When they invade the imagination, monsters can become a source of great fear. But the opposite is true for Brynn Keevil ’23.
In Clark’s Craft Studio, Keevil molds clay into ceramic gargoyle heads with their fang-filled mouths agape — pieces of art that are both eerie and beautiful. Crafting them, Keevil says, is a way to help ease real-life anxieties, including the uneasiness of the unknown as commencement approaches and they prepare to transition into a new chapter of life. Shaping the gargoyles has become a passion project for Keevil with the dual benefit of calming their nerves and feeding their creative spirit.
“I think making physical monsters feels like a way to mitigate any other fear in my life,” says Keevil, a community, youth, and education studies major and studio art minor. “Each of these gargoyles is a different part of my identity that exists outside of me, which I then can see as beautiful and lovable.”
Keevil started regularly working with clay during their first year at Clark after stumbling upon the craft studio. Come junior year, Keevil was working in the studio about 15 hours per week.
“It felt like what I wanted to do all the time,” says Keevil.
Keevil starts by sculpting clay freely, with no specific plan or approach in mind. After creating the first gargoyle, Keevil immediately felt called to make more. Now, they have almost 15 in their collection. It takes two to 10 hours to sculpt each gargoyle, two hours to burnish, two hours to glaze, and then two or three days in the kiln.
“I love them unlike any other art I’ve ever created,” says Keevil. “They feel like children in a way that is incredibly bizarre to me. It feels like I am a vessel for the birth of this really cool being.”
The gargoyles can stand alone as décor, but Keevil also uses the monsters’ mouths as an unusual plant pot.
CYES courses taught Keevil the value of relationships and feeling connected to one’s work. It’s the same way they approach art.
“Connecting deeply to land is a huge part of why I love ceramics,” says Keevil, who enjoys scavenging clay from a river to create mugs or sculptures.
After graduation, Keevil will work at a pollinator plant nursery in Western Massachusetts this summer in exchange for housing. The property has a barn that they plan to transform into a pottery studio. After the summer, Keevil hopes to find a ceramics apprenticeship.
“I’m completely self-taught, so my technique could use some work,” says Keevil. “I finally feel like I’m learning how to execute things as I imagine them. It’s taken at least two years to get to a point where I feel excited about what’s coming out of my hands.”
Keevil would love to make and sell ceramics full-time but would also consider a career as an art teacher. Eventually, they want to construct a full-size gargoyle, using wild clay, sticks, and branches to build the creature on a riverbank. Keevil will skip the kiln process and let the creation melt away in the rain.
“It gets me excited because earth and water are things I feel connected to,” says Keevil. “This is a way to be in relationship with them.”