Sunday, December 30, 2012

Yakima River Diaries

Before Christmas I installed some work for an upcoming show. Yakima River Diaries opens January 10, 2013 with a reception at 4pm (yes, that is a Thursday afternoon). The show will be in the Sarah Spurgeon Gallery at Central Washington University. The show features artists whose work relates to water and specifically to the Yakima River. The other artists are John Clymer, Robert Fisher, Justin Gibbens, Anna Hoover, Louis Kollmeyer, Cynthia Krieble, Nickolus Meisel, Greg Pierce and Derek Young. There will be an associated exhibition at the Museum on they CWU campus.

I haven't seen any of the other work yet, as I was the first to install. I believe the other work will be installed during the first week of January (this week). I do know several of the artists and am familiar with others with the work of others. Bob Fisher teaches drawing and painting at Yakima Valley Community College with me. Greg Pierce is a ceramic instructor at Columbia Basin Community College and I have a print (of the Tieton River Canyon) by Justin Gibbens in my dining room.

My section of the gallery. We moved the TV.

The show is set up so that each artist is in a different section of the gallery. Bob Fisher's work will apparently be in a temporary room built for the show. When I was at the gallery his room was in the process of being built and painted. 

Unfortunately when I was there to install my work the light was not great. My area was actually quite dark, but the curator and gallery staff will set up the lights before the show opens. I was able to install my work, though the lack of light made it a little tricky to determine color relationships in the installation. When I looked at my photos later I realized that the existing lighting made my photos look indistinct and dull.

My installation work laid out as I began to plan the installation.

Before I got to the gallery, I knew I was going to put up an installation on the wall similar to my installation last year at Larson Gallery, but I didn't have a great sense of the gallery space until I arrived.
I brought all the work I still have from the Kekino installation in the "From the Ground Up" show last winter as well as some pieces I made this summer. I sold several pieces from the previous installation but, anticipating that I would make a similar installation eventually, I made a few new pieces designed to hang on the wall. I was asked to participate in the "Yakima River Diaries" show in October of this year.

"Kekino" installation from February 2012.
When I arrived at the gallery the curator suggested that I might consider wrapping my installation around the corners. Since this sort of flowing arrangement was something I had wanted to try anyway, I took his suggestion and planned my installation accordingly. I discovered, however, that it is harder to plan a bending wall installation than a flat wall installation. Normally I lay my work out on the floor in a similar order to how they will be hung on the wall. It is then just a matter of picking up the work and hanging it vertically in the same arrangement as it was in on the floor.

My work on the floor arranged for installation.
With an installation that comes out at you, it can't just be laid out on the floor because it will bend toward the viewer as it moves onto the second wall surface. It is harder to gauge those sorts of relationships because laid out on the floor doesn't offer that third dimension for planning. I also discovered that the pieces look different when viewed from a 3/4 angle than when viewed from straight on. Though I have photographed my installations from an intense angle, the side view is not the standard view of the work.

This installation moves from wall to wall around the corner.

Despite the lighting and spacial planning challenges, I think I am happy with the finished installation, though I neglected to get a picture of the finished installation. The planning and set up took closer to 5 or 6 hours to complete instead of the 2 or 3 hours I had hoped to spend. I set up and installed work for a while before going for lunch and then I installed for several hours when I returned. It was exhausting in an unusual way, since the actual lifting and hammering wasn't difficult. I felt anxious every time I hammered in a nail or set a piece on a screw. I also felt anxious every time I made a placement decision on the wall. By the end of the day I was getting tired and I forgot to be anxious when hammering in a final nail. As a result of carelessness, I shook a piece loose and it fell and broke on the floor. That was about the time I decided I was done.

This installation relates to the pedestal piece on the right (poorly lit in this photo).

Besides the wall installation, I have some work on pedestals. The pedestals weren't placed or out when I was up there, but I was able to move in one to get a sense of the relationship between my standing pieces and my wall installation. My plan is to go back at the end of this week to bring a few more standing pieces, make some placement decisions and take some pictures.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Packing and Shipping Work

A funny thing happens every time I get ready to do a show. Shortly before the show, as I am planning for it, I start to worry that I don't have enough work or anything worth showing. A day or so before I am to set up or install the show, the worry turns to mild panic. Then I start to pack up the work for the show. And after a while, I realize that I actually do have a lot of work and I start to be more concerned with whether I have enough packing materials or space in the car.

It used to be that I kept an audience for this spectacle. During those times of my life when I didn't have a large enough permanent residence in which to store the work, I would store the work at my parents house and I would voice my worry, panic and relief to my mother. Who would mostly just laugh at me.

Now I keep my work in my studio which isn't nearly as remote or solitary as my parent's basement, though it tends to be colder. Today as I progressed through an accelerated version of worry/panic/relief, my daughter and husband orchestrated a Angry Birds piggie attack on my studio. I had to use a space eagle to save my ceramic eggs.

hide your eggs!

I was packing up work to take to a show up at Central Washington University. Tomorrow I will be installing a version of last winter's "Kekino" installation at the Sarah Spurgeon Gallery. The show, "Yakima River Diaries,"will feature work inspired by water and specifically the Yakima River.

My "Kekino" installation at the "From The Ground Up" Exhbition 2012
SRAM Gears, made this past summer, will be in Bremerton next month
I also have work boxed up to go to Bremerton for "The CVG Show" at Collective Visions Gallery. "The CVG Show" is a juried exhibition. I am shipping my work, which saves me a trip, but it is much more difficult to pack work that will be unpacked and repacked by someone else. If I am driving work up, I tend to pack it more casually.

the top of my sculpture, partially packed

When I am packing work to ship, I liked to double box it so that it is less likely that something will punch through a double layer of cardboard box and break my piece. I also tend to put a layer of some kind of padding between the inner and outer boxes. This provides extra space and extra cushion in case something does poke through. In high school I had an oil pastel drawing at the state art show. It won an award and was subsequently shipped to the national show. Unfortunately, the show shipped there and back and I didn't have any contact with the piece or control of how it was handled. When it was returned to my parents house, I was there to accept it. The delivery man came to the back door and handed me a wide, thin cardboard box with a hole in it. We repaired the drawing, but I was not impressed. 

labeled unpacking directions for the top of my sculpture

This particular show banned packing peanuts as a packing material for shipped work. I used pieces of foam and egg cartons to cushion and support the piece and keep it from moving around inside the box. The bike part pieces are harder to ship than my usual work because they have more bits sticking out of them. I had to cut a space in some of the support foam for the largest gear to fit. I also taped the foam pieces to the box so that the work could (hopefully) be repacked to be shipped back to me.

foam taped on lid of interior box so that it is easy to open, unpack and repack
To take my work up to Ellensburg where I will unpack it, I've just wrapped each piece in a towel and stacked them in a couple laundry baskets.

Friday, December 14, 2012

IBEST Linked Classes

This week was finals week. In a grading break this morning I met with come colleagues to plan for the linked classes we will be teaching next quarter.

One of the exciting things about doing a class with other instructors is how much the experience improves one's own teaching. Just going through the process of planning the class helps me improve. Today I was trying to explain why I do particular assignments the way I do. My initial reasons for the assignments were good and I still feel confident in the assignments, but just articulating the intent of the assignments helped me identify a couple pieces of the assignments that could be streamlined or altered to be more clear to students.

The class I will be teaching next quarter is part of an IBEST model. It's too late at night for me to remember what IBEST stands for (Integrated Basic Education Some Thing), but it means that we are putting a cohort of students into a set of classes that includes developmental and college-level classes. My Art Appreciation class is the college-level class and my colleagues are teaching developmental reading, adult basic education writing and study skills. The same group of students who are taking these classes in the winter will move on to college-level drama, developmental writing, and ABE reading next quarter. The idea is that by the end of the two quarters these student will be at college level in their English and will already have 10 college level humanities credits. Most of these students would not yet be eligible for my Art Appreciation class because of their English scores.

Another exciting element of the IBEST class for me is that I am able to give some of the non-art related teaching tasks to my reading, writing and study skills colleagues. My usual Art Appreciation class requires students to be at almost-college-level English. Because they are not college-ready, I cannot expect them to write a college-level paper with citations. Since I think that writing this type of report is a reasonable expectation for a college-level Art Appreciation class, I help them build the writing and the citations throughout the quarter. This coming quarter, however, I will not be required to teach them to do citations because my colleagues will do that part.

I am also looking forward to my colleagues helping the students learn to navigate their textbooks and build their non-art vocabulary. I don't really have time to help the whole class understand what is meant by the word "describe" as opposed to "identify" in a test question. I also don't have time to make sure they understand all the terms from their research. Today, while reading a paper, it became clear to me that at least one student did not know what it meant to "impersonate" someone. But I don't think that my class time is the appropriate place to develop that vocabulary. When I have to decide between teaching the content of the class or trying to build the students skills and understanding up to college level, something gets lost.

Next quarter will be an interesting opportunity to discover how much content I can move through if I don't have to spend time with the other stuff. It will also be interesting to see how this cohort of under-prepared students does in the class compared to my typical group of slightly more prepared students who are not taking the set of connected classes.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Science week in the studio

For the past week it seems that the studio has been a place for science demonstrations.

During our clay class critique one student was asked about her mug and its interesting handle shape . Her explanation was that the piece was inspired by the lower intestine, including the appendix. The handle shape was visually interesting, but after I knew the inspiration, I thought differently about it.

In the design studio students were finishing their book project (they create a book that involves actual and implied time and motion examples). One student was expressing her frustration with the Design class. She said that design doesn't come easily to her and that to relax, she does her microbiology homework.

Later in the clay critique another student was showing her teapot. She had attached a thrown handle onto the side like a small Chinese teapot. During the discussion, her classmate pointed out that the shape of the rounded teapot with the two tube shaped spouts looked like it was almost the shape of a water molecule. She suggested adding another tube. Perhaps the second student had been studying the night before.

Of course the clay studio is always a good place for a practical physics demonstration. The other day we unloaded a glaze firing. Usually there are a few pieces glazed too thickly. The glaze runs down and sticks to the shelf or fuses the lid in place. This quarter we actually had very few problems with glaze running, but we had a couple in the last firing.

last glaze kiln ready to be unloaded

We also had a couple pieces warp during firing. The kiln reaches temperatures hotter than 2300 degrees Fahrenheit by heating it up with gas and forced air. This is a turbulent atmosphere and pots can warp or subtly change shape during firing, usually an open round shape can become oval shaped at the top while the base stays round. We usually combat this by firing lids on their pieces (as long as the glaze doesn't run, this isn't a problem). The lids and pots either warp together or the lid prevents the base from warping. In this batch I had a student fire her piece with the lid beside it. The top warped differently than the base and the two no longer fit right.

We also fired our first bisque firing in the gas kiln (which is usually used only for glaze firing). The electric kilns fire efficiently and can be fired without a lot effort by the instructor. We can set a firing program or we can do simple turn-ups each hour. I also have several students who know how to fire the electric kilns and they can help. However, this quarter I had two students make work too tall for the electric kilns, so we fired a gas bisque. I did a preheat (called a candle) overnight with just the pilot lights lit, then I turned the kiln up to low on one side, waited several hours and turned it up on the other side. Despite this very slow, gentle firing, all four pieces had some damage from the firing. Two pieces cracked at the seams and two had pieces blow off the sides during the firing.

large pieces after firing

Usually damage like the latter comes from the piece being too thick. Some part of the pot has a contained air pocket or moisture which expands as it is heated and forces the clay to move. The cracks in the former pots usually come from weak seams or a fast firing, or both. The gas bisque was a faster bisque than normal. Also, the pots were made from several different pieces thrown, then attached together and worked some more. I recommend that my students use overlapping seams where the top piece sits not just on, but in the wall of the lower piece. This student did not take that extra precaution. I would be curious to know whether the firing or the joining method were more at fault. Regardless, I can't fire the gas kiln much slower than I did.

Our last physics lesson came during the most recent glaze firing. I tell all my students to bisque their work before glazing. This first firing chemically changes the clay to ceramic and makes it stronger. As ceramic, it is porous enough to accept glaze but it won't break or slake (dissolve) if accidentally glazed incorrectly (i.e. dropped into the glaze bucket). Assuming that all my students were following this rule, and assuming that they would tell me if they somehow glazed greenware (unfired work), I didn't worry much about it.

On Friday we were firing the glaze kiln and I noticed that a piece had exploded during firing. I could see the broken pieces as I looked into the kiln. I was surprised that something had broken, since this very rarely happens. One of my students found a piece of the explosion that had fallen out of the back hole of the kiln and onto the floor. She picked it up and discovered that it was still clay. It had not been bisqued, but had been glazed. Of course what must have happened is that someone didn't bisque their work, but somehow still glazed the work and put it in the kiln. They were either confused or were trying to move more quickly. Neither I nor my student helper noticed as we loaded the kiln on Thursday. I fire the glaze kiln faster than a bisque kiln, since I have to get it hotter. Not knowing their was an un-bisqued piece in the kiln, I fired normally. I expect this morning will be interesting as I open the kiln and find the damaged piece and the neighbors that were also likely to sustain damage.