Photos by Josiah Kopp and provided by Annette Marchand
The tactile nature of ceramics allows the artist to explore the relationship between the sculptural and the functional. Ceramic artist Annette Marchand thrives in the expressive yet controlled nature of ceramic art. Marchand is motivated to continually push clay further, innovating with form and infusing new ideas and emotions into his work.
Discovery and practice
Marchand’s passion for art has accompanied him since his childhood. She did not come from an artistic family and did not have access to museums, but she would see art on the covers of magazines.
“I was looking at a Picasso on a cover of Time magazine and I would hear people say, ‘Is this art? I could do that. ‘ And I was like, ‘Why would they put it on the cover of a magazine if it wasn’t art?’ Said Marchand. “I needed to know what makes this art. I wanted to know more. “
From an early age, Marchand was determined to become an artist. After casting a perfect shape on her first high school ceramics class, she became addicted and took more pottery lessons when she entered college. One of the most formative moments in Marchand’s development as an artist was a trip she took to Europe at university, visiting England, France, Italy and Germany. While in Venice, she ventured out on her own and came across a small art gallery showing one of Picasso’s beach scenes. “It made me feel good because I found something really unique,” she said. “I am always learning, learning more and doing more. “
Marchand was trained as a painter but had a natural talent for clay. “Part of what really attracted me was the community and social aspect of being a part of that environment, versus being a painter where you are really isolated,” Marchand said.
As a painter, Marchand spends a lot of time alone with her canvas, which is a great experience for her, but lacks inspiration. At the same time, she spent more and more time learning and working with clay.
“I feel limited by the two-dimensional surface,” Marchand said. As an abstract painter, Marchand put energy into his work, becoming aggressive and wild with his brush. She transferred that same energy into her clay. “I felt like I had a little edge over a lot of ceramic artists who didn’t have this ability to come off and be comfortable messing up everything and going a little crazy with the surfaces of their clay. “
Marchand was particularly drawn to abstract expressionism. The wilder the better. She incorporates this flexibility and expression of painting into her ceramic work, which in comparison is a much more controlled medium. In this regard, art is as much a therapeutic process for Marchand as it is an expressive outlet.
“I kept going deeper and deeper and it became a really meditative process for me. I always say clay is a healer. You can put your sad energy into it and you can put your happy energy into it. It absorbs it and gives you something back.
Annette Marchand, ceramicist
Inspiration and innovation
“My ultimate goal is to innovate and think outside the box, and go in a direction other potters might not have explored,” Marchand said.
Marchand’s bee bowls are a series of pieces that are creating a buzz. Inspired by the organic shapes of a beehive and the pollinators themselves, these warm, bright yellow bowls feature Marchand’s hand designs on clay. The work is both elegant and whimsical as it combines Marchand’s expertise in two-dimensional and three-dimensional art forms.
Some of Marchand’s other works include his clever but functional butter dishes and wood jugs.
“I always try to push my own personal limits. I did a pretty tight and controlled job, but also did a job where I altered the shape and pushed it towards sculpture. I also like that. I’m about to be ready to start over because I like a bit of funk in my form.
When seated at the wheel, Marchand’s goal is to create valuable individual pieces, giving meaning and thought to the shape of the clay. Each room has its own story. She enjoys experimenting with different shapes and textures through her work. These variations that Marchand incorporates into the clay make the pieces appear to be from different artists on the surface, but his thoughtful eye and intuitive touch are evident throughout each piece.
“I’m on a whim and do this, then I’m on a different whim and do that.” Anything that catches my eye or whatever mood I’m in pulls me in different directions.
One of Marchand’s greatest inspirations are the organic forms found in nature. A quiet walk can turn into a source of ideas for future work.
“I am obsessed with textures and patterns. I walk around and look at nature. I find patterns in the snow or on the sidewalk that come from changes in the weather and I’m going to sit and obsess over them and draw them in detail. Marchand even drew the beehive motif on the bee bowls referring to a real beehive.
Marchand studied and worked with many mediums in addition to clay and paint, including drawing, engraving and glassblowing.
“I actually would love to get back to painting and drawing a little more because I feel like that’s the heart of everything I do. I think for any good artist, the better you can draw, the better you can sculpt, the better you can do almost anything. There is something going on in this drawing phase where you are really focused and connected. I analyze it all.
All of Marchand’s studies and past experiences in different mediums inform the resulting form of the piece. In some ways, this process creates tangible documentation of Marchand’s current state of mind and interests.
When working on a piece, Marchand is very thoughtful about its shape, carefully considering every component of the shape from the lip to the stomach and feet.
“I want to push the clay. I want to see new forms. I want to think about functionality and also about the simple sculptural essence.
The physicality, movement, and energy of clay working are all part of Marchand’s love for this art form. Looking to the future, Marchand wishes to continue to push his forms further and to communicate new ideas and feelings through the form of clay.
“You have to build a whole relationship with clay. I think about it a lot, you have to learn to touch the clay. Sometimes it takes a long time to get it. It’s fun and stimulating.
Marchand shares her point of view and also shows others the beauty of art through her work as a visual art teacher at the North Dakota Center for Distance Education and as an instructor at the Plains Art Museum.
“Everything is important. So I also say, ‘Don’t be too precious about everything.’ With my students, I don’t want them to get discouraged. It might look lumpy right now, but it’s important. It is a record of what you have created. It shows your progress. At the end of the day, it’s okay to say you’ve accomplished something.
Marchand’s work is on display and available for purchase at Dakota Gallery of Fine Arts.