Pursuing sculpture in clay, metal and glass: Immi Storrs

Immi Storrs, Sculptor and Glass Artist

What advice do you have for beginning sculptors?

I learned many years ago about working in clay was that water-based clay is a much more tactile, but loses some of its spontaneity because it needs to be kept wet. Plasticine has an odor that I don’t like, and people will find it doesn’t take thumbprints like water-based clay, but it does not need to be kept wet. And those clays need to be put in a more permanent medium, unless they are hollow without an armature, and can be fired. The other material that is interesting is plaster. It can be slathered over an armature and then chiseled or rasped away. The plaster when done takes very interesting patinas. I use water-based colors for that.

What was the biggest challenge in marketing yourself as a sculptor at the start?

The biggest challenge in marketing myself early on was finding a gallery. As my work is cast in bronze, which is very expensive, and that made my work expensive. Not many galleries are willing to take on new artists whose work is expensive because the market is not there. Galleries, at least here in New York, have enormous costs and they need to be able to sell their artists.

How have you differentiated yourself?

My work is different because I do mostly animals. You can tell what they are, whether it’s a horse or cow or bird, but the horse may have four heads and four tails. And my animals are all generic, though you can tell whether my bird is a water bird or a raptor, You don’t know what kind of water bird or raptor.

My new work is on glass. Having had multiple hand and wrist injuries, I needed to change my technique as clay was much too difficult. I use a paint on multiple panes to create a 3-D effect that some people find disturbing, so I guess my technique works. I think of my new work as both painting and sculpture.

How do you work with glass?

The technique I’ve developed, which is to work with a series (usually six or seven) stacked glass panels that I’ve painted on and sometimes etched, allows me to create dimensionality and to look as though the subject is encased in the glass – in fact, some people have asked how I got the wasp or bird in there. What I’ve actually done is to design, for example with the eagle, so that the front wing is on the first pane and the other wing is on the last pane with body parts in between to make the piece look three-dimensional. It’s challenging because when I make a change on one pane, I have to look at how it impacts all the others, so I’m forever moving the panes around to line them up in a particular way. I use special glass paint, and I also did finally find out that I can get a type of seamed glass, which means that the edges are sanded down and smooth, so now I’m not cutting myself on the ragged edges.

Immi Storrs is an award-winning sculptor, whose work is in museums and corporate collections, including The National Museum for Women in the Arts, The National Academy Museum, and The Herbert Johnson Museum at Cornell. She recently completed eleven sculptures for Japan Airlines, and she’s a member of  The Century Association and The Sculptors Guild.

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