Sunday, March 27, 2011

One Moody S.O.B....

How quickly things change...the weather, gas moods. I have been a little disgruntled about my pieces and the trials and troubles I have been having with them. The root of the problem was that they never got a really good cone 5 firing. I think that some did and some didn't...just depends where they were in the kiln and which load they were in too. This is just like I said last post..."that's ceramics" and for those of you who doubt the number of issues related to electric kiln oxidation firing...I'm here to tell ya brothers...there's plenty. I have refired and refired to really not much avail. I have a handful of pieces that at the moment will be fine and maybe even more than fine. But, and this is a big but, I will lose the majority of the work. Whatever. I have already planned to use them in the border around the new expansion project of the garden. I also never got around to making the larger hand built stuff I wanted to make due to extra work at IUP and my troubles with this grouping of work. Smell that...that's frustration...and as I type this I getting a little bummed again...BUT, I will be teaching beginning ceramics for 10 weeks at IUP this summer along with another course or two within the art department and I will have ample time(at least I think)to abuse the studio and the kilns there. So I guess that's the brighter side but honestly my overall rating for my winter ceramic endeavors would be a ..."D-".
That's about enough of that however, while in my favorite reading spot(bathroom) I ran across an article on Leopold Foulem(both images above) in an old Ceramics Monthly...October 1999 to be exact. I haven't thought about him in a while. He was(and still is) pretty big for me when I started getting into the work that I have been doing for the last five years or more now. The article was just OK and it lacked any real meaningful content about the varied surface patterns created by the decals. Unbelievably there was no talk of why he was creating these varied surfaces but in good "old" Ceramics Monthly form it did give a play by play on how the decals are applied...heavy stuff(not)...mostly though, it was all about negating the function of the form by the introduction of a stand or base. Foulem believes he was divorcing the form from its ordinary existence by elevating it on a "base". He did have some interesting talk about being caught "in between" the ceramics world and the fine art world. I quote, "People who collect craft don't really go for this because its not craft and the people who collect art don't really go for it, so there is a grey zone, I work within the grey zone." Funny thing is, I think his work has everything to do with craft. I believe the audience he is attempting to create a dialog with is one that is more craft based and also interested in a very specific niche. His work communicates histories of form and surface, culled together from the objects that have inhabited our homes for generations. Simply by creating an object, one does not transcend a medium or for that matter a little thing called craft. I'm not sure but after reading his "artist statement"(below)
"Ceramics is an independent and autonomous art form with its own laws and specific vocabulary. It is within that context that I intentionally locate and construct the propositions for most of my formal explorations. In order to achieve a correct understanding and accurate interpretation of the true meaning and significance of my ceramics, these facts must be acknowledged and pondered seriously.
I believe that genuine art is about concepts and indisputably neither about medium nor style, nor even about making. My ceramics are about ideas. My artistic output is never about self-expression or the pursuit of beauty. I consider myself some kind of composer and theoretician instead of a virtuoso." felt as though he was hoping that his team would trade him or that he was telling everybody that he was getting a call to play in the "big show". I do not disagree with some of his remarks but I do believe that simply because you erase your "hand" in the work, your not erasing self-expression and that he does strive for formal ideas of beauty in his work and they become a key factor in the visual seduction of the viewer. Hey, whats wrong with a little self expression anyways?! Sometimes reading artist statements leaves me scratching my head and wondering about the disconnect between the actual work and what the artist's own intentions really are about.
These days, I think the boundaries of what is termed "craft" has been gloriously stretched and all good art and craft, fine, high or lowbrow engages more than just the aesthetic or formal sensibilities of the viewer. Ceramics and the ceramic object have grown since this article and fine art and fine craft have moved beyond being just flirtatious. Leopold's personal dilemma/confusion may be one that many of us have gone through in the last ten years, myself included. Call it growing pains or whatever but there is a lot more people swimming in the "grey zone" of the pool. I'm not offering up answers here but I am forever interested in talking about fine art or fine craft or anything for that matter...bottom line...communication comes in all forms. SO, let me lighten the mood here... if you are interested in art theory or interested in catching up and slapping a little theory on your own work, please view the video below...everybody should view the video...I love this guy, he kills me...if you have an aversion to curse words, then maybe you should skip it...but its soooo good.

Anyways, here's a sneaky peek at some of the pieces that will be getting an 018 firing (below) ...they should look pretty similar after the firing...I hope. Right now they look pretty damn nice...I am really happy with the commercial decals I recently purchased...that and a little bling bling gold luster goes a long way baby. See you later Internet.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Spring maybe...MAYBE...maybe,maybe,maybe.

Well it sure felt like Spring yesterday. Whether(weather) or not this is true still remains to be seen. I was so excited by the 60 degree temperatures and little flowers rearing up through the dead and composting leaves that I went out and started clearing the beds and cutting things back in preparation of new growth. Chances are we will still see some more snow, but nothing very significant. And I am keeping my fingers crossed that all the freezing and frost are just about done too. I snapped a few pics of my Crocus now in bloom and my favorite, tiny Snowdrops, that are scattered here and there. This morning I noticed that after yesterday's warmth that the Daffodils grew about double from where they were! My perennial beds are full of new growth and random nubs breaking the surface. I'm excited to see all the new Allium that I planted last year. I think there were 20 bulbs of a smaller variety of Allium and something else, that I cant seem to remember...I already have two other really large Alliums that come up each year. That's part of the fun of bulbs...suuuur-prizzzze...because you plant'em and forget'em until they are popping up.

I have even begun to plan out a little growth project of my own...enlarging the veggie garden so I can add asparagus and enlarging one of my flower beds to accommodate some cone flowers from another bed that are in much need of being thinned out...maybe some Dahlia bulbs too. Click to enlarge image.

On a separate note, the tally is in from our recent Empty Bowls fundraiser...drum roll please...3,020.00 dollars!!! All money went to our local Indiana County Foodbank. Here is a picture of the organizers with IUP grad student helper Emmaneulle Wambach..Josh Floyd, Emmanuelle, Nancy Smeltzer and Harmony Ritchie. These guys do a great job organizing the soups, PR, participants and even getting a lot of the bowls made and fired. Here's a pic of the whole spread along with it...

As far as my pots go...lets just say...I'm working on it. Having lunch with Dan Kuhn the other day he said this true statement to me..."you should listen to your own words", "that's ceramics"...indeed sir...and shit does happen...I should understand this by now, and it hasn't been a total big fat word to you and all ya'll's mothas. Just you wait.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Rememberance and exploration...

An Interview with Toshiko Takaezu from D.B.Long on Vimeo.

On March 9th another big clay influence in my life passed away. This year has taken Paul Soldner from us and now Toshiko Takaezu. If you see my work, it may be hard to draw parallels from me to her or even Soldner for that matter. But it isn't their physical work that I draw from, its their sense of exploration and personal philosophies. I do love their work and have admired it since I got into clay in the late eighties. It was people like these two and Volkous and Arneson that got my juices flowing back then. I came to ceramics searching for expression and a more tactile approach to art making than painting was giving me. Toshiko's large voluminous forms were very attractive to me and I felt they held a lot of quiet strength. The idea that these were essentially 3-d canvases to be glazed in an abstract painterly way further hit home for me. The surface of the work has always been one of my main concerns...wanting to be a painter in ceramics. The marks and colors of glaze and how they change in different atmospheres or in direct reaction to flames still holds great interest for me but these days so does the use of fragmented images. It is this kind of pairing that I am still seeking in the utilitarian work I have been doing this winter.

It is great to hear Toshiko talk in this video of "finding her own identity" and exploration. It is just those things that I am drawn to and continue to struggle with in my own work. Not "knowing" is frustrating but it keeps you looking for the answers. Right now I am not sure about some of these pots I have been making and I am continuing to push the surfaces further. But, I am suffering kiln issues at the moment...the electric kiln at Stoke Hole is firing a solid cone under and I need to now re-fire a load...urgh. Somebody needs Santa to bring some new elements. I will be schlepping my stuff from there over to the university's ceramic studio today to fire a good 04 in one of their electric kilns. While there, I will say hello to Nancy Smeltzer while she is firing the soda kiln there with everybody's bowls(including my dozen) for the Empty Bowls event scheduled for this coming Tuesday, 3/15, from 11 - 2 ...lobby in front of the Common Place Coffee Shop...Indiana, PA...if your around, please stop by.

So below are some shots of a few pieces that I am now re-firing...and then these and the rest will be getting another firing...018. I have wavered back and forth on the finish for these guys...that tends to happen to me after seeing the glaze. Does this happen to you ever? Seduced by the silky glaze, I wonder if I should fire again and again. It sure would be easy to just stop now and
say...done, here's a nice mug...but that's not what I am after. Then I wondered if, after the 04 decal firing with the addition of accent glazes, I was done...and I still say, not yet. I have recently purchased an obscene amount of 018 super-cheese kitschy bling...commercial decals. They will be my finishing touch...and maybe a little luster too. Well then, with some trepidation, forward I go...risking it...maybe it will work out...maybe it won't...listening to those that made remarkable work, like Toshiko Takaezu, and knowing that the world will miss her.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Taking a break...sorta...


For the last week I have been on Spring Break. The funny thing is that the phrase "spring break" still conjures visions of the past...time off school...sunshine and partying...yes, still...I'm an early 20 something 40 something... even as a teacher /adjunct professor sucking the higher ed teet. C'mon...everybody loves Spring Break! I am definitely one of those people, its just that to be break still happens in the Winter. Having an early spring break(2nd week in March) in the foothills of western PA kinda sucks. I made no plans to scamper off anywhere as my wife and daughter both have breaks later on and also not at the same times. So I stayed home and made it studio and night. I did get a lot of my work mostly finished and I am popping open the electric kiln later this afternoon. So in the mean time, I thought I would stretch my jammie time this morning/afternoon by telling you about my week and showing off some of Birch Frew's and Cathy Bizousky's gorgeous wood fired pots from the recent firing.

That's one of Cathy's at the top of this post.

So let me start at the top...this past weekend came in with rain and wind...not too bad temperatures and then...the snow. I started the weekend checking out all the new growth happening in my garden beds...see below.

Then it was over and this happened.
Now we are back to just the rain and wind again but pardon me...this sure don't feel like the Spring Break of yor. least I wasn't running back and forth from my office this week and a little down time from some faces is probably a good thing. So in the free time this week I also did a fun workshop/presentation on decals for Christy Culp's high school art class. Christy is a potter friend from the area, she makes great majolica work, click here for the link to her blog. She teaches at a nice school near Pittsburgh with the best high school ceramic studio I have ever seen. It was a little extra dough and she gave me a great mug too! Check it out below...
Today, I was shooting images for the good folks at Stoke Hole Pottery and thought I would toss a few images out on my ol' blog because the work looks so damn good! The link above will take you to their etsy shop and you can click here for their facebook site. Here are some images of a few Birch Frew mugs...

The other images are of a couple bowl sets and a small squared off vase by Cathy Bizousky. Be looking for these sweeties soon on their etsy shop.

Speaking of bowls...Nancy Smeltzer and Harmony Ritchie have organized another "Empty Bowls" event that will happen March 15. I will be donating a meager dozen that will be soda fired by Nancy at IUP's ceramic studio and I have volunteered to serve up soup for that afternoon at one of the stations...come and say hi! I have been very happy to be involved with this event for the past several years. Each year we raise several thousand dollars for our local food bank by doing this nationally recognized event. Nancy and Harmony always do a great job getting great tasting soups and great looking bowls to eat from! If your in the area, I hope to see you...11-2 in the lobby area in front of The Common Place Coffee House...Grant Street...same as the last few years! But for now, I need to go out and trudge around in my lovely "Spring".

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A little bit of sunshine...

I just wanted to share a little ray of sunshine with everybody today...
If you know me you know I'm a chatty person and love meeting and talking with art folk or "interested in" art folk. I used to love doing festivals back in the late nineties because I got to gab about my work all day. These days however, there is a strange sense of anonymity with selling my work online as well as blogging about it. This can be a good thing, but honestly, it can be pretty non-personal too. I miss the chit-chat and actually seeing the person with whom I'm dealing with so I make a point to be open and communicative to all who want to communicate with me. Selling my work online does have its advatages, like being able to collapse the space between us all and reach so many people in so many places...its why I continue to blog. Although sometimes the blog seems like a real one way road but the stats tell me different. So it sure brightens my day to get a note like the one below instead of simply the invoice from an anonymous buyer(which I don't really mind either)...but thanks Kelly...hope you dont mind but Im just spreadin' the love! Wishing you a speedy recovery!

Dear Kyle,

Just a short note to catch up a little. I purchased your tray and pu pu bottle just before Christmas and want you to know that I just couldn't be happier with either purchase. I enjoyed our communication so very much and regret that I have not been around etsy, or even on line for that matter as I had been suffering badly with my back, and have just recently been recovering from long needed spinal surgery. Somehow sitting at my computer chair seems to be one of the most painful things I can do at this point!

I really do love your work, however and happened to find your excellent menu mug. Adored the blue button tankard when I saw it previously, and now, absolutely love them together. I look very much forward to receiving additional pieces of your work and keeping in touch with you in the near future. Keeping my eyes open for the yellow electric kiln work you previously mentioned.

I hope all is well in your no doubt snowy world, and that you and your family are all well and warm.

Warmest blessings from your fan,

:^) Kelly"

LOVED it, send more people like that my way...and by the way, I almost forgot to tell you guys...I got juried into the Red Lodge Clay Center's National Juried Exhibition, "Craftsmanship:Concept:Innovation" will be in May 6 - May 29. I am very pleased to have a piece accepted into this exhibition. I heard there was a whole lot of submissions. Its the pic on the top of this post..."Seasonal"

Hope all this puts a warm feeling in your tummies.