that I experience outside in nature. If my work can either help people connect to their own inner landscape and spirit, that would be the highest honor. At the very least, I hope that the sculptures inspire people to recognize the beauty found on earth, and maybe even move them to become stewards of this planet that we call home.
Q: How do you view your art career in five years?
A: In five years, I hope to be showing large, multi-part installations in museums and corporate buildings, along-side galleries. That being said, as long as I am creating in a way that is true and meaningful, that is what is most important.
About the artist:
Margaret Thompson got her start in the arts while in high school when she began designing jewelry for Carlyn Galerie in Dallas, Texas.
Through adolescence and into adulthood, Margaret was drawn to a variety of creative arts including musical theater, cuisine, jewelry design, drawing, painting, graphic design, and eventually metal-smithing and sculpting.
In 2013 Margaret earned her Fine Arts degree from Skidmore College with a concentration in sculpture and metals. There, she began her training in two dimensional design, but quickly found herself drawn to three dimensional work. “It is one thing to paint space, but another to reach into space and shape something with my own hands. Once I had done that, there was no turning back.”
Margaret quickly became fascinated by the process of creating work in metal. “Working with metal for the first time completely changed my perception of the world. Here is this thing that is considered so strong and reliable; and with just a little bit of heat, it bends under my finger. Then with a lot more heat it becomes as liquid as water. That process of heating, and shaping in order to purify an idea and wrestle it to life speaks to me profoundly.”
Margaret now lives in Boulder Colorado, drawing much of her inspiration from the mountains. "I experience incredible wonder in nature. Especially in the mountains and forests. So I strive to create work that speaks to what I am enchanted by, in hopes that it allows the viewer to experience a little of that magic for themselves."
Want to share your work with Envision Magazine? Feel free to submit your visual art and/or literary works for a chance to be featured. Click here to apply online.