Darlys Ewoldt grew up on a farm in Iowa, where “The isolation,” she says, “is very good for developing one’s imagination.” From a young age, she was encouraged by her parents to explore her artistic side. “I lived in a time and place where, if you didn’t have it, you had to make it with your hands.” As a freshman in college, she walked into a metalsmithing classroom and never looked back. If you take a moment to lose yourself in the imagination and skill behind her sculptures, you might say Iowa did a great job.
In addition to managing her own artistic practice, Darlys also teaches at Columbia College and Lillstreet Art Center. Her collection of awards runs deep – including three Illinois Art Council Fellowship Grants, one finalist award, Ford Foundation Fellowship and Project Grants, Project Grants from the George Sugarman Foundation and the Ruth Chenven Foundation and a travel grant from the Embassy of the United States.
When asked what contributes to success, Darlys’ advice is timeless:
Work hard, set aside time every day to improving your skills and practicing.
And once you’ve mastered something, challenge yourself. Start all over with your material and learn something new.
Your work is truly captivating. How would you describe it?
My sculptures are hammered and constructed from sheet copper, brass, and bronze. The pieces are colored through chemical patination processes.
Where does your inspiration come from?
I draw from objects found in nature and my environment. I always liked to draw and make things from an early age. My parents were proud of this and never tried to convince me to choose a more “practical” path in life. I have many happy memories of making things with my mother. I learned the importance of hard work in achieving your goals in life from my parents.
I have also studied and been influenced by such artists as Martin Puryear, Joseph Cornell, David Smith, and the Constructivist and Bauhaus movements.
What is the best advice you ever received from an instructor or mentor?
Alma Eikerman, an amazing woman who was a pioneer in teaching metalsmithing techniques in the U.S., was my mentor at I.U. She instilled the importance of studying art history and practicing good design and craftsmanship. Alma taught me to look beyond the obvious in the world around me and to look at common objects in different ways.
What are your favorite classes to teach at Lillstreet?
I love teaching the forming classes. It’s a pleasure to see the excitement of the students when they successfully transform a piece of metal by hammering. I also like to teach beginning metals classes. Students feel a great sense of accomplishment from lighting a torch for the first time to making something they are proud to wear.
What do you appreciate about the Lillstreet community?
Lillstreet is a positive, supportive community. I have seen and experienced both creative and personal connections develop with many people. It’s wonderful to walk through the spaces at Lillstreet feel the creative energy.
At Lillstreet, I find the students are centered on growing their work into a business. And they do! I’ve seen many of my students start out at the beginning and become successful in their work. I think a strong contributor to that is the range of teachers Lillstreet offers. Learning from a variety of practicing artists is a unique opportunity to learn.
What kind of projects are you working on right now?
Last year, I started casting glass elements to include with the formed and fabricated metal forms. I am interested in working with light and shadow by combining the two materials. I enjoy the challenge of exploring a new, unfamiliar combination of mediums.
Find Darlys Ewoldt’s work here, and experience it in person at SOFA Chicago 2017. She will also be showing at the Smithsonian Craft Show in Washington, DC in April 2017. She is represented by K. Allen Gallery in Sister Bay, WI and Graver’s Lane Gallery in Philadelphia, PA.