Art 140: Introduction to Sculpture

In the fall of 2017 I went back to school. There were a lot of factors that went in to the decision. Long story short, I decided it was finally time to finish my undergrad studies, after a 14 year hiatus. My major is psychology, with the goal of getting my master's in art therapy after finishing my bachelor's degree. The art therapy program requires a lot of studio art classes as a prerequisite to apply.

The first art class I took as a college student was Introduction to Sculpture. I was so nervous when I registered, thinking I knew absolutely nothing about making sculpture. But it turned out to be a fun semester. And I learned that sculpture can be anything.

found objects self-portrait, Laura Hartrich 2017

found objects self-portrait, Laura Hartrich 2017

Our first assignment was to make a self-portrait out of found objects. I had plenty of materials to work with since I've been collecting little bits and interesting objects for most of my life. I made the wooden stand in the wood shop at school. As I made this self portrait I was thinking about my domestic life of 14 years as a stay-at-home mom, a new life I was building toward with the decision to go back to school, and the sometimes-scary, often overwhelming and uncomfortable balancing act it will require. So basically that house is me, hanging on for dear life. 

found objects self-portrait, Laura Hartrich 2017

found objects self-portrait, Laura Hartrich 2017


Our next assignment was to take a familiar object and make it into another, recognizable object. I struggled to commit to a concept but finally decided to make a soup pot out of a quilt. We were required to use chicken wire for this assignment, so that's what I used to form the pot, and the ladle. I then proceeded to dye an old quilt I thrifted. I was going for grey but it came out rather purple-y. I hand-sewed the quilt into place around the chicken wire structure. For the lid I bought a big plastic garbage can lid and covered it in quilt. I borrowed hardware from my son's dresser to make the handles. 

When I presented this sculpture, my class had a lot of interesting ideas about what it might be about. There was a lot of discussion about domesticity, femininity, softness, and motherhood. In truth, when I made it I was thinking about how much I hate to cook because it takes time away from the quilting I'd rather be doing.

Instructions for the cooperative sculpture.

Instructions for the cooperative sculpture.

For my third assignment I was inspired by Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawings. He used to write simple instructions and have assistants execute them. I liked the idea of other people participating in creating a work. So I pieced these quilt blocks, measuring 12”x12”. I affixed some batting to the wall so that the blocks could stay on the wall but also be easily moved around. I presented the instructions shown here, and my fellow students put the blocks in the arrangement above. The students enjoyed the exercise of playing with color and movement in the layout of the blocks. I was really pleased that basically using a design wall could count as sculpture in my professor’s very generous definition.


For our final assignment we were given full freedom, though our professor told us to think big. It had been about a year since the passing of my grandma, and I was thinking about her a lot. She was my last living grandparent. I have vivid memories of spending time in her little house in Southern Illinois. One summer I stayed with her, by myself, for a couple weeks. We had adventures. Stringing beads. Feeding food coloring to Queen Anne’s lace. Putting pennies on the train tracks behind her house. Later, I didn’t want to stay home and go to community college. So I moved in with her and went to community college. I was a terrible roommate, that’s for sure. But I still treasure the nights we spent washing dishes, playing Scrabble, watching the Bachelor. I felt closer to her than any of my other grandparents because of all the opportunities I had to spend time with her. And I miss her.


The piece I made for my sculpture final was called Fort, and it’s about loss and memory and seeing through the fog of time. The materials include a lot of nods to my grandma… her doilies and linens, her cut up blankets and notebooks, photos of her, flattened pennies. And of course you can see that I incorporated the memory quilt I made using her clothes and linens. I wanted to make this piece to resemble a fort that a child might make out of blankets and pillows from around the house. I wish it was hanging more horizontally (more taut), and a little lower. But in the space we had, and with the time we had to install, this was the best I could do. I had a lot of help from Nate for the installation process. And the piece was well received during my final critique. Sculpture class isn’t so scary after all.