by AMANDA SHEWARD
Ellianna Bowman, a senior studio art major from Richmond, Va., is a ceramics artist, as she primarily works with clay.
Her artwork, inspired by the practices she learns through her contemplative studies minor, is more expressive than anything else, and, when she creates a piece, she tries to have a quiet mind so that her process can be relaxed and instinctive. Molded by this method, her final artwork is unique and features both abstract and organic shapes.
Her favorite type of clay is stoneware because it’s sturdy and can hold its own shape. In describing her pieces Bowman said, “It is important to my practice that I am creating functional objects, but I don’t necessarily want them to look like they are functional.”
While Bowman’s pieces are not quite functional, they do serve a purpose, as she wants others to take a minute and find calm while they look at them.
“All I ask of my work is that it might inspire someone to slow down and look at it,” Bowman said about her work. “I think we all go too fast, everything is too intense. Slowing down and appreciating the way a line curves or the texture of a surface is so important and grounding. If my work can offer someone a moment of calm or inspire a bit of curiosity, then I am satisfied with my contribution.”
Bowman hopes that someone can take a second out of their day to look at her artwork amidst the busyness of their lives, and she creates with contemplative practices in mind both in making the work and in thinking about what it will elicit in the viewer.
Sarah Yowell, a senior studio art major emphasized that Bowman’s artwork—especially her ceramic pieces—feels like it’s coming to life.
“Her artwork, particularly her ceramics, has a very organic, almost human-like feel to it. I love her use of positive and negative space, and she does a fantastic job at making the objects interact with each other,” said Yowell.
When Bowman is not making art, she doesn’t feel like herself. As she goes about her day, she observes the different compositions that make up her surroundings, which inspires her to make art based on the idea. She also finds alternative manners of expression through her artwork; if she doesn’t know how to respond to what she is feeling, she creates something with a message that words can’t express.
Jessie Mills, a senior biomedical sciences major and friend of Bowman’s, also performs with her in UMW’s Performing Arts Company.
“I think her art, specifically her stoneware pieces, are so unique because she uses a lot of organic shapes and colors that are different from what you see in most stoneware,” said Mills. “The pieces she makes contain a lot of natural curves which catch your eye and are visually interesting.”
Mills also noted that Bowman’s work is unique because she works with stoneware, manipulating it in a variety of ways.
“She really seems to play with a lot of unorthodox techniques when forming her stoneware pieces,” Mills said.
Bowman also finds inspiration in her other personal interests, as she is a dancer as well as a ceramicist.
“A lot of my recent work has been influenced by time outdoors and in the dance studio,” Bowman said. “I think a lot about the lines and forms that I see in those spaces and the way that they make me feel.”
Bowman derives her inspiration from places and objects, but she also gets it from other creatives.
“I am inspired by a lot of female artists like Ana Mendieta and dancers like Martha Graham,” she said.
Another influential person who inspires her is her mother, Tami Bowman—a textile artist who has a background in ceramics. Whenever Bowman has a problem with her medium or design, she asks her.
Bowman only considers a couple of her pieces as being truly successful, as she has high standards and expectations for her art. According to Bowman, she likes the recognition, but the main thing she focuses on is her standards and whether the final product is what she imagined it to be.
“Craftsmanship is really important to me and I am still learning so much about my medium,” she said. “I think it is also about how much I feel that the final product is expressing what I intended it to. The awards and recognition feel good, but I care more about my own standards.”
Once she graduates in December, Bowman plans on volunteering at the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts in Richmond, as well as doing an internship. During her time after UMW, she hopes to expand her artistic abilities and is looking forward to continuing to learn and grow as an artist. Additionally, she would like to pursue a master’s degree in fine arts, focusing on ceramics, to teach at the college level.
Ellianna Bowman is a talented artist whose study of contemplative practices informs her artistic skill. Not only is her art a peaceful outlet for her, but she also creates to inspire others to take part in slowing down and reflecting on their world through her creations. To engage in the contemplative nature of her art, it is available to view on her Instagram account, @ebowmanart.