“And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, ‘Great and marvelous are your works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are your ways, O King of saints.’” Revelation 15:3
Rebecca Bruzek felt inspiration in the words from Revelation. As an artist using clay and working with her very human hands, she molds and sculpts to create shapes and plaques.
“I wanted my work to show how ‘great and marvelous’ God’s handiwork was,” she says. Because of this interplay of words as well as her interest in raising sheep, she and husband Larry had up to 100 Finn/Dorset cross ewes at one point, her art became known as “Song of the Lamb Sculptures.” As she says, “The name stuck,” and more than two decades later, she’s still using it.
The Bruzek home north of Alexandria has a much more Wizard of Oz than biblical correlation. While it didn’t come dropping out of the sky like Dorothy’s, the spinning whirling wind that altered Wadena’s cityscape allowed for simplification in the Bruzeks’ life.
“We farmed by Rose City for 25 years but wanted to live closer to Alexandria. We asked a neighbor if they were interested in our property. They were and we needed a house. We saw this house sitting along a road near Eagle Bend.”
The house had been damaged by the Wadena tornado and picked up by a company that moves houses, not by the gale force winds of the tornado itself.
“We bought a lot and moved the house here.”
The Bruzeks built a new walk out basement and had the house placed on it. The house itself was in good condition; the formerly attached garage wasn’t. Larry built a new deck on the north side of the house and is working on a new garage. The three-bedroom house is comfortable for this couple, who like to create and travel. The basement houses Rebecca’s, or Reba as her friends and family call her, studio with a work table, clay roller, kiln and storage bins. Larry has space for woodworking on the other side of the large, open room. Eventually walls will divide the spaces.
Rebecca graduated from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. She was doing pottery after college when she applied for and landed an apprenticeship with Mustafa Naguib, former sculptor to King Farouk of Egypt.
Farouk was a colorful man who lived a lavish lifestyle and is known as the last monarch of Egypt. Naguib remained the official sculptor of Egypt’s first president, Mohamed Naguib, and then of Nasser. He gained fame for his work propagating the 1952 revolution, had a program on Egyptian TV for six years and taught at the Helwan Fine Arts for more than 10 years. He left Egypt in 1969 after a disagreement with President Nasser and his then vice president Sadat, losing his place in Egyptian history. He moved to the U.S. in 1970 and had a school of sculpture in Indiana and then Illinois called Naguib School of Sculpture. He died in 1990.
Rebecca was among the half dozen people who worked with Naguib at his Indiana studio, producing life-size clay and bronze figures. “We worked all day, every day, helping with his work. We learned his techniques,” she said, though found that through working with figurative nudes–anatomy, balance and the mechanics of learning to see in three dimensions– the fundamentals were more “caught than learned.”
After her two-year internship, Rebecca moved to Alexandria, where she made smaller figurines and tried painting. Each student personalized what they learned from Naguib and made it applicable to their life’s goals. Rebecca found that creating clay reliefs suited her.
By making a uniformly thick clay slab in a clay rolling machine, she makes a background for the reliefs. She then hand sculpts leaves, flowers, people and other objects to create scenes lifted up from the background, having dimensional form but much less than what a three-dimensional sculpture would have. After firing the pieces to 1,800 degrees, the stoneware clay becomes hard and durable. Rebecca finishes each piece by hand painting with a series of stains and washes.
Rebecca has found commercial success with her reliefs as well as small garden signs and fish ornaments made in a similar way as she makes her reliefs. The garden signs are glued to metal stakes and are durable through summer weather. She recommends not leaving them in the ground over winter. Her small fish, hung on stringers, are used for cabin display or for Christmas ornaments.
Rebecca also makes nativity sets, figurative scenes and bird tiles. As a long-time gardener, she knows flowers and is good at expressing the individuality of leaves, stems and blossoms. She does a lot of “pictures” and accepts custom orders.
With her life and art re-established in the tornado house, Rebecca can devote time to her art as well as a passion that takes her further afield. She and Larry have spent from one to three weeks each of the last 10 years working in Mexico with Youth With a Mission (YWAM). The group builds homes for migrant workers in Ensenada, Mexico, 78 miles south of San Diego, Calif. They also enjoy time with son Pete and his wife in Carlos, and Stu who lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.