Today we’d like to introduce you to Jill Orlov.
Hi Jill, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
Hi and thanks for having me. Way before calling myself a metal sculptor, I studied architecture, earning a bachelor’s and a master’s in the field. What is unusual for an aspiring architect, drawing was not my strong suit. What I did love and excelled at, was designing by making lots of highly detailed models. Models in all manners of scale and material littered my drafting table (probably where more drawings should have been). There was no AutoCAD, Revit, or even SketchUp yet. In one of my architecture studio courses, we had a group project which involved creating a large landscape. One of my classmates wanted to incorporate a train track using a welded and bent steel channel, and I volunteered my “help”! That experience ignited my desire to take a welding course, but the course filled up fast and part of me was a bit scared to go down that road back then. A little over a decade ago I found a welding course in the sculpture department of our local art college. But I was still TERRIFIED that first class, even thinking I might not return to the second class. Luckily, the confidence and guidance of the undergrad and female class assistant made me realize I also could do this. I fell in love with metal sculpting.
I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey has been fairly smooth?
Typically bumpy, I’d say. Multiple catalysts in my life led me to become a sculptor of miniatures. Almost like a stream of consciousness, the saying “one thing led to another” is apt in my circuitous path. Over the years, I have tried all kinds of introductory art classes – pottery, printmaking, woodworking, and glass blowing. I liked them all but felt no “spark” from any of them. After seeing me admire a “shadow box” piece of art, a friend got me into a group exhibition called the Cigar Box Show. Each year had a different theme but the rules were loose: just had to incorporate a cigar box. This was my first experience participating in an art show! Hence, it was not a huge surprise to me when I realized early in my architectural career that I really didn’t love practicing architecture which by now was mostly drawing on a computer. I missed designing and making my architecture school models in various materials and scales, or maybe I discovered I wanted to make more imaginative worlds. During those five years of participating in the Cigar Box shows, these trajectories of mine collided – Art, the miniature scale, and metalworking. About eight years ago, my husband encouraged me to get a studio and follow this dream (as my collections of architectural salvage and other detritus had been taking over the basement). Now what? How do I become an artist?
Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I have been told I’m “having way too much fun” when it comes to making my art. So hopefully, I will always keep that mantra in my head. My art crosses into the craft, the industrial, and the miniatures worlds, all tied together into a narrative. Recognizable scenes from literature, film, television, and classic interior design are recreated and reinterpreted through my combinations of materials and textures. The predominant use of steel sets a monochromatic stage reminiscent of black and white photography. Fragments of found objects, other metals, and glass, redirect the focal points into my worlds of miniatures.
I have exhibited work at the American Visionary Art Museum, the National Building Museum in Washington DC, and The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures in Tucson, Arizona. I have also created over 60 teeny, tiny, framed album awards for the pop music producer Benny Blanco, including ones for Ed Sheeran, Halsey, and Khalid. My most recent commission was a highly detailed “model” for a large pharmaceutical company interpreting, in sculptural form, what life was like before and after being on a particular drug. The whole process was filmed and condensed into a time-lapse.
Do you have any advice for those looking to network or find a mentor?
Mostly, I post my art on social media, including progress photos because people love seeing the process. I also open my studio up a couple times a year along with several other artists in my building so people can see where and how our art is made. I meet people everywhere and often find a connection to something I have been thinking about or working on. Most artists work in solo environments, and I am no different. But sharing my studio with three other artists and being in a historic building with over 20 other artists and art lovers has been a huge part of my path. When I get stuck or need a break, it is great to be able to walk away from my space for a bit, get advice from nearby artists, and come back refreshed with a new perspective.
Kevin Chance (photo of me) Chris Myers (photos of my work) myself (benny blanco mini framed album award pieces)