Sunday, January 28, 2018

Student Solid Portraits

Nadine Orlando-Urlacher's cat, in progress

My winter hand-building class started their solid-built sculptures last week. This quarter's flipped structure means that they are watching the demos on their own time and using class time almost exclusively for work time.

Autumn Nugent's lady, in progress

This also means that I can structure their class time a little more efficiently. For instance, during this multi-week project, I am asking that the students all be at basically the same place in the progress of building the sculpture each class day. In the past, I have let the students have a little more flexibility with regards to how long they plan and build and how long they take to cut the sculpture apart.

Cigdem Collins' gnome, in progress

Last week, the students were required to come to class on Wednesday with three photos of their subject. Naturally they also were required to have watched the solid-building video playlist and have read the requirements for the project.

Chelsea Blogett's fox, in progress

At the start of class, I asked students to make a maquette of their planned sculpture, while I went around the room talking to each student about his or her plans and photographs. During this time some students needed to revise their original plans, decide how much of their subject could be included, or choose from several poses. Some students were asked to find more photographs or alternate views before the next class.

Bert Urrutia Jr's Batman, in progress

I asked the students to take only 20-30 minutes on their maquettes, about 1/4 of the class period. Once they had started their maquettes, we were able to discuss issues of balance and proportion so as to have them building sculptures that are physically stable and visually expressive.

student work in progress, back of woman with hijab

Every student who attended that class arrived with an idea for their sculpture and at least some images of their plans, which made for a successful beginning. Each of these students was able to spend roughly 3/4 of the first day setting up their armature and beginning to build their sculpture. 

Jordan Miller's fictional creature from a video game (I was told the name, but I forgot)

I asked the students to come to class on Friday with all of their armature covered and essentially all of the clay in place for the form they would be creating. Our focus during class on Friday was to adjust proportions of the form and begin to place important features. I think this day is one of the most important in a project like this because students who take the time to get the proportions right end up with portraits that are more realistic and more convincing than those who rush through this part of the process.

Nadene's cat has such a dynamic position that it encourages multiple view points. go sculpture!

I haven't always taken the time to emphasize proportions like I did this quarter and I admit that has sometimes led to students rushing through to get to the surface details, like adding in the eyelids, the hair texture, etc. I think this last Friday was very successful and the sculptures are coming along well. I wish I could go back and spend more time with students in previous quarters.

student work in progress, lady in a hijab from the side

I really enjoyed this day too, because I was able to see how each student was working through issues of proportion. It is complicated and tricky to move from two-dimensions to three-. When drawing a face, students only need to figure out where the features are in relationship to the top and sides of the face (and each other), but with sculpting, one needs to think of where the are with regards to top and sides, but also how far back one part is in relation to the others. Students generally have a hard time with this and often start with a flat face and/or flat features, which they then need to carve back or bring forward to give a sense of accurate depth

student work in progress, troll

Helping students see all three dimensions always makes me thing of the rivalry between Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. They feuded about which medium was better, painting or sculpture and mostly I think it is amusing to think of the two geniuses fighting, but I'll have to side with Michelangelo who seemed more chill about the whole debate. According to Gardner's Art Through The Ages, he said "I believe that painting is considered excellent in proportion as it approaches the effect of relief, while relief is considered bad in proportion as it approaches the effect of painting." ...before he goes on to suggest his "serving-maid would have written better [than Leonardo]" (Kleiner). 

student work from Fall 2017 (not the same project or class)

On Monday the students should be working on features, like eyes and eyelids, lips and expression, and textures for the hair, fur, clothing, skin wrinkles, or scales as the case may be. The forms should be essentially built by the end of the day on Tuesday so that the surfaces can dry for Wednesday. They will then cut apart the forms, hollow them out, remove the armatures, and put them back together. The forms should all be done being put back together by the next week.

student work from Fall 2017 (not the same project or class)

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Videos for Flipped Hand-building Classes

The biggest project I have undertaken for this quarter is flipping my hand-building class. In December, I wrote about flipping my throwing class. This fall was the first time I had brought the students in on the idea of a flipped class for a studio class.

student work from Fall 2017 when the class had fewer online resources

I had encouraged students in hand building and intro to clay classes to use outside resources, especially videos of ceramic techniques, for some time, but the resources I had been utilizing were ad-hoc collections of videos or links to websites. To really make the flipped format uniform and easy for students, I felt that I needed to make the content that they would be using in preparation for the class.
Student work for the slab project built and fired in Fall 2017

So, in December, I spent 3 days recording videos with the help of Kevin Hager, instructional designer at Yakima Valley College. I did some set-up for the videos after the quarter ended, then he and I spent three mornings and an afternoon filming a series of short videos on hand-building and decorating techniques.

The first video I recorded in this set, an introduction to the extruder. I recorded 9 total extruder videos.

I had recorded a whole batch of demos by myself in the late summer of 2016 and I found the process to be exceedingly tedious and fairly unpleasant. This time around, I was prepared for tedium and annoyance. I had a list of what I ideally wanted to get done, an estimate that it would take two or maybe three full days with almost no breaks, and that I wouldn't actually get it all done.

A throwing demo video I recorded solo in Summer 2016

For a variety of reasons, but mostly because I had help, we were able to make almost every single video I wanted to make and get them done in much shorter chunks of time. It was certainly more fun and more pleasant to make the videos, but I think it was literally faster, too. It helped that I didn't have to wipe my hands off each time I wanted to start or stop a video.

This video intro to where the tools are kept in the studio was one that wasn't entirely planned we started filming. 

It also helped that I had someone to talk to about camera angles, what was working well, and what needed to be added, cut, or kept in.

I had some trouble with the small extruder, but Kevin suggested I keep the mistakes in so that students can see how to solve problems. Also, I suppose, they get to laugh at me.

I also had some help processing the videos, so that when I went to upload them, all I had to do was upload the files. They had already been downloaded from the camera and at least one was edited to remove the loud fire alarm test that forced and abrupt end to one of the videos.

Student work from Fall 2017

Because of timing of vacations and work time over late December and early January, I didn't actually get the videos until late on Tuesday January 2. I planned to have students in my MWF class that started January 3 watch videos in preparation for Friday's class. With a bit of scrambling, to upload videos and put together playlists and links, I was able to get the videos up and accessible just in time.

Student work from Fall 2017

To my honest surprise, every single student in the class watched their assigned videos and took the brief quiz on the videos before class on Friday. Since Friday's class hinged on students having watched the videos, it was a relief and a success that the videos were ready, the students watched them, and we were able to move quickly through Friday's activities and project.

One of the video playlists for the first week was a shorter version the slab playlist. The longer version has 12 videos

Throughout January, I have been uploading, titling, and labeling the videos and putting them into playlists linked to requirements for the hand-building class. I did this in Fall for the throwing class. There are a few glazing videos that will work for both classes that I haven't quite finished with, but I think I will be totally done by February.

I recorded the glazing videos at the end of the second day. I was surprised that we had finished everything else so early.

I'm really happy with how the videos and the flipped format is working. I think it is perhaps even better in the hand-building class that the throwing class, though perhaps that's because I like the videos better and I was more thorough in planning for and making the videos in this more recent effort.

We had to come back for a third day of building because the solid built sculpture needed more time to dry. This last video from that day includes an explanation based on a question from Kevin.

One problem with making videos for this kind of project is that there's always more to do. Part of me would like to redo all the videos from 2016 (part of me would not like to do that). And I have both a mental and physical list of those videos I would like to add, when I get the chance. In working with Kevin, I've also learned about some ways that I can edit lecture videos to include short quiz questions in the video itself. This sounds like a great tool, but it also sounds like a chore to learn. I think I will tackle both these chores, but I haven't set myself a deadline yet, I should probably finish up these glazing videos first.

Student work from Fall 2017

Monday, January 15, 2018

Nasty Woman Exhibition at Yakima Maker Space

Resist Bulb in progress
Come see my NEW work in the Nasty Woman show this coming Saturday, January 20, 2018 at Yakima Maker Space. The opening starts at 6pm and there will be live music and TWO interactive art pieces. I have no idea what they are, but can't wait to find out. One of the interactive pieces will be done by my talented friend, Kelly McKnight.

I have an installation of 30 Resist Bulbs in the exhibition, the composition similar to my last installation at YMS, but with a very different subject and intent. Some of these new Protest/Resist/Patriot Bulbs (I've been playing with titles) were shown previously at Larson Gallery for the Membership Exhibition, but some are new, including several with the First Amendment text stamped onto them.

First Amendment bulbs being darkened with oil (I had some trouble with the surface color)

I worked on the bulbs during the summer, with an eye to this exhibition at Yakima Maker's Space in January. The exhibition coincides with the one year anniversary of the Women's March. This year Yakima will hold another Women's March on January 20. I'll see you there before the YMS Nasty Woman show.


I started making the bulbs last year for this Nasty Woman exhibition, but also in reaction to the current administration and the divisive political climate we now live in every day. I felt, for the first time, really, that I couldn't not address current events in my work, which has usually remained abstract, inspired by nature, and fairly apolitical.


I started these pieces because I felt I had to--for me--but three opportunities have come along this year because of these pieces. I had spoken with Eunsil Kim, the curator and organizer of the YMS Nasty Woman show early last year. Over the summer, while discussing plans for a different show down in Hood River at the Columbia Center for the Arts, I was invited to show these pieces in CCA's Art as Activism show coming up this March (I install in Oregon the day after the YMS show closes).

#SayHerName Sandra Bland

The third opportunity came as a bit of a surprise. I applied to talk about these works, and, in particular the urge to transition from abstract to narrative work given the current political climate, in a short presentation at the NCECA (National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts) Conference in Pittsburg.

Flint Water

And here I am, writing about the showing of the work, but skimming over the content of the work. Content, especially content that is not meant to be wholly open to interpretation, is something I haven't had to address much in talking or writing about my work, as it has pretty much always been abstract, ambiguous, and personal, not to mention not my main source of income. 


These bulbs are ambiguous up to a point, but taken together my intent is certainly to make people think about a particular set of issues, most of which have I have strong views about. Some of the topics, like gerrymandering, dirty water in Flint, pollution and police violence come across fairly unambiguously just in a single image. Others, I have designed to be unambiguous, by showing the Monopoly man hoarding money and by collecting some of 45's less impressive tweets and statements in one place.


I also have bulbs in this collection that are simply images of symbols of our country that are worth preserving and considering in our calls to action, such as the flag, the first amendment, and the Capitol Building. 

US Flag
There has been fairly little publicity about the Nasty Woman show (PSA, be careful Googling this show) at Yakima Maker Space and one theory was that the YMS wanted to avoid controversy because of the tone of this show. (I suspect lack of paid staffing is the more likely culprit for the missing advertising.) However, I've found more than one person discussing the exhibition by downplaying the controversy and politics and focusing on the raising up of women's voices. True, some of the work is not explicitly political, but I think mine is fairly clear, at least if one spends any time with the work.

First Amendment, Trapped
As you can tell by my writing about it, I'm still working out what it means to begin making political work now, but I am hoping that by the time I have these two shows done and am ready to present at the NCECA Conference, I'll have a more comprehensive view of the work and its reception. Help me out: come talk to me about the work at the YMS opening this coming Saturday. Or, you know, reply here or on Facebook. I'd actually love to hear from people (ahem, not from Trolls).

Installation view of part of the earlier iteration of this work at Larson Gallery