Saturday, January 26, 2013


Winter in western PA is slow and tedious and if your not careful, your own pace can become glacial as well. The weather has been particularly frigid and yesterday we got about four to six more inches of the white fluffy stuff dumped all over us. That certainly does not help a persons motivation for venturing past their front porch.

But you do have to get out in it...snow, crappy roads and all. If I didn't we would be dining on dachshund and after spending a bundle on spinal surgery for him, he would only amount to a few days of five star dining...maybe if I had a full size and could get at least a solid week of good eating....hmmm. But I digress, where I was going with this is that it is hard to establish routines. Routines are important to studio work and I have been trying but I'm having little success.

The beginning of this year kicked me hard with a stomach flu, another major dental issue, the above mentioned surgery for my wiener dog and sadly, the passing of my father-in-law. This was all in the first three weeks of January and I am beginning to wonder if I haven't gotten all the bad shit out of the way for at least the next six months. So as I struggle to get back into a good studio routine along with a gym/racquetball routine, I have been formulating the new body of work and eeking out some pieces. It looks as if I will have my first full load bisque firing next week in my new kiln. That's exciting news to me...20 or so new mugs and a bunch of large bowls and wall platters. The bowls and wall platters are really where my head has been and really what this post is about. They are canvases for my new layered compositions...decals of course, but also my new surface treatments. I have been doing a lot of carving and am interested in integrating those areas as fragmented portions of background.

It was my holiday reading that set this idea in motion. I picked up the book "Life of Pi" by Yann Martell in the airport so I could kill time between layovers and ended up deeply involved in this great book. If you have not read this book, I highly recommend it. I wanted to see the movie but my cinematic choices are often determined more by my young daughter so the book felt like a good idea. The book is a wonderful story of life, faith, suffering, loss and perseverance. There is a particular passage that really got me thinking and made sense to me, directly relating to the new imagery and surface work I wanted to make as well as being very pertinent to my life right now.

"To be a castaway is to be a point perpetually at the center of a circle. However much things appear to change-the sea may shift from whisper to rage, the sky might go from fresh blue to blinding white to darkest black- the geometry never changes. Your gaze is always a radius. The circumference is ever great. In fact, the circles multiply. To be a castaway is to be caught in a harrowing ballet of circles. You are at the center of one circle, while above you two opposing circles spin about. The sun distresses you like a crowd, a noisy invasive crowd that makes you cup your ears, that makes you close your eyes, that makes you want to hide. The moon distresses you by silently reminding you of your solitude; you open your eyes wide to escape your loneliness. When you look up, you sometimes wonder if at the center of a solar storm, if in the middle of the Sea of Tranquility , there isn't another one like you also looking up, also trapped by geometry, also struggling with fear, rage, madness, hopelessness, apathy."

Sea and sky and a host of characters will populate these a less harrowing ballet of circles. Enjoy my black and white images of the works in progress...almost their infancy...and stop back by to see how the firings are going. Ahoy castaways...remember there is a lot you can do even when you are trapped in a 26 foot lifeboat with a Bengal Tiger.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

2013 Artist Interview Series #1

Bobby Tso
HAPPY NEW YEAR!...OK, so I am a little late.

 I am back in the tundra that is western PA, fresh off the plane from spending the New Year celebration down in a much more temperate climate, filling my belly with fresh shrimp and Bloody Marys...Florida. And I want to forget about all that "best of 2012" crap and simply start anew this chilly morn. Lets just plow on through and leave 2012 sitting by the curb. 2013 has much more to offer, hope your buckled in!

I said it was coming and now its here...the homefry sketchbook artist interview series! WOOHOO! This is number one of hopefully many raw, unfiltered, and interesting interviews with artists this year. To kick this series off, I have chosen a special artist that I have had the pleasure of working with and have enjoyed watching the evolution of his most recent body of work while finishing his M.F.A. degree at the University of Iowa.... Kwak-Pong "Bobby" Tso...Bobby graciously answered questions and provided me with plenty of great images of his work over the holidays, so thank you  once again to Bobby Tso! I am sure this won't be the last you hear of Mr. Tso. Click on the pics to see larger. Also see more at Bobby's website HERE.

homefry sketchbook: First of all, I would like to extend a hearty congratulations to you on being the first artist in this hoped to be long lived series of fascinating clay based interviews. We here at homefry sketchbook are anxiously awaiting your responses to the following deeply probing questions…as are the millions (OK, maybe not actually millions but "some" at least) of dedicated blog readers...

hs: To be clear for all the readers, homefry sketchbook has been Facebook friends with you for a while now and in further disclosure, first met you several years ago during a summer residency at Chautauqua School of Art in Chautauqua, New York. Is this information true to the best of your recollection and or do you have anything to add?
Bobby Tso: Yea,Sir!
I have been friend with Homefry Sketchbook for almost 4years now I believe! It was a wonderful summer and I am so thankful for knowing Captain Kyle!

hs: Please take a moment to introduce yourself and let everyone know where you are geographically located and what you might be up to these days…then we will start with your most current body of work…
BT: I am from HongKong China, the southern part China, we love pet and we pet them we don’t eat them there if anyone is interested to know. I am currently a graduate student at University of Iowa, Iowa City, where I have been spend the past 3 years getting my Master of Fine Art Degree.

hs: How did your recent body of work manifest itself conceptually? Can you elaborate on your thoughts about why you are creating this body of work? What’s your biggest point of reference for your work?
BT: So it is a very long story, you may want some coffee, eat something sweet or both!  So the core ideas of this recent body of work are to enrich the nature and weight of materials. By producing a clear and concise space, I am able to create a connection in the relationship between one object to another. This connection is a metaphor to express the importance of this miscellaneous, compact relationship, using reduction, negation, and clarification to achieve a simplified composition.
This is the basic idea and I got more!
Here is how I discover my recent work! While working every day in the studio, I realize what's missing in the day to day creative process, it is the “process of discovering a question”, and for me this question lead me to understand something not by define it or describe it, is to feel it, I am inspired by something that is recognizable but has an uncertain function, it is taking something that we think we already know and making it unknown thrills us afresh with its reality and deepens our understanding of it. Most of my works are influenced by man-made objects; something like a view of building blocks from the sky, transformer boxes out in the field, and strange formations on the roof, push bottom, gears, even food!
I believe each material has its own “Weight”; when I am organizing my compositions in my studio practice, I focus on how to balance those “Weights” by playing with the objects and rearranging them. In do so I am able to achieve the composition that interacts with volume, space and light. I embrace this abstracted space, through the characteristics of different materials, and express the qualities of balance, weight, and texture. Each physical and conceptual element of the materials is now able to provide the viewer with a clear direction, through the control of differences within my compositions.
 Materials express itself in its simple form, by being honest to the materials and keeping them truer; this interest brings that “weight” I spoke of earlier out of my materials. Through sensation, communication, investigation, and exploration, material start to take on a life of its own and create meaning. When less become more, the art work becomes quiet yet majestic, complex but minimal.

hs: On your website you also feature installation, wood and metals work, all with this recurring minimal form . What is your fascination with the reduced form and/or this sense of sculptural abstraction and could you ever get tired of it?
BT: I will never get tired of it, they just keep on making me think!!! By the way this is interesting question that not many people ask; I always think it is very strange that sometime somehow things happen that will make you think about stuff that is not totally related
One of the metaphor/idea I  have about the work that I do, is closely related to a simple thing like a nut and bolt, most people/ us talk about big picture a lot, which i think is funny that the way we view stuff make us miss/overlook something that are small but important, like the nuts and bolts, everything has is purpose(the reason for which something exists) without those small objects/pictures we will never get to the big picture, a building without those nuts and bolts will fail, like us without those little thing we do will not make who we are. to understand the big picture or what we do we have to understand and look at everything we do, like to know someone, is to understand what they eat, what they drink or even what they wear so we can understand who they are in a raw format, break it down to the bare minimal so we can understand and move by it.
I think this make a lot of sense to me and that is why my work is geared toward  the minimal form, I think/I guess.

hs: I really love, love, love the simple doughnut and square shaped pieces that seem to rest on various objects. If form is so important in the pieces, how do the truly stunning patterned surfaces fit in to the works?

BT:The patterned doughnuts are actually related more to my recent trip to Jingdezhen, China, where the blue and white China was born! I was influenced by the long and wonderful history of China ware, and because I was never expose to clay when I was home, so I decided to make those pieces and be connected to my home country

hs: Would you mind giving a little technical information to the readers as to how you create the surface decorations?
BT: so they are actually the famous decal! In Jingdezhen, China, you can pick up any kind of decal with all kind of pattern! So they are decal that I cut in to size for my doughnuts.

hs: Please let us know if you have been showing anywhere recently and what are your plans for the near future?
BT: I just finish up my MFA show, and I am having a piece in a show call beyond the brickyard at the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramics arts in February.  And I am also having a piece in a show call Functional/Dysfunctional National Juried Ceramics Competition at Morean Art Center, St.Petersburg,FL

hs: By the way, do you make pots at all? Did you ever? Will you ever again make pots?
BT: Yes I do, I was one of the TA for wheel throwing class, and once a while I still make pots to keep myself working and think thing over!

hs: If you’re like me, you look at A LOT of different peoples work…is there anybody current that you are really into…in ceramics or outside ceramics.
BT: I am really into my friends Mike Jabbur’s pottery and Andy Casto’s sculptural objects
Outside of ceramics, I look at a lot of design’s work from website like, and, sometime they will have really cool stuff that is simple but interesting

hs: We here at the homefry sketchbook are really into music and each post we feature a youtube video of music that is in heavy rotation around the studio/office/ipod…who is it that you are listening to in the studio these days, or are you a book on tape guy, TV guy, or just pure silence type guy?
BT: I think I am the headphone plug-in kind of guy, I have been looping Blackmill and Passion Pit a lot!
But a really wonderful friend told me about  Starfucker, and basically I created my whole MFA show by looping Starfucker from the time I wake up till I Sleep….usually that is from 8- 2 or 3 in the morning!
Thanks Kyle!!!!!!!!
hs: Thank you Bobby and we wish you the best ...Happy New Year
Bobby Tso