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Inspired clay creations

Burlington, Vermont - January 23, 2012

A Vermont artist is trying to take clay to the next level and bringing out the inner child in everyone.

Gears, pipes, shingles, bricks -- It's the little things John Brickels loves to focus on.  
"Not everyone's going to like the subject matter I make," he said. "But I can hit them over the head with detail."

From deteriorating Vermont barns, to twisted skyscrapers, to comical robots. "I make sculptures I would want to see if I walked into a gallery," Brickels said.

The Burlington clay artist makes sculptures that make you stop and take a second look -- and a third and a fourth.  Each glance revealing new details that make you smile.

"What draws me to clay is that it's so elemental. There's a lot of childlike qualities to clay," he said.

His crazy creations have earned him the nickname, "Doctor Brickelstein the Mad Scientist."  He started using this medium twenty years ago -- his signature is outdoor grade clay, with its distinctive mocha color.

"A lot of people think it's metal. People even think it's chocolate," he said.

Brickels sells his pieces at Frog Hollow in Burlington and also at his studio and through commission. He's currently working on an eight foot tall robot to display in the garden at the Shelburne Museum.  Big pieces take weeks to finish.

"People really respond to the human form and they respond to artwork that has faces or faces in it,"  Brickels said.

He makes sure every piece is interesting on all sides -- sometimes the back more than the front, like a fire escape on the back of a New York City row house.  And what might be even more interesting -- the materials he uses.

Many are discarded gears, light bulbs and wires he collects. Even alphabet macaroni comes in handy in his workshop.  Smaller items like robot heads cost 24-dollars.

Reporter Gina Bullard: "What are these things? what do they do?"

John Brickels: "They do nothing at all. If you need your arts and crafts to do something I have these Siamese twin pepper shakers."

The more elaborate the sculpture, the bigger the price tag.  His biggest sale -- 8-thousand dollars.

Half of his business comes from out of state.  One of his top sellers, the dilapidated Vermont barns.  Brickels sees beauty in the details of decay.  But even his creations don't always live up to his vision.  "Everything in this room looks so much better in here," he said. "I can't come close to how cool it is in my head -- I try."

A Vermont artist inspired by the little things in life, and what others might just pass by.


If you're interested in making your own clay creation, Brickels has a Mad Scientist Workshop once a season -- www.brickels.com/


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