Friday, October 7, 2011

Colby Jackson, Sculptor

I went down to the Palomar Community College Ceramics Studio last night to help a friend Raku Fire some of her ceramics pieces.  It was SO nice to be there again (awhile ago, I ran out of available units... overstayed my welcome, as it were, so I can't use the studio anymore), and even nicer to see friends that I haven't seen in awhile. 

It was my favorite kind of evening-- smokey kilns, burning newspaper in metal trashcans, the big reveal of the glaze when the smothering was done.  Amazing.

While I was there, as usual, I ran into Colby Jackson.

Colby at work.

This is Colby.  Sculptor.  Artist.  Friend.

Colby is something of a Savant.  Something of a Genius.  Something of... Well, he's just Something.

Colby is Autistic.

He makes figures out of clay - thousands upon thousands of figures - sculpted from his imagination, from the depths of his more than interesting mind.  He casts figures out of Bronze.  He uses concrete house stucco and latex paint when he makes something REALLY big.  Which he does.  Often. 

He makes CHAINS out of clay - forming Interlocking 3-4 inch loops of reclaimed clay, often marbled with several different varieties of clay, adding links and links and links to chains that can reach 15-20 feet.  People seem to just eat them up - he sells a LOT of chains.

Mostly, though, he makes Alien Heads.  They all seem to mean something to him, but they don't usually have names.  I asked him once where he got the idea to make alien heads, and he just kind of looked at me for a moment, then simply said "My mind". 

Fair Enough.

I love to watch Colby sculpting.  Every time he adds an eye, a ear, a smile, HE smiles.  I've watched him flat out giggle as he makes his figures take shape.

Sometimes, he makes something new.  More often, he makes hundreds of nearly identical copies of the same figure.  Over and Over.  And Over.

Colby's sculptures aren't to everyone's taste.  Not even close.  But *I* love his pieces, I love his creativity, I love the glimpse into what makes him tick.  My husband describes him as a "Madman" in the best possible, artistic way.  I readily admit that my husband and I are collectors of Colby's work.

Last night, Colby came up to me in his usual way - he generally works from "scripts" when talking with someone, and you can pretty much predict your entire conversation based on previous conversations, but he will occasionally surprise you, and it IS possible to draw him out, if you ask the right questions - saying his usual half-emotive way, "Well-I'm-glad-to-see-you-Yeah-would-you-like-to-see-what-I'm-working-on?"

Of COURSE I would!

I follow him over to his work area, pleased to see a new rendition of an idea I've seen before:  hundreds of items, hand sculpted, fired,and placed inside a glass enclosure, in this case, kind of like a television set. 

In the past, I've seen him make a sort of stucco cube/coffee table, with glass windows on four it's sides, and filled entirely with THOUSANDS of dice - colored plastic dice, black and white dice, hand-made ceramic dice, ten-sided dice, math dice, dice with pictures instead of dots.  When I prompted him, he told me that he'd been collecting dice since he was a child, and had just decided to DO something with them.  When I looked in the windows of the cube, I could see dozens of ledges and platforms, the dice painstakingly arranged, and piles and jumbles of dice on the bottom.  It was AWESOME.

Inside the enclosure. A jumble of Aliens.

This time, he had filled the enclosure with some of his Alien Heads (and a couple of chunks of glass he'd found in a box in a storeroom).

It's a familiar figure to me - I've seen this one a million times, in a million colors, in a million different sizes.  There's a GIANT one of these made of chicken wire, stucco and house paint hanging around the studio - mostly because it's SO BIG I don't think Colby could get it home, and even if he did, he wouldn't have anywhere to put it.  It must be ten feet tall if it's an inch.

He makes many variations of Alien Heads - sometimes multiple heads stacked on top of each other - but this one seems to be a standby.

View from the other side. They are all the same, this
time made of dark clay and fired but not glazed.

See that smile?  With every stroke, every addition... the
smile. I don't know anyone else who so outwardly
enjoys his work. It's a privilege to know this man.

In the above photo, you can see Colby, grinning, applying stucco to what is surely a chicken wire frame.  If you look closely at the top, you'll see another alien head, this one glazed in white and dark blue, stuccoed into the top of the piece.

His hands move so fast, I had a very hard time getting
them in focus on my iPhone.

He ALWAYS has his headphones on.  Being something of a music-freak myself, I asked him what he listens to.  Turns out it's techno and dance music.  Makes sense.  He likes the repetitive beats and bass lines.  I can dig it.

He also drinks energy drinks by the case.  I've never seen him drink anything that wasn't an energy drink.  Maybe a Mountain Dew.  And he usually has chocolate.  Another reason to check in with him and see what's going on.  He's very generous.

Although, I worry about him and all that sugar.

But THEN I remember that he rides a bicycle EVERYWHERE, and is just about the leanest, most fit person I know.  I guess he'll be ok.  And while I have never even had a single sip of an energy drink (actual, brewed coffee notwithstanding), I do have something of a chocolate issue.  So probably I should just hush my mouth.

Three of my newest Colby Jackson acquisitions.

Colby has THOUSANDS upon THOUSANDS of these things.  Big and small.  In boxes at the studio, in several lockers on campus, in his trailer home, in friends' houses... everywhere.

He sells them at the bi-annual Palomar College Ceramic and Glass Sale for a pittance.  A PITTANCE.

The above three figures I purchased for less than $20.  It's a crying shame.

He DID finally get a gallery showing last year, and my husband and I went to the opening, and it was the first time that I was pleased that I couldn't afford anything.  Someone had finally priced his work for what it's worth.  And curated it in such an amazing way that my husband and I were simply dazed at the show.  "Colby Jackson's Milky Way Galaxy Shop".  That's what he'd called it. 

Holy COW... there's a video.  Watch it. 


Close-up of the Blue Guy.

He has a WINDOW in his back.  He's a HOUSE.

I bought this for my husband for Father's Day last year.
A small example of his multiple-headed figures.
This one only has two head.  I've seen as many as 7
stacked on top of each other.

I bought this one because I'd never seen it before.
Had to have it.

I have had multiple other Colby Jackson Alien Heads in my house, but alas and alack, dogs and children and slightly tippy sculptures.... sigh.  At least I know where to get more.

If you are interested in getting your own Colby Collection going, you can find his work at The Palomar College Student Art & Craft Sale (Every Fall around Thanksgiving, and every Spring around Mother's Day) and he's recently begun selling at Buena Creek Gardens in San Marcos

Clby may not be the greatest artist of our time, and some may not even apply the label of "Artist", but I think that the sheer magnitude of his work speaks volumes.  Actual Volumes. 

And I firmly believe that everyone could use a few of these guys in their house, garden and office. 


  1. fascinating work! i really wouldn't mind having a couple of them guys in garden, i think my favourites are the twoheaded ones and i saw a big head in the video with lots of small crown-wearing ones at the back of skull. such a great pity that so few artist get a decent pay for their work.

  2. SO fantastic! Thank you for sharing this post because it's truly amazing. Wish I was closer by because I'd gladly buy a few pieces. So cool!

  3. I am so glad you both see what I see! he was so dear after I took these pictures in the studio-- Said "Thanks for taking my picture and... and my stuff". He doesn't have a computer, so I doubt that he'll ever even see the pictures. I could print some....

  4. What a grea post, the sculptures look brilliant.


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