Eva Funderburgh’s Delicate Monsters

Eva Funderburgh makes delicate monsters...

by Rasmus Rasmussen on August 10, 2010

Eva Funderburgh works mostly in clay and porcelain, creating strangely cute and soft-looking creatures. Visiting her studio, I found myself surrounded by them, and even the unfinished or broken ones made me stop and take an extra look. What is this one doing? What is that one looking at? Eva’s creatures have a life of their own, even if they originally came from her.

To let the world get a good look at how these creatures come into existence, Eva has created a set of timelapse videos. One of them is embedded in the sidebar of this interview. It’s fascinating to watch the clay go from a blob to a sculpture, complete with explanatory captions. Apart from that, you will also see the attention to detail, patience and love that she pours into her work. I found it inspiring — and that enthusiasm came through when I met her in person as well.

Eva Funderburgh started working with clay in high school, after which she went on to study sculpture and chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University. After moving to Seattle she eventually co-founded Florentia Clayworks, where she works today with a small group of fellow artists.

AP: You seem to have found a personal niche in sculpting strange creatures. How did you end up there, and what is it about this niche that satisfies your creative urge?

EF: To some degree, I’ve always made my strange little beasties. When I look back at my elementary school doodles and middle school ceramic projects, a very high percentage of them were monsters and similar critters.

In college, my art education was pretty focused on installation and concept art, in addition to sculpture. While I’d planned all along to go into ceramics after I graduated, I spent a few years after graduation struggling to figure out who I was as an artist. I spent some time exploring functional pottery, and making a few experimental conceptual pieces. However, even as I was trying things like that, I was making scores of tiny monstery beasts, each about one to two inches long. They were just three dimensional doodles that I’d make with extra clay. However, it wasn’t until I started focusing on just the beasties that I really began to find my own voice as an artist.

While my creatures are pretty simple forms, they’re also extremely versatile. I’ve spent lots of time using them to explore movement, emotion and body language. In some ways, I feel more comfortable depicting emotion and story through animal forms than it would for human forms.

AP: What is your approach to starting a new piece? What’s the idea-process like?

EF: I have two main methods for starting new pieces. Either I start them from sketches, or I start by just getting some clay in my hands and seeing where it takes me. Each method contributes different qualities. The sketching allows me to develop an idea further and make more variations, while pieces that start in clay have a more spontaneous feel to them. Sometimes, a seed of an idea will lodge in the back of my head, and keep coming back in both clay and paper, in multiple iterations. My “City Beasts” are the best example of that. I just keep revisiting the idea, to find new aspects to capture.

AP: You make time-lapse videos of your work, you have lots of photos and a blog as well. Why is it important to you to share your workflow? What kind of feedback have you been getting?

EF: I really enjoy what I do, and find it fascinating. What amazes me and makes me happy is that other people do too. When I started my blog, it was as much to keep my friends and family informed with how my work was going. My day-to-day work was so different from what many of them do, especially considering a large number of them are software developers. However, once everything got going, I discovered how much fun it was to communicate with other artists and fans from across the world. It’s just been great

However, one weird side effect of all of this is that I’ve realized how differently I perceive my work than other people. I don’t mean the finished work, but rather the in progress pieces. Since the most critical aspects of a piece to me will be the lines, the movement, and the body language, that’s what I pay attention to. This means that from the sketch, (which looks like a scribble) to the early clay stages, (which looks like a blob), to the finished refined piece, I am mentally seeing the finished beast. It took me a while to realize that everyone else just sees blobs and scribbles. The timelapse videos are a way to try and deal with that, in a sense. It animates all the incremental changes, showing the smooth and continues progress from blob to critter, and showing how they’re really the same basic thing from start to finish. It’s also a treat for me, seeing a week’s worth of time collapsed into three minutes. I do end up worrying a little bit when I have the camera on, in case I make faces at my sculptures or something equally silly.

AP: You co-founded the studio Florentia Clayworks. What do you get out of being around other artists? Does it affect your work or merely inspire?

EF: Clayworks has been great for me. When I helped found it in ’06, I was by far the youngest and most inexperienced member. Sharing a space with 5 other artist, all with very different work and methods has been invaluable. It’s been great just seeing how other people go about things, and being in an environment where you can sit and talk about the technical and the philosophical aspects of ceramics has been a true treat.

Nowadays, we’ve grown to a total of eight members, and I’m one of the three remaining members of the original six. I’ve actually taken over the managing member position, meaning I handle most of the paperwork and what little accounting there is. It’s definite a change from being the new girl on the scene, the most inexperienced one. It’s strange to think about how I’ve grown along with the studio.

It’s hard to pin down exactly what visual influence we have on each other. While we do spend a fair amount of time talking about technique and methods, our own visual styles are all very different. We range from pottery to sculpture, made with all sorts of different techniques. I suspect we influence each other aesthetically, but it occurs in a way too subtle to see from within the studio. An outsider might be able to spot it, though. A stronger influence is probably the time we spend talking about other folks and famous artists and their methods.

AP: You’ve been on the artistic path ever since you were a kid. Where would you ultimately like it to lead and how do you plan on getting there?

EF: That’s hard to say. I’m happy with the way my work steadily evolves and grows. However, with the way it grows, I can’t see and tell you what sort of work I’ll be making two years in the future. If I could do that, I’d just make the pieces now, instead of waiting two years.

As far as professional and career goals, that’s also hard to pin down. Fame, fortune, and all that are pretty cool concepts, but not something it’s wise to predict for yourself or something that’s pleasant to gain overnight. I’ll be happy to keep making work, to keep sharing it with people, and to see where it goes from there.

In the shorter term, I’m glad to share something I’m pretty excited about, art wise. I’ll be spending five weeks as an artist in residence at Guldagergaard, an international ceramic research center located in Denmark. I want to use the chance to revisit my old work on installation and conceptual sculpture and to bring it together with my present work. In short, I’m hoping to build a giant installation of critters. I’m planning on spending my five weeks to build as many small flying creatures as I can, creating a giant swarm of flying beasts. I can’t wait to see how it comes together.

Learn more about Eva on her website, on Twitter, Flickr or Facebook – or head straight to her Etsy store and get a monster of your own.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Carlos August 10, 2010 at 9:26 pm

I’m a big fan of Eva’s work – fun and beautifully executed. Great interview, Thanx!

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Rasmus Rasmussen August 13, 2010 at 2:35 pm

Thank you right back. :)

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Nicola August 10, 2010 at 9:45 pm

What a great article about process! Love Eva’s work. The timelapse was engrossing. Thanks for this interview.

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Rasmus Rasmussen August 13, 2010 at 2:36 pm

You know, I didn’t realize that process was the recurring theme until you pointed it out. Awesome!

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Kristina Robinson August 12, 2010 at 6:13 pm

Dear Eva, I love the whole idea of delicate monsters. They are beautiful & emotional and weirdly fascinating…the video was amazing…like watching gestation in process. Best of luck & love, Kristina & Peter Robinson.P.S. YOu probably don,t remember but we met you thru Becky Hawkins who is our niece. it was just before you went off to Japan.

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