Monday, June 30, 2014

Clay Workshop at Larson Gallery

This weekend I taught a clay workshop at Larson Gallery. We used coils to build vases, and occasionally sculpture, based on Jomon Pottery forms. 

a student's pot in progress

We had a good mix of adults and kids, about 20 people in total. Some people came with families, others  came along or with one other person. It was interesting to see how tables or families built similar work just because they saw each other working.

a family of potters

I talked to the kids about different stages of clay, showing them wet, leather-hard, bone dry and slaked clay. I also brought some examples of coil-built pottery and pictures of Jomon pieces (the images I shared last week on this blog). 

my daughter's portrait of the instructor

Monika Lemmon, a local artist friend, and my daughter both helped out with the workshop. My daughter helped set up and then helped eat the snacks and document the workshop. Monika and I walked around talking to students about what they were building and I showed them several techniques for using coils and applying textures to the wet clay.

a student preparing coils 

At the end of the class students were able to use underglaze colors or some glazes I had brought in. Surprisingly, at least to me, everyone chose to use the underglazes. After the pieces dry a bit, I will spray a clear glaze over some of the pieces.

finished work ready for firing and glazing

Some of the pieces were wet, so I left them at the gallery for a few days until they were dry enough to transport home. I will have pictures of the varied works for a later post. This week they'll dry until I'm ready to fire them and then I will bring the fired pots back to the gallery for students to pick up.

self portrait of feet, apparently

After she got bored making her turtle sculpture, my daughter absconded with my phone to take pictures. The pictures are highly entertaining, giving an interesting view of the world from her lower perspective. She particularly liked taking still life shots of chairs, granola bars and other stationary objects in the gallery.

the new art building is coming along well on the south side of Nob Hill Ave

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Jomon Pottery Class

This weekend I will be teaching a clay workshop through Larson Gallery. The class is for kids and families, but unaccompanied adults are also welcome. Last year I taught a clay workshop in which we built ceramic bells. This year I will be focusing on Jomon inspired pots.

Jomon pottery. This piece, or one very similar was used to advertise my workshop

Jomon Pottery comes from the prehistoric Jomon civilization in Japan. The name comes from the rope texture impressed into the wet clay when building, though the most recognizable pots are known for their complex coil surfaces and multilevel decorative rims. The pots were used for cooking, though the more complicated pots with flame shaped rims were likely used for ceremonial cooking rather than purely functional cooking.

look at the inside edge of the farthest "flame"

I often show these pots to both my wheel pottery students and my hand-building classes at YVCC. For the wheel students, I point out the characteristics that make these forms inconvenient for contemporary daily use and ask them to consider how they might have been used in their original context. The bases tend to be narrow compared to the tops. At first this seems like a poor design choice, but remember that these pots weren't set on tables in prehistoric Japan. The pots were often put down into the fire for cooking, so that the base was actually buried. In refreshing my memory on Jomon dates today (the pots I'm talking about are 2500-1500 BCE), I read that some of these forms, particularly earlier forms, actually had rounded or pointed bases, pointing to their function in the earth rather than on a flat surface. (Did you know that ancient greek wine amphorae also had pointed bases? It is because of how they were transported in the bottoms of ships.)

The smooth interior contrasts with the linear swirls and gaps at the top and the complex patterned base

The tops of the elaborate forms are fairly fragile, compared to today's dishwasher safe bowls and microwavable  mugs. Just imagine serving stew out of these forms, there are plenty of places to rest the spoon, but I can imagine clumsy servers would perpetually be bumping their spoons into the sides of the pot.

The surface of this Jomon Pot reminds me of the linear texture and swirling movement of Starry Night by Van Gogh.

I show Middle Jomon Pottery forms to my hand-building classes because they have such interesting surfaces. They are clearly well-crafted for so many to have lasted so long. The coil patterned surfaces and deep textures are varied and interesting. The form of the rims and the surfaces look like contemporary art with their beautiful, expressive designs. Beginning hand-builders often get so caught up in shaping their forms and making them smooth that they are afraid to take risks, like attaching irregular coils. These pots are full of holes and negative spaces built into the rim but also onto the sides of these forms. (The lugs and loops on the sides of these pots look like places to attach rope for hanging or carrying, but I haven't checked my facts and my Ancient Japanese Art History class was more than a decade ago, so don't quote me.)

Late Jomon figurines (dogu) were also highly textured and visually interesting

Sunday at the workshop, I plan to show the students pictures of Jomon pottery, but also bring examples of coil-built forms that aren't specifically Jomon in inspiration or origin. We will focus on coil-building techniques in general and I will also bring some fun tools for creating textures in the wet clay. Jomon pottery will be the inspiration point for pressing materials (like rope) into wet clay and for building interesting surfaces out of coils and attached pieces of clay. I called yesterday to ask about enrollment. It appears the class will include kids age 7 and 12, as well as high schoolers and adults. Should be an interesting mix.

Friday, June 20, 2014

A few things started

Today was tedious writing-stuff day, so I have almost nothing to show for my day's labor except a backache. Oh, you can't see that either, can you? I spent most of the day drafting an essay for an application. I worked for hours on a 2-page essay then discovered, partway into uploading files, that the application essay was limited to 350 words. Thanks for telling us that in the application description, folks. (Why does no one ever give the accurate length in the application description?)

best epoxy ever!

Anyway, I did some stuff yesterday in the studio. I epoxied some colorful metal pieces into the end of this old sculpture that's been waiting about 20 months to be completed. No rush.

this guy is so happy to finally be getting finished
My studio assistant recycled clay for me yesterday so I could start finishing underglazing that was left-over from last year. I had some pre-sabbatical work and some non-bike part sabbatical work that never got finished when I ran out of work time.

partially underglazed work waiting for extra layers to be applied

Most of the work is partly underglazed (oddly, autocorrect wants to change "underglazed" to "underglazes" every time) and needs to be finished. Hopefully I can get that done next week and still have time to start building new work.

almost ready for glazing

After I was done in the studio, my daughter and I painted her Daddy's motorcycle gas tank. I'm not sure if this is what he was looking for. 

my side
her side

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Studio Assistant Week One

Earlier this year I started thinking about hiring a studio assistant to help me in my home studio. As so often happens with this blog, writing about a problem or an issue helped me realize something important about that issue. This particular writing made me realize that I have actually reached the professional level and now is the time to hire an assistant.

The studio gets fairly messy during the academic year and I usually spend about a week cleaning it before I can get to work in the summer.

Of course the blog is also public, so as soon as I realized I was ready to hire an assistant, I had a volunteer . I wrote about the idea on a Saturday and had a student suggest herself for the job as soon as I walked into the school studio on a Monday.

my wooden shelves today--after putting them back together and putting work back on them

Last week was finals week, as well as the week before June Art Fest so I had a lot to do and little time to do it in. My new studio assistant came over on Friday morning and got right to work. Its funny, I wanted to hire someone to help do the cleaning so I could do other things. Somehow I didn't realize how very helpful this would be. Not only did she clean and help me pack for Art Fest for 3 hours, but by working hard herself, she kept me mostly on task. if I had set out to clean for 6 hours, I would have gotten bored and taken breaks and gotten distracted looking at shiny objects in the studio or making tough decisions about which stack of bubble wrap to use for packing. Instead, I felt like I had to stay busy because she was staying busy. I think I got more than 6 hours of work out of the two of us in just 3 hours.

tedious jobs like packing lawn sticks are perfect for me to assign to an assistant
I was also able to give her the more tedious tasks. I figured she was compensated for boredom--and since she hadn't done all of these things many many times before, she would get as bored as I would doing them. I had her clear my wooden shelves and take them apart so I could take them for my booth this weekend. Then I had her pack up the stray lawn sticks (scroll to bottom of linked page for image) so I could take them and so they'd be off the work surfaces. Finally she collected tools from around the studio and worked on recycling some random clay I had left over from who-knows-when. As I type it out, it doesn't sound like three hours worth of work, but it sure was.

my new shelf of sorted (and sorta clean) bike parts

Meanwhile I continued the long process of sorting bike parts. Most of the shelf in my lean-to storage area is now devoted to boxes of gears, chains, ball bearings, pedals and other parts. This project took me days of work. I completed it when the studio assistant was here.

bike and mechanical parts (and some hardware) in my lean-to storage area

The upshot of my assistant's first day was that I got my show stuff packed up and also got some work done for school that afternoon. I haven't gotten much work done in the studio since then, because I had family visiting and a couple of jobs for work (still--why am I not being paid for this?), but my new studio assistant will be here tomorrow, meaning I should be ready to start building for real next week.

Mike Hiler in our shared booth at June Art Fest
June Art Fest went ok. The weather was nice and people came, but I didn't sell much. I did get some good ideas for new work based on some discussions with folks who visited the booth.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Raku Firing Spring 2014

YVCC clay held a raku firing at the end of May. I didn't bring a camera, but luckily some students did. I just got these pictures the other day from a student who was helping out that day (thanks Zori). 

We fired during an evening class. I don't usually teach in the evening, but it was nice to fire during class time instead of on the weekend. All of my students were invited to participate. Several advanced students were in charge of loading and unloading the kiln. Beginners got involved too, throwing paper into

The firing was pretty efficient so we were able to get everything or almost everything fired during the class. While some students were taking hot work out of the kiln, others were in charge of covering the work with shredded paper and a few people were bringing work over to load the kiln so we could start it up again before it lost heat. 

We were also firing a smoke firing in a barrel which, unfortunately, was loaded with pine needles. The needles smoked a lot and the wind was such that the smoke mostly blew directly into my eyes. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

June Art Fest Next Saturday

Have you been worrying about what to do next weekend? Unsure whether Yakima can offer you the sort of entertainment and culture you were hoping to experience this summer? Never fear, Rachel's got you covered. On Friday you will be attending the opening reception for the Member's Arts and Crafts Show at Larson Gallery. 

The show features work made by Larson Gallery Guild members. Since the show is open to all members, without a juror, the show sometimes has more experimental work than the Central Washington Artists' Exhibition in the fall. The Guild also features some of the most talented and well-known artists in the area as its members, so the work should be of high quality. (I had a sneak peek in the gallery last week when I dropped off my work and there's at least one work that I want in my house now--it's made of wood and you can probably guess which it is when you see the show.)

As my students know, I always encourage attendance with the promise of food; some of my favorite meatball and pastry cooks will have their creations on display at the food table during the reception, right next to works of art in paint, fiber, ceramic, wood, photo and mixed media. Did I mention we have wine? This is the Yakima Valley, after all.

The next day, Saturday, after you have recovered from the excitement of the Member's show, the thrills continue at June Art Fest, an all day event at Chalet Place Mall. All day you can see artwork by current and former YVCC art faculty, advanced level students and some of the best Yakima area artists and craftspeople. There will also be music, food concessions at Wray's and easy access to books and coffee. I think we've got all the basic needs covered in one location (basic needs, of course being art, books, food and caffeine).

I'll be at both events. Saturday I'll be there all day long at the booth I share with Mike Hiler. You can also see work by recently retired YVCC faculty Bob Fisher and his wife, Carol Hassen. My current and former students Jane Fassel and Mike Hiler and other big names include (but are not limited to) John Barany, Delma Tayer, Duane Heilman and Penn Shelton. 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Art Club

This winter some of my students at YVCC started an art club. The club became official in the spring and yesterday the club won "Club of the Year" from student government. 

The students have been very active with their club. At every meeting they're busy with a guest or an activity. Though they've only been official for a couple months, they took a club trip down to Toppenish to visit the new art building being constructed at Heritage, they brought in our photography instructor to help document their artwork and last week, for an end-of-the-year event, they invited art students to visit the art building to snack on Pizza and meet Leo Adams.

art club president, Shannon Hoptowit; Leo Adams; me (club advisor); and club founder, Mike Hiler (photo credit: Jane Gutting)

Adams is a local Yakama artist who is well known for his painting and for his design. His unique and fascinating house always anchors the Larson Gallery Tour of Artists' Homes and Studios. He came to visit art club and talk about his experience as an artist coming from Yakima but finding success in his field. Adams spoke to a group of roughly 40 students and faculty members and after he spoke there were quite a few questions from the audience.

I am very impressed with my students for getting involved in the club and making the club meaningful and useful for them. I hope next year's group will stay motivated and keep the group active and exciting.

One of the club's earlier discussions centered around getting students involved in art shows locally. Last month many of our students showed their work in the DoVA Student Exhibition. Next Friday is the opening reception for the Larson Gallery Guild Membership Show. The Larson Gallery Guild supports and funds the gallery; membership dues pay for staffing and events. Every June LGG members are invited to put work in the members show. This year some of the more motivated art students will also participate in the show, you can come see their work (and mine) next Friday from 5-7pm.