Totem Development

One of my biggest contributions to this project were the totems sat inside of the pillars – small clay sculptures that are meant to symbolize each and every member of our collective. Each totem is built upon the same base but sculpted in a way that I felt would reflect the person they’re meant to represent; I asked each member to look into symbols, most notably – animals, plants and gemstones. “Why those specifically”, you might be wondering, well, to be fully transparent – just to make it easier for myself to figure out the designs.. but also, I had done mine using the same basis of design, it only made sense for me to ask everyone to do the same so as to have something unifying the pieces. In the end this was the list I went off of when creating the totems:

  • Shona – animals: crow, bee; plant: begonia; gemstone: rutile quartz.
  • Lue – animals: rabbit, sheep; plant: iris; gemstone: lapis lazule.
  • For my own – animals: bear, moth; plant: birch; gemstone: labradorite.
  • Roza – animals: tiger, deer; plant: antirrhinum; gemstone: tiger’s eye.
  • Nem – animals: cat, owl; plant: peony; gemstone: rose quartz.

I think it’s quite clear to see that I developed my totem first and everyone else’s followed suit. Before I decided on making them as totems, I had considered making them as bells, wind chimes or even candles, but after a talk with my groupmates, decided to go for small sculptures reminiscent of Pagan totems. I had initially planned to carve them out of wood, but after my tragic attempt at doing wood-whittling (as well as stone-cutting), I decided that sculpting them would not only be the easiest, but also would probably end up looking the best – and that’s exactly what happened!

I was very excited to give stone-carving and wood-whittling a try but was left rather disappointed with my inability to get the hang of it in the first attempt, I remember leaving fabrication quite upset but in the moment of writing this, I think it was just not my time, I will try it again at some point in the future! Perfectionism as a quality is a blessing and a curse. However, I’m very happy with myself for giving something new a try, even if it didn’t work out in the end – I at the very least learned something and I will attempt it again in the future with the newly-acquired knowledge.

Alas, after much struggle, I resorted to sculpting it and the difference that it made was massive. I was able to create my first totem in 4 hours and the others took about as long on average – some I struggled with a bit more, and some were easier. The ones I had the most fun working with were my own, Lue’s and Nem’s. I was a tad tired when I did Roza’s and Shona’s was generally just difficult to figure out as it was the only one that was more skeletal than it was “fleshy” and “furry”. But overall, I was and am very satisfied with how they turned out! Below are progress pictures for each totem.

The way the totems tie in with the theme of self-love is that in order to create the designs for them, everyone had to do some soul-searching first, share it with others and trust someone (in this case, me) with the responsibility of materializing their essence; that alone covers a couple of pillars of self-love, to be more specific – discovery, nourishment and connection. Not only that, the totems double as an offering to Vanity – the divine being that the Sinner Peace coven has decided to deem as their deity of choice. The ritual of offering the totem to Vanity is symbolic of each member accepting self-love into their lives, allowing their body and their mind to be more open to practices of self-love.

I think that the totems, while not something we had planned to do to begin with, ended up being a rather important part of our exhibition. The only thing I would’ve done differently is perhaps incorporating some colour in the form of a glaze in some of the pertruding bits around the totems, with only the face and bits of legs being left as they are. I think making the gaps between sections darker/seem burnt would have also been a great alteration. However, we have considered adding spotlights inside of the pillars for a more ethereal/mystic effect, and, I think having the spotlight shine directly down on it will probably make up for it as it will definitely make bits cast shadows that would substitute for the missing tonal differences on the pieces themselves.


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  1. Pingback: Apply – Final Outcome + Evaluation – Robertas Tijusas

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