Duncan and Reid: Paper Clay and Wire Sculpting

Hattie Marshall Duncan

Self-taught sculptor Hattie Marshall Duncan uses paper clay, wire, and other found objects to produce sculptures that are humorous, affectionate, and visually captivating. Calling the larger body of her work “Artwork from the Ship of Ophir,” Hattie’s sculptures are spiritually-inscribed idiosyncratic tributes to her family and the larger African American community in Jackson. The old adage “making something out of nothing” reflects the foundations of her craft. Her self-produced “paper clay” and scrap wire form the base for her sculptures. She uses other scrap items such as eggshells, coffee grounds, and milk jugs to bring them to life.

Hattie first began making art out of everyday objects as a child, but she started practicing in earnest in the late 1990s. Since then, she has exhibited in many important Tennessee galleries, including at the Customs House Museum in Clarksville, the West Tennessee Regional Arts Center in Humboldt, the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center in Brownsville, and the Latta in Selmer. In 2014, she exhibited in the Tennessee Arts Commission’s gallery. In October of 2019, she received the prestigious Governor’s Arts Award in Folklife Heritage for her artwork.

Hattie’s apprentice is her grandson, William Reid. William has observed his grandmother’s practice for many years. “This is an important artwork in my family because it signifies how everyone is unique in their own personal way,” he explains. “This art form allows an individual to express their world with things that we would normally throw away. I believe it is important to pass along this artwork and craft for generations to come.”