Jaya Schuerch:

Living Stone

2 June 2021 | 27 minutes
woman sanding a marble sculpture

Jaya Schuerch, Living Stone, 2020 at Studio Pescarella

Co-founder of Studio Pescarella near Pietrasanta, Jaya was born in California, moved to Switzerland with her family as a teenager, and later lived in Hawaii where she worked in papier-mâché, lava and basalt. In 1986 she came to Carrara attracted by the marble quarries. Jaya says ‘it’s important to me that my sculptures feel alive, pulling out the aliveness in the stone, showing the absolute connection that stone has for me with life.’ Below are a couple of her sculptures from a recent series, both of which are strongly ‘veined’.

white marble done with veins

Jaya Schuerch, Live Stone II (rosa), 2020, marble rosa portogallo, 10 × 45 × 25 cm

white marble dome with ridges

Jaya Schuerch, Ridges, 2020, marble statuario, 20 × 30 × 30 cm

At one point in the interview Jaya explains how she experiences the difference between the white marbles of Italy, Greece and China. We also hear how important it was for her to learn skills from the artisans of Pietrasanta when she first arrived.

ceramic vessels with jagged openings

Jaya Schuerch, Exploded Spheres, 2003, various sizes

Physics, gravity, black holes and planetary motion have long been a source of inspiration for Jaya, perhaps because of her background. As well as art, she also studied engineering, biology and botany. The theme of suspension is important to her as a metaphor for the tensions of life. Above, in Exploded Spheres, a series of works seek to describe the release of tension. Below, a larger scale work, Suspended Cube, shows how the tension in the cables keeps everything suspended.

a stone cube within a steel cube on a mountain top

Jaya Schuerch, Suspended Cube, 2005, marble, stainless steel cables, steel, 300 × 300 × 300 cm, Monte Tamaro, Switzerland

Jaya enjoys creating in wax, especially in winter when she can work in front of a hot wax pot. In the process of renovating her house she hurt her hand which meant wielding a hammer and chisel on white marble was not feasible until it healed. Instead, Jaya picked up some wax and created a series of original, unique sculptures, later casting them into bronzes. She reflects on the amazingly varied forms life can take, and how strange it was to have sold one of her pieces – which looked very similar to the coronavirus – to her dentist in 2019.

oval shaped bronze sculpture

Jaya Schuerch, Little Bronze 23, 2013, 15 cm

globular bronze form with rounded knobs protruding

Jaya Schuerch, Little Bronze 9, 2013, 15 cm

bronze ball of strings

Jaya Schuerch, Little Bronze 8, 2013, 15 cm

Jaya Schuerch, Sound of One Hand Clapping, 2020

We talked about lockdown, about the soothing qualities of baking bread and of meditation. The above piece references a Buddhist meditation mantra.

Jaya Schuerch, Flying

This piece is about flying with eagles. Jaya used to be a sailplane instructor in the Alps and there were a few occasions when eagles would fly with her. Those experiences led her to try and capture that magical feeling of soaring within her work Flying.

Jaya Schuerch, Challah (a Common Woman is as Common as a Loaf of Bread), 2020, Indian limestone, 20 × 45 × 45 cm

Jaya made Challah during the first phase of the pandemic and it references one of her favourite poems, A common woman by poet, activist, and scholar Judy Grahn. She created it as a loaf and hopes you might feel you could pull off a section of it. She finds baking a restorative process and suggests it fits well with the preoccupations of lockdown: bread being regarded as the foundation of human life – feeding yourself, your spirit, and others.

Living Stone: Jaya Schuerch, video by AdeAde Productions

Credits

Sound edit and design: Guy Dowsett

Music credits: all courtesy of Audio Network

  • Illumination 3 1648/89, David O’Brien
  • Water Carrier 2 2486/42, David O’Brien, Paul Clarvis
  • Deep Sea 2 2017/48, Philip Sheppard

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