Featured Artist Luann Udell

Mixed media artist Luann Udell shares a portfolio of sculptural work inspired by nature and prehistory. See more by visiting her website.


mixed media bear clan sculpture

Migration Series: Blue Bear Clan “Going Home”
California coast driftwood, polymer clay, 18″ x 6″ x 8″


I’ve been making my art—jewelry, fiber art, and small sculptures inspired by prehistoric cave art—for over 30 years now. I’ve learned so much about myself, and the process of creation, along the way.


mixed media shrine with cave bears

Shrine Series: Cave Bear Shrine “Songs of Spring”
old and new wood boxes, polymer clay artifacts,
ceramic dish, 10.5″ x 5″ x 3″


Roadblocks are normal. They don’t mean we aren’t enough. They are part of the creative process. Two of my biggest roadblocks for new projects were finding better ways to construct shrines for my polymer clay artifacts and creating running herds of animals. This was on my mind for decades, trying to work out the details in my head. (Turns out that doesn’t work. Duh!)


shadowbox with prehistoric deer image

Shadowbox/Medallion series, “Red Deer Clan I”
old wood box, polymer clay, 6″ x 6″ x 6″


A friend in New Hampshire helped me with cleaning and restoring old boxes, and a method for stacking/connecting them. That worked until we moved to California, where the climate is drier, and the glue solution didn’t work anymore. Now what??


mixed media primitive fish sculpture

Migration Series: White Fish Clan “Faraway Seas”
California coast driftwood, polymer clay, 5″ x 9″ x 4″


I was back in my head again. (Can you tell I think about this stuff way too much?) Then the pandemic hit. Fortunately, its only impact for me was being restricted to home and studio, both of which were my “safe and happy-places.” With all that time on my hands, I realized the only way to find my path through those dreams was… trial-and-error! (Another huge ‘duh!’…)


shaman necklace with blue horse pendant

Shaman Necklace: Blue Horse Clan “Running in Perfect Freedom”
polymer clay, sterling silver, necklace 30″ plus pendant 3.5″


For the shrines, I experimented with dozens of brackets, searched for tiny screws for them, found small wooden drawers (old and new) and lots of new wood boxes to fill in the gaps. Over the months, I created many, many small shrines. Then I explored new ways to mount my artifacts in them. More trial-and-error, with more failures until I found what worked.


shadowbox art with prehistoric animal images

Shadowbox/Medallion Series: “Yellow Horse Clan I” “Cave Bear Clan I”
and “Red Deer Clan II” old wood boxes, polymer clay, paint, 6″ x 6″ x 6″ each


For my animal herds, I realized that driftwood from the California coast would work wonders for my migration series. I’d already learned how to sand, paint, wax, and polish beaver-chewed sticks for my fiber wall hangings. That also worked for driftwood bases for my running horses, strolling bears, and swimming fish. And mounting the critters was easy, thanks to my work with shrines.


mixed media art prehistoric horses

Shrine Series: Yellow Horse Clan “Golden Dreams”
old wood boxes, polymer clay, ceramic pot, 9″ x 5″ x 4″


The insight here is this: Ideas come and go. But to actually get things done, we need to do the work. Experiment. Be okay with trial-and-error, until we find what works for us. Don’t let barriers block you from doing the work of your heart. Persevere until you find your way through, from the dark to the light.


mixed media sculpture of a herd of running horses

Migration Series: Running Horses “Wild, Wild Horses (Couldn’t Drag Me Away)”
California coast driftwood, polymer clay, 7″ x 16″ x 4″


It’s not about fame or fortune. Okay, money is nice, but it’s not why I make my art. It’s about doing the work of our heart, that helps us be our best self in the world. When it lifts the hearts of others, perhaps even encourages them to do the work of their heart, the world is a better place for all of us.


Luann Udell invites you to follow on Facebook and Instagram.



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  1. Luann! I love your art as much as I love you as a human being. Great to see you on this site. Congratulations!

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