Saturday, April 30, 2011

Space is the place...

Everybody needs a little space. Space to do what ever it is that you do. Space away from the other things that you have to do. Space is not always that easy to come by however. I have mentioned the phrase "squatter potter" when describing myself on this ol' blog in the past...and it still fits pretty well. I am currently uprooted and spread all over this county it seems right now. I left Little Mahoning Creek Pottery in the winter to work at Stoke Hole Pottery which I left in March and have since been working out of a couple rubber maid tubs. I do need to get back out to LMCP and start firing the wood kilns with Nancy Smeltzer. Its been slow going due to our weather, (IUP)work, and gas prices. And also I have been holding out because I am possibly teaching beginning ceramics here at IUP...if my class makes that is. I need a few more students and it will fly for both sessions...keeping my fingers crossed. I was really hoping to use and abuse the school studio for the summer while I teach. So now I have some of my stuff in the back of my car, some stuff still over at Stoke Hole(sorry!), my wheel and other stuff at Nancy's and tubs of unfinished mugs and cups and other random pieces now on my front porch. They were all on my dining room table up until Easter, then I had to make room for our small feast. Honestly, its not a great feeling but I understand its temporary until all the cards fall where they may. If my class does not make I am hoping that Nancy will welcome me back and we can start cranking out some wood fired work. I would like to wood fire some new mugs and cups with Nance either way...
As for my new space...the one since Easter...its pretty comfy. Its not a space to throw work or really do any wet work but its a good space to finish stuff. Now that the temps have crossed over to steady 60's and once in a while a random 70's my 3 season front porch is back in season! Here's a couple pics of my "late spring decal and gold luster studio" I said, comfy. Its littered with a collection of pieces from friends and older, experimental things and wood fired keepers from me. The Buddha bunny slab piece on the top of this post was when I was starting to get into a more graphic ceramic practice...hippity hoppity karma is on its way. My goal is to finish these pieces and give them their final 018 firing within the next two weeks.
Finally, speaking of "space" I ran across a great little article titled "Forty-one Glorious Square Feet" by Jennifer Barbe in the back of a Ceramics Monthly. It appears in the November 2010 issue and documents the trials and tribulations of claiming a space to make work. She moved from one place to another and traded large studio space for virtually no studio space but learns to make it work for herself...flooding floor, encroaching domestic appliances and all. That's what it is about for me, I have to work and I will work where ever I have to. Believe me I have made work in odd places and trucked it around to farther away places to fire the pieces. I have faith that one day soon I will be able to have my stuff in one place and be able to almost roll out of bed and hit the studio for a while...but until then, I know how bad I want to make I make it work.

How bad do you want to make work?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sincerly Yours...

So as I continue to pretend that NCECA just didn't happen(I couldn't go=sucks=pretend it did not happen), let me start a new conversation with you...

I was having beers with a friend a couple weeks back at our local watering hole where on Wednesday nights they have 7.00 dollar import and specialty pitchers. We usually get a pitcher of Dog Fish Head IPA and for 7 bucks, that's right sister...7 bucks! Anyways, my beer buddy works in the art department here and his area of expertise is in Art Ed with an emphasis in Visual Culture. We talked about the challenges he faced when teaching a graduate art class where almost half the students were rooted in a craft based medium. Like usual, our chat rambled on about other art related stuff ...Hennesy Youngman was among the topics that night, and I made the comment later on about how I was currently more interested in simple objects including utilitarian pieces than I was "high art". I said that the work felt more "sincere". Was this a couple pints of Dog Fish Head talking?! I am not so sure, but ever since then I have been thinking about this position. Sincere. What does it mean to make art that is perceived by the viewer to not only be interesting but also...sincere.

My definition of it is:
Sincere - free of deceit, hypocrisy, or falseness; earnest. genuine or real.

So after thinking about this for a couple of weeks now I still have no sure answers. In fact, this concept can sound kind of cornball but, I mean, isn't "art" in general supposed to be sincere? If I were to look back on my undergrad art school days(if I can remember that far) and even to my fairly- sorta -recent grad school days...I would say...nope, not all art is sincere. Students especially are often guided down theoretical avenues that hold little to no meaning when applied to their art work. It is great that students are exposed to these filters of thought but more than often I do not believe it helps to develop a more"sincere" body of work. Its like trying on cool new hats.

Further, I wondered if in fact, this is just a medium specific issue. So that is where I am now. I have stopped applying this term as a blanket statement to all art and just decided to explore it when applied to ceramics. I have mentioned this idea to a couple different people and its possible they are still scratching their heads at me but still I soldier on.

I apply this idea to my own work and also others. I ask myself if I feel that I am making work that is meaningful to me other than the thought that I "sincerely" want to make a few bucks. Now there is nothing wrong with being a full time potter and making work that people will love and use on a daily basis...but what I am digging for is closer to the heart of the matter. I certainly do love making mugs and I put a lot of time into the surfaces and finishing of each one. My thought is to elevate the have the viewer consider it as a drinking vessel, yes, but also something more. A gallery director once told me that I made "sculptures of cups"...which I liked.

But are all mugs sincere? Is all handmade pottery sincere? Does it have to be?,no,no...sometimes things just are what they are. Objects have the ability to transcend their utility, but its not always the artist's intent. That's fine...but I want more.

Lets try it from another angle...What makes a sincere ceramist? Is it the artist that uses traditional materials and tools that have been associated with a particular style of ceramics for the last 5 gazillion years? I'm not so sure. I do personally know ceramists that do this, but their work is such a genuine extension of who they are in every mark and thoughtfully tweaked shape that there is no question of the sincerity or honesty of the work. I also see ceramic works and ceramists that are just the opposite. So, is this concept of sincerity consistently inherit to edgy new ceramists that push the boundaries of the medium? I will say no again...edgy and boundary pushing can often leave out a sense of the sincere in favor of other things.

With that being said lets then ask ourselves...What conjures up the feeling that a piece of work is sincere? I can help with this one...for me its something that provides a connection to the human condition. The human condition and "Art" have not always been best buds however. Modernism sought to separate itself from outside associations related to being human or the "everyday". That all ended in the 60's and in the early 70's different factions of art were at play and all of a sudden we had Post Modernism. But this too has passed and we said there was now a state of Are we still involved in this or is there something new? Does anyone want to talk about either...just trying to wrap my head around it still. Now that's an art history lesson in a very small nutshell, but lets come back to ceramics and ask does "craft" factor into this mess? Craft being the art ghetto where ceramics, glass, wood, and their kind mingle with other lower forms like wood burner art ...did we in clay feel those changes? Sure we did, maybe not as deeply as high art but definitely. Should we be aware of these changes?...hell yes. It is from these changes that ceramics has shed some weighty chains. I'm not talking about a revolution here, just a little elbow room to stretch your brain. This is what I think constitutes sincere work. It's the evidence of this new found freedom...artists working within their field...working from the familiar but not forgetting to add in the updates...the newest and latest versions that make that particular work honest and real...sincere even. I'm not interested in the avant garde because to me it lacks that human connection, I'm more interested in what the salt fire potter Walter Keeler said..."Rather trying to stretch the boundaries of craft, far more is to be gained by working in the middle of our field. For ceramics, useful pottery is at the middle, yet it seems increasingly marginalized". That sounds like a challenge to me... making the marginal(and I don't just mean pots) meet and fully exceed the expectations of a certain medium and/or viewing audience.

Recently I have been talking to the Gallery Coordinator for the Red Lodge Clay Center, Jill Foote-Hutton and have been also enjoying her perspectives from her blog...on my side bar(whistle pig studio)...She has a great statement in her bio that refers to her taking her new position there and also reflects what I'm rambling on about here..."excited to be present in a time and location where traditional techniques and methods come together with contemporary ideals to create a new creature, more wholly reflective of our world"...(thanks Jill), check out her blog for more talk of this.

Now whats a blog post without some visual illustration of what I'm talking about...the images below and at the top are examples of work that I consider meeting the criteria stated above...are you feeling me? I'm not sure If I have answered any questions of mine or yours...maybe like all art criticism, I have just continued the line of questioning and possibly created more questions...I'm fine with that...that just means there is more to come. The images are as follows, top of post then just below this(in order): Beth Katleman, Melissa Mytty, Nick Ramey,and Julie Goyot. Thoughts?


homefry sketchbook

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Vinyl fever...

Happy Record Store Day to you all.

That's right, its national Record Store Day and I'm home celebrating with some of my favorite old records during a very miserable Saturday afternoon. We have had crazy high winds and rain since I woke up this morning but that did not stop me from heading out to my locally owned and operated record store. It was hustling and bustling with folks clamoring for record store deals and limited edition issues of vinyl put out just for this occasion. Very cool indeed.

Records, actual vinyl records, have been on the come back as of late. I am thrilled about this because I love vinyl...heck as you probably know, I love music. Music has been a life long addiction for me and I have a nice little collection. I started really collecting music in the mid-80s when I began working at a regional chain store in the mall. I scored bunches of promos and abused my employee discount, giving back large chunks of my paycheck. The mall store was my gateway drug to much hipper independent record stores that I began to hang out in and peruse music by the hour. I eventually ended up working for an Atlanta based record store chain called Turtle's. I believe they were only located in the southeast, possibly just Florida and Georgia. I worked for them in two different towns while I put myself though my undergraduate at FSU.

I logged many an hour inside record stores. I was around when CD's first made their was like the second coming of Christ in 1985...everybody talking about the fidelity of the Disk. We had one very small rack that showcased the very few artists that were available on CD at at the time. Then a couple of years later, I remember the day that we had to box up and send back all of the records in the store. All the vinyl was being recalled and shipped back to the home warehouse. No more records...just CD's...and tapes. Then tapes fell by the wayside too and eventually went the way of the 8 track. Now we just magically download music to all of our gadgets. No more great cover art, liner notes, bonus stickers or posters, just a whole lotta "convenience" I guess.

Me, I'm happy to play records from my past(Husker Du, Minutemen, The Cure, Galaxie 500) but I have been buying new vinyl to listen to as well(Tom Waits, Iron and Wine, Black Keys, Blakroc). The cool thing is a lot of the new records include digital downloads or even a copy of the CD within the jacket. I'm not adverse to a little of this generation's "convenience"...can't play records in a clay studio...or at least not for very long. So I am happy that the vinyl record is having a resurgence and that there are people who want something a little more tangible. Speaking of tangible...I promise more clay next time.

PS. Check out the picture at the bottom of this post...that's me and my two co-workers in Gainesville, FLA...Turtle's circa 1987-88. The tall guy is Paul Tatara(writes a blog on pop culture,check my sidebar) and Brian Jones. I'm the guy in the black shirt on the right. So very 80's.

Hope your weather is better than mine.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Sage words...

I found some sage words of advice in one of the most unlikely places yesterday...facebook. A couple friends of mine shared this and I did what it suggested...stole it and shared it some more. I think there is something for everybody in this post/article. It is well written, direct and easy to get your head around. In my mind, this is the basis of teaching a professional practices class at the college level, but I doubt that this type of a shining and succinct nugget of wisdom is being handed down on a regular basis... Having an issue related to your creative well being? Concerned about running out of ideas? Need motivation? Feeling alone in your struggles?
Please read here...How to Steal Like an Artist.

"Art that only comes from the head isn’t any good. Watch any good musician and you’ll see what I mean."

The quote above comes from that post and before people start screaming "anti-intellectualism" the intellectual...or at least continue to pretend to be and read the article. And speaking of watching some good may have noticed I added yet another "thingy" on the sidebar. I think I am going to leave it there too. I know that it clutters up my space some and competes with my lead off image, but I think I can deal with that. I plan on posting new music or music related to my post or just something that I happen to be digging at the moment. You can check it out ...or not. Today I have featured a young band I am really into right now...Beach Fossils. They have a slightly retro dreamy sound that still manages to get off the ground too. Look at these guys...I love this video...that's how I wish I was dancing around in the studio. Maybe soon.