The artist behind our new suite of vessels shares her vision and the catalyst behind her transition from dealing to making art.
Perfect imperfection: this is the principle that drives artisan Taylor Ruby Bell when making her sculptural vessels. Bell finds her rhythm with clay, and allows the medium to bend, pinch, and shape in whichever way it wants. Finding a balance between uniqueness and pure expression, Bell’s sculptures are true works of art.
With a background in art dealing Post War and Contemporary prints and multiples, Bell has an eye for detail. With this way of seeing, Bell uses the process of pinching and coiling clay as the focal point to each of her pieces. She pays homage to her Egyptian heritage and ancient artifacts, while also combining the design principles of Modernist art, furniture, and architecture. Each vessel combines methods of ancient worlds with the modern age, resulting in art that is truly timeless. Bell and her work encompass the ideals of Elysian Collective, which is why we are thrilled to welcome her as part of the Collective.
"I found myself craving a creative outlet that was entirely my own, so when a friend invited me to take a wheel throwing ceramics class with her, I didn't hesitate."
Every vessel she creates is filled with passion, dedication, and stories from now and the ancient world. She tells the stories of her life, her ancestors, and her past through different techniques and textures. Each curve, pinch, and ridge is a guideline to who she is, who she has been, and who she may become. Discover more about Bell and her work in the interview below.
EC: What inspires your work? Can you take us through your process of bringing an idea to life?
TRB: Like all of my favorite artists, my inspirations are wide and disparate, but the connective tissue is always beauty with a sense of history. I grew up with an intense fascination with all things antiquity, due largely to my Egyptian heritage. The organic, slightly asymmetrical shapes of ancient North African and Mediterranean pottery really resonate with me, as does the heartbeat found in that imperfection. As a former art dealer, I'd say that Modern and Post War art / architecture / and furniture are in my DNA as well–particularly by artists like Josef Albers, Vija Celmins, and Ellsworth Kelly–with those principles of line and form imprinted in my psyche. When considering my own work, the sweet spot is in that space where antiquity and modernity merge through the combination of textural/unglazed clays and ancient forms.
EC: Your background is in art dealing Post War and Contemporary prints and multiples. What was the moment that made you want to switch to creating art instead of selling it?
TRB: I came to ceramics rather late in the game. I originally went to art school and received a BFA and MFA in studio art, but never really thought of myself as an artist. I knew I loved looking at and talking about art, but wasn't as interested in making it. At the time, I didn't feel I had talent in that area, but I could recognize it in others, which is what led me to art dealing. I spent 10 years working in galleries, with my last tenure as the director of a New York gallery dealing in Post War works on paper.
Toward the end of my art dealing career, I went through a rather arduous fertility struggle, and after several rounds of IVF, was finally able to conceive. Something about that struggle really made me reevaluate my career and life as a whole, so I resigned, not really knowing what my next step would be, outside of motherhood. So, after the birth of my daughter (who we named Vija after my favorite contemporary artist Vija Celmins), I'd spend almost every afternoon at either the Met or the MoMA, gazing at ancient, Modern, and Contemporary art while my baby slept in the carrier on my chest. I found myself craving a creative outlet that was entirely my own, so when a friend invited me to take a wheel throwing ceramics class with her, I didn't hesitate. I was terrible! But, it didn't matter, I just loved how it felt to have clay in my hands. So, I kept practicing. I ditched the wheel and started hand building at my kitchen table, and suddenly my hands and body felt at home. I knew what I was doing, and haven't stopped since.
EC: What does your work say about you/your heritage? Are there any specific works that best express who you are as an artist?
TRB: At its core, my work is emotional. For example, my daughter Vija is five, and she loves to be in my studio with me while I'm working. She recently went through a phase where she'd write me notes and fold them up really small, then secretly drop them inside vases that were drying. I'd later find these scraps of paper that said "mom / V" while loading up the kiln.
One evening after finding another note, I was flipping through an old art history book and came across images of these beautifully carved niches within ancient Egyptian tombs which were meant to house memories. It gave me this incredible idea to carve out a niche within one of my vessels where I could metaphorically place all of my Vija memories, giving birth to the Altar Vessel. It's a piece that is so personal to me, and is also a love letter of sorts to anyone who chooses to honor someone or something special in their life.
EC: What emotions do you experience during your process? And is there any point in your process that stands out to you?
TRB: Curiosity and excitement. When coming up with new concepts, I rarely sketch in the traditional sense of pen-to-paper. Occasionally, I'll make small 2-d maquettes that help me decide which clay or textural treatment to use. But, more often than not, I start coiling with a vague shape or idea in my head and let the clay and the form speak to me. I work this way because new shapes come from this kind of low-expectations exploration, and the most successful results are almost always a departure from my original thought.
EC: Are there any exciting updates or new developments in the works you can share with us?
TRB: I'll be doing more collaborations with my favorite interior designers and design dealers!
New bonds between mother and daughter, combining old worlds with new, and finding a new passion through a new opportunity, these are the things that Bell has found through her craft. She truly shows what it means to be not only an artist, but someone who finds connection, community, the perfection of imperfection in handcrafted pieces.