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. 

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