Erin McGuiness


Interconnections- a Clay Workshop to Bridge the Past into the Present by Artist Erin McGuiness.

Malta’s rich Neolithic archeological treasures are living reminders of our interconnection with those that came before us, our ancestors. In this workshop, ceramic sculptor Erin McGuiness will guide participants through a process of active imagination. A creative practice of listening for the whispers of our ancient forbearers. Using simple hand-building techniques we will make clay replicas of Our Lady of Tarxien, The Sleeping Lady or other ceremonial and household vessels from this foundational society. Without written texts, the objects they created and the stone gathering places they built are living libraries whose mysterious stories can be read with our eyes, hands, intuitions and imagination.

McGuiness will share interpretations, images and research from her month long residency immersed in the stone and clay remains of these early settlers of the Maltese archipelago. Her exploration of the complex language of symbols and spaces carved of limestone; the spirals, female figures, birds, rams, bulls, pigs, goats, snakes and the 3-dimensional spaces above and below ground. Remnants and shards that point the way to answer our questions. Did these early people dance, sing, grieve, give birth, seek healing and transformation in these spaces and with these objects? What resonates with our struggles today, what did they know that can help guide us now?

California based sculptor Erin McGuiness incorporates contemplative practices with art making, working primarily with clay and found objects. She uses hand building processes such as carving and coil building, to create ceramic forms that are totemic, archetypal and play at the intersection of dualities; light and dark, monastic and lush, wild and cultivated. The pieces explore themes of the vessel-as-archetype, divine feminine & masculine, interrelatedness of forms, ancestral recovery of earth based devotional practices and the animation of matter. Ultimately the forms and 3 dimensional spaces she creates provide a locus or quiet place where viewers are invited into their own personal form of communion. Her teaching philosophy explores the body as our most important tool in art making and the creation of objects made-by-hand, as a nonlinear process to cultivate myth-making capabilities. Integrating meditation, energy and embodiment exercises into the direct manipulation of earth – clay.

Curiosity and a sense of play activate our innate visioning abilities, while the receptive earthiness of clay keep us firmly grounded in the present moment. By recreating an object we come to understand it more deeply, seeing its subtlety and feeling a sense of the spirit of the piece. Through creative practice and using our imagination, workshop participants may unlock the script of these past peoples. Cultivating more understanding of the very ground that contemporary residents and visitors of Malta are blessed to walk on and with. A process to remember and invite into today’s cultural dialogue, the wisdoms and life teachings of the original human inhabitants of Malta.

Date: 22nd September 2023
Time: 6:00pm
Duration of workshop- approximately 2 hours
Materials: Clay
Fee: Eur 5
Venue: Valletta Design Cluster – Maker’s Space
Age: 16+
Language of instruction: English
Facilitator: US based sculptor Erin McGuiness will share her research and impressions of the Neolithic Old European culture from her residency in Malta visiting archeology sites, temples and museums that house material culture objects and share simple clay techniques to replicate objects from Malta’s archeology sites.

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1) What is your name?

Erin McGuiness

2) Tell us a bit about yourself.

My passions in life are the natural world and consciousness.  I spend time hiking, exploring and creating art from nature and reading, studying and practising different modalities exploring the evolution of human consciousness.  I am fascinated by psychology, trauma healing, ancestral healing, meditation and other methods that bring me into the present time, into my body and to live more fully and aware in the world.  I have lived in Northern California for most of my adult life, after growing up outside of Washington DC.  As a  young person I did not think of myself as an artist and instead my path was that I fell in love with clay in high school and then after many years of creating with clay, I grew into the identity of an artist.  I think of an artist as a kind of vessel that source moves through to express itself through my unique identity.  I am interested in how artists can be conscious mirrors of the people and culture around them and be in choice on how to evolve humanity.

3)Tell us a bit about your art practice and what inspires you.

Repairing humans’ relationship with the earth and strengthening collective awareness of our interrelationship with land is at the heart of my sculptural practice and the objects and spaces I create.  Clay is an amazing medium to connect with and build relationships with the Earth.  A significant topic of study and inspiration for my artwork is the Neolithic Old European culture.  Malta, as a foundational site of this ancient culture, offers me a rare opportunity to study the temples and artefacts in person.

My art making is sacred practice and studio time is meditation for me. I have a rich relationship with land, both the Earth I sculpt as clay, the Earth I stand on as I create, and the awareness of my body itself as Earth.  The pieces in the series incorporate found natural objects with sculpted ceramic forms, they are visual metaphors for the experience of how, while meditating, I play with holding space in the form of stabilised awareness, inviting existence/reality/life force to be directly experienced. Sculpting as an intuitive process, I quiet my mind and through a sensory experience I call “flistening”, I feel-listens the forms into being. Seeking an egoless flow state,  wherein the mind quiets and I am present to the life force moving through my hands, body, heart, navigating what is invisible to visibility. I gather the sculpted forms, along with found objects to tell more complex visual stories and create spaces for others to come into deeper relationships with their own connection to Earth and life force.  The pieces made from clay and found objects feel excavated, discovered rather than built, referencing bone, vertebrae, pelvis,  driftwood; objects that are at once part of the natural world and are a world unto themselves. Sculptures as prayers, symbolic records of communion with the source of life.

4) What do you hope to achieve with your residency in Malta?

My desire is to immerse myself in the cultural heritage of Malta, particularly the material culture artefacts, temple sites.  After a period of immersion, of living and listening with the land, to then create ideas for possible sculptures and land art that sings up the stories I hear.  

Like a bee gathering pollen from many flowers, as an artist I am fortunate to gather inspiration from many different sources creating honey that invites in others for cross pollination. Inspired by Malta’s rich cultural legacy, my hope is to bridge the gap between our ancestral and contemporary life, weaving lost wisdom into today.  As an artist and culture maker I have the opportunity to both draw from the collective unconscious and feed it, reweaving old cultural paradigms into new ones. In the words of Marija Gimbutas, “ We must refocus our collective memory. The necessity for this has never been greater as we discover that the path of “progress” is extinguishing the very conditions for life on earth.” With beauty, a capacity to listen deeply to land, and to create stories with objects and spaces imbued with spirit, I seek to open viewers/visitors and workshop participants to new narratives effecting change from the human heart, that is then carried out into the greater world.