Spring Deity: An Artistic Collaboration

By Blair Farris, Publisher of Peachy the Magazine

“Spring Deity,” a life-sized ceramic sculpture complemented by a living skirt, held court for two weeks in the beautiful atrium in the center of Laura Vinroot Poole's Capitol in Charlotte, North Carolina. Perry Poole's meticulous architectural design of the store was the perfect showcase for the sculpture. Visible through three sides of windows and set against a beautiful green wall designed by Patrick Blanc, she was stunning. 


“Spring Deity” in progress (Photo courtesy of Peachy the Magazine)

When my precious friend Pam Stowe, arts collector and advocate, called about a possible collaboration, I was intrigued. 2014/2015 McColl Center Alumna Betsy Birkner had designed an exquisite bust with a lace shawl and crystal bedazzled crown. I was charged with designing and creating a living skirt for the sculpture to wear while displayed at Capitol. I was thrilled to be a part of this wonderful collaboration. 

After scheming and daydreaming, I came up with the idea of a chicken wire skirt draped in moss and flowers. Since the installation was supposed to be up for a few weeks, I realized that flowers in water tubes would never last. I decided to go with potted flowers. This created a conundrum since they were much heavier and the pots needed to be hidden. I decided to cut a slit in the chicken wire skirt and make a pocket of chicken wire to hold the pots. This worked beautifully. The flowers were placed with a density in the middle like a flower arrangement and then trailed off to the top and the bottom. I chose flowers that I thought would be hardier like orchids and succulents. Scott Newkirk and Sara Plunkett assisted with the installation.


"Spring Deity” in detail (Photo courtesy of Peachy the Magazine)

Birkner, who trained as a painter, turned to ceramics in recent years to address social stereotypes of feminine beauty. Her creations are the embodiment of protection and power as evidenced in a series of fantastical coats of armor inspired by deities, royalty, and pop culture icons. Birkner’s process for creating larger figures is to first make a 1:1 size drawing. The drawing is then measured to make the correct proportions of the 3-D figure. According to Birkner, “This piece is about impermanence, and the clay will eventually wash away in the weather. Using paper clay made the figure stronger and extended the timing of the disintegration after the drying.” After completing the bust, Birkner used glass crystals, cotton lace, tulle fabric, and organic materials to adorn the final installation. 


Scott Newkirk, Blair Farris, Betsy Birkner, and Sara Plunkett (Photo courtesy of Peachy the Magazine)

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Capitol is a sponsor of Studio Party 16, the art party and contemporary art sale to benefit McColl Center for Art + Innovation. 


Pam Stowe toasting Studio Party 16 at Capitol (Photo: Meredith Jones for McColl Center for Art + Innovation)

The event, scheduled for Saturday, April 16, goes beyond the traditional arts gala with contemporary art, installations, pop-up performances, music and dancing, gourmet hors d’oeuvres, and complimentary cocktails. Find out more about Studio Party 16 and buy tickets to this extraordinary evening.

Blair Farris is the Publisher of Peachy the Magazine, a national digital lifestyle magazine, and a Member of McColl Center for Art + Innovation.