Maria Wickwire
Cygnet Studio

17109 W Big Lake Blvd
Mount Vernon, WA 98274
(503) 244-0744

Awkward Angel

42" x 24" x 15"

Artist's Statement

   I work with the most elemental of materials: clay, story, and human form. Clay is the oldest material we humans have used to express ourselves. Perhaps only our stories are older. And even before we began to tell our stories, there were our bodies, standing as witness to our lives and recording every experience in the cells of our bodies, the way the rings of a tree record its life story. By tracing the rings, a person can map the growth of the tree -- the years of draught, fire, and flourishing. The markings on my sculptural forms express how life writes its story into our bodies, which we could also read in each other, if we only knew how to look.

When I interact with clay, I lose track of time and conscious intention, trusting the process, and following wherever it leads me. Often, I learn about the unconscious roots that weave through my work by listening to others speak about what they see after I have completed it. From this, I understand that my sculptures tap into some kind of common, human, creative source that people recognize.

I believe that sculptures, like poems or any other works of art, need to be able to go out into the world on their own and make their own way. When we human beings encounter a work of art, there is a natural, charged gap between our own experience and the piece appearing before us. We immediately begin to bridge this gap with tenuous filaments of association, insight, and emotional energy. And this is how I first encounter my own sculptures.

Rather than beginning with a story or concept in mind, I start to play with the clay and watch as the sculpture takes shape in my hands, intuitively responding to her and even being guided by her. As she emerges, I feel as if I am simply a conduit that allows her to step forth to tell her story. The process of making sculpture is, for me, a creative journey, a quest for discovering the stories that bring meaning to my own life. Once the sculpture is finished, my job is to watch and listen until her story and her name reveal themselves. Sometimes a sculpture will wait, nameless, for a long time until I am led to the story she came to tell. I am always amazed that the stories about growth and creativity, intuition and courage, discovered through this process, have been told in cultures all over the world, separated by time and geography, but like dreams, archetypes common to people everywhere.

Each sculpture must go through an arduous process to become who she is. She begins as a soft and malleable, formless lump of clay. As I build her, using a coil method, the earliest layers must gradually become strong enough to support the new growth that will be added. Finally, she must acquire glaze patinas and pass through several firings, where she is heated up to 2200 degrees and her very body is transformed. During the firings, her body shrinks and moves, melts and glows, until she has changed completely and can nevermore be the undefined lump of clay she once was. However delicate she may appear, she has become incredibly strong and able to weather extreme cold or heat. To me, her metamorphosis is not unlike the story of a human life. We are all in the process of creating ourselves, passing through the crucibles of our life experience and emerging stronger each time, but carrying with us the beautiful marks of courage we have earned along the way.

In the following OPB Artbeat program Maria's segment begins at minute 9:33.

Too Far From You

13.75" x 12w" x 4.5d"

I Am Not What I Appear to Be

8.75h" x 6w" x 5d"

Room With a View

16" x 16" x 9"

Touch Me Not

16.75" x 14" x 5.5"

Once There Was a Way

5.5" x 9.75" x 4.75"

These Memories Lose Their Meaning

24.75" x 4.24" x 5.5"


6" x 25" x 18"

Rings (detail)

13.5" x 12" x 7.5"


13" x 21" x 17"


9" x 9" x 9"


Pacific Northwest Sculptors  4110 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd. #302,   Portland, OR 97214