5Q :: Former Northland potter Lenore Lampi enjoying life out eastToday we catch up with Lenore (Rukavina) Lampi, a longtime Northlander who has etched out a new life for herself in Baltimore.
Today we catch up with Lenore (Rukavina) Lampi, a longtime Northlander who has etched out a new life for herself in Baltimore.
If you’re not familiar with “Lenni” by name (or nickname, rather) alone, chances are you’ve seen her stuff if you’ve ever set foot in an area art gallery. Not only has Lampi’s pottery has been featured in fine art establishments throughout the state, but one of her pieces actually made it into the Tweed’s permanent collection — definitely no small feat.
Without further ado, I’d like to share a recent e-mail exchange between the Budgeteer and the imaginative ceramicist:
Budgeteer: I was quite impressed with your birch pottery “Tree Skin” series. Where did the idea come from? Did you stumble upon something that resembled birch trees, or did you set out to replicate them from the get-go?
Lampi: … Well, this theme or focus in my work has a history of six years.
After moving to Duluth, I was fortunate to become involved with the vital and nurturing ceramic community there.
I was always involved in making art — both two-dimensional and some sculptural work — but I decided to focus on clay.
There are many overreaching elements that seem to show themselves in my art through the years; funny that, prior to this theme, I was studying and sculpting replicas of animal pelts (it’s a long story).
It is about the texture, surface and powerful connotations — not so much the actual subject matter. With that said, the surface of the tree bark is interesting to render, although the “skin” of the tree holds much metaphor for our own “skin.” The birch tree shell, if you will, lasts much longer than what is inside, almost how we humans are more fragile on the inside.
The first step in the series was a whimsical vessel or container in the form of a stick of firewood, with the triangular or half-circle form and the interesting textures. After being introduced to porcelain, which is white, the inclination was to work with that “white.” When one works with observation, one tends to delve deeper and deeper into what one actually perceives: The more I looked, the more I saw. And the challenges continued.
It is kind of a stubbornness to try to get it right, and a challenge is fun.
On one of your profile pages you mention your Finnish heritage. How do you work this into your art, and does it extend beyond your ceramic pieces?
I think the latest brain research and research into culture and heritage documents that heritage influences genes. There is the common reference to the carpenter of Finnish heritage, who never uses a tape measure. I think that thinking three-dimensionally comes naturally for me. Maybe that is because of my heritage.
I liked your quote “All art is about a certain kind of love.” When did you first fall in love with expressing yourself creatively? Did you attempt any other artforms before ceramics?
Allow me to explain my quote about art and love. The word “certain” is the key determiner in that phrase. There are many kinds of love: some tragic, some calm or some enduring. All of them have to do with passion. I believe one elementary element in the production or conception of art is passion. Does that make sense?
Oh, making art consumed much of my childhood, teenage years and adulthood. My mom was a very creative person, so I learned to make. I witnessed her making something all the time, out of wood, cloth or any combinations — not to mention skillful baking with dough, [which is] much like clay.
Have you always wanted to make pieces that were functional? On that note ... is it weird to know some of your creations will end up in a dishwasher someday?
There was a time when I never made functional pieces. Then I found it exhilarating to make functional work and see the pieces fly off to find a life of their own. This happened at a much faster rate than with the other work. Now I find myself moving back into more sculptural work, high- and low-relief sculptures for the wall.
Have you been enjoying Baltimore? What about Duluth do you miss?
As one becomes involved in the world of ceramics, one realizes that it is a worldwide community of artists. So, if you move, find the clay center and, voilà, you are home. This city has a great clay center in the Baltimore Clayworks. There are plenty of community wood-fire sessions there. [And recently] I found studio space with a couple of other artist/professors, and it is working out fine. I gain so much from the interaction with other artists.
I miss Minnesota and Duluth terribly. My computer screen has a panorama of Duluth; I miss the blue, blue, blue. I [also] miss walking on Skyline Drive and stair-climbing the “old hidden stairways” on the hillside. I will be spending time there more and more in the summers with my family and possibly doing some art fairs.
NEWS TO USE
See more of former Duluthian Lenore “Lenni” Lampi’s pottery pieces at www.lenorelampi.com.