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Clay Master

Kansas sculptor Corner selected
to make 2018 judges’ awards

He says his unique clay faces are inspired by nature

(Sept. 21, 2018) – Most kids love getting down and dirty in the mud, and Sean Corner was no exception. Although for him, any time he could get his hands on clay and create a figure, the experience was even more enjoyable.
“Ever since I was a little kid, I loved working with clay,” he said. Now at age 46, nature and the human figure often combine in Corner’s artwork. Mesmerizing figures seem to emerge from natural images in his sculptural creations, sparking an emotional response from onlookers.

Photo provided

Sean Corner of Wichita, Kan., has developed a loyal fan following at his shows, including the Madison Chautauqua.

All of his sculptures “primarily have to do with the human figure or face,” said Corner. “They are part fantasy, part realistic.” Each piece is created in clay and then glazed and fired in a kiln.
Going beyond the surface, his works contain a deeper concept in that the identity of the self is Corner’s main theme. His goal is to find the person inside who is truly their own voice. This is accomplished through fluid movement, propelling one forward on his journey to self-realization.
He said that many times customers tell him that they are not sure why they are purchasing a certain piece, but there is “something about the sculpture that has triggered an emotional focus in their core being.”
He became more focused on this medium in college, taking a few classes at Newman University in Wichita, Kan., where he is from and still lives. Mostly, he is self-taught and works from a studio in his own home.
Since graduating, Corner worked full-time at sculpting by running his own business, Sean Corner Sculptures. “This is the most regular job I’ve had in 26 years.”
For almost a decade, Corner has exhibited in the Madison Chautauqua Festival of Art and will return this year on Sept. 29-30 to exhibit at Booth 923.
Corner holds a special honor this year. He was asked to create the 2018 awards that are presented to the judged winner. Awards are presented for Best of Show, Best Presentation, top three in Fine Arts and top three in Crafts. He said that festival co-chair Amy Fischmer “gave me a call. She said she liked my work and would like me to design the award.”
Corner described the eight awards as “clay wall hangings, similar to a plaque.” The overall effect is “very natural and organic. It is reminiscent of a character coming out of leaves.”

File photo by Don Ward

Sean Corner’s clay faces come in all shapes and varieties.

“I’m a big fan of his work,” said Fischmer. “We wanted to use him last year but weren’t able to give him enough notice. We felt he was a perfect fit to make this year’s awards.”
All Fischmer and co-chair Jenny Straub had to tell him were the categories in which the awards are presented, and he took it from there, she said. “He has a particular style. He is someone that Jenny and I both love the work that he does.”
She said there are a lot of artists whose work they feel similar about, but felt that Corner was the one to design the 2018 awards.  
Fischmer called his artwork “amazing.” The fact that he can take a flat clump of clay and “turn it into something,” makes his unique style stand out.
Corner is a past winner of the juried art show as well. In 2013 his work was selected by judges as “Best of Show,” and the previous year he earned a second place honor in the Craft division.
He enjoys creating 3-D over 2-D artwork. “I’ve worked in most other mediums but always come back to clay,” he said. “I like clay because it is immediate and ready to work again. It’s a very forgiving medium.”
The fact that there is never any waste is another advantage to working in clay for Corner. “There is no waste. It’s very recyclable.”
Corner never lacks for inspiration. He said he “has a ton of ideas, which I can get out quickly with clay, as opposed to wood and marble. If I make a mistake, I can smooth it right over.”
In a way he is inspired by certain areas of the country when creating works that he may ultimately take to shows in those vicinities. “I am inspired by the area I am going to,” Corner said.
Some of his darker pieces with fragmented faces sell better in a bigger city like Chicago, whereas more natural softer pieces sell better in Madison. “There is more of a market for them there.”
Corner said he finds that he has a lot of repeat customers at the art shows he attends. He is able to build on a great clientele year after year. People look for his one-of-a-kind pieces each year, which “is nice because they keep coming back” to find something new.
Corner stays busy participating in about 25 shows annually. Another local favorite is the St. James Court Art Fair in Louisville. That show takes place the weekend after Chautauqua each year.

Like many other artists, one of the qualities he likes best about the Madison Chautauqua Festival of Art is the setting. “There’s nothing like being on that big river. It’s such a scenic view and the people are extremely friendly.”

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