Wednesday, October 31, 2012

SRAM Project is Online

The SRAM pART Project is now online.
You can see my work directly here or you can look at all the work here or you can read about me here.

Of course you have been to the internet before yourself, so you can navigate within the SRAM page.

I wrote more about the work but I can't find it on the website. Here is my statement about the work:

Bikes act as supports and enhancements for human travel, economics and health. When considering the incorporation of the bike parts into my sculpture, I thought about the biological, structural and decorative functions these mechanical objects might have as prostheses or supports for my otherworldly “organic” forms. Working with these materials was an interesting challenge; I had to account for shrinkage and changes in the clay between the wet working stage and the hard fired stage. To further emphasize the relationship between the clay and the bike parts, I created molds from some of the smallest bike parts. The clay impressions from these molds create texture on the surface of the support form. The texture mimics the shape of the bike parts in this other material.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Learning from our Mistakes

I frequently tell my clay students that mistakes are good. If they aren't making mistakes, I am concerned that they aren't trying hard enough. If each of their attempts at making a bowl succeeds, they probably are making thick, wobbly little "kiln bombs." (A kiln bomb is a piece of clay that is thick and therefore likely to explode in the kiln during firing, taking out its neighbors and the damaging the kiln wall in the process.)

a "kiln bomb" might also be a hollow space inside the clay with no way for the air to escape (well, no way except an explosion)
It is easy to tell students that mistakes are good. I have been there. I've made many mistakes and had to recycle the work and start over again. But as a professional potter I probably make fewer mistakes than a beginning student. I've wondered, as I've gotten older and more experienced, whether teachers have a hard time remembering what it is like to be a student, failing and making lots of mistakes in an attempt to learn a new technique or process. We were there, we remember failing, but can we really remember what it felt like to make the mistake at that time?

Today I was given the opportunity to fail in a painful and frustrating and disappointing way. And to add that extra level of annoyance to the experience, I was being foolish when I failed. I made a mistake. It was a combination of not knowing and not doing what I should have known well enough to do.

I lost a page on this blog. Click over to Quick Links for Art Appreciation to see the results of the mistake and my attempt to repair the most immediately problematic damage. I was adding some "important" content to the blog, but to admit the embarrassing truth, I was messing with the blog right then to avoid grading. I hit something wrong, the entire content disappeared. I tried to "undo" but I forgot or misread the button on the blogger interface or had a brain malfunction and instead clicked "revert to saved." Which, apparently, saved my "new content" as a draft and permanently erased all the actual content that I had accidentally and somewhat mysteriously managed to delete.

I may have sworn at the computer. I do not recall.

I pieced together the content students need to know this week and put up the disclaimer at the top of the screen telling them where the missing content had gone (I don't know). I probably should have started grading at this point, but by now I was so wholly engrossed in the mistake and the missing information and the problem and finding a solution that didn't involve me piecing together hours of work done over the course of a year.

But, remember, I tell the students that mistakes are good. You learn from mistakes. And, I wasn't lying to the students. You do learn from mistakes. Even frustrating, maddening, annoyingly-timed mistakes. See, I know that one should back-up one's blog, I just never knew how. I have tried to back-up my blog according to directions I have found online and even directions offered by fellow Blogger bloggers. I was unable to follow these directions. I never did determine if the fault lay with me, Apple, this old Mac, the directions or what. I have been backing up my blog by automatically having Blogger send my posts to my e-mail. However, this method does not work for pages. (Uh, I don't think it does.)

Given that I do not back up, I knew I was not able to just recover the page content, but I thought perhaps I could see the page in the cache from my browser. I thought I could select "work offline" and look in my browser history. Surprise, Safari doesn't have "work offline." (I wonder when I last actually saw "work offline" as an option.) But I happened to have my laptop with me, so I was able to use the browser without internet access enabled. Surprise, Safari doesn't just remember pages it once visited.

Next, I tried the Wayback Machine (this is supposed to let you access webpages that are no longer "there" but are still archived in the magic tubes of the inter web). Surprise, the Wayback Machine only lets you access pages that have actually been archived it it, somehow. But as of today the Wayback Machine has archived my empty "Quick Links for Art Appreciation" page.

Finally, I looked up how to "work offline" in Safari and ended up, eventually, at an answer that told me how to use .webarchive files. Yipee! Finally, a solution! Safari can save .webarchive files that have all the information about the webpage on them. You can access these offline. I looked in my history. I searched my computer files. I stumbled, I failed. need to actually save the page as a .webarchive first.

The end result is that I do, in fact, have to recreate and relocate all the lost content from the page I mistakenly deleted today. However, I now know how to back it up (or at least, I know a way to save a .webarchive version). And as of this afternoon, I have saved a .webarchive file of my Quick Links for Clay Classes page.

Somehow, though, I never did get back to the grading.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Ag Meets Art: finished piece

I finished my "Ag Meets Art" apple bin artwork. The piece hangs, or will do once it has some wire attached to the back. I've actually been cramming this project in edgewise to my week. Monday morning I epoxied the remainder of the pieces onto the board in between boot camp at 5:30 and getting my daughter up at 7. I attached the hooks yesterday evening in between meetings because I couldn't find the right size drill bit in the morning before school. This morning I woke up early to finish the edges and the backing. I worked for 40 minutes before I had to get ready for work and finished and took pictures this evening after I got back from picking up my work in Tieton.

I decided to go with the smaller parts I had considered, so most of the metal pieces are discarded airplane parts, plus some faux gears from a jewelry kit. The colored pieces are mostly clay pieces done for my summer bike parts project, including the black supports and the black, red and yellow SRAM part sprigs. The red tube and the green support are SRAM bike parts leftover from the bike parts projects.

Finishing the "Ag Meets Art" project interrupted making my daughter's halloween costume. Luckily she and I had cleaned the "arts" table so I had room to work today in the house.

Also this weekend we found a scary big spider on the window screen. We think it got knocked inside and onto the screen during the operation of moving the window air conditioner unit into the house for the winter. Regardless, it was huge and scary and my daughter's bedtime was postponed an hour because we were all too creeped out to go to bed. The round part on the back is about the size of a quarter.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Ag Meets Art Progress

Making "Art" out of Apple Bins
Last weekend I got a bit more work done on my piece for the Ag Meets Art fundraiser for Larson Gallery. I also got sick and missed class, so I didn't get much done. I had already covered my board with mulberry paper and I had thrown the pieces during the summer. I glazed and fired the pieces during the first week of classes. Last weekend I just attached the main parts during a brief period of energy in the midst of a very tired and crummy weekend.

board on a messy floor with thrown flower forms supported on thrown mechanical parts
the central flower and mechanical part set is raised on a SRAM bike part from my summer project
the black pieces were also based on SRAM bike parts

I think the piece needs more than just the five red thrown sets but I haven't entirely decided what that something more should be. My daughter volunteered her help while I was sick and I allowed her design to sit in place during the remainder of the week. Just this evening I played around with a few new arrangements of basically the same parts I was thinking of including when she got involved. 

my daughter's plan includes parts tossed into the red flower forms
I like the idea of a clay "stamen" inside the flower but not so much the random parts inside too
maybe a bunch of color all around the base is good
I could put other parts inside the "flowers" so the interior level is hidden or obscured  

I could leave that interior space entirely open
maybe I should cluster the extra parts a little more closely together
ah, forget the bike parts, fake gears are the way to go
fake gears and random springs
limited color palette

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Swelling Curves with Thrown Forms

I recently subscribed to Ceramic Arts Daily e-mails. I have gotten Ceramics Monthly for years and I occasionally buy Pottery Making Illustrated (though with no Borders or Barnes & Noble in town it's harder to buy on a whim than it used to be). I was looking online for something else when I signed up for their e-mail. I figured it would just fill my in-box with more junk that I'd have to delete, but I tried it anyway.

Contrary to my expectations, the latest of these e-mails was relevant to discussions I'd been having with my intermediate and advanced clay students and will probably provide me with a useful new teaching tool. This quarter I have some motivated students in the higher levels of ceramics and I think it is going to be important (and perhaps tricky) to keep these students challenged. At the last two NCECA (ceramics) conventions I was particularly taken with thrown and altered works like those by Deborah Schwartzkopf who demonstrated at NCECA 2011 in Florida.

works by Deborah Schwartzkopf at NCECA 2011 

my not-very-useful images from the NCECA demonstration

I attempted to show, explains and demonstrate some of her techniques for altering her thrown work, but  I'm not sure my short demonstrations captured the energy and smooth curves of her work. Part of the problem is that I had difficulty getting students to understand why they would want to emulate her techniques. Beginning clay students are so focused on making things round and functional that they tend not to look farther than techniques for making things round, fixing things that aren't round and attaching handles.

more work by Deborah Schwartzkopf
I admit, I find these altered forms most interesting because of the techniques. I don't own much work like this and I don't spend my limited throwing time at home making it. But I think it is interesting to work with wheel throwing techniques and end up with smooth curvy asymmetrical forms that swell and bend. My own sculptural work often uses smooth, curvy asymmetrical forms that swell and bend, though I reach these curves and swells through different techniques and the end results are not meant to be functional.

From NCECA 2011, my notes say this is by Glenda Taylor, though all the work I can find from her online suggests this is not her work (looks a bit like Schwartzkopf's work, really)
interior of the mystery Glenda Taylor/Deborah Schwartzkopf piece

I believe my current intermediate and advanced students can appreciate the forms and the combinations of techniques and might consider integrating some of the techniques in their own work. The latest Ceramic Arts Daily e-mail included a link to a video clip from "Creating Curves with Clay with Martha Grover." The clip is short, under 15 minutes out of a 3 hour video, but I found it to contain some highly useful information. I'm going to try to order the whole video for class.

The general information in the clip is not new to me, but the artist demonstrates all the steps slowly and clearly and she carefully explains what she is doing and why. The most useful tip for me was that she used a paintbrush to smooth the slip on the interior seam of her attachments. She also shows and explains how and why she bends the rim and edges of the bottom edge. I think the video clip (and eventually the video) might help my intermediate and advanced clay students see both why one might use these techniques and how subtle changes in technique can result in smooth, elegant hand-built and thrown forms.