EmaBee Inspiration: My Octopus Muse

My old friend, the Giant Pacific Octopus - Monterey Bay Aquarium

My old friend, the Giant Pacific Octopus – Monterey Bay Aquarium

On my recent West Coast road trip, I stopped to see my good friend in Monterey, CA. This is the friend that I visited back in November 2012, and spent a day at the Aquarium where I met the octopus that would so greatly influence my art for years to come. On this trip, I returned to the aquarium to pay my cephalopod friend a visit, since he is probably one of the biggest ever inspirations to my artwork. Lucky me, the Monterey Aquarium happened to have a special exhibit called “Tentacles” that features a large collection of different kinds of cephalopods, including octopuses*. So I got to meet many new octopuses, and visit my old friend who is part of the permanent exhibit.

For those who are unfamiliar, in November 2012, I was staring at the octopus tank for quite a while, having the whole day to spend in the Aquarium where my friend works — the home of the Giant Pacific Octopus — I was lucky to get a rare treat. Octopuses being nocturnal animals, they rarely are out and active during the day. However this afternoon, he was awake and swooshed across the glass in an amazing, almost ethereal flow of water, color, and texture. I was mesmerized by his grace and fluidity, and the change in color under the lighting of the tank. It’s hard to describe the scene and the affect it had on me.

After this, I began to notice octopuses more in the world around me – like on t-shirts, wall-paper, and in other people’s artwork, and I was drawn to them. In 2014, the octopus really started to infiltrate my own artwork. I started out by doing an octopus plate, and then a few textured multi-media paintings (with acrylic and puff-paint). Then in 2015, when I started clay class in the spring, I documented it’s emergence into my clay work with several posts called “The Octopus Creeps.”

I was commissioned by a church in Baltimore to make a chalice and some patens (read: goblet and plates) for use in their church services for celebrating communion. I took my collection of all the clay work I had made in the previous year, and the group ended up falling in love with my original octopus plate from 2014 (and also some of the tree pieces and imprinted evergreens). I ended up making them a octopus chalice upon request. I had never done something like a chalice before, so I knew it would be a challenge, and did a few iterations of the bowl part of the chalice. I also practiced a lot with getting the suction cups and tentacles just right.

Someone ended up ordering a custom made octo plate (which was a ton of fun to do), and I ended up donating the chalice and patens to the church. I feel so honored that my artwork is being used to create and sustain community every week by a group of people who are working on creating a space of love and service.

Anyway, here are some photos from the most recent Aquarium visit, and the Giant Pacific Octopus:

*(Note: I learned that “otcopi” are multiple of the exact same kind of animal, where “octopuses” are multiple of different kinds of the animal. So since there were different kinds of “octopi,” the exhibit had many “octopuses.”)


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