Ginny Gillen Molds Clay by Hand
Anderson Artists Guild member Ginny Gillen’s arts education has been wide ranging. After high school, she briefly attended the Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Fla., until she realized it was too much hands-on, too little fine art.
Yet she found herself drawn to hands-on training in other places. She has an associate’s degree from the Worcester Center for Crafts in Massachusetts and studied ceramics at Greenwich House Pottery in New York and ceramics and drawing at the Greenville Museum of Art in South Carolina.
For 25 years, she taught at the Worcester Center for Crafts, often with grant-funded outreach into the public schools to work in conjunction with teachers on curriculum projects like Greek and Native American pottery. She found that the experience of building something with their hands was especially valuable for academically challenged kids. When she later worked in a program with at-risk youth, she helped them build portfolios, and 90 percent of them were accepted at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, better known as MassArt.
A few years ago, Gillen moved (for the second time) to Upstate South Carolina to care for her parents. When she can find the time, she works on her own artwork, which these days consists primarily of outdoor sculptures.
She works in series, with one piece inspiring ideas for the next one. One series features garden goddesses, most with two faces such as a male and a female. Another series features spirit houses, inspired by the Russian Orthodox cemetery near her home when she lived in Alaska. “They built little houses for the spirits to go through,” she said.
Her pieces are mostly created by hand using coils to create forms. She makes her own molds and layers stains and glazes to achieve the desired effect.
She is part of a group in Pendleton that uses an anagama wood kiln. And she’s an herbalist, creating teas for help with sleeping and salves that soothe the roughened hands of a potter.