Last week I shared my miniatures and so I thought it should follow this week to share my toothpick sculptures.
Pictured here is an image taken over a decade ago of myself posing with one of my sculptures which I called a "Barnacle Pod" and often used this photo to offer to people who thought my toothpick sculptures were tiny things. This always helped give them the correct impression of my work.
I started sculpting using toothpicks during a sculpture class while at the Kansas City Art Institute where my instructor, Michael Rees had us create exoskeletons using toothpicks. The assignment was delivered on a Friday and over the weekend, I created a giant toothpick "Barnacle". On the following Monday, I remember carrying my new creation into the studio with the help of my roommate who opened doors for me and entered a studio full of my classmates who had all created various types of manmade structures like buildings and bridges. I seemed to be the only one who thought of exoskeletons in nature as inspiration.
Following the completion of my degree several years later, in painting, I then took a break from being a painter and launched myself into a career as a sculptor instead. For several years afterwards, my exhibitions were showcasing my very large toothpick sculptures and interestingly, I seemed to be the only female toothpick sculptor in the world. I created a website then called, www.toothpickmoon.com and named partly for my material of choice and for my fascination with the moons of neighbouring planetary orbits which I used as the scaffolding of my sculptures.
My method of construction was to layer spirals of toothpicks following the visual patterns of music which related to different numbers found when interlacing multiple planetary orbits together. It was in 2008 that I learned about synesthesia and was shocked into discovering that not everyone sees sounds as colours and shapes around their body as I'd believed all my life. I had gone to a neurologist in an effort to try to get some control over my ADHD which I felt stopped me from accomplishing basic things in my life and while there I learned that seeing sounds isn't a common thing and that it's called synesthesia - the drive home after that appointment had me hyper-aware of every little noise. I had assumed that every human on this planet could see sounds as I did and it was such a shock to discover this wasn't the case!
So following this newfound awareness of synesthesia, I continued to sculpt using toothpicks and tried to push myself to experiment more and more with what I saw, numbers and patterns in nature which lead me to seek postgraduate education in sculpture at Central Saint Martins in 2015. I only attended a year as it was very expensive and something I found quite frustrating was the complete lack of actual teaching from the celebrity style teachers there. The teachers wafted into the studio when they felt like it and didn't actually teach, but talked at us without giving any instruction. They expected us to get on with our work in the studio which I could have done without having to spend lots of money which is why I feel postgraduate education in the UK has taken a huge dive.
It certainly wasn't worth the money and so I finished with a postgraduate certificate and didn't return to finish my masters.
I still sculpt but not as large as I used to and only as little experiments now, just to work things out when the mood strikes.
When sculpting with toothpicks, I always prefer wooden toothpicks and use high-temperature hot glue which creates more flex in my sculptures. I once experimented with low temp hot glue and discovered how good my sculptures were at shattering if under pressure hence my switch to high temp.
I don't update my portfolio website as much as I should and mostly it's just there as a sort of doorstop for anyone wanting to learn more about my sculptures but I do try to share new sculpture explorations on my Instagram @Toothpickmuse which you're welcome to check out. And again, I'm not a regular posting Instagramer as I really favour life outside of a computer so if I don't post for a while, don't lose hope...as I'm probably outside enjoying life and will return eventually.