Creativity and the willingness to experiment with new forms of art were a constant theme throughout Jean Gaul’s life, in his artistic activities as well as in his career choices.
Mastering drawing, painting and textile art, Gaul’s current artistic endeavor is ceramic sculpture. A member of Indian River Clay, his work is represented at the Artists Guild Gallery and one of his pieces was selected for the 100% Pure Florida exhibition at the Fifth Avenue Gallery in Melbourne. The juried show, featuring selected artists from across the state, runs through March 26.
Gaul recalls taking drawing lessons in elementary school and finding that she not only loved it, but was also good at it. Encouraged by her parents and teachers, she built a portfolio with the aim of specializing in art.
“My parents never disapproved or said, ‘maybe you have to make a living,'” says Gaul, who later earned a BFA in drawing and painting from Syracuse University.
“Great, right? Until you got out of school and had to find a job. And the Medici are dead, and nobody is hiring for that particular specialty,” Gaul laughs.
After a few years teaching art in elementary school, she took a few years to raise her young children before getting back into the workforce.
“The only thing available was window decorating at the local JC Penney, for about 10 hours a week,” Gaul recalls. “I really like it. It was fun and there was no pressure, let’s face it.
A district manager noticed her creative style and hired her for a full-time job remodeling store floors in older locations from New Hampshire to Maryland.
“They were trying to bring in new customers and modernize, and they had all these new products,” says Gaul. “I worked in this position for seven years and I loved it. It was an awesome experience. There were a lot of small towns that you would never go to otherwise. And it was also a challenge, because they were stores of different shapes and problems had to be solved in order for the merchandise to be presented.
In later employment in marketing and advertising, she gained some graphic design experience, and although her own art took a “big back seat” to her work, those skills would soon reemerge in another way. creative.
At age 50, she returned to Syracuse University and earned a master’s degree in textile design, intending to create high-end silk designs for items such as women’s scarves and men’s ties.
“But then the workforce got laid back, and there wasn’t really a call for that type of model,” says Gaul.
She then became a pattern artist in Pennsylvania for a manufacturer of polypropylene ribbons, “the kind you get for free at the department store when they wrap your gifts”, and discovered the manufacturing side of the business.
“We had a CEO who was very involved and really supportive of the arts, so we were going to trade shows in Europe. It was fantastic work.
This company purchased a high-end ribbon company in New Jersey that began importing ribbons from overseas.
“It was all fabric based and since it was my true love, I went to New Jersey, and started traveling mostly to Hong Kong and Taiwan, sometimes China, sometimes India,” says Gaul. “It was a whole new cultural awakening. They had a completely different sense of taste and level of color.
The next chapter of her life began when she retired about 11 years ago and bought a house in Sag Harbor, NY
“I am ready to retire. It was in September, I moved all my things into this little house which needs to be renovated. I am excited. I’ve been there for two weeks and we have Hurricane Sandy,” Gaul recalls.
“And the city is flooded; it was like the end of the earth for the whole winter. People just deserted the city, there was no electricity. It was just a really weird winter. And I thought, I landed on the moon.
Not wanting to spend another winter there, she traveled for a few years and about eight years ago found Vero Beach, which is now her primary residence.
“I think I’m going back up north now for two and a half months and the rest is here,” says Gaul, who threw herself into Vero’s art scene.
Being “a little tired of flat surfaces,” she took a ceramics class from artist Ginny Piech Street, which opened up a whole new world to her.
“I like to work with clay and form surfaces, then paint on the surface,” says Gaul. “I like to shape the clay and fire it, then look at the clay as a 3-dimensional canvas, or as a bas-relief sometimes. So it kind of mixes two things together.
She appreciates the flexibility of the clay, but says, “I feel like you never have complete control over it; it has its own mind. He only cooperates to a certain extent. But that’s what I like. They become very organic and natural. I draw a lot of inspiration from nature.
The piece accepted by the 100% Pure Florida show is another nature-based organic sculpture called Flora, made from speckled clay, with a soft pinkish glaze, green and yellow underglaze in the center.
“It’s a flower. I like it because it looks like a floating shape. I think it looks like leaves in the wind, so rather than painting over it heavily, I did some simple painting. I think the form is really the focus.
In addition to experimenting with types of clay, Gaul studied a variety of glazes and effects. She first tried soaking the glazes, explaining, “It covers the surface and fires into a glass-like exterior. And by combining different glazes, it creates chemistry, and forms new colors or new effects.
But, lacking her two-dimensional art, she now paints using an underglaze.
“You can blend it and you can get detail without it blending like dipped glazes.”
His work is hand-built and sculpted rather than functional, and the design of the painting is often determined by the sculptural form, explaining: “Imagery speaks to me, inspires me.
Gaul did a few series, including a fish series, where the fish were made like puzzle pieces and mounted on driftwood. Another series were masks, including a COVID mask, a couple of garden gods and an Egyptian lynx.
“They were mostly emotional shots. Or as my kids like to call them, spooky,” Gaul laughs.
Experimentation with mediums also extends to his two-dimensional pieces.
“I’ll probably go back to doing pastels again,” Gaul said. Showing a Koi painting that compliments the ceramic fish mounted nearby, she says, “It’s really transparent ink. These are very nice bright colors.
She is inspired by the ceramists Alberto Bustos and Kim Simonsson.
“Alberto Bustos makes these shapes that seem almost alive. They are just incredibly beautiful.
I’m so fascinated by movement, making clay look like it’s moving, and he does a wonderful job of that,” says Gaul.
And Simonsson’s fantasy figurines are finished with a specialist varnish that gives the appearance of a herd. “He succeeded in making the hard surface of the clay soft, almost like velvet.
They are simply magnificent. The idea he developed, I just find fascinating.
“I will continue with ceramics because I love it. I want to keep experimenting with shapes and push hand construction as far as possible,” says Gaul.
Pictures of Kaila Jones