A lumpy, lopsided and anatomically inexact animal sculpted by a child in modeling clay. A shiny, sleek and symmetrical teapot sculpted by an artist in precious metal.
Combine these common objects and you have a not-so-common artwork casually known as “Elepot."
Elepot, an elephant-inspired teapot, is the final product of a project called “From Their Hands to Mine,” on display at the Lawrence Arts Center. To make it, Eli Gold, a Kansas University master’s student in metalsmithing and jewelry, re-created a fifth-grader’s clay design in sterling silver.
“It’s sort of a study of values and the way people relate to the value of different things,” Gold said of his project, highlighted by transforming “a quick, gestural object made by a 10-year-old into something that has ... the labor and monetary value of silver.”
A Student Interdisciplinary Research Grant through KU’s School of the Arts enabled the "From Their Hands to Mine" project. Last fall Gold worked with fifth-graders at the Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence’s East Heights location, leading them in using clay to create teapots of their own design. Gold had his KU art studio peers vote on their favorite design and replicated the winner in silver.
Friday is the last day the silver teapot and “From Their Hands to Mine” exhibit will be on display at the Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire St.
Gold estimates he spent 200 to 300 hours working to translate Asjah Harris’s elephant design into the teapot, hand-fabricated using about $800 in sheets of sterling silver, a cast resin handle and finial and emeralds for eyes.
Looking to play up the piece’s “elephant-iness,” Gold added the eyes, the finial little rounded feet and a double nostril in the trunk/spout to Asjah's original design.
Gold cast all 19 clay teapot designs in aluminum so each child who participated would have something to keep. The aluminum sculptures, plus photos of children at work, are on display with the Elepot at the Arts Center.
Part of Gold’s inspiration for the project came from a desire to simply get out of the studio. Another inspiration is underlined in his artist’s statement, in which he notes that the need to make art visually pleasing and balanced can, in a way, make the work inaccessible to common observers.
“A smooth surface with a mirror finish, as technically difficult as it may be to achieve, is commonplace in industry and therefore easily ignored. ...I would like, at this stage in my work, to spend more time chasing the absurd and confrontational without losing an adherence to refined craftsmanship, which cannot be removed from my approach to designing in metal.”
Gold hopes to sell the Elepot to benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence. Interested buyers can contact him through his website, elikgold.com.