Tuesday, July 12, 2005

ClayMaster Carlos:
Portrait of the artist as a young sculptor

“You’re a clay master!” Kevin Marquez, 9, exclaimed as he watched his friend Carlos Vela placing intricate sculpted figures on star-shaped wooden platforms.

At the age of 11, Carlos has five years of sculpting under his belt. On Saturday, he plans to branch out from the Young People’s Room at the Plainfield Public Library, his informal studio, to take part in the 42nd Plainfield Outdoor Festival of Art at Library Park.

Councilman Ray Blanco and Flor GonzalezMost of his creations are modeled on Pokemon characters, but Carlos said he has also made a replica of his hometown, Bogota, Colombia. Because he prefers a soft oil-based clay that he gets at a nearby dollar store, his figures are easily damaged. Carlos said he returned from a trip to the shore this week to find his young cousin had mashed up her favorite characters with over-enthusiastic handling.

Over time, Carlos says, he has made as many as 1,000 figures.

“But most of them got wrecked,” he said.

To make the figures more stable, for the art show, he said, his sister Michelle, 10, volunteered to paint the wooden stars to use as bases.

If by any chance schoolmates at Maxson Middle School or other fans don’t see a character they like, Carlos will custom make one on the spot.

The figures are unique for their detail - claws, fins, wings and markings in brilliant, contrasting colors. To make them more distinctive for the art show, Carlos said, he is modifying some of their poses. Instead of standing four-square on its little hooves, a gray horse-like creature raises one hoof in greeting to the viewer.

Not everyone has a lifetime goal in mind at age 11, but Carlos does. He’s sticking with sculpting.

--Bernice Paglia

KEYWORDS: Plainfield Art Festival, art, youth

COMMENT: Carlos uses regular modeling clay that he buys at toy stores. He likes it because of the colors available and it's pliability. Problem is, it's very fragile -- a fact that will make his ability to sell, or even to preserve, his art very difficult. Here is an opportunity for a local potter or clay sculptor to give a young artist some advice, or even become a mentor. - BK