Sunday, September 25, 2016

Stephen Robison & Kathleen Guss, Rachel Hall Kirk, and Meghan Flynn

Work by Stephen Robison and Kathleen Guss


If you are on the Yakima Valley College campus during Fall 2106, stop by Palmer Martin to see our newest display, featuring work by Central Washington University art professors, Rachel Hall Kirk and Stephen Robison, who collaborates with his wife, Kathleen Guss, and work by our new art instructor, Meghan Flynn.

drawings by Rachel Hall Kirk and ceramics by Stephen Robison and Kathleen Guss

Wood fired ceramic sculpture and functional forms from Stephen Robison and Kathleen Guss fill the center vitrines and one of the wall display cabinets in the downstairs hall of the new art building.

work by Stephen Robison and Kathleen Guss in the display cases


Rachel Hall Kirk's drawings features patterns found in nature.

work by Rachel Hall Kirk

Also featured in this space is work by the newest member of the YVC faculty, drawing and design instructor, Meghan Flynn.

work by Meghan Flynn.


Friday, September 16, 2016

Professional Images of Functional Work, Finally

This week I took professional images of the functional work I made this summer. I didn't get images of absolutely everything, since I delivered my Rotary commission work and the pieces for the Storyteller exhibition earlier this summer. I did get images of mugs, lidded containers, storyteller pieces, bowls, and one pitcher.


Storyteller lidded jars with spoons

It's been about two years since I last took professional images of my work, as in, images not taken with the background of my messy studio or while the work was being made. Mostly the lapsed year was due to the fact that I shifted my time to the new building at YVC, rather than spending summer time finishing and photographing new work.

storyteller bowls (from the very last firing of the summer)

This summer I had some more time in the studio, but a significant focus this summer was making work for several commissions I had agreed to during the academic year. Since three of these commissions were for functional work and the fourth was for work that is pretty different from my usual sculpture, I spend the bulk of my summer throwing and glazing small functional work, rather than building sculpture.

bowls with simple decoration from earlier in the summer

I am surprisingly happy with the functional work I did make this summer. I say "surprisingly" because last summer I was pretty annoyed with throwing functional work--I took a throwing workshop and ended up just wanting to sculpt. In part, last summer's work didn't have any coherence as a body of work. I was trying out different glazing approaches and different glazes--even different glaze temperatures

bowl with a spoon

This year the work was much more of a kind. Early in the summer, I threw. trimmed, and glazed 50 pieces of the same style for the Rotary Commission, and, as you can see in a video like this, the process was repetitive. That repetition seeped into the other work I threw this summer and even into my glazing approach. 
leftovers from the Rotary commission

A sculptor works differently than a production potter. I felt that the entire mindset was different when I was approaching sets and matching forms, than when I approach individual sculptures. Though I was a little annoyed at myself for agreeing to so much functional work this summer, in a way I'm glad I did it because I practiced and experienced a different way of being a ceramic artist--a potter, in this case.

my backdrop, tripod and stands for the backdrop

Anyway, back to the images I took this week. Two years ago my mom gifted me a backdrop set up from B&H Photo. The backdrop is vinyl and fades from black to white. She also got me the nifty setup that holds up the background. Oddly, the appropriate way to secure the background to the frame appears to be duct tape. 

an accident in slip trailing turned this into one of my favorite bowls

The new backdrop is a serious improvement over my 10 year old roll of grey paper. The vinyl is easy to wipe dust off of, doesn't spot with water, and, most of all, has that lovely gradation in the background.
a set of storytellers with bugs

I usually take my slides outside with natural light at dawn when there aren't strong shadows falling on the work. This group of work is significantly shinier than other work I have previously made, so I noticed reflections as an issue for the first time. I may need to actually invest in some lighting with softeners or dimmers, or whatever they're called to reduce reflections.

storyteller jar with lid and spoon

I will also clearly need to get a larger backdrop for sculpture images, but this sized worked well for the small stuff I was doing in this round.

lidded "knob 'n alls" from early summer

It took me two mornings, about 3 hours and some more time to crop and edit the images on the computer. I haven't gotten around to actually labeling and sorting the image yet, but that's on my to-do list.

I think the work looks much better with the backdrop, though some of the slides had a color distortion because I kept taking slides past the best morning light time. 

sugar dish and creamer set

Some of the reflections show the archway over the gate in our yard, if you look close enough. The recognizable reflection is funny, but probably not ideal.

storyteller mugs (backups for the Storyteller show in Tieton)

This may be the last batch of work I finish in 2016 or even until summer 2017. I have several sculptures partially glazed and I still have a handful of functional pieces awaiting glaze, but I find it significantly more difficult to get into the studio during the academic year. 


pinch/coil built mugs with pulled handles

However, classes start Monday and I am planning to have my first class make hand-built mugs (like those above) and go wild decorating them. It's a new project for this class and I think it should be fun.

mug from very early in the summer

If you like any of the functional work you see here, some of it will be on display and for sale at Oak Hollow Gallery for the Holiday show starting in November. Storyteller Mugs are still on display (and for sale) at Boxx Gallery in Tieton (open Saturdays). Of course, you can always contact me directly if you like, too.

handle-less mug with indents




Thursday, September 8, 2016

One More Week to See Windows Alive

This is it, your last chance to see Windows Alive with my sculpture in downtown Yakima.

Some of my work for Window's Alive

Next Thursday, September 15 is the Downtown Yakima Art Walk. You can see my sculpture in the Window of the old Yakima Mall on the north side of Yakima Ave between 3rd and 4th Street. Some of my ceramic students also have work on display for Windows Alive. We take the work down the very next day!
My Window--Alive!


You can also see my work at Fourth Street Theatre Gallery as part of the Art on the Wall: Metal Exhibition. This show opens tonight, Thursday, September 8 from 5:45-7pm, but runs all year, I think. Join us at 14 South 4th Street in Yakima.

Detail of the piece at the 4th Street Theatre

You can also see YVC Photography instructor, Jennifer Saracino,'s photography downtown at Gilbert Cellars for next week's art walk. And lots of other folks. Check it out.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

New Throwing Videos

Earlier this summer, I decided to redo some of the throwing videos on my YouTube channel to improve the quality of the videos. I perhaps could have gone into the original files and re-uploaded them at a better resolution, but I thought remaking 30 videos in their entirety would be a quick 2-day project for my summer enjoyment.

my wheel and camera set up in the YVC studio

I was completely wrong. It was not quick, nor was it fun. However, uploading the videos from the borrowed camera to my work computer was pretty easy and I am able to upload them directly to YouTube without editing them. The last time I uploaded a bunch of throwing videos to YouTube, I spent a tedious amount of time editing the video setting so they'd upload correctly.


Please remember that some of these videos are aimed at a beginning pottery student at the start of class


So, what I've created are higher resolution videos demonstrating throwing techniques on the YVCC wheels--but not necessarily better throwing demonstrations overall. I'm afraid the videos aren't as nice as they could be if I were a professional videographer, but the videos are stable (YouTube disagrees because it sees the movement of the wheel as a "shake", but all the videos were filmed on a tripod, so I disagree with YouTube's automatic stabilizer recommendation--on every dang video!), the shot is focused in the right place, and the audio is audible.


The videos are meant as support or repetition for concepts discussed in class (like a free textbook that talks to you).


Sadly, the first day I chose to film, wasn't a great day for me. I had a bunch of air bubbles in the clay and I kept forgetting that the videos I was filming in series weren't going to be watched in series, so I occasionally refer to the previous demo. Because I was filming the videos myself, they start and end with me getting to the camera or wiping my hands off before turning the camera off.


This video's more fun (though probably less helpful for beginners).


Next time I do this, I want to bring in another person to do the filming. That person can help set up the best camera angle to see the wheel and maybe me, too (I'm cropped out of basically all of the videos). That person can also move the camera for another angle while I situate things on the wheel.

This helpful hypothetical person with clean hands can start and stop the videos so that I can demonstrate distinct steps (like centering) in separate videos without cleaning my hands off over and over and over and over and over again. Additionally, this person can talk to me between takes so I don't lose my mind.  And with the aforementioned clean hands, this person can simply stop and restart the camera when I make a silly mistake.


in other news, I'm looking forward to getting some students to join me in a few weeks in the new studio. This summer maintenance installed our classroom rules. These two pretty much cover it for my studio.

If you have any constructive criticism to offer regarding videos, angles, demonstrations, etc you'd like to see (for class), please let me know. 

Friday, August 26, 2016

New Functional Work: Story Bowls, Spoons, Jars, Sets

a set I was commissioned to do earlier this year

I just unloaded a batch of functional work from my new kiln. This was an array of items (30 pieces, not counting spoons) that I threw this summer and finished glazing this week. This load was mostly lidded containers, as well as some mugs and a pitcher I threw to match a lidded piece I was commissioned to do earlier this year. Of course after the firing I noticed two more pieces on a shelf in my studio--I'm not sure when those will get fired.

most of the stuff out of the kiln

Walking out to unload the kiln in the morning posed an unexpected challenge. Because my new kiln is now in the garage, I need to walk back and forth between my studio and the garage. On this morning the lawn was wet from the sprinklers, so I and my helper had to dodge the many slugs on the sidewalk while bringing the fired ceramics in and the greenware out to load the kiln.

 
a base with clay wads and a lid wadded in place

This load included lidded pieces because I remade some lidded pieces with spoons I had done earlier this year. I didn't like how the last batch turned out. This time I was more careful with the lids. I used clay wads to ensure that the glaze wouldn't stick the lids together. The wads allow me to fire the lids on the pieces so that the lids and bases don't warp into shapes that no longer fit together.

a lidded form with wads after firing
After the firing my young helper enjoyed knocking the little wads off of the rims of the containers. A couple of lids stuck temporarily, but a little whack with a wooden paddle got them loose. All the lids fit well, but I have a bit of work yet to do on two wads that stuck to one lid. Usually wads are dipped in Alumina hydrate so help prevent sticking, but I didn't have any handy when loading.


a storyteller bowl
I glazed most of the mugs and lidded containers with storytelling designs like the ones for the Storyteller exhibition at Boxx Gallery (Aug 27-Oct 22 at 616 Maple Street in Tieton). I also glazed some bowls with similar storytelling designs.


  
two storyteller bowls

The cylinder forms make a little more sense for storytelling designs because the story wraps around the outside like a zoetrope, but I am pleased with the bowl results where the design spirals around the interior in a similar fashion.

spoons
I made a whole bunch of spoons in this batch, mostly to be used in lidded sugar jars, but also just for fun. My favorite spoon worked well because I squished the handle and then applied the glazes in combination to the indents, making for more interesting colors compared to the whole batch of work.


My young helper instantly claimed the tiniest spoon, which hangs over the edge of a mug, or in this case, a miniature form that copies the design of the Rotary Commission work. 

  
the littles spoon and the spoon through the lid piece

I also tried out this funny method of making the hole for the spoon inside the middle of one of the lids. It's a little awkward, but fun to try. I'll have to try it in action to see how annoying it is to put the lid back on when scooping sugar. The jar itself has a flower story around it.

hand-built mugs
I also had a few hand-built mugs in this batch which I decided to glaze a little differently. I shaped the rim visually with glaze since, unlike the other rims, there wasn't a thickness change that marked the transition from rim to wall of the form. These smaller mugs aren't storytellers.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Storyteller Mugs at Boxx Gallery

Join me at Boxx Gallery in Tieton this Saturday for the opening reception of the Storyteller Ceramics Show. The reception runs from 11am - 4pm at Boxx Gallery on 616 Maple Street in Tieton.


Some of my storytelling mugs will be on exhibit and for sale. 


The exhibition will also feature ceramics by Jane Gutting, Delma Tayer, Mike Hiler, Carolyn Nelson, Matthew Alan, Debbie Sundlee, Gary Dismukes, Deborah Ann, Carol DeGrave, and Michelle Wyles. 


The reception will feature local poets Terry Martin, LeAnne Ries, Barbara Hershey. I am told the reception will also feature cookies. See you there.


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Art on the Wall Piece


bowl form with cake decorations

I've been working on my Art on the Wall piece for the Capital Theatre's Fourth Street Theatre a few weeks. The theme is metal, so of course I planned to use bike parts, but in combination with some ceramic forms.

the first arrangement of bowl forms and sprigs (at random)

I threw some concave bowl forms with wiggly rims to mimic open flower forms. I added some cake decorating things into a sprig molded form to suggest the flower's stamen. I also made some small forms from sprig molds of bicycle gears and other parts. 

too many bowl forms
Once I started planning the form, I learned about a group of plants called hyperaccumulators, which are plants that pull metals from the ground and store them in the fibers of the plants themselves. These plants can be used for phytoremediatio--for cleaning up the environment. I get a kick out of the idea that I made flowers for a project whose theme is metal, and then it turns out that there are real plants that have an excess of metal.

spiral bowl forms with "leaves"
I made more flower forms than I needed and then tried to think of how to arrange them inside the prescribed shadowbox form. All the Art on the Wall pieces are done on or in the same square gessoboard/shadowbox. It is a different process to work within a constrained form for a project than to build a free-standing sculpture in which all the dimensions and surfaces are my choice.


close up shot of the gears around the edge of the form


The arrangement I ended up using for the flower forms is an attempt to gain some control over the very regular, square, and not-very-exciting form of the project. The flowers themselves vary, so they are arranged in a spiral. I was going to make it a fibbonacci spiral, but I should have started planning to control the sizes of the forms more than I did.

finished piece: it is very difficulty to photography shiny metal in a small studio

As I worked through the project, I was experimenting with metal pieces as leaves and sepals. The irregular placement of these hopefully adds to the interest when viewing the entire piece. One factor that I included to entertain me, but that may not work for my audience, is that two of the flowers can spin on their bases.


Art on the Wall opens September 8 from 5:45-7pm at the 4th Street Theatre.