Elk Art Piece Featured at the Museum of North Carolina Handicrafts in Shelton House
Elks have made a comeback in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Many natives and visitors make the treck to visit the beloved animals at their historic Cataloochee home. A local artist has taken her love of elks a bit further in order to honor the elk and to produce magnificent pottery sculpted wall hangings that capture the rugged spirit of this native creature.
Local artist, Helen Geltman, began her connection with the elk in 1977 when she sketched a picture of an elk while visiting the elk exhibit at the Museum of Natural History in New York City. Little did Geltman realize at the time, but that elk symbol was also etched into her psyche and would follow her through decades of associations. The artist tucked away her drawing until a few years passed, and she made her father’s Christmas card using a linoleum block cut from her elk sketch. Years later, a friend noticed the linoleum print and suggested that the elk impression would make a nice print in a clay medium.
The friend’s idea about working in clay gave Geltman direction to enroll in the clay program at Haywood Community College. The artist knew she wanted to perfect small horse sculptures, but the elk linoleum block continued to plea for her attention. Eventually, her small elk block expanded via the pottery medium into two art pieces: a six by four feet and another five by four feet art work consisting of numerous molded pottery sections that fit into an amazing puzzle-like work of the finest artistry. The pottery sculpture is made from high-fire stoneware clay, processed from raw ingredients that are painted with colored liquid clay, dusted with granite bits, and fired. Five kilns are required to fire all of the pieces that make up each wall hanging.
Geltman’s unique art works have garnered attention as auction pieces for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, at Hotel Indigo in Asheville, and currently at the Museum of North Carolina Handicrafts in historic Shelton House where one of the sculptures resides on temporarily loan to the museum. The owner, Teresa Pilgrim, is generously allowing the piece to be displayed at Shelton House. Some visitors to the museum are amazed to learn that while the location houses many antique craft pieces, the craft venue is a living museum, continually adding new crafts that feature North Carolina artisans.
Visitors to the museum may view Geltman’s sculpture, as well as the hundreds of other crafts, at the 49 Shelton Street, Waynesville location from Tuesday – Saturday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., from May through October. For more information: 828-452-1551.