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Interview with Sculptor Jenny Ellsworth

Interview with Sculptor Jenny Ellsworth

On July 16, 2019 the Happy Valley Rotating Sculpture Garden Program unveiled six new sculptures outside of City Hall. Joined by City Council and art enthusiasts, residents toured the installations and met program artists, who were present to share their stories and artistic inspiration.

Want to know more about the artists? We do, too! Read on to learn more about Oregon City local, Jenny Ellsworth and her sculpture, Athena.

So, Jenny, tell me about yourself.

JE: Jenny found her passion for welding in 2004.  The crackle, pop and sparks from high voltage electricity joining two pieces of metal together excites her to create.

For a couple of years she had a business doing metal fabrication for commercial properties.  She found herself seeing the potential in the “throw away” metal to create sculptures and give this material a second life.

In 2006 she made a small portfolio that consisted of sculptures inspired by plants and critters to show to nurseries and galleries.  She intrigued a few and began to build her inventory.  In 2009 she got involved with art shows like the Yard Garden Patio Show at the convention center. She has been awarded a blue ribbon at the Lake Oswego Arts Festival, made a bell display and a large garden feature for the Ainsworth home where weddings take place, public art for the City Hall in Milwaukie and Happy Valley, Auburn Washington’s Downtown Sculpture Gallery and Lake Oswego’s Gallery Without Walls.  She also got invited to the Clackamas Community College Outdoor Sculpture Expo and has a permanent public sculpture at the West Linn Library.

Jenny enjoys searching for unwanted metal pieces that hold an organic shape.  Her distinctive style emanates joy and love.  She loves the challenges of creating a balanced metal sculpture out of found objects and keeping the material near its original form so it can tell a story.

What is your earliest memory about art or creating art? 

JE: My first drawing was at 2 years old.  It was of a family of heart people. Heart body with heart eyes and mouth, with little heart hands and feet.  Even the hair had hearts in it.    

When did you know that you wanted to become a professional artist?

JE: I knew I wanted to become an artist when someone came up to me during a show and said “I love your style, will you make me a gate?”

What themes or concepts inspire your artistic style?

JE: I find myself thinking about the Fibonacci sequence in nature. Nature has a wonderful balance.

How has your artistic style changed over time?

JE: I would say my designs have become less “chunky” There’s a smoother transition with the heaviness of metal turned into a balanced sculpture.

One of your sculptures, Athena, is currently on display outside of City Hall as part of the 2019-2021 City Hall Sculpture Garden program. Athena was inspired by a special experience you had overseas. Can you tell me more about that experience and the inspiration behind Athena?

JE: My inspiration for Athena came when I found a tiny blue egg high up on a mountain in New Zealand.  The huge boulders were almost black with lush green grass all around.  The bright blue egg was the color of the sky, so tiny and fragile; it brought me into that present moment.

Robins symbolize passion, renewal and growth while eggs are a symbol of life.  This was a strong feeling during my transforming adventure through the country.

How long did it take to design and fabricate Athena? Did you have an artistic process?

JE: It took months to gather the semi-truck cogs that were on their way to the scraper.

After degreasing them it took about a week to create.  I started forming over an old buoy and the top was formed over an old mechanics oiling ball.  Once I found a good height to connect the two, I propped it up and started adding the center.

Was there a particular reason why you used the medium of salvaged steel? Is there a significance to the sculpture’s use of machine cogs?

JE: The machined cogs are fun to work with.

The different sizes and styles fit so well together.

What message do you hope to convey to Happy Valley residents with your work? What reaction do you hope to receive?

JE: I hope the community sees that old things can be turned into something new and that Athena will inspire others to create from found objects.

What advice would you give to an aspiring artist?

JE: Create what moves you.  Don’t force it cause it will show.

If you are ever stuck, take a look at your favorite artists for inspiration.

Do you find benefit in municipal art programs? Why or why not?

JE: Yes! It engages the community.  For me not being a resident of Happy Valley, I find myself coming to the communities farmers market, finding services the city has to offer and enjoying the beauty of Happy Valley.

The City thanks Ms. Ellsworth for her contribution to the Sculpture Garden. Athena has been on exhibit outside of City Hall since July 2019 and will remain through June 2021. For questions and purchasing inquiries, please contact Jaimie Huff, 503-783-3828, jaimiel@happyvalleyor.gov.

To see more art by Jenny Ellsworth, visit her webpage at https://fairyforge.com/

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