Artist Profile: Elder Jones

August 30, 2018

This October, The Chicago Mosaic school will be welcoming back South Carolina artist Elder Jones to share his unique area of expertise: the surprisingly creative medium of concrete. In his own functional and sculptural artworks, his crisp, deco-inspired forms emerge as though popped fresh from a mold, but these works are anything but factory made. Each unique structure is individually made and hand carved using techniques that Jones has developed over a 30 year career.

Elder Jones’ path towards the arts has been insistent but circuitous. His lifelong interest in the natural world originally directed him toward scientific analysis, leading him to pursue both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in biology. However, he soon found that scientific inquiry did not satisfy his bigger questions. “Ever restless within me was an innate longing for the eternal quest and the question of ‘why’. The perpetual wonder for the mystery.” Not long after completing his masters in the early 80s, Jones’ friend and neighbor, nationally renowned sculptor Jack B. Hastings asked for his help with a project. It was then that he discover the creative potential of wet carved concrete and began a casual practice that would blossom into a career.

Over the past thirty years, Jones has continued to work primarily in wet carved concrete, experimenting with different techniques and media. Though much of his work is functional, including planters, steps and pavements, fountains, and architectural installations, he also creates purely aesthetic sculpture. In recent years he has begun to favor figurative work. He sees it as the natural creative progression out of more functional, craft-based objects, saying “the more I enter this area of pure sculpture the more I feel the sweetest part of the creative dance. Looking back I see how my developed craft has unfolded and metamorphosed into aesthetic art. Here is where the best happens. The image glimpses. Intuitive flow. Humbling mistakes. My expression.” Jones’ work has been featured in numerous publications and on the HGTV network. In addition to his robust gallery presence across the US, selected works are also displayed in numerous public gardens and collections, including the Tennessee State Museum.

In concert with this pursuit of expressive creation and dialogue with the natural world that is inherent to so much of his work, Jones has also taken a turn toward a more focused spiritual education. In the late 90s, he began attending the School of Healing Arts in Nashville to learn auric and Kabbalistic healing. Perhaps it is this healer’s instinct that makes Jones such an open, approachable instructor.

Though the process of carving wet concrete is both physically and temporally intense- the drying time of the concrete leaves a finite window in which to work the heavy material- past students have remarked on Jones’ ability to bring a fun and joyful energy into the process that has opened up real passions for carving in both long established artists and enthusiasts new to the medium. In his own words, “although the work is physically hard, it continues to be fulfilling because my passion is the means by which I am sustained and nurtured. This is enough but I strive to keep it ever fresh and unfolding.”

If you would like to take Elder Jones’ upcoming workshop Wet Carved Concrete, enroll here.


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Emil Bach Ed Hoy Arts work Fund Illinois Arts Council