Sherman >> Paula Sibrack Marian recently hit a milestone in her 45-year artistic career at the potter’s wheel.
Marian began adding beads and jewels to her thrown vases, mirror frames, and necklaces, adorning them with flair and dimension. Certainly pottery artists in general have been adding accessories to their art for a long time. The key to Marian’s art lies in the rich histories and traditions of the items, which are culled from her travels to Uganda, China, and Huatulco, Mexico.
“The paper beads are made by women in Africa,” said Marian, 70, referring to the colorful gems on a displayed necklace. “It is part of the Bead for Life non-profit where women are taught to roll these beads.” The creation of paper beads involves cutting, rolling, and varnishing recycled paper and newspaper. Via mentoring, Bead for Life encourages and gives business training to women living in poverty.
Marian has a show of ceramics work called “Mirror Images” held at the White Silo Farm & Winery’s art gallery at 32 Route 37 East in Sherman through July 30. The opening on the afternoon July 9 at the gallery was held with hors d’oeuvres and the farm’s signature fruit blended wines served to guests.
The show includes works displayed upon white stands that are both functional and decorative, including oval-shaped and whimsically-patterned and textured vases; brightly-colored, long, and large necklaces; and, of course, the titular mirrors and their kaleidoscopic frames.
“What I’ve tried to do in the show is put together lots of parts of what I’ve been working on in my art career,” said Marian. “I’ve always done pottery. Now I am incorporating beads and mirrors. All these things are enmeshed in the show. It has a real sense of coming together.”
She added, “The mirrors are decorated with beads. The theme is a culmination of interests.” Marian makes the beads from colored clay slips, which are bits of watered-down, screened clay made through a process similar to sifting flour. “A colorant glaze is added but no silica is in it.”
She elaborated on a general art theme in her work: “I use a lot of textures from found objects,” she said. “I use patterns also that are simple, diamond-shaped, and elliptical.” She referred to patterns on a vase that utilized batik printing, in which metal plates that print newspaper advertisements were pressed into the damp clay. “It is a printing technology in which we use backward Chinese plates,” she added.
Marian referred to details on another work, “milagros,” which are small metal religious charms found in many areas of Latin America and are worn or carried for good luck. Marian got the charms from her travels to Southern Mexico. “People pin them to the clothing of a Saint in order to regain vision, for example,” she said. “The word ‘milagros’ in Spanish means miracles. A lot of Catholics believe that buying charms and pinning them to a Saints clothing will help.”
On other pots are attached vestiges of a journey to China — jade Buddha charms. “It is exciting to be able to combine materials especially because they came from a different place,” she elaborated. “Also, I am working with different color themes in different sections. I have never worked this way before. It’s inspiring.” Marian also took into color schemes and their meaning: purple signifying royalty; green, for the environment. “These were not conscious thoughts,” she explained. “The larger challenge is to use mixed media as opposed to other materials.”
She continued, “By using wood beads, mirrors, and metal, it has given me a way to highlight necklaces. In the past year of working on my own beads, the necklaces are heavy and made from different materials. They are modeled after longneck necklaces.”
Marian earned her ceramics masters degreee at Eastern Michigan University. In addition to being an active potter, Marian recently retired as a longtime art teacher at New Milford High School, where for decades she taught ceramics, graphic design, and advertising art and design.
Travel has figured deeply into the creation of Marian’s pottery. In 2005 Marian took a year-long sabbatical to serve as a research intern at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Concurrently she was a student of decorative arts at New York City’s Parson School of Design. A longtime interest in ceramics design and also found her receiving travel grants from the Philanthropic Initiative, an advisory firm that provides strategy to charities.
Marian learned about pit firing while studying in Mexico and found porcelain treasures near Shanghai. “I’ve had a chance to study pottery in a lot of cultures,” she said. “You don’t copy them but the techniques seep into your work. What was great about this is that the techniques I have learned, I could come back and share with my students.”’
Rena Shapiro, gallery curator at White Silo Farm & Winery, said of Marian’s work hanging in the current exhibit in the restored dairy barn which serves as the gallery: “The beading concept is awesome. It helps children that are impoverished.” She added, “Our artists are truly talented and passionate about their work.”
Marian said of the art show opening amid the White Silo Farm & Winery’s selection of wines made from rhubarb, strawberries, and blackberries: “Having lived in Sherman for more than 20 years, I am happy to show locally. And we like wine in our family.”