The Teale Street Sculpture Studio offers a hands-on, real-world experience
By Shanee Edwards
Nearly everyone interacts with a least one screen during the day — a television at home, desktop monitor at work, a smart phone, well, everywhere. For some of us, engaging with three or four screens at once is becoming normal.
But as we spend more and more time in the two-dimensional world of our computers and iPads, Teale Street Sculpture Studio owner Robin Thayer is on a mission to bring people back to the three-dimensional world.
When someone speaks about 3D these days, it’s usually the kind that requires special glasses at the cinema. But for Thayer, 3D means objects with tangible form and texture — things that occupy physical space in the same way our bodies do.
“Sculpture gets you back into 3D and interacting with real things,” she says.
Though Thayer’s students range from retired doctors to small children, she thinks it’s the Playa Vista techies that have the most to gain from sculpture.
“Techies are very connected to their screens and it’s important they get away from that. They really enjoy working in 3D because it gives them a new perspective.”
It’s one thing to design a realistic computer image of a person, but it’s another experience entirely to sculpt the human form. A sculpture is interactive in a way that a video game or painting can never be because we can observe a sculpture from all sides using more of our senses, allowing the observer to experience endless perspectives.
But for Thayer, sculpting is also a way for people to connect with their “inner kid” — a more sophisticated way to play in the mud.
“I like to think that when we come here, we’re all little kids. Uninhibited. We are a little scared of being judged, but we try to get back into the ‘kid’ of our personality and let it flow.”
Thayer describes sculpting as a potentially transformative experience, telling the story of a doctor who started by creating a simple apple out of clay.
“He did very well and he’s continued on for the last two years. His big joy is coming to the sculpture studio. He’s a changed man. The child in him has come out. A lot of us keep it down, but the freedom in here allows us to express ourselves and make whatever we want,” she says.
Looking around the studio, it’s fascinating to see the serene yet intense focus the students display as they engage their hands in the clay. One student is focused on molding a pair of lovers in an embrace, while another student meticulously crafts the bust of a female, using
a photograph to guide her. Yet another is adjusting the wire armature of his nude woman in a yoga pose.
“An armature is like a bone structure we put the clay around. It’s like the skeleton in our body. That’s what gives us a structure,” explains Thayer.
It’s clear the human form is the most popular subject for the students, but it is also one of the most difficult. Considering humans have been sculpting each other for millennia, it’s no surprise Teale Street offers drawing and sculpting classes with a live nude model.
“It’s important to know what the body is comprised of, that everything comes from our core,” says Thayer. “Some people do study anatomy very seriously. Others, like myself, we just do what we need to do to get our sculptures done.”
Thayer takes her own inspiration from Alberto Giacometti, the Swiss sculptor who created long, skinny, human figures that resemble trees.
“I prefer the abstract,” she says. “I’m more of an abstract person.”
For high school student Genevie Gerdts, it’s the animal form that inspires — as evidenced by her life-sized rat sculpture.
“I want to be a veterinarian when I grow up and I’ve had rats in the past, so I thought it would be nice to start off with an animal I know. Rats have really soft bodies without many hard edges so I thought it would be an easy animal to start with. When I smooth this sculpture out, it’s going to be a model of the integumentary system of a rat, so just their skin,” says Gerdts.
Beyond providing classes and orchestrating an annual art show, Thayer’s dream is for Playa Vista to have its own art center.
“It would be a wonderful thing. We’d like to incorporate people who haven’t tried [sculpture] to come here and work on their skills and maybe
put their art in the art center in Playa Vista. It’s a real goal.”
The Teale Street Sculpture Studio is at 11847 Teale St., between Centinela and Mesmer avenues. For more information, call (310) 397-2697 or visit TealeStreetSculptureStudio.com.