Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Mulberry Paper Layers

finished repaired form with mulberry paper additions

The other day I had some free time at home and decided to do some repair and refinishing of a few pieces I've had around the studio for a while. I had one large sprigged pod type piece that got dropped or knocked on the end a while back and the tip broke off. I epoxied the tip back on when I was putting together my last bike part pieces.

the black ball was added as a replacement, the originals were all matte brown

The piece also had a missing ball on one of the inner branches. I had misplaced the correct ball, the one that was originally attached, so I found a different piece that was the right size and epoxied it on instead. The replacement piece was fired differently, in a raku firing years ago instead of an electric kiln.

detail view of three yellow and three blue balls

After I did the physical repair, I added a mulberry paper layer to the exterior of the bulbs. I always liked the sprigged exterior and the sprayed underglaze coloring with a matte finish, but I was never happy with the original brownish red color of the bulbs that are bursting out of the pod form. The blue and yellowish orange mulberry paper is similar to the underglaze decoration on the exterior of the pod, but I like the contrasting texture that seems to soften the round forms.

view of the interior of the paper layered box

I also finished applying purple mulberry paper to the exterior of a rough little raku fired box. I finished the interior over the summer. I like the various tones and textures of the interior paper, but the exterior is pretty simple and difficult to photograph.

the closed box looks a bit like a cartoon easter egg--maybe a dinosaur easter egg

Monday, April 7, 2014

In the Gallery and Epoxy Camouflage

This weekend I put the finishing touches on my last piece and took my sabbatical work to Oak Hollow Gallery for the new show that opens Tuesday. The show features my ceramic and bike part sculptures and photos by Becky Blair, Jeff Reynolds, Corinne Hines and Eric Tchemitcheff. 

an accidental picture that I kinda like

I made some changes to one of my pieces last week, but I still wasn't entirely happy with it on Saturday. I used a large quantity of epoxy to attach the metal pipe to the ceramic base. I needed a lot of epoxy for stability, but I didn't like the look of the epoxy at the seam between the ceramic and the metal.

the ugly, but strong, epoxy attachment

It is obvious that the ceramic and bike pieces are not built and fired together, but I find myself torn between wanting to acknowledge the built and combined aspect of the work and wanting to hide the attachments. I return to my inspiration, prostheses and mechanical supports, and these, too, may have visible attachments and abrupt changes between the soft natural forms of the body and the hard manufactured or built surfaces of the prosthetic. Part of the appeal for me, aesthetically, is the contrast between the two surfaces, so I hardly want to obfuscate the differences. 

the hidden epoxy

Though I don't think the essential question of attachments and joints between the two materials is answered completely, I addressed the issue in this particular piece by camoflauging the epoxy with paint. I am happier with the piece today than when I first put it together. I expect to explore the question of how to hide or celebrate those mechanical/clay boundaries in future work.

"Bespoke Piece" 2014 --it spins!

I took the last two pieces to the gallery today after my morning boot camp class. Josie, the gallery owner, had my work out already but most of the photographs weren't up yet. I placed my last two pieces and tried to take some pictures of the gallery arrangement, but I was apparently still shaky from my boot camp class, so my photos turned out blurry. 

let's pretend the blur was done intentionally so that you need to come see the show
If you'd like to see the work without the blur, and if you'd like to see the photographers' work, join us this coming Saturday from 2-4pm for an artists' reception. Oak Hollow Gallery is in the breezeway of Chalet Place at 5600 Summitview Avenue in Yakima. The show runs April 8 - May 3, 2014.

the gallery before the work was installed

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Bike Wheel and Letter Pieces

The piece I was working on during spring break didn't end up working quite as planned. I intended to put a bike wheel with bulbs on it onto the base I had built with computer keyboard keys. Unfortunately the base is pretty wobbly and the bike wheel is heavy, causing the whole thing to tip over with that much weight. I traded in the wheel for some other parts, though I still have some work to do in balancing the piece.

keyboard letter piece

I altered my plan for the wheel, too, and decided to put it onto another base I had prepared for a different top. I don't believe I ended up finishing the top for that piece--it was one of several pieces that ran up against December's end of sabbatical deadline. The bike wheel was still too heavy for the new, more stable base, so I ended up filling the base with cement. I've never put cement in any of my pieces before, so this was an unusual experience.

spinning bike wheel piece

I'm not sure that this work will be particularly portable, since it is so heavy and wide, but I had fun making it. The top spins on a ball bearing that was part of one of my boxes of bike parts (Thanks, Revolution Cycles). The base, besides being filled with cement, has a bike chain built into/around it. 

I accidentally spun the wheel during the last moments of the photo, causing a strange faded color and a ghostly image in some places

I plan to bring the wheel piece and other work from my sabbatical to Oak Hollow Gallery this weekend to set up for the next show. The exhibition opens April 8 and features work by four photographers (Becky Blair, Corinne Hines, Jeff Reynolds, and Eric Tchemitchell) as well as my ceramic sculpture. Join us for the reception on April 12 from 2-4pm.

Monday, March 31, 2014

"Slides" of Sabbatical Work

The last few days have been fairly productive. Not only did I clean my studio and work on finishing one last sabbatical piece, I also had a chance to take "slides" of my work.

my photography setup
To take slides I get up at dawn (literally) and set up a table and a large roll of grey photography paper as a backdrop. I like to start taking slides at sunrise when the light is softest. By the middle of the day, when the sun is overhead, the shadows are too harsh and the slides don't look as nice.

sabbatical work (wall hanging or free-standing)
I set up my camera on a tripod and take a series of pictures of a whole bunch of works one after another. This weekend I took pictures on Saturday and on Sunday. Saturday's pictures are not as nice, probably because I was tired and in a rush. I wasn't planning to take images on Sunday, but there were some awful images from Saturday that needed to be redone and I didn't get all the work photographed.

sabbatical work (wall hanging or free-standing)
The goal with these pictures is to force the viewer to focus only on the artwork, making the background boring, so as not to distract from the subject. If I've got the camera settings right, the background is grey and smooth and without folds, shadows or an obvious horizon line. Some of my backgrounds look blue, either because I was sloppy or because I need photography tutoring.

sabbatical work (wall hanging or free-standing)
The most important factor is that my images are in focus, clear and accurately colored. I try to close down the aperture of the camera and increase the f-stop to increase the depth of field in my images so that most of the sculpture is in focus. The amount of sunlight and wind obviously impacts how well I can do this. The best quality images allow me to share my work more effectively and apply to exhibitions. I have been delaying some applications, in part, because I didn't like my images.

"Scylla Bionica" 2013
Taking good images of my tall pieces and my piece that overhangs the edge was an added challenge this time around. I was actually fairly happy with my earlier photos of the Cerberus piece in the gallery. I can't really see a way around including an edge in this piece since it needs to sit on a raised surface so that the chains hang down.

"Cerberus" 2014
The tallest pieces were too tall for my usual table setup, so I laid down a folded card table on the ground (the ground was damp) and set up the pieces on that, lowering my tripod accordingly.

"Cephalotus Prosthesia" 2013
At the end of Saturday my hands were freezing and my camera battery was dead so I gave up and went in to warm up and sulk. (I wasn't happy with many of my images).

"Pedal/Petal" 2013
On Sunday I must have gotten more sleep because I had a better day taking images. I retook the bad ones and even took some images of olders works that had gotten missed over the years.

bike wheel with an alternate base (neither the base I planned to use, nor the one I will use)

I also started to take images of my latest piece, but realized I had made a major planning error. The base with the bike wheel on it is top heavy and wobbly, causing it to fall over. After fretting a while and taking some make-shift images, I decided to turn one piece into two. The epoxy is now drying, so I'll be able to share images in a few days.

unfinished base for what was going to be a bike wheel piece
If you'd like to see my sabbatical work in person (and probably the two pieces that are being epoxied right now), visit Oak Hollow Gallery in Yakima between April 8 and May 3. And join me for the artists reception on April 12 from 2-4pm. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

(Still) Finishing More Sabbatical Work

It's spring break, so why not finish some work I was going to finish in January? I didn't get a ton of time in the studio this week, what with traveling Monday and prepping classes and all, but I did get in there today. First I had to excavate a path through this winter's detritus.

My daughter took this picture of me actually working in my studio this afternoon. This is impressive because yesterday no one could fit in my studio.
I plan to spend a bit more time in the studio tomorrow and actually get good quality images of my sabbatical work, images not taken in a gallery with a line between the pedestal and the wall or a window in the background. In order to prepare to take slides, I had to unbox the work that was in Biomorph. I brought it home two months ago and it had not been touched since.

The base in December
The unboxing of work and putting away of bike parts went so well (and my new audiobook is so good) that I decided that I might just have time to finish one last sabbatical piece, the one I didn't quite have time to tackle in December/January.

I cut out circles of paper with a sticky back to attach to the end of the piece.

The original plan for this piece was to have a contrasting material, like paper inside, visible through the openings. I glazed the edges of the cutouts and later intended to glue some paper inside the piece so that the openings were only a quarter inch deep. This was, apparently, not a plan based on actual materials and the physics of my finger joints. So, after what amounted to several months of problem avoidance, I decided that red paper circles covering the openings is a reasonable solution to the problem. A better solution might be to build the piece with a removable end, but I still think of my works as being basically complete objects, even as I interrupt and adulterate the forms with more and more non-ceramic elements.

Mixed epoxy and the base with the rod taped in position while the epoxy sets.

After solving the problem of the paper and the openings on the end, I got around to epoxying the parts together. I knew what I intended to do and my plan didn't really change in this respect. The piece is meant to have a blue base with keys, pictured above, and a bike wheel (sans tire) attached to the top of a metal rod going through the middle of the base. I had started to put these parts together when I ran out of sabbatical in January.

the top of the piece

The top bike wheel part will be detachable from the base so that it is easier to transport. I currently have the wheel balanced on boxes as the epoxy sets on the metal piece that will go inside the base rod. Meanwhile the rod is being epoxied into the base. The epoxy takes 24 hours to set, so tomorrow afternoon I can put the two parts together and see how they look. I planned for the top piece to spin, but I may have been over enthusiastic with the epoxy where it encountered the moving parts.

I had extra epoxy so I repaired a couple old pieces.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Classroom Adjustments for Spring (based on NCECA programing)

I just got back from the NCECA conference in Milwaukee. It was nice to see people from college and graduate school. It was also nice to spend some time with my parents. I found a couple of really useful things in the conference programming and saw some interesting shows.

NCECA 2014 conference program

I've been having fun the last few days preparing my new spring quarter Intro to Clay class with some of the NCECA ideas in mind. The class is new to me this quarter. It had been on the books years ago but I made adjustments to it last spring and put it back on the schedule this year. I was on sabbatical in the fall and busy with something else in winter, so this will the first time I get to teach the "new" course.

posters and magazines and bags from the NCECA conference

The best thing I went to as part of the conference programming was a topical discussion called "Immaterial World" led by Sara Parent-Ramos. The online description indicated that we would focus on classroom structure and using new technologies in the classroom, something I am very interested in. Unfortunately the listing in the physical conference program gave the correct title and name, followed by an unrelated description, so attendance was sparse and people were a little confused. Ironic, I think, that those of us using technology to plan our conference activities got the correct description and people looking only at the paper booklet were misled.

the erroneous program description (with my edits)

The topical discussion focused on flipping the classroom and ways to use blogs, online student portfolios, videos, and video-conferencing to support student learning. I went to the discussion because I've started to do some of these things but would like to know how other people are using them. I figured I was just trying stuff out and didn't really know what I was supposed to do. The discussion, as it turned out, felt like a validation of what I am already doing.

When the discussion leader introduced the topic, she asked if the audience knew what it meant to flip the class. I indicated that I was familiar with the term since I regularly flip my Art Appreciation class and occasionally my design class. I explained how my students come to class having done the readings, then, during class, instead of lecturing, the students discuss, present or do a group activity based on their reading. Instead of being the "empty vessels" filled with knowledge by the "sage on the stage" the students are active in their own learning, spending class time applying what they've learned or articulating their knowledge as they present to their classmates. The discussion in class is more detailed and more valuable since the students are building on and refining their knowledge base rather than hearing the information for the first time.

Parent-Ramos then went on to talk about other technologies people are using in the classroom and why these technologies might be beneficial. She made a point of saying that technology should be an means to an end. My mom and I had been having an ongoing discussion about 3D printed work at the conference shows. There seemed to be excitement about this particular new technology, but I saw few examples where people are using it to do something they couldn't do using traditional throwing or hand-building techniques. This is an example of using new technology just because you can.

Printed work by Del Harrow at "Flow" (the NCECA Invitational exhibition). Why couldn't this work be thrown on the wheel?
The next day I went to a co-lecture about work being done at Otis College of Art. They showed examples of work created using a 3D printer, but also talked about their policy: if the work could easily be done using other methods, do it that way. The technology could only be used if it was the most appropriate way to achieve the form. The result was pieces where the technology was the means, not just an expensive toy to replicate existing forms.
Printed work by Christopher Basil Fong. This would be tough to throw or build with slabs.
The other interesting bit of the panel discussion was the conversation with other people using, or trying to use, new technologies or to adjust the classroom structure. I am apparently not the only one to make my poor students keep blogs of their work for class. Lots of folks are putting up videos of their own demonstrations for students, but this discussion was the first I had heard of using video-conferencing in the classroom. Parent-Ramos suggested using video chats to connect classes with artists who are geographically distant. The video-conferencing could be used to introduce students to other artists' work or methods, to demonstrate techniques using equipment not available locally and even to invite a "guest artist" to hold critiques with students at another campus. Exciting stuff! I'm looking forward to exploring more of these options.

The discussion gave me the sense that I am already doing somethings right. This confirmation and the ideas and suggestions from various participants got me thinking of ways I can increase my use of these technologies and classroom structure adjustments. Interestingly, though I frequently flip my other classes, I hadn't really incorporated much flipping into my clay classes. I have the students watch videos, handle pottery, and even read articles outside of class, but I've often considered this as supplemental to the class. Since it was the way I learned, I always assumed that clay class was for demonstration; homework time was for practice. I appreciated Parent-Ramos' phrasing of the issue: she said any information that can be "poured" into the students can be flipped. Students, in this approach, can watch demonstrations outside of class time, and come with that knowledge base. Then the classroom demonstrations are building on a foundation of knowledge, rather than starting from scratch.

new physical resources to supplement the virtual resources we discussed
Another idea brought up in the discussion was that instructor should act as a guide to help the students discover new information and help them navigate the resources. I've prepared some assignments and hand-outs for my students that are a kind of introductory guide to the world of out-of-class demonstration videos, new techniques and new ceramic artistss. I will give the students some choice in what they study outside of class and ask them to bring their favorites to class (or to one of our online resources). I can never cover, in class, everything that might be of interest to my students, but with this approach, the students will bring their own research and discoveries to class. It will be interesting to discover what they they find valuable on their own..

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Milwaukee NCECA

On Wednesday I will be traveling to Milwaukee for the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts conference. I am excited about the conference this year because it is in Wisconsin, where I grew up, went to high school and later did my graduate work. My anticipation might be colored by the excitement I feel about the end of a very busy quarter.
At Madison I fired with wood and salt (because there are so many wood kilns around)

At the conference I expect to see people I knew from UW-Madison as well as people I knew from Coe College in Iowa where I went to college. Of course I also get to see my parents and perhaps a few non-ceramicist friends. The Milwaukee Art Museum seems like an old familiar friend (albeit with a pretty impressive make-over since I used to go as a kid) and I have been feeling nostalgic for pieces, like the Duane Hanson "Janitor" I talk about in Art Appreciation class but haven't seen in person in years. I don't miss this Donald Judd piece.

Milwaukee Art Museum's beautiful new (since I was a kid) building designed by Santiago Calatrava

I was thinking it might be nice to get up to Kohler to see the work up there and maybe do a factory tour again. Kohler has an impressive Arts/Industry program for artist residents who create work utilizing the factory equipment and the expertise of the permanent factory workers. On the tour I did years ago I got to see the ceramics shop where people were filling plaster tub molds with slip and spraying glaze on sinks and toilets. The factory floor is impressive and you get to see what the current artist residents are working on, then there's the gallery with works from an array of past artist residents. Even the bathrooms are decorated by artists in the program.

I got an e-mail the other day from someone saying she saw one of my pea pods in Madison last year. I don't remember showing in Madison in the last 6 or 7 years. This is a wood fired pod circa 2005.

Of course there are plenty of shows in galleries all over Milwaukee. One of the best parts of the national conference is that there are tons of ceramic shows in the host city and nearby locations. I think southeastern Wisconsin already has some pretty strong ceramic artists, studios and galleries, but maybe I think that because I'm familiar with the area. The NCECA shows in Seattle were good, especially the NCECA Invitational at the Bellevue Arts Museum, but overall there seemed to be a lot of non-ceramic work on show in a lot of galleries. Maybe I just felt that way because it rained and I got wet and cold and crabby. In Milwaukee I know there will be good show, but I can also get up to Kohler, down to Racine or over to Madison to see good art.

Near the end of graduate school I started using more underglazes (in wood kilns, high fire kilns and low temp electric kilns).

I haven't looked carefully at the shows (that's what the plane ride is for, right?) listed in the NCECA materials, but I also know that there are ceramic studios and galleries and kilns scattered throughout southeastern Wisconsin in Cambridge and Johnson Creek and Paoli

At the very end of graduate school I fired in low temp electric firings in anticipation of no longer having access to wood kilns after school

The other day I was looking at the NCECA program online and notice some familiar names. On Thursday at 11am in Ballroom A, my graduate school colleague, Ryan Myers will be giving a "Process" carving demonstration. Ryan currently has a show at Artisan Gallery in Paoli. That afternoon in the same room, Michael Schael, a potter from Cambridge whose wood kiln I fired when I lived in Madison, will be doing a throwing demo at 3pm. 

Since graduate school I've fired primarily low fire with bright underglazes in my home studio.

On Friday at 9am Jarred Pfeiffer, who was an undergraduate at Madison when I was there, will be on a Student Perspectives Panel in Room 102. At 4pm Mark Skudlarek, whose work I've admired since I was a teenager, will be giving a "Process" demonstration in Ballroom A. Mark makes big coiled vessels and other wood-fired pottery. He has a huge wood burning kiln big enough to walk into. When I was in high school we would visit Voyagers Jewely in Cambridge to see the unusual jewelry, beautiful retired greyhounds and Mark's pottery.

I'm sure I'll take pictures and have more to say about the trip and the exhibitions after I get back from Milwaukee. Clay folks, if you're going to Milwaukee, I look forward to seeing you there. Wisconsin folks, I'll be at my parents' for a couple days after the conference if you want to get together.