dead bird sculptures by darla jackson - white clay unfinished pieces

Darla Jackson’s Beautiful Dead Birds

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I find it interesting that when we discover new artists nowadays, it’s usually after being struck by a single image in our social media feed.

This one got me:

white clay dead bird sculptures by Darla Jackson

Haunting, right?

And beautiful.

Sometimes that’s where it ends, and I don’t end up caring for the rest of the artist’s work, but that was not the case with Darla Jackson’s pieces. They are ALL captivating. There’s a dark, haunting fragility about her work, and I love that she can show that fragility through such a messy, heavy medium like clay.

For this post I’ll focus on her birds.

process shot of clay bird and carving tools

The perfectly-sculpted dead birds seem to be posing themselves – and then when they have secret hidey holes in their chests, you wonder what they are hiding – or offering.

clay sculpted birds by Darla JAckson

And these are the unfinished birds. Let’s look at some of her finished pieces:

sculptures by darla jackson
bird sculpture with opening in the chest
double bird sculpture

They end up being all the more shadowy and mysterious, yet still lovely.

There are so many stories that could come from each of these pieces. I’m seeing similarities between this work and the paintings of Bella Ormseth – the shadowy mysteries, the human emotions conveyed through non-human beings.

clay bird with carving tools on plaster surface

Plus I really, really want more. I want to hear the stories from each creature’s mouth. What can they tell us? Or hold for us?

Oh! If you love geeking out on art process, definitely watch Darla’s Instagram stories – the one called Bird Mold is A+++.

Darla took the time to answer my artist questionnaire, and here’s what she told me:

Describe your typical day.

I wake up early-ish to feed our 5 cats, then try to get a workout in before starting my day. I’ll make a coffee and head upstairs to either sculpt or teach a class depending on what day of the week it is. (On Mondays, Wednesday and Thursdays I teach at either PA Academy of the Fine Arts or Stockton University, both online this semester.)

I start out with some small sculptures to get into it, then move on to whatever project is my priority at the moment. I try to take some process shots or videos while I’m working so I can share them to Instagram.

I usually work until 11:30 and then head downstairs to eat lunch with my partner Paul and daughter Olivia. After lunch I’ll head back upstairs to sculpt some more, getting as much work in while there is natural light (I don’t like sculpting at night if I can help it.) Paul’s studio is right next to mine so if I get stuck I ask him to look at the piece.

I try to clean up before finishing for the day so I can get started right away the next day. After cleaning up I usually hang out with Olivia. We have been partial to playing Just Dance on the Switch, but sometimes we go for Animal Crossing instead. Paul will make an amazing dinner, which we eat together and then watch an episode of Avatar: The Last Air Bender.

I get her ready for bed and then Paul and I will watch a bit of something together (anything from The Office to scary movies to Chopped or food videos on YouTube…we make snacks if its food shows) before he makes me a bath. Sometimes the kittens try to get in and that’s fun for them, not as much for me.

Then I will read a bit before bed (right now Piranesi, Japanese Death Poems and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat) and then fall asleep, (but not before setting 3 separate alarms for the next day.)

Name your 1 to 3 favorite art-making tools.

My favorite tools (or rather, most used because I have so may favorites!) are a small wooden modeling tool, a wire rake, and a pack of double sided stainless steel modeling tools.

What do you dislike about being an artist?

The inability to focus on just making art! Truth be told, I do like the organizational/business end of things too but I really wish there was more time to focus on the actual art making.

What are you influenced by? People, places, or things. Just a list – you don’t need to go into detail unless you want to.

Emotions most of all. I am so interested in portraying emotions in my work. Body Language. I feel like body language tells a story on its own. Animals. I see the animals I sculpt as stand ins for humans but I do love animals and am hugely inspired by them!

Unrelated to art, but very important: Do you have any pets? What is your favorite beverage? What is your favorite article of clothing?

Yes! 5 cats: Spooky Stuff, Pancakes, Sometimes aka Momma, Tokoyami and Pigeon. My favorite everyday beverage is a cappuccino/latte. My favorite adult beverage is an Old Fashioned. My favorite article of clothing is my grandfather’s Bela Lugosi T-shirt.

Last question. Finish the sentence: Art Makes People…

…think more deeply about themselves.

Anything else you’d like us to know about you and your creations?

In addition to 5 cats, I share my life with my partner Paul Romano (@workhardened) and my daughter Olivia (@oliviasdrawlloween). Also, I usually make my work out of clay and then make molds and cast it. However lately I’ve been doing more firing and it terrifies me!

Studio Shots

Yay! You stayed til the end. Here’s a prize for you: studio sneak peeks.

studio shot of artist darla jackson with skeleton, drawing board, sculptures, tables, windows, and other art supplies
studio shot of artist darla jackson with skeleton, drawing board, sculptures, tables, windows, and other art supplies
studio shot of artist darla jackson with skeleton, drawing board, sculptures, table, windows, and other art supplies

Darla Jackson: WebsiteInstagramshop

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