Saturday, April 15, 2017

Yakima Celebrates International Sculpture Day

Join me at Yakima Maker Space and The Seasons Performance Hall on Monday, April 24 for International Sculpture Day.



Last year, I learned that rules are apparently optional for artists, so this year, after the organizers created and printed their fliers for the event, I decided to change my title. So, join me at the Seasons at 5pm for my talk "Evolution of the Bulb." Where I talk about my wall installation at Yakima Maker Space, my sculpture, and my fascination with the "bulb" form that shows up in both.

"bulbs" on the wall

Attendees at the International Sculpture Day events will get to see the early iterations of my sculptural and installation forms, including raku fired work from 2002 and the tactile sensation that was my wall installation in 2005 (it was so enticing, it had to be moved so that people would stop touching it). Also on view during my talk: the gradual improvement of my ability to operate a camera from 2002 to 2016.

work that *might* be finished this summer?

My talk is only 10 minutes long, so be there or miss out on all the fun times. If you can swing it, join Carolyn Nelson for an exclusive walking tour of downtown Yakima sculpture and public art starting at North Town Coffeehouse at 4pm. The tour will end at The Seasons in time for the artist talks.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Janice

Janice, at a raku firing in 2011

This week I lost a friend and the studio lost a long time and influential member of our community. Janice Buckler passed away early this week. 

One of Janice's several successful raku pots from this year

Janice has been a fixture of the clay studio at YVC for years, since at least 2011. Recently she has been acting as a community member with studio responsibilities for firing kilns, among other things. For several years, informally at first, and this year in a more official capacity, she has helped beginning throwing students learn techniques and adjust their throwing. She alway has an impressive array of tools and because she has the time, in the studio, to throw large work, she's the go-to student for me when I want to show a more advanced student techniques for centering larger work, bracing one's body, and pulling up the walls of a form that is taller than 6 or 10 inches.

Three of Janice's raku pots from this year

This quarter I was looking forward to working with Janice on number of projects, including redoing the insulation on the raku kiln--something I've been putting off, but Janice seemed interested in doing, experimenting with some low fire decals I brought back from NCECA, and making plans for how me might use a 3D clay printer in the studio. Even though I knew about her death, three times on Thursday I had to remind myself that she's gone. Only my way out of the house, I started to grab a new mug from NCECA to show to Janice, because we had talked about the artist in March. Reminding myself that she wouldn't be there, I started to grab the decals I bought so we could plan where they'd fit on some mugs we made last quarter. I reminded myself again that she as gone, and realized I'd be redoing the raku kiln without her help. And then I got in the car and immediately passed a painted mural of Scooby Doo, know I won't hear her ring tone in the studio again.

 
two of Janice's pots from this year

There are so many little things in the studio and in a teaching day that mark Janice's influence. Over and over again, as I talked to my throwing students, I started to make a suggestion, point out a tool or technique, or remind people to clean up after themselves. Over and over it was a jolt to me to remember that Janice wasn't there to share her tools, make a suggestion, demonstrate a technique, or be annoyed when students didn't clean up to her standards. 

more raku, I really like this one

Her death was a shock to me, and most of the people in the studio. My plans this quarter included her and while I was at NCECA, I was thinking about things that she'd find interesting or entertaining or useful in her work. She had plans in the studio. She made some of her best work last quarter, but she had more to do. I thought I'd be joking around with Janice in the studio five years from now, and running into her at shows in Yakima in ten years.

Janice's mug forms were particularly nice this year

I went looking for some pictures of Janice the other day because I wanted to post them on the YVC Clay Facebook page. I know Janice has worked with,  influenced, and even taught many students over the years and I think they'd like to know. Moreover, I'd like the studio to officially acknowledge her contribution and her loss. In looking for pictures, I discovered that while I have lots of pictures of Janice's pottery (and other students' pottery), I have far fewer pictures of people. I take pictures of the work because I can share it online and because the work tends to leave the studio more quickly than the students. However, it was surprising to realize that the face of someone I see every day barely shows up in my photos.

a view of part of the table for the end of quarter critique of Janice's work this March

I didn't take pictures of her, in part because I didn't think she'd be leaving. And I didn't realize how much I had come to take her presence in the studio for granted. I wish I had paid more attention the last few times I saw her. I was talking to her last Thursday, the first day of class, and I was distracted with making sure my beginning students were on track. I remember that Janice was talking to me about a couple things, but I also remember thinking that I shouldn't let my attention be distracted from the class. And when the class was over, Janice was gone. 


Janice kept me company at a middle school college night in March when we mostly found ourselves entertaining the younger siblings of middle school students. Janice came just to keep me company and I appreciated it.


And then Janice was gone.



photo by Jane Gutting

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Installing Ericano Bulbs for Yakima Maker Space Sculpture Show


the bulbs shortly after installation at YMS

The first part of this week was spring break, so after returning from the NCECA conference in Portland, I broke up the monotony of writing my online class by installing a set of works for Sculpting the Valley at Yakima Maker Space. 

 
my "canvas" on the floor after the hooks were in, and a bright orange bulb on its own

Yakima Maker Space is hosting this sculpture show, curated by Andy Behrle and Carolyn Nelson, in association with International Sculpture Day on April 24. That day there will be special events including a sculpture tour and artist talks by some of the exhibiting artists. See the Yakima Maker Space Gallery page for more information. 

the installation at YMS

The work I installed for the show is a different iteration of my Ericano bulb installation that was on display for Windows Alive last year. Yakima Maker Space didn't want me to put 100 holes in the wall as I have done for previous installations, so Andy Behrle made a nice long board (with a French cleat) for me to put the holes into. 

a detail view with my favorite in the middle

I liked working with the board off the wall, because I was able to set up the grid very quickly. The last time I had a tight time frame in which to install this work, I made a paper template for quick set up. This time I wasn't able to make a template ahead of time and the old template wouldn't work for the new shape of the installation.

spacing the bulbs before beginning to drill

Since I knew I would be installing on two boards end to end, I didn't want to have funny gaps at the middle or at either end, so I laid out the bulbs once I got to the gallery. After I had the bulbs spaced out in a way that seemed to work visually, I measured the space between them and adjusted the bulbs so that they were evenly spaced. 


the four tape measure system works better on the ground than on the wall

The best thing about having the boards on the floor was that I was able to use a system of four tape measures to measure and plan the spacing of the screw hooks. I lined up the long tape measures at 4", 11" and 18" from the top of the board, then lined up the shorter tape measure at 9.25" increments along the width of the board from the center. I marked the intersection of two tape measures and drilled holes at those marks. 


another detail view of the installation at YMS

Including planning time, I was done with the installation in about an hour. I had to come back to put the bulbs on the hooks after Andy finished with the backside of the board, but that set up was very fast. It would have been faster if I hadn't stopped to chat about 3D clay printers for a while on my way out.

there are lots of bulbs, so there are lots of pictures


You can see the show, featuring sculpture by an eclectic mix of Yakima sculptors in various media, on Saturday, April 1, 2017 from 6:00PM to 9:00PM. My work will be for sale individually, so come get your bulbs. The YMS gallery is only open on Saturdays, so if you'd like to see the work, the opening is a good time to go. If I don't see you then, hopefully you will join us for the International Sculpture Day festivities on April 24.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Student Sculpture from Winter 2017

This reclining lady, whose body and face are covered with leaves, is actually incomplete, according to the student, and may have more color when next seen at the DoVA Student Exhibition in May.

Last week was finals for winter quarter at Yakima Valley College. I had four clay classes, two of which were hand-building classes, the others were wheel classes. We had glaze critiques for both groups and I remembered to take pictures of some of the work that was finished. 

 
These two portrait heads were some of the last pieces finished building, but both survived with minimals cracking during the firing.

The end of a hand-building class is fun because we get to see such a wide range of work. This quarter I began the class with a portrait project. It was fun to start this way, but the project was more challenging than my usual beginning project using coils. The class, overall, did fairly well building the portraits, but we encountered more trouble* with thickness, air pockets, and cracks or blow-ups during firing than usual.

  
These three heads show the range of damage: the grey lady's chin and mouth hid an air pocket which exploded during the firing, taking of her chin, but also cracking her head from her shoulders, Dwight from The Office had less extensive damage, most of which was repair before critique, Kanye was well crafted and very thin so that he survived the firing with not even a superficial crack in his head or body.

The higher than usual breakage may have been because we started with such a challenging project and the students didn't fully understand why the pieces had to be as thin and I told them or it may have been because they had trouble making the pieces as thin as I instructed. Many, though not all, of the sculptures had to have some sort of repair done after firing to deal with cracks, exploded parts, or parts that broke off before or during firing.

 
These two very different approaches to dog portraits were also finished very differently; the one sitting up was painted with underglaze and some low fire glaze and fired, the one on the left was painted with acrylics.

During the last weeks of the quarter, I gave several epoxy demonstrations to show students how to repair cracks or breakage, smooth seams, and fill gaps left by the explosions. I demonstrated three types of two part epoxies: some simply two-ton epoxy gel, some PC-11 epoxy paste, and some epoxy putty for filling gaps. I also demonstrated and discussed how to hide or fill cracks, make the epoxy less visible, and match the glaze color and texture with paint and gloss medium.

This cat is hard to photograph because of its shiny black glaze, but the form is interesting in person.

Despite several demonstrations and explanations, a significant portion of the class had trouble understanding that epoxy and acrylic paint cannot be fired with glaze in the kiln. I eventually started keeping count of how many times I had to repeat the explanation or reminder that epoxy will burn off in the kiln (I repeated it 9 times, though, to be fair, the last several reminders were to individuals).

This small portrait suffered from an unexpected underglaze reaction that turned the face bubbly and rough and perhaps darkens the character, but the expression is still effective.

I am actually a bit concerned that so many of the students seemed not to grasp the basic physics of firing and the processes that impact shrinkage, glaze melting, and the process of turning clay into ceramic, not to mention the difference between clay and epoxy, paint and glaze. I feel that I spend a significant amount of time talking about not just what students need to do to keep their sculpture intact, but why. I'm considering, next time I teach this class, firing a sacrificial piece in the kiln to show them what happens with epoxy. I may also switch the assignment order back to what it had been--easier project first.

This peacock meant to hang on the wall survived building, firing, and glazing, only to suffer damage from rough handling on the day of the critique. The break is minimal, however, and the peacock should show up in the Spring DoVA show.

Because of the structure of the 10-week class, much of the work is not completely finished until the last week. The first three projects in the class are building projects which we critique when the work is wet, dry, or bisque fired. The final critique is a glazing and finishing critique, in which we see the first three projects again, this time with glazed and/or painted surfaces.

 
One challenge of photographing in the classroom without a photo setup is that some of the angles don't show the full sculpture. This carefully repaired and painted elephant has an interesting pose from multiple perspectives.

The good thing about this setup is that the students get lots of time to start glazing their first and second pieces. The bad thing about this setup is that students sometimes run out of energy and enthusiasm at the end of the quarter, meaning that sometimes glazing on well-built projects is poorly executed. 
This elephant, too, suffers from the poor quality photo, but his extensive repair was particularly well done.

This quarter I had one student, in particular, who had two well-built projects with poorly executed glaze. The glaze on one was so thick it ran extensively, permanently attaching her sculpture to a biscuit of clay placed underneath to prevent damage to my kiln shelf. Another of this student's pieces had very thin glaze that ended up obscuring the texture of her sculpture rather than highlighting it. 

These two sculptures are actually pieces of three separate works that were damaged during firing. The end-result combines  raku and cone 10 reduction firings, as well as epoxy.

However, I also had one student who managed to resurrect some sculpture that had been almost a total loss because of an explosion during firing. This student's work had lots of damage during firings, but he spent time carefully applying epoxy and paint to repair one piece in such a way that the damage was hard to see at the critique. He also brought several broken parts of other works together with various glaze applications to create a new sculpture. 

This mermaid platter was painted with underglaze but not glaze for critique. The photo angle doesn't really show the depth of the piece.

It's lots of fun to see the stuff students finish, especially when they take the time to make the repairs, but it's disappointing when students don't finish their work. Similarly, it is disappointing to grade that last test and realize that they never did understand a fundamental concept from the class. Last week I had a few of these disappointments, but I also had a few of the best grading experiences: when the last test was better than all the previous tests, or when the discussion at the class critique revealed that the student knew their glazes and could explain exactly what they did to achieve a certain visual effect.


A tree with blue snake and a totem pole with a blue snake.


* The basic rules for a safe bisque firing are to make sure that the work is dry, make sure it isn't too thick (I usually tell students to aim for a quarter to a half inch or no thicker than their thumb), make sure there are no contained air pockets (because hot air is bigger than cool air), and make sure to fire the kiln slowly (with a preheat or candle). Most, if not all, of the cracking this quarter was due to thick walls and/or contained air pockets that exploded.

This poor turtle suffered from air pockets and thick walls.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

International Sculpture Day at Yakima Maker Space



Next month, Andy Behrle is organizing a sculpture exhibition at Yakima Maker Space in recognition of next month's International Sculpture Day. I will be installing my ceramic bulbs as a part of this exhibition, Sculpting The Valley. The opening reception is Sunday, April 1 from 6-9pm. 

My bulb installation will be set up a little differently to accommodate the Yakima Maker Space gallery.

Yakima Maker Space gallery is open Saturdays 10-2pm and by appointment, with special International Sculpture Day hours 11-5pm on April 24 and a guided sculpture tour from 4-5pm. The exhibition runs April 1-25, 2017. 


Sunday, March 12, 2017

Raku Firing in the New Space

hot pots being moved with tongs into or out of the post firing reduction bucket (old building)

Last week YVC clay classes had raku firings all day on Thursday and Friday. In the new building, we are able to fire during during class time every quarter. We have a kiln yard on the south side of the studio that we can access through the kiln room. This space is a bit small, but it is away from air-intake, and its walls are tall so that the smoke is either inside the kiln yard or up and away from pedestrians.

new building kiln yard after the last firing

In the old building, we had to fire on the weekend, because the smoke from our firing bothered people in the nearby administration building. The old kiln yard had a lot of space, which was nice for hanging out and made it easier to be away from the smoke but still observing the firing. The new studio has a small space, but a few people can observe through the windows or can stand outside the exterior doors of the kiln yard to see without being right in the action. 

a view of the raku process in the old kiln yard

Firing raku during the week makes it easier for all the students to be involved if they so choose and I prefer not to spend an entire weekend day firing after spending five days at school during the week. The firing doesn't fit well into a two hour class, so students from my morning class had to start early or end late if they wanted to raku. The afternoon class is longer, so some of them were able to fire during class. Even if they aren't firing their own work, all the students can see the process during class and those who are firing work can get involved.

fired sculpture from this quarter's class


This year I had quite a few students choose to participate on both days. We got an early start and were able to fire several loads in the morning on Thursday before it rained and before the rain got heavier. We ended earlier than planned to get ourselves and the kiln out of the rain. Yakima rain usually isn't quite as serious as Wisconsin rain, so being out in the rain wasn't too bad most of the morning. Rain isn't great for the kiln, but we need to replace the top anyway. 

red hot pots after the kiln was opened (from the old studio)

The kiln in the new space is basically a revamped version of the same kiln from the old space. The old kiln had a base made of soft and hard fire bricks. The new one has the same arrangement for the base, but with fresh bricks. The top is still the same (and needs its fiber replaced), but the counterweight system from the old building has been replaced with a motorized lift. 

the new kiln base with the old kiln top

Most of the student work came through the firing safely, but I didn't get pictures. One large piece cracked and broke near the top, probably because it was large and made with porcelain clay. Another piece lost its bottom in the reduction bucket because it hadn't been attached well at the start. One more piece was dropped or pinched too tightly with the tongs so it cracked and broke into more than ten pieces.

student work with horse hair from this year's firing

We had three students do horse hair raku (where you put horse hair onto a hot, unglazed pot so it will burn and leave black lines of smoke permanently on the clay surface) this quarter. The results are a little hard to see on small work, but the plate shows the effect fairly well.