In the Studio: Sparking joy with Eleanor Anderson

March 1, 2019 by

In the WSW ceramics studios, Eleanor Anderson is rolling strips of clay, pinching and arranging them into grid-like patterns loosely in square and rectangular shapes. She then glazes these objects in bright and unexpected colors, fires them and dreams up the different possibilities for their installation in space. Unlike functional ceramics that have a clear endpoint once the work is fired, Eleanor’s grids pose a new and exciting challenge: will they be arranged in stacks like crates, hang in a way that imitates fabric, or have a new configuration altogether?

As an artist who primarily works with textiles and ceramics, Eleanor intuitively translates soft materials into solid forms and vice versa. In her hands, a sculpture can be collapsed into a 2-dimensional object and decorative motifs can be expanded into different sculptural forms. Sometimes both approaches are merged on a single surface. This element of play in her process is driven by a desire to create joy for the audience and for herself in the making.

“I would like to think of my work as an invitation, as including the viewer, I send work into the world with the intention of providing playful spaces and objects. I like to make work that reminds people of several different things and not a specific association.”

Eleanor Anderson graduated from Colorado College in 2012 with a BA in Printmaking and Fibers. More recently, she finished a two-year Core Fellowship at Penland School of Crafts where she refined her skillset working with various ceramic techniques. While this experience was invaluable to her, her current line of inquiry leads her to unlearn some of the conventions and break concepts of functionality. Revisiting materials used in textile making, Eleanor created ceramic slabs that she re-purposed as a loom. Drawn to its taut quality, she wrapped a thread warp on the slab and wove through using strips of colorful fabric. The final product resists easy categorization operating somewhere between sculpture, painting and textiles. Other times, tools repeatedly used in her textile work such as weaving combs reappear as stylized motifs in her ceramic designs.

“I have a practice that feeds into itself, and a lot of my inspiration comes from how tools interact with materials, a conversation between what my hands want to do and what the material wants to do. I am trying to find that lovely path of least resistance, and yet have an obsession and a compulsion with small components.”

In addition to creating her own work, as the Chili Bowl Workspace resident artist in 2019 Eleanor worked in the studios to create over 50 unique bowls for the annual Chili Bowl fundraiser. Experimenting with a new set of glazes, she explored pattern and color while maintaining the characteristic quality of her work with hand-drawn lines and organic forms.

Looking forward Eleanor aims to be more settled allowing her create larger and more immersive projects. Moving from one residency to another, she currently works within certain scale restrictions and she jokingly shares that all her belongings need to fit in her car. Additionally, as a longer term aspiration, she would like to someday run an artist-residency paying forward the opportunities afforded to her.

“I love doing residencies. It’s such a privilege. I am very grateful to be here. I really like the novelty of it. It’s nice to be in a new place because in some ways you don’t even realize how it inspires you.”

Eleanor Anderson graduated from Colorado College in 2012 where she studied printmaking and fibers. She works across a range of media including ceramics, textiles, prints and collage. She has been a resident at Studio Kura in Itoshima, Japan, the Textile Arts Center in Brooklyn, NY, and a 9th Semester Fellow in Design at Colorado College. In 2018, she finished a two-year Core Fellowship at Penland School of Crafts in Penland, North Carolina