Deborah G. Rogers is a self-taught American ceramic sculptor. She uses air-dry clay to hand sculpt charming, narrative pieces that express and communicate her ideas, questions and pent up opinions.
Deborah’s work is a combination of her distinct drawing style that developed from experience as both a children’s book illustrator and a pen and ink realist. Her home studio is filled with treasures – years of photos, objects, odds and ends that serve as inspiration and/or the perfect little something needed to make a piece just right. A love of antiques led Deborah to develop a final patina for her work – layers of varnish and wax that provide an otherworldly feel with an occasional retro flair.
Deborah currently resides in Norfolk, Virginia and is a guest artist for our Keepsake exhibition.
How did you get started as an artist?
I begin selling my work in outdoor sidewalk (shopping centers) shows in the 60’s about the age of 14. I don’t think there was actually a conscious journey to “get started as an artist” for me; I have always made, painted and drawn things since I was very young; I never gave it much thought; it just was. It is how I have always naturally expressed and communicated all those ideas, questions and pent up opinions forever spinning endlessly in my mind. I have always felt being an artist must claim you, not the other way around.
What are your biggest influences?
Words! Flipping through a dictionary and running off on tangents from a single word is often where and how my ideas and directions are determined and inspired.
Life! I have so much to say about what I have learned, what I know for certain, the what ifs, the maybes, what is real and the imaginary that no one can question.
What five words best describe your work?
Narrative, Detailed, Personal, Intimate, Emotional
Tell us a bit about your technique.
As a self-taught artist, I have assembled, played and experimented over my lifetime to reach my current desired look. About 30 years ago, I slowly drifted from 2-D work, settling happily into using a combination of many readily available premixed ceramic products that air dry. This allowed me to hand sculpt the base forms of my current 3-D pieces. My technique of surface treatment, drawings and color has evolved through trial and error over those years as well. My pieces always begin with writing down thoughts, words, rhymes and drawing before ever beginning to sculpt or paint. Some pieces have detailed blueprints – drawings on paper – before I begin to make them in 3-D.
After each ceramic piece is formed and completely dry, the surface is readied for color by applying several washes of gesso. Next I add an underlay of color – a combination of multiple layers of washes of acrylic or other paints, inks and dyes – before adding the final detail color, drawings and words using a variety of color pencils and inks. The layers of surface coloring are set along the way by using workable fixatives; the final work is coated with water based varnish and waxed several times. I will often experiment with other surface treatments if attempts for a certain effect cannot be achieve from my regular regime. I never consider the use of any unconventional material off limits within my work and I am always open to creative experimentation in order to keep the work fresh.
What is a typical workday like for you?
I have no concrete routine to a workday, but I generally wake up early, take a walk with my cat, sit under the trees or in the garden. I watch and listen to the sounds of nature as the world wakes up and tune into what the inner voices are leading me to explore for the day. If I have no other outside appointments to attend to for that day, it may lead me straight into the studio in the early hours before dawn. Other days, the pull to the studio comes much later, so you might find me up creating through the night as the rest of the world sleeps. I work with no sense of time and choose to shut the world out when I create – no phone or computer, no interruptions. It is my perfect world and where I am happiest and most productive.
What is your favorite thing about being an artist?
The freedom to communicate my thoughts, beliefs, doubts & questions…and no one can tell me I can’t. I question everything. There isn’t anything about which I don’t wonder why, how and what if. I am always exploring beginnings and endings in life, the available intuitive awareness in all of us, as well as who we are on the inside as opposed to the person we show to the world. I find it interesting how we spend so much time trying to be what we think we should be, rather than who we actually are. I get to be who I am becoming and share my journey all along the way. How great is that?
Photos courtesy of Deborah G. Rogers.
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