A full-time professional sculptor for the past twenty years, Paula Slater is internationally recognized for her public art monuments and bronze portraits. A believer in the old-world ideal of “nothing rushed or left undone,” Slater explains here how she takes the time needed to bring each exquisite detail of her work to life—and why she loves doing it.
What’s the best thing about creating artwork on commission?
I have sculpted so many fascinating projects on commission. I am always researching the subject matter and learning something new. Some of the commissions have been of historical figures and persons from different nations and cultures, leaders of industry, or Congressional portraits. This has required extensive travel and the good fortune of meeting so many incredible people. The detailed sculpting I do is very time and energy intensive, but I can’t imagine a more exciting or mind-expanding career.
What do you love best about the medium you work in?
I get to play with clay everyday! Although I started out as a serious fine art painter, when I switched to sculpting twenty years ago, it was like coming home. Sculpting for me means not only being able to work three-dimensionally and “see in the round,” but also to work kinesthetically. My hands just seem to know what to do. Working with clay is also very therapeutic—I miss the feel of the clay in my hands if I go more than a few days without sculpting.
Tell us about a commission you’re working on.
I just completed sculpting a huge national military monument with five 1.5-times life-size figures. However, the monument’s national sponsors decided they wanted to add yet another sculptural element. So I am sculpting a 1.25-times life-size figurative bronze fountain, which will be named “Not Forgotten Fountain.” The main monument is very formal and impressive, but I love that this bronze figurative fountain will have a different feel—it will be more intimate and healing. It will be located to the side of the main monument down a winding path, in its own peaceful little courtyard.
Tell us about your studio.
We live out in the county in Northern California, and I have a studio house two doors down from our home. The studio is perched on the side of a hill with a beautiful view of Hidden Valley Lake. It has a great room with high ceilings and large sliding glass doors that let in lots of light. It’s an inspiring space that I can lock myself away in and sculpt to my heart’s content.