Sunday, June 28, 2009

Chautauqua again...

I am back in the bubble that is the Chautauqua Institution. I have resumed my role as KILNMASTER!!!!!...did you here the echo? That is the title...I fire all the kilns along with maintaining them...and I manage the ceramic facility for the season. I have five dedicated work study students that help keep the studio chugging along and my full time assistant Dan Kuhn. Dan is finishing his MFA in ceramics at IUP where I work and has had several experiences in residencies and community oriented pottery studios. That's Dan in the above picture...below are a couple images of the throwing room and the hand building room before the onslaught tomorrow. Classes start in the morning...not only do we in the ceramics dept. service the students that have come from all over the country, but we also allow for the Chautauquans, who are here spending their vacation time in the Institution, to sign up for classes. It makes for a busy, busy summer.

The art department is celebrating its 100th year birthday this year! The Institution itself has been around for more like 120-130 years. For those of you who do not know, its a very interesting place that houses schools of visual arts, dance, theatre and music along with absolutely every kind of religious denomination in an open and all embracing community.

The images below are of the faculty studios(my space is in the first one ) and the other is of the wondrous kiln palace...their both in that groovy, retro, Dwell magazine, brown and orange Brady Bunch color scheme. That's my best buddy for the season peaking out of the kiln palace doors...the Blauuw Kiln. Its a fully programmable digital gas kiln...fancy shmancy.

Frank and Polly Martin are here to teach for the first couple weeks and then Alec Karros, Jeff Greenham, Chris Miller, Adam Paulek, and Jim McDowell are all coming in for a couple weeks at a time until the last week in August. All really good people with a little something different to offer the students.
In the down time of the last weekend before classes start I wandered down to Strohl Art Center, which is the department's "new as of last year gallery" to check out the opening...Roberly Bell's bright, blobject pieces were installed in the sculpture garden and there were 3 other exhibitions happening inside. One exhibition I really liked was Anne Lamanski's sculptures...very cool stuff.

Roberly Bell's work in the sculpture garden...

Anne Lemanski's very cool work...
This weekend has certainly been an easy way to ease on into the awaiting season. Monday morning there will be people beating down the doors and we will be making and firing all week. The upcoming weekend will be packed here for the 4th and I will be giving my talk on Sunday the 5th...Sometimes hectic, sometimes frustrating, all the time interesting...stay tuned for more updates from inside the bubble. Let the season begin!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

That's wood firing baby!!

I am back in rural PA all suntanned from my FLA vacation with my other souvenir from the sunshine ear infection. Other than that I am fairly rested and preparing to leave for Chautauqua on Friday. I will be back in the Chautauqua Institution for the entire summer firing kilns and managing the ceramic facility. I am currently working on my "talk" that I will be giving there on July 5th..."To Function or not to Function" continued back and forth bouncing of utilitarian work and sculptural work and how they intertwine...its like therapy for me. Chautauqua is a great place to blog from because there is a never ending stream of stuff happening so stay tuned for the upcoming Cha-posts...but on to the real business at hand...The last firing of the train kiln!

Well, everyone that fires a kiln and uses glazes knows that there is a certain amount of acceptance involved at the end. I tell this to all ceramic students...sometimes the finished piece is not exactly like the glaze tile...sometimes bad and sometimes good. Giving up the work to the random effects of a glaze firing is a big part of what I am interested in with my own work. This is why I wood fire, it was why I used to is that unknown variable that makes it unique and unlike anything that is mass produced. I say this because the firing was not altogether super. Nancy said she was a little disappointed and after seeing my pieces, I was too. This was a different firing that did not yield a perfect kiln load but did yield a handful of really awesome pieces. We both ended up with some real beauties, allot of pieces that can be re-fired and will be great, and also group of pieces that are beyond salvation. I will be doing re-fires in the Blauuw kiln at Chautauqua and then decal, decal, decal, and some gold luster. Some I will not even fire an image on them because they are so perfect. I'm posting a few pieces that were indicative of the whole firing...lots of drippy ash, some ash stuck here and there that didn't melt, and rich colors and juicy shinos. After 34 hours of firing, I would have hoped for more but I a bow to the kiln gods and happily accept the winners that I came out with and also know the potential of multiple firing the other pieces that were not exactly what I expected. My motto: "It ain't over until it falls apart...even then, you might want to think about it before its tossed on the shard pile." Click on the images to see bigger and to really examine the surfaces.

These two pieces below were right up next to the firebox and are the ones that took the lion's share of ash...they will probably stay just the way they are...drippy bowl and crusty vase forever...mmmmm.

I got a great new wall platter out of the firing (below) as well as a handful of other nice pieces that I will be doing post firing work on...

Next posting...Chautauqua, NY!