Childhood memories come to life in clay for this Ann Arbor Art Fair artist


ANN ARBOR, MI — For Ann Arbor artist Monica Rickhoff Wilson, sculpture is about bringing her childhood memories to life.

His mother, a teacher, often decorated Rickhoff Wilson’s childhood home for each season, bringing out holiday decorations and other seasonal items, including artificial fruit.

“I was just fascinated by stuff like these artificial fruits, and I just have this visceral memory of where I was going to pull them out and put them in my mouth, and they suck your cheek a little bit,” said Rickhof Wilson. .

Rickoff Wilson will share those memories through his artwork at the 2022 Ann Arbor Art Fair, which begins Thursday, July 21 and ends Saturday, July 23 in downtown Ann Arbor. Hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday.

You can find Rickhoff Wilson at the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, The Original at booth WA815.

Rickhoff Wilson began his clay journey in elementary school, before exploring fashion design in high school. She enrolled in a fashion design school in Chicago, but was told she needed to cultivate her drawing skills before she could continue. It was during a drawing class from nature that she rediscovered working with clay.

“And it made so much sense and it was so much easier to work with and do something that I was familiar with,” Rickhoff Wilson said. “So, I just got back to it.”

Rickhoff Wilson now works from a home studio in Ann Arbor, creating sculptures in terracotta, ceramic, stoneware and porcelain. Her work focuses on a type of sculpture she calls “clusters,” a rounded star shape inspired by the artificial grapes in her childhood home.

A set of green plastic grapes reside in his workspace as a reference.

“Part of what I do is to take those childhood memories and those materials that are really fleeting and make those impermanent things tangible or more enduring and more permanent,” Rickhoff Wilson said.

To make the clusters, Rickhoff Wilson “throws” – a method of forming clay on a potter’s wheel – each half from an individual point, joining them to form an oblong globe. The globes are then assembled to create the cluster, which is then bisque fired, glazed and fired again.

Rickhoff Wilson creates the sculpture in a variety of sizes, ranging from those that can be held in the hand to large sculptures. Large sculptures can take several months to complete, she said. Prices range from $150 for a small sculpture up to $3,000 for a large one.

Although the sculptures are quite solid, Rickhoff Wilson said she enjoyed the tension brought by the delicacy of the ceramic.

“I like something that’s a little precarious like that, a little tricky,” Rickhoff Wilson said. “If you’re not careful, it could be gone in a second.”

A smaller version of the large clusters features flocking instead of glaze, inspired by vintage Christmas ornaments. For Rickhoff Wilson, the tension of a fragile work of art covered in something inviting to the touch echoes the same push and pull of the ephemeral and the functional.

“I’m still climbing through this. Trying to figure out – what do I want to hold so tight? said Rickhoff Wilson. “I think it’s a connection with my mother.”

This is Wilson’s third year at Art Fair overall and second year individually. His first year was as part of Ann Arbor’s Potter’s Guild. Wilson’s work can also be found on lineon social media or through Ann Arbor’s Potter’s Guild website.

Learn more about the Ann Arbor Art Fair:

Ann Arbor Art Fair will remain a 3-day event in 2022

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