Etz haChayim
On the wall in Venice, FL
Custom Ceramic Wall Art Tile by Brenda McMahon

Surrender & Trust: A story of the Tree of Life

Tue, Jun 19th, 2018 This story begins at an art show in Sarasota, Florida. Darby was pulled into my booth by the wall work and expressed interest in the pieces that included stones and glass.

She loved its organic nature, so soft and yet filled with bold textures. She had been looking for a piece for her dining room wall, the most prominent wall in hour house, for more than seven years.

We set up a home visit so I could see the wall, but also Darby’s aesthetic. I quickly noticed the unusual blue leather chair, her contemporary furniture, and her newest art glass sculpture. I felt Darby’s careful selection of what she loves while catching her accent colors, natural fauna from outside and all the small details that made her Venice, FL home.

As I always do, the process began with a proposal describing how I work and what the client can expect from the process. In our case, Darby was clear on the feel of what she wanted but was not sure about the visuals. This made our drawing process a bit longer than others, but after 4 renditions, we came up with a concept.

I began my work in clay, forming the tiles, cutting out the glass and stone, doing all the carving, dimensional and detail work. A few weeks later we began our discussions about color. Darby was concerned that I would not get the colors right, so we had many discussions about her ideas and how the work should feel. After several back and forths, I was clear about what she wanted. I told her it was time to let go and trust me, so I could work freely through the glazing process. She laughed a bit nervously, but in the end, did just that.

Right before I began glazing, I received a beautiful email from Darby, where she shared a dream she had about our process:

“I visualized a storm rolling in, passing the bodhi tree, then rolling slowly into the distance, leaving that airy foggy look. It felt like life's complexities presenting themselves than providing space to breathe and making room for more compassion and love for others. The tree remains strong and masterful in the foreground. I trust that the result of your creativity is going to be absolutely exquisite!”

In those words, Darby released her fear and control, allowing me to work freely for her. This release led us both to know that while I am working for her, she is within me and our collaborative process is coming through me.

The wall piece was glazed, the framing was complete and stones and glass were added. Upon seeing it, Darby exclaimed, ‘I am so pleased!’ Her new artwork was ready to go on the wall.

Each commission teaches me something. In this process, Darby had to work through her fear of letting go. For my part, I had to know when the time was right and ask her to quiet the thoughts and remember why she was drawn to my work in the first place. We clearly shared a resonance of art and energy and a growing friendship over those last few months. It was in that deeper collaboration and trust that we were both able to do our parts and enter our zones; Darby into trust, me into the clay work. We came out on the other side good friends and thrilled with the process.

Darby has titled her piece “Etz haChayim” (Tree of Life).



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Accent Furnishings
Accent Furnishings
leather chair in livingroom
Accent Furnishings
The Dining room
The Dining room
The Art Wall!
Deciding on the right size
The Dining room
Glass Sculpture accent
Glass Sculpture accent

Glass Sculpture accent
Samples of ideas
Samples of ideas
likes the glass base
Samples of ideas
Samples of ideas
Samples of ideas
loves the strong black stones
Samples of ideas
Drawing #1
Drawing #1
Waterfall concept
Drawing #1
Drawing #2
Drawing #2
River/hill concept
Drawing #2
Drawing #3
Drawing #3
Body Tree concept
Drawing #3
The Beginning Sketch
The Beginning Sketch

The Beginning Sketch
Creating details
Creating details

Creating details
carving & texture
carving & texture

carving & texture
Getting closer to bisque firing
Getting closer to bisque firing

Getting closer to bisque firing
20 layers of stains
20 layers of stains
ceramic stains, like a water color palette
Tree of life, process
20 layers of stains
Clear glaze before firing
Clear glaze before firing
Tree of life, process
Clear glaze before firing
On the Wall at Darby's home
On the Wall at Darby's home
Tree of life, finished
On the Wall at Darby's home
Etz haChayim
Etz haChayim
Tree of Life
custom ceramic wall art tile mural
Etz haChayim

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