Jewett’s artwork focuses almost entirely on animals, arranging them in strange and whimsical poses. In this way they are haunting, beautiful, eerie. But in another way, they are close to life. Upon first glance anyone would be able to tell that Jewett has a firm grasp on the mechanics and anatomy of many different creatures, and the ability to capture that and put that realistic touch into much of her work. This is also true for some of her more mythical designs, like her phoenix-esque piece, as well as her Cheshire Cat.
Born in Ontario, Jewett has spent her life interested in art and living creatures. She earned her post-secondary degrees in Fine art and Anthropology at McMaster University in 2007, and this educational background serves as a sort of driving force for her current work. Because of her knowledge of both animal behavior and various arts, she is able to make the most stunning sculptures, giving them a special personality and vibrancy.
I stumbled upon her work accidentally, as I do with many of the artists I encounter, and I fell in love. I, too, have great interest in artwork that focuses specifically on animals. Her Mechanical Octopus piece is among my favorite pieces of art to date. It was an absolute treat discovering Jewett, and I hope you all are offered the very same pleasure with this article.
To learn more about Ellen Jewett, please take a moment to visit the following links: Etsy. DeviantArt.
Ellen Jewett interview with Brittany Connolly
Animals are a huge focus in your sculptures. What is your relationship with animals, and how does your connection to them influence your art?
Personally and academically animals have always been a major focus for me. Throughout my life I have worked in various rescues, sanctuaries, and as a rehabilitation and trainer – so many manifestations of a desire to know animals. I am also a generally 'outdoorsy' person. To me living with animals, knowing them and learning to understand them better never fails to capture my interest. I think this comes out in the movement and expressions of the animals I sculpt. There is a personal quality of knowing. I often work for clients who have also worked with animals professionally, whether they are horse breeders or conservation authorities – and they tell me it is this quality that attracts them to the sculptures.
Which materials do you use to form your pieces? Which medium is your favorite to work with? Your least favorite?
Right now my work focuses heavily on air drying polymer clays, which I use with other materials like metal, for armatures, as well as acrylic and oil paints. I love sculpting with many materials. My practice has in the past included ceramics, wax, glass, epoxy resin, wool, cement and silicone. However, my favorite mediums to work in are things that are light weight and playable with no toxicity. And because I prefer to sculpt with my hands only, rather than tools, I don't like stiff mediums.
What inspires you to create?
Ornate designs, walks in the woods, experiences with animals, a fixation on particular colours, moods or textures.
What challenges have you faced as an artist?
Acquiring technique in nontraditional mediums has been a learning curve involving a lot of trial and error. But I'm passionate about sculpture, so as a policy, I try to learn it all. Getting my feet wet and learning as many materials as I can helps inform me of what I want in my studio for the day to day.
After that I'd say the biggest challenge for me as a professional artist has been learning to effectively ship and travel with my work. When I've traveled to shows and exhibitions I've had a lot of envy for those artists who could stroll through the front doors with a thin little portfolio. Starting out as a sculptor has meant years of packing vehicles to unbelievable capacities and hauling crates through industrial loading docks. Learning to ship internationally also took a lot blood and sweat. However in both these regards I feel fairly confident now.
Which piece so far has been the most difficult to construct?
Anything larger scale. I haven't worked large scale for a few years due to lack of time but I'd again in the future.
How long did it take you to become confident in your skills?
I've always felt fairly innately confident my ability to produce sculpture, it's been my life since I started to walk and talk. However I'd say it took about six years of working full time as an artist to really feel 'in' my art as passion and a profession in a confident way.
What is one thing you cannot do that you would love to learn, if the opportunity presents itself?
I always like learning technique involving raw natural materials, even though this does not play a large part in my commercial work. I suppose one thing I might like to learn is how to harvest and fire raw unfiltered clay by myself.
I always ask this question, because it’s nice to hear from each artist: What is your best advice that you could give to someone who wishes to follow in your footsteps?
I'd say start by figuring out where your strengths lie as an artist, as opposed to what you enjoy in other artists work, as these are often different things. After that it's putting in the time to develop your skills to a high standard, with a lot of personal style. Using original source material helps the problem of over emulating other artists. In terms of making it a profession, simply put, never stop working. Don't wait to be discovered and have someone else look after your career. I've never personally seen it work that way. Produce, produce, produce. Take all opportunities (teaching, custom orders, apprenticeships, etc.) that comeyour way and sell your work at reasonable prices so you can keep selling. This will give you incentive to keep working, perfecting your art and allowing that process to inform you further of where you want to be heading as an artist.