Way back when, in the early seventies, I found myself spending hours in the ceramic studio at what was then Glassboro State College and is now Rowan University in Glassboro, NJ. Numerous professors there taught in this studio and I had the pleasure of being their student in a number of different classes in my beginning years at GSC. Dr. John Ottiano, the sculpture guru and jewelry professor, introduced me to bronze casting and jewelry fabrication. I still have a small piece that not so oddly fashioned itself in an Ottiano-like form. Dr. Jeanne Hartman taught ceramics and had the honor of teaching me how to throw on the potter’s wheel. I had some very minor successes in that regard. Dr. Paul Flick, who taught many different crafts, was often seen in this corner of the Westby art building, always with his Miniature Schnauzer, Boy. Ottiano, Hartman and Flick have all passed on. Their lively personalities and immense knowledge base are gone, but certainly not the impression they all left on me.
In my senior year as an art education major I signed up for a class in Ceramic Sculpture with the charismatic Dr. Demetrios (Jim) Mavroudis. Ceramic Sculpture seemed a natural choice for me, liking both independent areas. I learned a lot about clay that semester. Embarking on a rather monumentally scaled project, I purchased MANY bags of dry clay. Mixing it myself, I’m pretty sure it produced a ton of clay, both literally and figuratively. It did save me a lot of money by mixing it myself. Life in those times was simple. Arrive at the clay studio early, cut all other classes, work well into the night and totally immerse myself in the wonderful pliability of clay. My project ended up producing four large wall reliefs. Each measured approximately four by eight feet. Instead of glazes, I used oxides to stain the surface and accentuate the surface texture and forms. Once fired, the colors emerged to produce a scale of warm, earthy tones on the pieces. Only the first sculpture became a mounted, ready to hang piece. This entailed welding angle iron into a frame, reinforcing it with exterior grade plywood, covering the wood with chicken wire and setting the ceramic pieces into cement. It was heavy.
Each relief had to be cut into smaller sections (puzzle pieces) in order to fit into the kilns. The large, gas fired kilns were intimidating and occasionally I was responsible for keeping an eye on them during the firing process. Being responsible for everyone’s work was almost too much for me to handle.
Mavroudis guided me through this whole process and gave me a sense that I could accomplish great things. He is another special person who I remember fondly from this era of my life. When it came time to graduate and move on, I now had the task of packing these pieces and transporting them somewhere. I ended up trading the only mounted relief for a beautiful silver cast ring by John Ottiano. He erected my relief in his backyard overlooking a garden and his swimming pool. Somewhere I may have a photo of this.
My boxes of relief pieces sat in our basement/shed in NJ for over thirty years. We wanted to use them somewhere but never got around to it. When we downsized and moved to NY and our much smaller home, it was my husband who insisted on taking them with us. I’m pretty sure he moved them himself, since I did all the packing for the movers and really had no inclination to save them. After my husband recently purchased a scanner capable of scanning negatives and slides, I finally have some images of the long ago created reliefs. Maybe one will find itself on the back wall of our garage. It would certainly work with the surrounding natural environment. After all, it has its origins in the earth.
After doing a Google search for Mavroudis, I happily found that he is still alive and creating art. He and his wife moved from one area in Virginia to another and he found himself in a similar position to mine. What do we do with all these sculptures? Mavroudis worked in a variety of different sculptural media, but I remember his work in metal casting. He had a sculpture studio at this home and a several of his sculptures were outdoors on the property. Rather than destroy the pieces, he offered them to the public at no cost. This story appeared in the newspaper and I have linked it here. At this point I don’t know if he was successful in his quest to find new homes for his “children.” Having found his address, I intend to write to him. If he doesn’t remember me, I’m sure he will remember those ceramic reliefs!