Nearly every artist describes their progression from neophyte to master as a journey, but for Tiffany Adams that peregrination has been more literal than for most. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Tiffany always knew she was destined to be an artist (“I was the only girl in wood shop in 9th grade,” she says), but discovered her skill in ceramics at the end of a long road – the 30,000-mile Pan-American highway, to be exact.
In her early 20s, Tiffany was at a crossroads: go to design school to learn woodworking, or throw caution to the wind and join a friend on an epic drive from southern California through Mexico and Central America to Venezuela. The road less traveled proved to be the right choice: during her months-long adventure, Adams learned Spanish, took a ceramics workshop in Oaxaca, and ultimately enrolled in the University de Los Andes in Merida, Venezuela to study ceramics and pottery. There, she also took private sculpture classes with Argentinian sculptor Mario Columbo, learning wheel-throwing, hand-building and glaze-making. “Wheel thrown pots turned to hand built pots, then to large coil built vessels and then to my tall coral series sculptures, all inspired by simplified forms in nature,” she explains. An equally momentous trip to St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands not only reinforced Adams’ love affair with the sea – a major influence on her ceramic work – but also connected her with the love of her life, her husband Mark Bombard, a Rhode Island native then working as a Caribbean dive instructor. Settling together in Exeter, the couple raised two daughters while Mark became director of the aquatics program at the Kent County YMCA and Tiffany honed her skills at the pottery wheel and kiln, earning a bachelor of fine arts degree at Rhode Island College.
Working out of a post-and-beam studio built by Mark, Tiffany produces a variety of work that includes large, coil-built vessels – an ancient and time-consuming technique where each piece is slowly constructed using coils of clay. Also underway are some large new floor pieces that Tiffany is preparing for display at the upcoming Artists League of Rhode Island show at the new gallery at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Providence.
Lined up like sentinels atop a display box along one studio wall are a selection of Tiffany’s signature Coral Series ceramic sculptures which, grouped together, indeed look very much like a colony of pillar corals. Standing up to two feet high, these tall, hollow sculptures are hand formed and shaped around a dowel before being dried, bisque-fired in an electric kiln, then glazed and fired again in a Japanese-style raku kiln.
The process has unpredictable effects on the copper blue, metallic and lithium green glaze, crackling the surface in some places while enhancing or muting colors in others, resulting in works of art that are truly one-of-a-kind and unreproducable.
Even taller versions of these dive-inspired sculptures are on the way: Adams recently invested in a new, larger kiln, and her work has found its way into galleries like Studio 460 and A Coastal Living Gallery in North Kingstown, and Just Art in Providence. She has also been commissioned to provide sculptures for the recently-open Wicked Fish restaurant in North Kingstown. “My work incorporates my three loves: the ocean, working with clay and travel,” she says.
Soon it will be time for Tiffany to start exploring again: this month she’ll embark on another long road trip, this time from Rhode Island to the Florida Keys with her daughter as her traveling companion. The itinerary includes stops at a few art shows along the East Coast as well as diving in Key Largo in search of new forms, colors and textures. As always, she says, “The ocean will be my inspiration.”
Tiffany Adams | Ceramic Sculpture/Lamar Ceramic Studio | 741-2473 | www.lamarceramicstudio.com