WESTERLY — Ceramic sculptor and mask-maker extraordinaire Jillian Barber will come home to Westerly this weekend to take up residence in Watch Hill.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” said Barber, the January 2019 Artisan in Residence at Ocean House who has worked professionally in the arts for more than 35 years. “I’m coming full circle.”
“I’ll get to showcase my work [there] once again,” added the Jamestown resident.
Barber had a shop in the original Ocean House back in the 1970s with her friend and fellow artist, the late Nancy Klotz. Born in Staffordshire, England, Barber moved to Westerly with her family as a child, graduated from Westerly High School and from Rhode Island School of Design, where she studied clay with Norman Schulman and glass with Dale Chihuly.
This weekend, she will arrive in time for her first meet-and-greet Friday morning from 9 to 11 a.m. She will be holding a number of events for both children and adults throughout weekend, including two more meet-and-greets on Saturday and Sunday mornings, and two workshops when registered guests will learn the art of ceramic sculpting and create bowls and masks of their own.
Barber, who practices the art of ceramic sculpture, is well known for fantasy masks sculpted from individual portrait castings and imaginative, expressive mythical animals. Inspired by natural beauty, she creates a headdress to surround each face of flowers or birds, dragons, and shells. The masks are richly textured and colorfully glazed, highlighting her love of nature and expressing the realms of symbols, archetypes, and dreams. Her ceramic works range from depictions of people to clay animals, all imbued with lives of their own. Her ceramic animals vary from small, whimsical, pea-eating dragons to large, crouching feline creatures. Each ceramic piece is individually created, painted with underglazes, and often fired three times with the addition of mother-of-pearl luster.
Barber was in the middle of writing notes for the lecture she plans to give during one of the events scheduled for the weekend when she took some time off to chat about her upcoming visit back home.
“I begin talking about Watch Hill and Westerly,” she said, “and about how important they were and are to me.”
“I begin in childhood,” she said, “and I’ll talk about all the images ... the mermaids and dragons, the creatures and fairy tales.”
An award-winning artist, Barber has received many prizes and accolades throughout her sculpting career, including Best of Show from Wickford Art Association and the Teddy Goberis Award and Alice Hubbard Award from the 60th Regional Mystic Museum of Art Show. Barber is currently active in a number of local art associations.
A closing reception will take place Sunday beginning a 2 p.m.
“I hope I get to see some old friends,” Barber said. “I hope there are a few surprises.”