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.

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