Without a Kiln, Simone Bodmer-Turner Gets Even More Intentional

After uprooting herself from Brooklyn to rural Massachusetts and forgoing her biggest tool in the process, the ceramic sculptor finds herself approaching new materials with the same focus and rigor.

Simone Bodmer-Turner. Photography by William Jess Laird

Last year, Simone Bodmer-Turner uprooted herself from her longtime home and studio in Brooklyn and relocated to a farmhouse on an orchard in rural Massachusetts. Such a dramatic change of scenery might make for a jarring adjustment, but it posed a particularly unique scenario for Bodmer-Turner, a sculptor of graceful ceramic vessels whose forms mimic the sinuous interiors of Savin Couelle and Valentine Schlegel. Her new home, though far more spacious and breathable than her apartment in New York, didn’t have a kiln. Suddenly, she was stripped of the main tool she utilized to make her beloved clay creations, which had recently been increasing in size and ambition. Think a whimsical credenza with spherical drawers made from multiple fired components or wispy, gravity-defying chairs whose agile forms mimic crystallized brushstrokes.

Fortunately, Bodmer-Turner was up for the challenge of forgoing ceramic and introducing new materials into her practice. “I’ve been dreaming of a moment when I had time to experiment with bronze, wood, lacquer, and silk,” she says. “That moment arrived as soon as I found distance between myself and my usual ways of working.” The pieces she created during this transitional period currently star in “A Year Without a Kiln,” a solo exhibition at Emma Scully Gallery in New York. Ranging from petite lacquered side tables and lily-inspired sconces to bronze floor lamps, they offer a peek inside her psyche during a period of creative metamorphosis.

(FROM LEFT) Round Lacquer Table and Square Lacquer Table; photography by Marco Galloway. Playground Standing Lamp; photography by William Jess Laird

Meeting her new neighbors helped push things along. “Through many conversations and meeting the community in Massachusetts, I slowly started discovering a network of makers and craftspeople in the area who were capable of bringing my forms into existence in new materials,” Bodmer-Turner tells Surface. Her matte black side tables reinterpret a pared-down American Shaker Chippendale candle stand with a Japanese bent thanks to the help of Massachusetts-based woodworker Laura Pepper and urushi lacquer artist Yuko Gunji. A silk-wrapped steel standing screen, meanwhile, sparks aesthetic kinship with nods to Isamu Noguchi’s Akari light sculptures.

Bronze lighting fixtures, produced with master metalworkers at West Supply in Chicago, were meticulously cast from plaster and clay models that retain every imprint of the model’s original texture. They subtly reference Alexander Calder and Diego Giacometti, two lifelong muses whose creative milieu in Paris has proven inspirational and restorative for Bodmer-Turner. “Bringing this language into pieces that feel at home in post-and-beam, Deerfield-style architecture has meant that Paris, and this ongoing inspiration, gets to live with me at all times,” she says. Yet traces of her signature gestures remain. The lamps feature her suspended-ball-pull-chain; the side tables echo the clay shapes she’s mastered, as do a shapely bronze bowl and two fireside andirons.

For her scant experience with these new materials before the move, Bodmer-Turner approaches them with confidence. It shouldn’t be a surprise—she initially started pursuing ceramics as a pastime. “This exhibition is a tactile encapsulation of Simone—of her work and perspective, and how her output is so artfully braided with empathy and gratitude for being in a certain place at a particular time,” Scully says. “It’s evident from what she’s produced to date that her practice will only get more tender and considered as it evolves.”

(FROM LEFT) Winged Adirons; photography by William Jess Laird. Playground Table Lamp and Square Lacquer Table; photography by Marco Galloway

“Simone Bodmer-Turner: A Year Without a Kiln” will be on view at Emma Scully Gallery (16 E 79th St, New York) until  June 22.

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