Artist Sara Hope Hill made a flourish with her hands. “Everything is a web,” she said. “Everything is a reflection of each other. I started reading mythology recently, listening on audiobooks, because I think they’re tied to the stories of now. All of those stories are kind of characters, of people you know personified to an extreme. It helps you understand the world around you. Puppetry and doll making help you understand the world around you, and I think many times the mythology ties into the divinity of my work. Porcelain bodies are God’s work. You are working with perfect beings.”
Hill will be participating in the monthly series Art in the Back, Music in the Front at Three Sheets New Haven this Saturday, Jan. 13, but in a much different way than most others. She will have wall hangings, ceramics, and prints, as well as a puppet hanging from the rafters in the back room. She will also be presenting a puppet show on the stage in the front room between musical acts Alethea and Jacques le Coque.
“The puppet show is an example of human relationships and my personal journey in New Haven as an adult,” Hill said. “The show prep is fun. There’s a lot to do at once.”
Four days before the show, she was preparing and creating some of the pieces in her apartment and studio that would be in the show. “I’m going to have one of these puppets in a chair, so people can take pictures of it,” she said as she lifted one of the near completed puppets off of her couch and had this reporter hold it as well. “I want to share. People are going to be able to hold and touch the dolls. They’re light but sturdy. I love sharing my art.”
Hill’s love of art started early on. Her kindergarten teacher told her mother that Hill had been drawing fingers on her portraits.
”It’s always been there, a huge sanctuary for me,” Hill said. At Newtown High School, she won six national awards for her ceramic work. She cited Carol Pelligra, one of her high school art teachers, as well as Arlene Spoonfeather, her middle school art teacher, as early mentors and inspirations. Unfortunately other parts of school left her “bored and understimulated.” She attempted college after getting her high school degree via tutoring, but left after one semester. She ended up in New Haven not long after that and felt at home as a self-taught and self-described “outsider artist.”
“I think that’s one of the beautiful things about New Haven is that the underground art scene is cool — the people here who are just doing and making what they love. That’s the root of art, of being an artist. You can’t go to art school to become an artist. You can fine tune and learn skills, and they present you with tools, but really you need to sit down and say, ‘what do I want, what do I want to make, and how do I make it happen?’”
“I love problem solving,” she continued. “That’s one of my favorite things about the marionettes. If I want to make a ceramic mask with moving blinking stoneware eyeballs, then I want that to happen. What kind of wire do I need? What firing temperature? The figuring out is so much fun to me…. I love confusing myself. I don’t sleep much, maybe four or five hours. I exercise every day. I love the amount of energy that I have. I love when a problem I’m solving creatively can make me tired. It can happen when I’m working on a complicated illustration painting, and I can sit there for hours. I’ll take breaks and go to the gym and run errands, but I literally work on something for hours. I love when I’m working so small and complicated with things that are really fragile because it takes so much effort.”
Hill’s work is generally ceramic based, but her dolls and puppets include oak dowels, spring joints, papier-mache torsos, and ceramic faces. Her marionettes are porcelain, “for delicacy.”
She has been making dolls for about four years now, marionettes for about two, and has numerous small boxes and dishes, mugs, and jewelry in her collection of work. In her studio she not only pointed out pieces that were in the process of being created for the show, but also examples of her work that started one way and ended up another.
“This lamp is a cherry dish that broke, and I wired it back together and made a lamp. The audio accompaniment in the show talks about it.”
She enjoys working with found objects and uses just about everything she can. An old pair of her Doc Martens will be used as shoes for one of her puppets in this Saturday’s show.
She even keeps her palates from her acrylic paintings, showing me one and pointing out the faces in it. “I see faces in things, in the shadows. Everything is responsive.”
She lifted and turned each piece with evident love and pride. “I’ve been doing art full time now for about a year, and I’m incredibly grateful. It’s a gift to be 24 years old, self-taught, and not have student debt.” She worked for many years at Group W Bench with owner and fellow artist Raffael DiLauro. Maishe Dickman, a potter she met at Group W, has a studio right behind her own apartment and studio, which she rents from him. She cited both as mentors. “I’m really grateful for them,” she said.
Though she has recently applied to a couple of art schools. “I’m waiting to hear back from Cooper Union in New York. I do so much art that I don’t know what I would do otherwise, and I just want to do more. I would like to work in more materials. I would like more exposure. I would like to work on larger productions. Also there’s the vast creative community that art school provides.”
She did City Wide Open Studios for the first time this year and loved it. “I wanted to hit the ground running my first time, and I think I did. It was busy, and it should be. There are a lot of talented people at that event and in New Haven. That’s one thing about New Haven. I think we need more art. Everybody should be doing more, should be excited, and share that excitement with each other, and go to each other’s events, give them honest critique and advice, give connections if you have them, if it’s a good fit. I think people just need more solid, larger, intricate, intellectual creative excitement and stimulation. New Haven has the potential to do that.”
Hill stopped briefly to take a breath and smile. “My art carries light and life,” she said. “I want to share that.”
She also currently has pieces at wave gallery on Chapel St.
Art in the Back, Music in the Front happens at Three Sheets, 372 Elm St., Jan. 13 at 9 p.m. Click here for more information. Hill also currently has pieces at Wave Gallery, 1046 Chapel St.