Each of the Gargoyle Bells born at Aesthetic Alternatives Art Studio has its own personality, purpose and name. Their faces are unique, some comical and others serious, and they all have their own voices.
Although artist Dawn Malosh accidentally stumbled into creating these creatures while making a simple pinch pot in 2001, their beginnings harken back to medieval times when gargoyles were placed on cathedrals throughout Europe to ward off evil spirits from entering the churches.
Cultures and religions around the world have employed bells to ward off evil. The melding of the two is how she arrived at her unique Gargoyle Bells, which have increased in popularity over the years and today are highly collectible original art.
“I see the face in each pot when I am playing with the clay. I use a dowel stick and my fingers to create the facial features. It becomes what it wants to be. That is the spiritual infusion in it,” Malosh said.
Malosh believes that the energy of the universe helps to create the bell and its purpose, whether it is to bring healing, peace or protection to the person who buys it. Malosh fires and glazes or paints each bell, depending on what she feels best fits the bell’s personality. She creates clapper tongues, which affect the ring, tone and vibration of the bell, and paints them. She signs, dates, cleanses and blesses each bell, and before ringing it for the first time, gives it a name.
“All bells have different voices based on the thickness of the bell body, the circumference, and the tongue,” she said.
Selecting a bell is a personal choice. Malosh said clients know when they see the bell or hear its tone whether it is meant for them. Others might say their bell is yet to be born. Most of the bells are protectors or healing bells, while others bring their owners joy or peace. Those who purchase bells for protection often select a more serious or scary face and will select the bell based on its tone to rid spaces of negativity or evil forces.
Malosh says her process is spiritually driven. While attending Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona, she was introduced to ceramics. After 9/11, something triggered in her to make something to bring people peace and protection.
“Since early man, ceramic figures have been around,” she said. “It is a magical process, taking the earth and transforming it into a figure. When I have a ball of clay, there is intention in my soul. I don’t think it’s a coincidence I am making these bells.”
People from all over the world collect Malosh’s bells and hang them near doors, entrances and windows of homes, in gardens and businesses, and from rearview mirrors. Although there is no proof that Gargoyle Bells have any paranormal or protective abilities, many Gargoyle Bell owners have interesting stories to tell about how they believe their Gargoyle Bell helped them.
“The bell in my car, Gormy, rings to remind me to slow down and pay attention when I am driving,” Malosh said.
The Gargoyle Bells range in size from Malosh’s biggest bell, Great Spirit Da X, nearly a foot high, which she created for the American Bell Association Conference and which took nearly nine months to create, to smaller bells which she rings in her classroom at Key School in Annapolis, where she teaches part-time. The average bell costs $25, and her bells are sold on the wholesale market to a variety of stores across the country and at craft fairs.
Malosh hopes her Preston studio will bring people together to make art.
“I have a space here people can come to feel connected to their hearts, spirits, and one another through art,” she said.