Knucklebone Jacks

Ellen Leo

I didn’t consciously set out to do a series of boxes or cubes, they unwittingly kept on showing up. Perhaps it was the pendulum swinging, since I usually make very organically-shaped pieces. My approach to starting a new piece is usually in one of two ways, either by an exploration of form, or by design. This particular cube started as design, a line drawing executed with a ruler and compass. I brought the drawing to the ceramic studio and proceeded to 3-dimensionalize it. It rose to a modest height of 3.5 inches -but now what…? Sometimes we don’t know the origins or genealogy of inspirations that show up in our pieces. At least I don’t, until they appear, or when I have to write about them and follow the thread back through the forest of shapes, symbols, and things that have stuck in my peripheral vision – all fertile ground in our imagistic notebook of ideas we might explore one day.

The cube seemed heavy-bottomed so I gave it a sense of lift by adding the balls on the bottom. Again, now what? Sometimes one has to sit and wait for the road to open up again.

I then added the balls on top, this amused me -seemed the piece was a strange artifact from the Baroque era. A clustered nugget, odd, yet also elegant in some unique way.

After several months I remembered that I had been thinking about the game of Jacks and with a little google research found out that in the past it was played with the knucklebones of sheep. That was it, I felt my piece had birthed itself as a visual composite of that childhood game. Sheep knucklebones are kind of squarish and balls are balls, after all. One of my favorite photographs of myself as a kid is while playing Jacks, so you see, that’s a thread back to my visual/emotional past. Then my mom told me the other day that her mother, my nana, loved to play Jacks and was good at it. When I heard this, I had an added sense of pleasure, even though I never played Jacks with her.


2019, sandstone buff, bisque fired

5.5 in x 5 in x 5 in

For sale: $250