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Amazing Pencil Art Sculptures by Jennifer Maestre

Posted on 29 September 2009 by Tim

Artist Jennifer Maestre creates dazzling sculptures out of pencils. It is some of the most interesting art I’ve seen in a very long time. Not only is it a unique way to use a pencil but the designs themselves are enjoyable to contemplate.

Lets find out more about Jennifer’s work…

Interview with Jennifer Maestre:

What drew you to colored pencils as the medium for your art?

At first, I was just trying to replicate sea urchins, and made my sculptures with nails of all sorts. I was using a pretty nasty liquid rubber glue to construct the nail sculptures, and thought to myself (with what brain cells were left) what other pointy objects can I find in large and inexpensive quantities to create that lovely spiky texture? Ah Ha! Pencils!


Basically, the pencils were pointy and cheap. I didn’t start using them for any conceptual reason. I’ve always loved tiny pencils though, don’t get me wrong! I’m one of those people who used pencils down to the nub, even before I started making my sculptures.

How did you become interested in sea urchins and why do they inspire you?

When I was in art school, I saw a poster for a jewelry contest. The design had to include a pearl. I was making a lot a bandsaw boxes at the time, and intrigued with the idea of secret compartments. So, I had an idea to make a silver box, shaped like a sea urchin. It would have a secret compartment that held the pearl. I never did make the bow (I didn’t have the skills), but the idea of the form of the sea urchin as a vessel containing something precious stuck, and I started making them sculptures based on that idea.

Your sculptures convey a variety of emotions from warm and inviting to startling and slightly scary. Do you find that your mood influences the way a piece turns out?

Not really – the sculptures take so long to make, that I can go through many, many moods before I finish one.

About how long does it take for you to create a sculpture?

Anywhere from a week or two to a month. I hate to time myself, because that would make my art almost unbearable to make. One of the best quotes I ever read about beadwork was that it proceeds at a glacial pace. This doesn’t even take into account the time it takes to make the ‘beads’.

How did you come up with the idea of making the pencils into “beads” and stitching them together?

I’d already taught myself sculptural beading techniques, using seed beads- since I wanted to get away from the nasty glues, I thought of turning the pencil stubs into ‘beads’. Asteridae-small

For your larger sculptures, do you use any other material to provide a supportive framework?

I don’t make any armatures for my sculptures- the only ingredients are pencils and thread. I will make struts out of pencils to stabilize a piece, but they are usually hidden in the interior. You can’t see them unless you turn the sculpture upside down.

Occasionally, a pencil will split while I am constructing a sculpture- rather than take the whole row apart back to the split pencil, I will use a bit of glue and clamp the pencil stub back together.

Most of your sculptures seem to use a very small portion of the colored pencil. How do you use the left overs?

I use the entire pencil. I cut them into sections, and sharpen each section. I even make collages out of the shavings sometimes, I have bags of shavings saved!

Have you ever had to scrap a sculpture because it just wasn’t working or do you tend to find ways to salvage it and move in a new direction?

This happens more often than I’d like! I’ll work on something for a long time, and realize it just doesn’t make sense, so I’ll take it all apart and start over. It is ok, though, since sometimes the scraps inspire me to create something I hadn’t thought of before.

Tiamat-small Do you hand cut all the pencils yourself or do you have an assistant?

I do ocassionally have someone help me with drilling and sharpening. but it isn’t easy to find someone as detail oriented and patient with the work as I am. If someone doesn’t drill the holes correctly, I can’t use the pencils, so it is a waste. (I do save all the pieces, though- I’ve just sent a box of them to another artist who needed some pencils stubs for a special project.)

If someone is interested in purchasing a sculpture or other piece of art, where can they go?

They can contact Mobilia gallery in Cambridge, MA. Or, they can contact me, as not all of my work is at Mobilia.

Jennifer Maestre on Etsy!

Read More About Jennifer:

Jennifer Maestre’s Background:

According to her resume, Jennifer was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. She currently resides in Massachusetts where she is represented by Mobilia Gallery. Maestre earned her BFA in 1997 and has been doing shows since 1996. Her work has mainly been on display in Massachusetts although exhibitions have taken place in Wyoming, Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Italy, among others.

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