Carol & Jean-Pierre Hsu: Going Mobile

Carol & Jean-Pierre Hsu: Going Mobile

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red-delental-earrings.comCarol and Jean-Pierre Hsu are a married couple from West Virginia who have been working artists since finishing college in 1975. Jean-Pierre began his career as a ceramic artist while Carol worked as a jeweler. They went on to form a creative partnership that produces metalwork spanning an arc from kinetic mobiles in anodized aluminum to wall sculpture and colorful, dynamic jewelry.

Carol gives us a bit of insight…

What are your backgrounds, including art and other degrees. Or are you self taught?
At Antioch College, Jean-Pierre graduated with a degree in chemistry and the geology of ceramics. He went on to apprentice with potter Peter Wendland in Vermont and was a ceramic artist for more than ten years before we began our creative collaboration. portrait.comI started making jewelry 1972 while studying art and environmental sciences, also at Antioch. I found the jewelry spark during a trip to Florence, Italy and never looked back. Eventually we settled in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, and began exhibiting in craft fairs which were sprouting up in the Washington, DC region. We each developed our own line of work, me in Jewelry and Jean-Pierre in ceramics, which we sold through shops as well as producing one-of-a-kind pieces.

Can you tell us a little bit about this early work?
Texturing has always been an important feature in my work. Early on I was influenced by Michael Good, who used a rolling mill to texture metal. In 1980 I was awarded a West Virginia Department of Culture and History grant, and I began experimenting with methods of manipulating both the color and texture of metal surfaces using chemicals and heat. Sunburst-pinSoon after, I was generously introduced to anodized aluminum by friend and Paradise City artist Peter Handler, who still makes aluminum furniture. This material opened a new world for me. The vast array of color and light weight of anodized aluminum was just what I was reaching for.

And Jean-Pierre?
Jean-Pierre’s pottery was all hand built slab work. He constructed pieces which were bold and distinctive, aiming away from the common wheel-thrown style. He developed a black glaze which accentuated the angular forms he built. Jean-Pierre’s dinnerware was being sold through Neiman Marcus and other national venues and his original hand built teapots are in the collection of the Cooper-Hewitt and Phillip Morris art collections, among others.

MolnPin90How and when did you begin your creative collaboration?
We started having children, and it had a profound influence on our work lives. As the family grew, we decided to pool our resources into one business. We began our collaborative work as a metals studio in 1984. Our aim was to produce a line of affordable, unusual jewelry, wall pieces and home-use items, using a non-precious material to make a strong artistic statement. Over the years, aluminum, tin cans, CDs, even coffee grounds and herbs have been materials we have incorporated into our work.
One piece, incorporating colorful tin cans, was encouraged by Bobby Hansson for his book about tin can art; we made a mobile with car antennae and tin cans!

wave-mobile.comSpeaking of mobiles, suspended shapes and moving pieces seem to inform much of your oeuvre…
You are correct; mobiles are now a distinctive part of our art offerings. It all began with a dream of light and shadows on ceilings. The mysterious shapes combined with gentle movement always fascinate us. We start with a raw aluminum sheet, wire, rod and tubing. We prepare the metal first, before constructing a piece, and even make the rivets which hold everything together. We do as much as we can by hand, eschewing commercial parts whenever possible. All pieces are constructed with cold connections incorporating rivets, staples, bolts, or glue. Using a base of 18 colors, we are able to formulate millions of subtle color combinations. The variations in color and form present some fascinating creative challenges.

Do the mobiles vary in scale as well as color?
Absolutely! Most mobiles are created with a private collector in mind and the size is appropriate for a regular home. But we can work big. The largest one to date is 25 ft. in diameter at the University of San Francisco’s main cafeteria, accompanied by satellites of their smaller ones.

vote-pinAnd what about your VOTE pins?
The VOTE pins provoke good conversations. We feel strongly that everyone should vote. A passenger was wearing one of our pins on a flight and the pilot noticed it. He made an announcement after take-off that everyone should remember to vote in the upcoming election. We appreciate it when our art is reflected in people’s everyday lives.

Carol and Jean-Pierre Hsu have exhibited in nearly every Fall Northampton Paradise City Arts Festival since 1996. They look forward to seeing you this October 8-10!