Lauren Skelly

PHOTOS BY ISABELLE EDWARDS
STORY BY FIORA MACPHERSON

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“A lot of things didn’t blow up... surprisingly.” Did some things blow up? “Some things got messy.”

Lauren Skelly has been breaking the rules. She’s been mixing glazes, watching them interact, turning matt color into lava. She’s been adding and slicing, chopping, refiring and not firing at all. Her work is a crazy science experiment turned art.

As a ceramicist, she works with one of the world’s oldest art forms: clay. “It’s kind of limitless,” she says, “They’ve been using clay for thousands of years and still doing new things.”

Lauren has immersed herself in these historic roots. Her mother took her to classes during high school, which continued throughout pre-college. She was hooked. During an apprenticeship in Florence, she learnt the specific process of Tuscan design. Lauren uses this traditional basis as a guide to challenge and redefine the craft.

Not everything works. Last fall, Lauren was taking trips up to Rockport and RISD farm to clear her mind and collect samples. She dried out seaweed and reintroduced it to the recycled clay. The salt, the mold, the pulp, which are neatly concealed in the dried version, came out in full force, and Lauren’s seaweed concoction became a royal stink bomb.

Something happens and I’m totally blown by it and don’t want to lose it.

The seaweed is part of a longer experiment with natural substances. Moss, coral, rocks and grass find their way into her pieces. Literally -- Lauren mixed moss with buttermilk hoping that it would grow on the form. For the record, that was one of those that “didn’t work out.” These materials are mixed with artificial glazes, imposing unrealistic colors on the natural world, until Lauren finds a texture that’s she is “deeply in love with.”

These colors, the natural and the fabricated, are at the core of her experimentation process. Lauren fires her sculptures at least five times before she is done with a piece. She often chooses not to fire at all, since the material in its pre-baked state marbleizes, and in the cross-section that are interacting greens, blues, reds, whites. After firing five, six or twenty-three times, with a couple of explosions along the way, Lauren knows her work is done, only because: “Something happens and I’m totally blown by it and don’t want to lose it.”

To see more of Lauren's work: www.laurenskelly.com