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Victoria Silvera is inspired by the sea

Published:Friday | May 20, 2016 | 12:00 AMArmitabh Sharma
Urchins and coffee ... functional ceramics by Victoria Silvera.
Three-stack table lamp made from sea urchins by Victoria Silvera.
Inspired by nature, in earthy tones, functional ceramics by Victoria Silvera.
Artwork that's functional - Victoria Silvera creations.
Sea urchins inspired creations by Victoria Silvera.
Amitabh Sharma

It is a calling, a constant search for the metaphysical, some of which is grounded in the earth, while others floating water and yet some of that is embedded in the mystique of the mountains.

For Victoria Silvera, this calling lies in searching for innate materials, recreating, repurposing and recycling them into objet du desir - moulded, carved, and fired.

An artist whose claim to fame is artwork from sea urchins, Silvera, also prides herself as a ceramicist, creating a confluence of the earthen tones, oft rustic pieces, all of which, she says are inspired by nature.

"As a child, I was big into feeling, understanding the world through all my senses," she said. "As an artist, you respond; you, in essence, translate your feelings about your natural or constructed world into thoughts, ideas and then (into) material form."

This nature-inspired feeling made her gravitate to art, which began with going into a trance and creating imaginary figures in things around her.

"At a young age, I sculpted the wax from coffee candles into female forms," Silvera said. "And I would sit and daydream about the faces and figures I saw in cutwork stone walls and cumulus clouds. I was also an avid collector of all things found at the beach."




Silvera said that the transition from dreaming to being an artist never came full circle until she went to college and the eureka moment, then was not intertwined with the romanticism of nature gazing.

"I took a sculpture class with a political narrative artist," she recalled. "I began to think of making art as medium to talk about difficult topics such as race, gender, and sexuality."

Learning to translate nature-inspired ideas into forms, she says, is a call to innovate and converting the natural forms into objects for functional use as well as visual pleasure.

"It is so organic," Silvera said. "In a sense, I felt like a child in making art again and dipping my hands in clay - so much so that subliminally I think I returned to what reminded me most of my childhood."

As with the nature's diversity, her choice of media enables her to delve into different forms of creative expressions the plasticity of the clay and the intricacies of an urchin.

"An urchin can be made to hold pepper pot soup, can cast light, can be held like a therapeutic ball in the hand," she said. "I am very curious as to how many different objects I can make, how many needs I can fulfil, all from a single reference."

In her creations, there is a distinct touch of lattice, the intricate carvings that have the ability to transform cold stone into poetry etched in love - the Taj Mahal is one such fine example.

Clay, though, might not be the best material for lattice-intensive carving and can be susceptible to fracturing. "I intentionally manipulate it because I love the look of lace and cutwork fabrics and knew the clay was malleable enough to achieve those effects," she said.

To create anything, vision is key, thinking and seeing beyond the visual realm the inspiration from nature gets help from technology.

Silvera said that she collects bits of texture and colour that appeal to me, or she goes online to research a specific creature or form she wants to replicate. If the artwork to be created is complicated and sculptural, she makes a smaller version of the final piece, or sometimes even a PhotoShop sketch with colour schemes for cohesive collection of crockery.

This is the research phase, the production begins after all the I's are dotted and the T's crossed.

"If it is concentric form, say, an urchin, plate or teapot, I will wheel throw it, trim it, wait till it is leather hard and either spike or carve it, or score, slip, and assemble its parts," Silvera informed, the intricacy of process sounding Sanskrit perhaps ...

"Drying the piece out carefully and slowly is key," she said, after which she loads the kiln, fires the pieces once in what some call a 'biscuit' or 'bisque' firing.

"The pieces are then glazed, scraped, wiped, and fired to a higher temperature than the bisque ... and Voila!" she exclaimed.

Silvera, who describes herself as someone who is sensitive to people and the environment, said she is trying to understand the human condition throughout time and space. Like nature limitless, unfathomable, and unpredictable, she lives her dreams, latticed and earthy.