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AP ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: ELLE ETCHEVERRY

I walked into the ceramics studio for the first time as a freshman, having only worked with clay once in my life at summer camp. I quickly grew to love the art form. I spent my freshman year learning the basics of ceramics: different construction methods, how to manage drying, and how to glaze. Most importantly, I learned that when it comes to working with clay, perfection takes time and requires many failures.

After my freshman year, I discovered that I wanted to spend time in ceramics exploring the relationship between form and function, creating pieces that were usable but also pleasing to the eye. I began to create sculptural forms that doubled as usable items such as flower vases or guacamole bowls. I learned how to critique my work and how to ask for advice. I also learned that working with clay is a mystery. Sometimes it works, and sometimes the unavoidable cracks simply appear, and instead of worrying about them, I learned to use them to my advantage. 

During my junior year, I was given an assignment to create a table display. At first, I was struck with a lack of inspiration, until I remembered a trip I had taken in 2019 to New Orleans, Louisiana to watch the Texas Longhorns take on the Georgia Bulldogs in the Sugar Bowl. I remembered the pure joy I felt as I walked through the town, inspecting the diversity of people, places, and food. This inspired my table display, “NOLA.” 

I am currently working on my AP 3D Design portfolio. Through a sustained investigation, I am using a slump-molding technique to explore the sculptural vessel form. This technique allows me to create free form shapes without relying on existing forms to act as a mold. I am using this technique to further my exploration of form and function: how they can work together and how they can work individually. 

I am so grateful for my four years in ceramics, it has gifted me a creative outlet through the madness of ESD academics, and I know that without it, I would not be the person I am today. 

Elle values the sense of touch and accidental discoveries in her image making. Influenced by a trip to New Orleans, Elle’s pieces speak eloquently of subtle nuances of form and energy.  From light and delicate to bold and gutsy, her colorful NOLA installation captures one’s imagination. - Barbara Brault, AP Ceramics Teacher

NOLA

During my junior year I was given the assignment to create a clay table display. At first, I was struck with a lack of inspiration but, after a few days of brainstorming, I remembered a vacation I took in 2019 to New Orleans to watch the Sugar Bowl. The diversity of the people, cultures, and food inspired me to create my NOLA table display.

NOLA

The first piece in the display is a plate of shrimp. This is the first piece of the table display that I finished and probably my favorite part of the display. I love how each shrimp was individually created and all of them put together reminds me of an overflowing plate that would be given on a Saturday afternoon in New Orleans.

NOLA

The next piece is a bread basket. I first created the basket using extruded coils, laying them in a press mold and then I created the rolls that go inside. After glazing both pieces I realized that something was missing so I decided to make the black overlaying napkin to give the piece some depth and to make it more realistic to a traditional southern bread basket.

NOLA

Next I created oysters. This is one of my all-time favorite pieces because of the textural elements. I first created the individual oyster shells by hand and then created the bin to sit them in. I went back and forth debating whether to create the rock salt in clay or just use actual rock salt and finally decided to buy real rock salt and use it, and I love how its texture plays off of the clay made oyster shells.

NOLA

Each oyster is specifically marked to fit with a specific shell, making them look more realistic and also making it easier to display the piece after being packaged or taken apart.

NOLA

The final pieces I created for the NOLA display were crab cakes on white plates with a delicately made blue napkin. The crab cakes are slabs of thick clay rolled in small cut pieces of clay, then each individually glazed to look like outer elements of a crab cake. The plates are pressmolds and the napkins are thinly rolled using thin pieces of plastic on each side side of the clay, draped around a rolling pin to give them their shape.

The Great Divide

During my senior year, I have focused on slump molding. In this first piece my original goal was to create an enclosed form, but after making both forms I realized that I had forgot to flip the pieces to make them enclosable as one form. I wanted to start over on the piece until one day I walked in and the two pieces were sitting on my work table beside each other and I realized that they worked beautifully together as a unit. Thus creating The Great Divide: a duo of two pieces from the same mold that can work both individually or as a unit.

I used a teal glaze on the inside of both pieces to make them functional to use in a kitchen setting but decided to keep the bare terracotta on the outside because I loved the way the bright teal matched with the vibrate orange of the terracotta.

Purple Haze

My next piece is called Purple Haze. This is the first of a three-part series that I used the same long and skinny mold for. This piece was meant to be a simple starting piece to help me understand how best to work with my new mold.

Once I took this first piece out of the wooden mold, I  discovered a lovely accident that happened while in the mold. I noticed this layering that had occurred while patching up a hole on the piece while it was in the mold. At first, I didn't know how I felt about it, but I quickly discovered that I could use this mistake as a technique to make some unique pieces in the future. This mistake led to my idea for my next piece called Blue Rapids.

Blue Rapids

This piece stemmed from the layering that had occurred on my last piece, so on this piece I purposefully put two slabs of clay in the mold and allowed them to dry together. I love how this piece turned out because it is different than any other form I have made.

I love the glaze that I used on it because it separates the piece but also carries the eye of the viewer all the way around the piece.

Two Peas in a Pod

My next piece is called Two Peas in a Pod. This piece was one of my weekend projects that stemmed from an idea that I honestly did not think would work. I wanted to try to use both the slump mold and a drape mold in one piece.

This piece also came out of the mold with a happy accident. While it was in the mold the canvas that holds the clay in the mold folded because of the pressure used to press down the clay and because of this the clay was forced into a unique pattern. I instantly loved the texture this created, I liked how natural it was and I loved that it was obvious that it was not made by a specific tool. I wanted to keep the integrity of this outside pattern, so I just lightly airbrushed the green over it so the viewer could still see the design.

LISTEN TO ELLE'S PRESENTATION OF HER WORK HERE: