Seattle artist visits WCC

By Cailean McLeod

Seattle-based pottery artist Eva Funderburgh visited Whatcom Community College on May 13 and 14 to talk and show off her work.

Funderburgh captured the attention of the group of students and teachers in Roe Studio with her craft as well as her words, as she broke out large, mini-fridge sized blocks of wrapped clay and started on molding a figure right in front of their eyes.

As Funderburgh carefully molded the clay into a four-legged figure, she began talking about various topics including proper use of sandpaper and the properties of porcelain.

“It was a gradual decision to pursue art over the years, and I always loved art. What really made me decide was when I joined Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Arts,” Funderburgh said, “I happened to be accepted for their ceramics program.”

“One reason I picked Eva was I thought her work would appeal to students, there are so many fantasy elements to her work,” said ceramics teacher Rob Beishline, who was the main organizer for Funderburgh’s Whatcom expo.

Funderburgh said that at first, she wanted to be a scientist, and scheduled her classes around that, but her hobby with sculpting soon became of greater interest to her as she got older.

While she explained how her history working with porcelain came to form her molding habits, Funderburgh split the animal-like figure in two and starts hollowing out their insides.

“I really like seeing all the different kinds of art,” said Luna Contreras, who is majoring in ceramic arts, “this is actually my first time hearing about her; I love the monsters she makes, it’s different.”

Eva Funderburgh examines her newly sculpted creation in the Roe Studio. Photo by Cailean McLeod.
Eva Funderburgh examines her newly sculpted creation in the Roe Studio. Photo by Cailean McLeod.

Funderburgh took a break from her sculpture to show a couple of her creations from her art gallery; chubby creatures with big teeth and small legs, some with none at all.

After whittling out the two pieces of the sculpture and meshing two back together, Funderburgh puts a small hole in the figure and begins paddling it down.

Carrelyn Banner, a ceramics student, explains that by making a hole in the figure before changing it shape allows the air inside to escape, making it easier to contort the sculpt to match the artist’s vision.

“It is absolutely fabulous, it has a really unique look, it makes you really want to pick it up and feel it,” said Banner, “it really has a more organic feeling; the way she shapes it gives a smooth and finished feeling.”

“For me, it is a way to bring in someone with a different perspective and different way of working and it is a good chance for students to see that,” said Beishline.

Funderburgh passes around a finished model to demonstrate the several effects of paddling down sculptures as she adds little antlers to the head of her figure.

Funderburgh said the sculpture she made during her lecture was original, but also related to her existing works in terms of aesthetics.

“The first time I got into ceramics, my family was at a family center and there was a pottery studio in the basement, and I remember this one guy working the wheel, and I was really fascinated by it,” Funderburgh said.

“Coming from a childhood rich in anime and comic books and video games shaped my aesthetics,” said Funderburgh, “I devoured all science fiction books I encountered, and I was really into the Excalibur series, which pretty much was the British X-Men.”

Funderburgh said that her selective education helped refine her craft and helped manage her time working with both chemistry and sculpting.

“In high school, I was involved in this thing called the Manchester Craftsman Guild, an after-school program, and for college I went to the Carnegie Mellon University, which was a great opportunity,” said Funderburgh, “After I left college, I had an apprenticeship with professional wood-fire sculpter Steve Sauer, that is where I got my start with wood-firing.”

With the main body complete, Funderburgh blow dries the figure solid. She explains that her sculptures practice what she calls the “language of myth.”

“I love how in myths, there is a certain logic to everything that happens, and it’s totally different from the real world logic, but within the context of the story its totally logical and correct,” Funderburgh said, “it’s like, of course this improbable thing will happen, so you get all these absurd situations but they are never questioned, they are just correct, and that is a feeling I try to capture in my work, especially in my more complex pieces.”

“I met Eva through a craft organization call Northwest Designer Craftsmen, we have meetings where we share each other’s work, there is presentations every month, we organize art shows twice a year, she is a member,” said Beishline, “I am hoping to use that connection to bring in more people.”

“I like to create a single scene from the story, and the viewers are left to figure out the details in their mind,” said Funderburgh.

After drying the figure, Funderburgh took couple of small tools and carved out a small mouth with a snaggletooth.

“Beth Cavener Stichter is a huge role model to me, she is a ceramic artist who works with animal form and strong emotional content,” said Funderburgh.

After an hour and a half of talking and molding, Funderburgh invited the audience to take a closer look at the finished product. People complemented her talent and took pictures of the figure, a few even with her holding it in her hands.

Funderburgh greatly appreciated the questions and attention she received during the expo and also offered the audience plenty of pottery tips.

“Take your time and enjoy it, enjoy the process of making, that is so much of the zen of ceramics,” said Funderburgh.


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