Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Current and Upcoming Events

Student Exhibition at Larson Gallery
This week is your last chance to see the YVCC Department of Visual Arts Student and Faculty Exhibition at Larson Gallery. The show runs through May 31. The gallery is open this week through Friday 10-5pm and Saturday 1-5pm. Students can pick up their work starting on Saturday at Larson Gallery or Tuesday in the Art Department.

Members Arts and Crafts Exhibition at Larson Gallery
The next show at Larson Gallery will be the Members Arts and Crafts Exhibition, featuring a wide variety of work by current Larson Gallery Guild members. I'll have a piece in the show. I hope that my students will also consider putting something in this year. 

June Art Fest at Chalet Place
I will also have work at June Art Fest on June 14. June Art Fest is a one-day outdoor art fair featuring local artists. This is definitely an art show, rather than an arts and crafts show. Each artist, or pair of artists has a booth at the fair with his or her paintings, jewelry, sculpture, or functional work. 

Last year the music was live and very good most of the day. There will be potters, wood carvers, fiber  artists, painters, mixed media artists, printmakers and jewelry in metal and wood. Stop by to buy gifts or something for yourself, or just stop by to visit and keep the artists company. Hopefully this year won't be as windy and rainy as the show in 2012. 

Summer Workshops at Larson Gallery
Coming up later this summer, I will be hosting a clay workshop for kids and adults on June 29. Call or visit Larson Gallery to register for my workshop or others. Lucas Orthman, Natalie Dotzauer both are teaching at YVCC this year--I expect their workshops to be good. I have taken a Joan Cawley-Crane workshop and I know hers will be excellent, and I have heard good things about Larry Calkins' encaustic workshop. You might want to hurry to register before all the spots are taken.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sketching and Cleaning

Over the last few weeks I've made some time to sketch. Last year I think I remember sketching in boring meetings but this year I haven't attended meetings with much downtime. I think that's probably a good thing.

This year--more accurately, this month--I've sketched a few times while listening to music with my daughter or playing a game. Her games often require me to be in the room but I'm not allowed to do anything because I usually do the wrong thing. As long as my sketching can be interrupted when she wants me to move the ponies into a new position or watch her performance, I am allowed to bring a sketchbook to her room.

I'm not sure a gear handle would be particularly comfortable

Sketching is an important part of the process, but it always makes me itchy to start working. I'd like to make a couple mugs with embedded gears before June Art Fest, but there's a bit of work to do before I have enough room in my studio to work. I don't actually think that the work will get done before June 14, so the mugs will probably have to wait.

I was using two colors because someone else required the purple pen part of the time

Today was a busy day and we spent a lot of time outside playing and enjoying the weather. When we came home for dinner, I started boiling water and began emptying the dishwasher, much to my daughter's chagrin. She demanded to know why I wasn't cooking, since she was hungry. I explained that I needed to clear a space on the counter by moving the dirty dishes from lunch into the dishwasher. My studio is more or less the same as my kitchen countertops, except that it's not dirty dishes from lunch that are blocking my way, it's empty boxes from April and bike parts from January and glaze bottles from November.

thinking more about balance this year--to avoid top-heavy sculptures

The upshot at dinner was that my daughter helped me fill the dishwasher so I could focus on cooking. Her assistance doesn't translate quite as easily to the studio chaos. She helped me dust a bit in the semi-exterior kiln/storage room this afternoon, but was frightened off by a spider before much actual dust was removed. Meanwhile, I was putting together a new shelf and fashioning a cat-guard to keep the cats from crawling under the door and peeing in the corner (of the semi-exterior room, not the studio).

really, greasy, parts. there's probably a better way to clean them

Now that the shelf is up, I can start moving some bike parts out of the main studio for storage. I hadn't moved them out beforehand because I wanted to avoid the problem of cat pee soaked cardboard boxes filled with greasy bike parts and spiders. I think I've addressed the cardboard and the cat pee. I spent some time this week cleaning the dirtiest, greasiest bike parts, but there's quite a bit of work still do to. I don't have a plan for preventing the spiders from taking up residence, but spiders are easier to manage without the cat pee and grease, I think.

semi-clean small round bike parts (we sort by shape and size here at chez-I-don't-know-the-names-of-these-parts)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Pre-Summer Clean-Up Time

How does this always happen to my studio over the year? This year I only had two quarters for it to get like this after my sabbatical finished in December

Seriously, winter studio tornadoes?
Somehow during the busy school year and the cold winter months I don't seem to put away the work that comes home from shows or the packing materials that they come home in or, this year, the dirty, donated bike parts in boxes, threatening to take over the studio floor space.

partially sorted bike parts
My summer break starts in about three and a half weeks. Unfortunately, the first weekend after finals is also June Art Fest at Chalet Place, so I'll have to dig out at least some of my work and my packing materials (and maybe a couple shelves) before that weekend.

I spent a couple mornings this week starting the tedious process of reclaiming floor and shelf space. I bought a new set of metal shelves for the semi-outdoor storage area next to my studio. I plan to move the bike parts or maybe some work out there to ease up space constraints inside. But perhaps I should just plan to price my work really low at June Art Fest to make more room in the studio.

this is a gear box
Revolution Cycles in Yakima continued to collect old, damaged, and fairly dirty bike parts for me over the last few months--which is pretty awesome, since I now have many more types of parts to choose from when I begin to build. I was storing the parts in a heap in boxes as they came to me, but I really needed to sort them to see what I have to work with as the summer starts. I bought some transparent boxes for my outside shelves and did some sorting this week. I feel a sense of accomplishment just knowing what is actually in the boxes. Maybe someday I'll clean the parts too. Or hire someone to do that.

this is a box of pedal parts and gears attached to pedal parts

While sorting, I started getting excited about how many gears and pedals parts I have in the boxes. Last summer I made a bunch of pieces with gears and I needed more options for sizes. I was also happy with  one of the last pieces I build using pedals and wouldn't mind making another with similar parts.

"Pedal/Petal" 2013

Last year I ran into a bit of trouble near the end having enough options for metal parts or sizes. I now appear to have filled out my tiny parts collection and I have quite a few new pieces that I will have to investigate further to figure out how to use or take apart. 

a box of various little parts and odds and ends
I'm hoping a head-start on sorting bike parts (and cleaning the studio) will help me start in on building immediately when the summer begins. Without a sabbatical this year I can't afford to fumble around too long into June. Last year my momentum really got going in August or September--when my summer ends this year.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

This is What a Supportive Studio Looks Like

One of my main duties at Yakima Valley Community College is running the clay studio. In a given quarter I usually have at least two classes, a handful of independent study students and several work study students. Being that the studio space is shared between a number of people, I believe it is very important to foster a pleasant and supportive studio atmosphere so that people feel comfortable working together.

Today I experienced a really wonderful side effect of this positive studio atmosphere. A sick kid at home and arrangements for her care left me with less than 15 minutes to set up my late morning class. I ran through the studio on my way to my office and noticed students working and someone's lunch on the main table. As I ran through, I shouted "Running late, sick kid, I'm gonna need the table cleared off, class is coming in for a demo in 15 minutes!"

raku firing (the clay students at their most cooperative--just add fire)

I suppose this method of expressing myself isn't flattering or considerate, but I was in a rush and stuff needed to get done. I grabbed some papers from my office and ran back in. Though the students were rather stunned, the lunch had been moved and a student was cleaning the main table. I proceeded to hurry through getting out the materials I needed for my demonstration. Luckily I've done this demo many times before, so I knew most of what I needed. However, I had some papers for the students and I had hoped to have more time at school to get them ready.

As I started looking for a wheel where the students could see my demonstration without being in the way of the half-dozen students working, one student, Grace, offered to give up her wheel and move to a new location. Another student, Janice, asked what she could do to help me get ready. Both helped me set up my demonstration without batting an eye at my abrupt and bossy entrance and inconvenient timing.

Janice's award winning bowl from DoVA 2014
My class went fairly smoothly, as did the lunch meeting immediately following and the 3-hour class right after that. After finally catching my breath, I thought about the start of my school day and how that kind of assistance is so very valuable and so much appreciated. I don't want to take for granted that I can rush into the room, give out a general call for aid and be immediately supported by whomever happens to be in the studio at the time. This kind of thing regularly makes my life easier.

The main reason for trying to build a positive, supportive studio atmosphere is to make students feel comfortable coming into the studio at any time to throw and build and glaze and spend time on their pottery. Generally I have found that an energetic, lively and cooperative studio atmosphere means that students inspire each other, learn from each other, and push themselves harder to be as good as the next person. When a bunch of hard working students are all sharing the studio space and time, skill improve more quickly and the output of the whole group is better than when people work in isolation.

Grace's pottery from Tour of Artists' Homes 2013
The benefit for the instructor in such a studio is that she has many hands acting as supports when  things need to be done quickly or when she just needs help. Thanks for today, Grace and Janice, and thanks for everyone else who helps like this in the YVCC clay studio everyday--even when the instructor is not in a mad rush. (The kid is feeling better. too.)

Friday, May 9, 2014

DoVA Student Exhibition

This week was the opening of the YVCC Department of Visual Arts Student and Faculty Exhibition. I finished matting work last Friday, since a few pieces took a mysteriously long time to arrive at our building. Unfortunately we had picked most of the awards Thursday, as Friday was a faculty holiday and the gallery isn't open on Mondays.

matting work on Friday
Tuesday's reception was well attended by students and the usual Larson Gallery folks. Several of us brought our evening classes over, including my Intro to Clay class, the Painting class (and their visiting artist) and an English class.

Best of Show: "Crack Up!" by Kimberly Klepach and "Bold Cookie Jar" by Timer Nite Harrison-O'dell

This was my first exhibition as program head and my first time doing the awards solo. Quite a few of the award winners were present for the reception and it was nice to see them receive their awards.

untitled vessels by Lydia Gallegos
Teacup by Torri Creasy

It was also nice to introduce students to people who liked their work, particularly people who might buy it or people who might be able to show their work in the future.

Blue Bowl (AFT Award Winner) by Janice Buckler

This year's show is pretty full. I think we have over 200 pieces in the show, significantly more than previous years. The gallery put up the temporary walls in the middle of the space, as well as clusters of pedestals in the front of the gallery and at several places along the walls.

Pottery display at Student Exhibition 2014

Green Jade teaset by Kimberly Diaz (top) and Mrs. Potts and Chip by Danae Holzer
There were three four winners from my clay classes. DoVA gave a beginning and an advanced clay award and the YVCC Faculty Union gave one of its awards to a clay piece. A Larson Gallery honorable mention also went to a clay piece.

Planter by Shannon Hoptowit (award winner) and pottery display

I had a few Design students who showed work in this year's show as well, but I only taught one Design course this year. I also only taught two quarters of clay this year, as I was on sabbatical in the fall.

Another Brick on the Wall Sarai Ochoa
wall display featuring photo, drawing and design work by various students
wall display featuring drawing and design work by various students
wall display featuring drawing and design work by various students

The exhibition is open now through May 31, 2014. Larson Gallery is open Tuesday - Friday from 10am-5pm and Saturday from 1-5pm. Admission is free and the public (including children and families) are welcome. 

YVCC student government purchase award winning diptych by Lilian Strong 
It is a student and faculty show, so I've got some work there, too!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Kinder Clay

The other week I went with some of my students to a local elementary school to do a clay project with a kindergarten class. The kids don't have art in their school, at least not at the kinder level. Earlier in the week the kids had apparently discussed what clay is, comparing it to Play-Doh, but most of them still hadn't experienced clay first hand before our visit.

Kinder class clay projects before firing. In most one can see an egg on a leaf, then a caterpillar, a chrysalis, then a butterfly. shapes, lengths, and orientation vary.

I started the lesson by handing them clay and having them squish it, flatten it, and shape it into a long coil to get a feel for it. I asked them to describe the clay (wet, cold, squishy). I was surprised when several of them suggested "hard" as a descriptor. Since I think of wet clay's primary characteristic as plasticity or workability, "hard" seemed counter-intuitive. However, when compared to Gak or Play-Doh or silly putty, I suppose clay is hard.

Officially, the project was to have the kids create a life cycle of a butterfly. However, my philosophy with regard to kids, especially, is that the most important thing for them is to get a sense of clay's characteristics by squishing it, stamping into it, shaping it and attaching pieces together. I also think it is valuable for them to understand that wet squishy clay becomes hard immovable ceramic because it is fired in a kiln. If they don't quite get the firing and the kiln part, at least they see that their clay has changed when the teacher took it away for a few days.

I arranged the slabs randomly in the box to transport them, but I like this set because of the juxtaposition of the minimal with the overloaded and highly textured surface. I also think the butterfly with antennae on top is pretty neat.

My YVCC students prepared for the kids project by rolling out slabs of clay for them and punching holes in the slabs so that later the kids can string them up or hang them on nails. My instructions for my students also asked them to create paper templates of leaves and butterflies for the kids to trace, but I was out sick most of that week and apparently college students don't read written directions. We ended up cutting paper butterfly templates on the fly at the school.

This kid had this butterfly on long before we had discussed how to make it. Some kids really needed the help of the paper templates to trace, others were content to work without it. This is one of only a few butterflies that is raised up from the surface of the slab.

Before we got around to adding the leaf and egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, and butterfly, I gave the kids some time to push stamps and rollers into the clay. Some of them also decided to add clay elements they created themselves. The amazing thing about kids this age is that most of them don't really care about following specific instructions or making it look "correct"--they just figure it out. And that's great. Sometimes I have trouble getting my adult students to take those sorts of risks, rather than following a prescribed pattern.

This kid was intent on making a person mowing the lawn, complete with house and path. I think she stuck on the butterfly life-cycle just to show she followed the directions. This kid needs to have more access to clay.

After they kids had some experimentation time with the clay, and before they could destroy the form of the slabs, we talked about the life cycle of the butterfly and I asked them to make suggestions for how we might make the different shapes. They've been studying butterflies and caterpillars in class, so they were all excited to tell us about them and to show us the little live caterpillars they had in the classroom. They were also more than capable of figuring out how to squish clay flat and cut or shape it into a leaf. We talked about "scoring and slipping" to attach one piece of clay to another and they all followed this instruction. Later I and my students checked to make sure the pieces were secure and we didn't really have to fix any pieces.

After tracing and cutting out the butterfly, this kid used a sort of shell tool (used for decorating cakes, actually) to add this surface decoration.
The whole lesson took about an hour, with some kids finishing up a bit early and others working right up until the end of our time. None of the kids got particularly frustrated and all seemed to enjoy the project. It was also neat to see the kids' personalities show up visually in the clay. Some were precise and restrained in their decorations, others piled on every bit of clay they could until the surface of the slab was nearly covered. Some kids wanted my student helpers to be very involved, others plowed on ahead without much assistance. The kids sitting with their regular teacher stayed very close to the directions I was giving, while the kids at some other tables were only vaguely aware of the whole butterfly life-cycle part of the project.

After they were finished adding the butterfly, the kids were encouraged to add their initials or names, some just played with the letters, some put the letters on the back. I think some put on letters and then piled on more clay.
After the kids finished building and helped us clean up, my YVCC clay students took the work back to school and later fired it for the class. Helping the kids make the work, seeing their process and building the work through the firing process is, I think, beneficial for my students. They get to apply their knowledge of clay in a new context and act as the instructor.

After the work was fired, I brought it back to the elementary school so that the kids can paint it and take it home.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

My work in Manchester, NH

Next week I will have a piece in a show in Manchester, NH. Ironically the show is in the same city where my brother works, but I didn't enter the show for that reason. The show is "SHIFT: Art Inspired by the Bicycle" which seemed perfect for my work this year. 

"Oranji Gears" (to be in SHIFT next week)

Strangely I only entered a few pieces and all rather small. I was entering the show before I had taken better quality images of all my pieces, but I suspect I also got distracted and forgot what I planned to enter.

"Pedal/Petal" (not entered in SHIFT, but at Oak Hollow Gallery now)

If you happen to live in New Hampshire, you can stop by Studio 550 Art Center for the opening reception May 10 at 7:30pm. The show runs May 5-June 28, 2014. 

newer studio image of "Oranji Gears"

If you live closer to Yakima, remember the Department of Visual Arts Student and Faculty Exhibition opens next Tuesday, May 6 from 5-7pm.