Inside the Artist’s Studio:
An Adventure to Owl Island,
The Fantastic Laminda Miller
By Derrick White
“I am a perfectionist and sometimes that has a tendency of getting in the way. I know what I want to convey with my work and how I want it to look, but there are times either the materials or the mechanics are uncooperative. Recently, I have learned sometimes it is better to go with the flow,” reveals local, East Texas sculptor Laminda Miller.
Beloved author Beatrix Potter (“Peter Rabbit”) wrote and illustrated “The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin” published in 1903. Potter’s celebrated story of a mischievous squirrel losing his tail is still popular. Squirrel Nutkin with his brother, Twinkleberry, and all their cousins travel to Owl Island to gather nuts until Old Brown, the petrifying owl warden of the island decides he has had enough. Potter’s amusing, animated stories and gorgeous pictures are childhood favorites. Potter created a series of anthropomorphic tales including Mrs. Tiggy-winkle, Benjamin Bunny, and Tom Kitten.
These types of beautifully illustrated, fantastic books had an influence on a young Laminda Miller, a talented and prolific artist. “My favorite artist is Beatrix Potter, a British children’s author. Growing up reading her books, I admired the art in her works and her books. My favorite was “Squirrel Nutkin.” Potter’s appreciation for nature is apparent by her attention to detail in her watercolor paintings of mycology subjects,” Laminda remembers. She continues, “I cannot recall any time I did not want to be an artist, as far as I can remember, I was determined to be an artist. As a young child, I would entertain myself by drawing, I was especially interested in the hand-drawn methods of 1930’s animation found in children’s films. My parents are artistic as well, so they have encouraged me in pursuing art, their support has been instrumental in my artistic pursuits.”
“The sculptures I make are animal forms found in nature. I use certain aspects of reality such as scale, anatomical features; however, the forms are gestural, so they are reminiscent of whimsical illustrations found in fairytales,” states the artist. Laminda Miller’s art pieces are showstoppers. It is hard to overstate how incredible these sculptures are. Perfectly postured and proportioned personified animal forms created from Styrofoam and epoxy clay with papier-mâché, are like storybook characters existing in our three-dimensional world and playing out narratives of mischief, trickery, and masked deceit. Her works are visually tactile, fantastical, and immediately create a Carrollesque storyline. Miller’s craft and attention to detail will keep one visually captivated for a long time. “I use Styrofoam and two-part epoxy clay. I use a heat knife to cut the Styrofoam into an approximate form. On the larger figures, I cut sections then fit them together for the next step. After a rough form is completed, I apply a two-part epoxy clay and sculpt the detailed features,” explains the artist. Recently, one of Laminda’s large-scale works, Once Bitten won both the People’s Choice award and Best of Show in Tyler’s Gallery Main Street exhibition ‘Alternate Perspectives’. The artist also exhibited work at the ‘Inconsistency’ art event hosted by the group East Texas Creatives, a local arts community promoting creative work and collaboration by visual artists, musicians, and poets. The event was held at the former True Vine Brewing Company location on Englewood. This group is trying to overcome some of the obstacles of trying to succeed as an artist by expanding networks and opportunities. “Unless artists have certain resources, it is difficult to get a foothold in the artistic community. Local art politics have improved a good deal. However, artists seemingly have to be politicians in order to promote their work, so I ask shouldn’t art speak for itself? As an artist who is not particularly political or business minded, I have found this aspect of being an artist rather frustrating,” describes Miller. She adds, “Art is a form of communication for me. Verbal communication has never been my strongest suit and has helped me in so many ways to communicate ideas, build friendships, show appreciation, and visualize what I want to say.”
A young Miller was mostly self-taught because her grade school did not offer established art classes. She also took private lessons from local artists. After graduating high school, Laminda attended Kilgore College, where she majored in art with a minor in education. She recalls, “It was there I learned formal components of art and how diverse art can be.” While attending Kilgore College, Miller worked primarily with two-dimensional media such as painting and mix media. “I had not developed an interest in sculpture yet, but one of my favorite assignments was a group assignment where the professor instructed us to create a society which included artifacts, lore, etc. I made a death mask and journal,” Laminda remembers. After Kilgore College, Laminda Miller enrolled at the University of Texas in Tyler. She states, “I did not have a discipline of art yet but with the encouragement of my professors, I developed an interest in sculpture and learned in-depth art history. My undergraduate work consisted of paper birds and small clay sculptures of other animal forms. After I graduated with my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, I had been accepted for an internship at a private college in Lufkin, so I enrolled in the graduate art program at Stephen F. Austin University. I learned how to make sculptures on a larger scale. When my internship ended I moved back to the Tyler area and was accepted into the University of Texas at Tyler’s graduate program. By using what I learned from S.F.A. I built from experience to make sculptures larger in scale in comparison to my past works.”
Laminda’s interests outside of art include reading, theatre, puppetry, and historical European martial arts. She shares, “I enjoy fictional stories, especially the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. I also like to read about Medieval and Renaissance history, in fact, Renaissance art history is one of my favorite courses. My family and I do annual performances for the children’s reading club at our local library which includes illusion, comedy, puppets, and ventriloquism. For recreation, I take sword fighting classes weekly with East Texas Historical Fencing, a martial arts group.” On my next quest adventure to Owl Island or wherever else, I’m asking Laminda to tag along to defend the group and talk to the animals if necessary.