Saturday, April 29, 2023

Student Exhibition 2023 Opening Tuesday

DoVA post card featuring student work 

Yesterday the YVC art and photography faculty got together at Larson Gallery to choose award winners for this years student exhibition, which opens Tuesday, May 2, with a reception from 5-7pm.

Back of the postcard

Choosing awards is always a blast. It’s great fun to see the work we’ve seen in the classroom on display in the gallery and to see the work of our colleagues’ students. This year we awarded over $500 in awards, including best of show. President Kaminski chose the winner for her sponsored award and Tuesday student government is coming to choose their awards.

Work in progress by Amy Matson

Of course each of the faculty like to brag on their own students, and it’s fun when we share students, too. I always love to talk up my clay students, here on the blog and in person and I think this show has some particularly impressive sculpture and pottery, much of which I’ve shared here before (but none of which I remembered to photograph on Friday).

Close up texture of Gicelle Hernandez’s in the gallery (for your scavenger hunt on Tuesday)

This year is my first fully participating in an in-person show in the new gallery. Last year the show was in the new Larson Gallery, but I was on medical leave for most of the year. This year most of the classes were back on campus and we were delighted to have a larger space in which to share more work!

Work in process by Rubi Leyva

The show features pottery and ceramic sculpture from my beginning, intermediate and advanced students, and one student from last spring’s clay classes with Jeff Kent. There’s also photographs, scan-o-grams, and digital art from students in Chris Otten’s photography and digital art classes, drawings from Kayo Nakamura and Monika Lemmon’s drawing classes (and my design class), as well as paintings, woodblock and monotype prints from Kayo’s printmaking and painting classes.

Duck by Carlos Garcia Alcantar

The exhibition opens Tuesday, May 2 with a reception from 5-7. Award winners will be announced during the reception. We hope to have a big crowd of artists, students, family, friends, and others from the YVC and Yakima community. The gallery is always free and open to the public and during the reception there will also be snacks.

Kahula, in a kiln, by Yarelli Sanchez

The show will remain up (with artworks for purchase) through the May 27. Larson Gallery is on the new West side of campus, on the southwest corner of 16th Ave and Nob Hill Boulevard, behind Taco Bell. The Gallery is open Tuesday - Friday 10-5 and Saturdays 12-5. Admission is always free and the Yakima Vintner’s tasting room is conveniently located next door and features award winning YVC wines, as well as food and non-alcoholic beverages as well. We hope to see you there!

Nearly half the art department, during the Yakima Artists Studio Tour in September

Monday, April 3, 2023

Throwing Prescription

Spring quarter started last week. We're nearly a week into this funny shaped quarter (funny shaped because it started on a Wednesday, which makes the first 5 days feel short and long at the same time). I've got a relatively light quarter, with just two classes (or four, depending how you count) as well as my union duties. With the break and a new "prescription," I've gotten into the studio every day for about two weeks.

Apparently this many pieces is too many pieces for me to throw on one day (with stiff clay)

Over spring break, I divided my days between firing, glaze, building, and throwing, as well as class prep and union work. On the day I devoted to throwing (and trying out my new Garrity tools), I threw 25lbs of clay, using up the rest of a box of porcelain. While I was throwing the slightly stiff clay, I looked down at my left thumb and noticed that it was very round and puffy, with a little dent in the middle emphasizing how much it had blown up.

The lymphedema sleeve I've been wearing to try to help with the swelling

Of course the "blow up" was from lymphedema, itself a result of all those lymph nodes taken out last June. Without as many lymph nodes, my body's system for removing extra fluid, from a cut or injury or infection, is impaired. Straining or working muscles too much can also, apparently, result in the lymph fluid collecting in the body because it can't get moved out quickly enough. 

I used these "love birds" throwing ribs from Garrity Tool's tool of the month club to make the textures. 

I've been working with an occupational therapist at the Lymphedema clinic since July to try to reduce the swelling that has collecting in my arm, chest, and breast. OT for lymphedema is pretty great, actually. The main thing, besides wearing a compression shirt and sleeve, is lymphatic drainage massage. I have a series of moved I do myself, but when I go in to the clinic, she has a whole bunch of things she does and it's basically just like getting a massage. Very relaxing, with the benefit of improving the swelling, too.

Another Garrity throwing rib made these textures

When I visited the lymphedema clinic after throwing during break, my therapist told me that I needed to spend more time throwing, but for shorter periods of time. So instead of infrequently throwing 25lbs of clay, I should spend about 30 minutes every day throwing. Basically, the idea is to get me back up to where I can handle more throwing. She also ordered me another compression sleeve, because if I throw in it, it gets messy pretty quickly. 

Some small forms I threw with my sculpture clay (not a great throwing clay body) 

I operate better with specific directions, or maybe I just prefer them. If I'm told to "take it easy" or "not do too much" I feel frustrated about how to define "easy" and "too much," so I really like this clear and specific direction: throw 30 minutes a day. And, it has the added advantage of telling me to do something I want to do anyway (but don't always make time to do).

Some small and large forms I threw with the sculpture body

I started last week Thursday, the first day of my clay class(es). It's a 3 hour class, but I don't throw the whole time in any of those classess, especially not on the first day.  I threw at home on Friday and over the weekend, using some recycled scupture clay. The clay includes nylon fiber and grog (ground up fired clay), which makes it a good sculpture body, but a fairly annoying throwing body. This time around it also had bits of metal in it. I need to figure out if that's coming from the pug mill or somewhere else. 

a thrown and hand-build sculpture in progress

The nice thing about throwing at home is that I can work on my sculpture. On the three days I threw with this body, I threw small pieces that I plan to combine into larger sculptures. Because I threw a bunch of sculpture pieces, that gets me back into the studio the next day (or days) to build with those pieces, so that's a good motivator to get me into the studio in general. Because the pieces are small, I don't necessarily need to commit to more time than I have.

one of the small sculpture forms I threw with the sculpture clay

Today I threw at school, both because I don't have any throwing clay ready, and because I wanted to have more bowls ready to trim tomorrow during class. The nice thing about throwing at school is that other people are around. I chatted with some folks in the studio and generally just enjoyed being in the space. The clay is also a lot nicer for throwing and didn't have any bits of metal (though I did find a bit of rock, which is fairly unusual).
the March Garrity tool makes a good paddle for small work

It's also kind of nice to have a time limit. I'm supposed to throw for 30 minutes, which I was able to squeeze in between meeting a student and attending a Teams meeting. But I also didnt' feel like I needed to commit to a huge undertaking. I was able to setup, wedge, throw, and clean up in about an hour. Because the time has been prescribed, I feel like I can just do it and be done.

the Garrity arm tool (full view)

Having a time limit it nice, sometimes, for something that could expand to take up any amount of time--Like writing a blog post. I could let it expand to take up several months of editing and perfecting (like I've done with the last two posts I haven't actually published) or I could set myself a limit, keep it short and be done.

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Cancer updates

Last year about all I wrote about was cancer. I realized this weekend that it’s been a long time since my last cancer treatment update (in early October). Part of what got me thinking about it is that twice this past week a colleague didn’t seem to recognize me. I wonder if it’s because my hair looks so different. 

My curly hair this morning

For a while I'd been posting regular selfies during my treatment, in part because I didn't have all that much else to do, and in part because I kind of wanted to track the visual changes, which, aside from the hair were relatively minor. After I finished chemo, my hair started growing back, but at first it was a lot whiter than when I'd last seen it. Now I think the new growth is darker, but I didn't trim the white, so it has kind of a frosted look. It grew back slower on top, which makes for some weird length, but the most unusual part is the chemo curls.

this, apparently highly toxic, soft pastel from my daughter's drawing kit is taunting me

Apparently chemo damages the hair follicle, twisting it, which results in curls. That’s the explanation I’ve found, but it raises questions for me about naturally curly hair. Regardless, the curls are pretty normal for folks who’ve had chemo. They last 6 months to a year but can last longer. As someone whose straight hair never held a curl before, I’m enjoying having natural curls and even though the length is all over the place (thanks to the hair delayed regrow the on top), I’ve decided to keep everything I’ve got and enjoy it as long as it lasts.

boing boing curls

The curls have just reached the point where they make little spirals, or, as I would have called it when I was a kid, “boing boing curls.” If you wish for “boing boing curls” as a kid, you might just get that wish fulfilled after chemo 30 some years later. I'm pretty sure that as a kid I would have specified long "boing boing curls," but, as chemo ended in April, I may be getting close to the end of that type of growth.

the sculpture (right) as I left it at Christmas

The fact that I'm most interested in the hair, and I've been writing almost exclusively about my students' work for months, now, probably tells you what you need to know about my health (boring is good). I have been done with “active” treatment since September. In January I had my last meeting with my radiology oncologist who seemed to think my radiated skin looked good. She officially "released" me from her care, surprising me because I didn’t realize I was still under her care. The only hiccup was that I complained about some joint pain and that worried her (which worried me).

the other sculpture that I left even less complete over Christmas

In January I had my first post-surgery mammogram and that came back clear (about which I am much chiller now than I was then--when they didn't call with the results the next day I called them and told them they had to tell me or I'd worry all weekend). I also had my last weekly lymphedema appointment at the end of January. Which means that in February, I have no scheduled medical appointments of any kind! This is the first month since August of 2021 when I haven't have a medical appointment (or lots) related to my breast cancer!

both sculptures finished (and trying to keep the cats out at this point)

I‘m not done with treatment or appointments. I’m on five years of a daily pill and a shot every three months to stop my hormones. I have more lymphedema check ups, but they're spaced farther apart. At the start of March I have a pair of appointments my new oncologist and to get blood work to make sure the hormone stuff isn't causing major trouble. (Just the normal trouble of hot flashes and all that unfun menopause stuff.) Though some of them are decidedly not fun, I think that the symptoms have been fairly manageable. I can work just fine, I'm sleeping fairly well and I’ve gotten back into a sort of exercise routine of running with my daughter and doing some video workouts. I even went to yoga twice this month. 

old work and new work before and after glazing/firing

Mostly I’ve been focused on teaching and union work. In December I started some sculptures in my home studio that took ages to finish, not least because I got COVID when I was visiting my brother’s family at Christmas. But I finally finished building them and they are ready to fire whenever I get around to loading a kiln. This weekend I finally glazed a batch of functional work from who knows when. And that's all I've got, because between the glazing and the union and the classes I've told myself I'll squeeze in some rest this weekend!

Sunday, February 5, 2023

Expressive Portrait, Glazed & Finished: Fall 2022

Last week, students in my Winter quarter class started building their solid portraits. I've been pretty busy so far this winter, so I had not gotten around to posting the finished sculptures created by my fall quarter class. 

painted solid portrait by Thai See

The solid built portrait project is probably my favorite hand-building project. I enjoy the format of the class, and the way the students separate into different tools and techniques, then come together for this solid building project. So this project is fun because we are all working together.

Kate Winslet as Clementine (from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) by Thai See

I also enjoy it because of the way the students work on this project. Most students use an armature, but they aren't required to do so. However, because the build is solid and fairly large, the first day consists mostly of hitting clay with paddles to make it stick to itself or the armature. It's hard not to enjoy such a physical project.

Charlie from Heartstopper by Amy Matson

I suppose it is also fun for me, because while the students are working hard, pounding on their pieces, making lots of noise and moving lots of clay around, I'm simply walking around, checking in with them, making suggestions, talking about their plans and proportions and the positiong of their armature.

Nien Nunb from Star Wars by Carlos Garcia Alcantar

On the second day of the project, they are cutting, hitting, and still making large changes to their project. Eventually they start to separate and work at different rates, but by the start of the second week or so, by design, they are all ready to cut. And again, that day, I'm walking through, thoroughly enjoying myself, while they are all cutting and hollowing and again making big changes to their projects.

Scream, by Amanda Goodrich, glazed

I never built this way, myself, in undergrad or in graduate school. I never really used an internal armature in my own work before I started teaching either. I've done so since, but I'm not even sure I had made and finished a full-side sculpture like this until my students had already done so in my class.

Scream, by Amanda Goodrich, side

This process is just a bunch of fun for me and the students seem to really enjoy it too, though I know it can also be frustrating--and some of them feel the frustration more than others, of course. Some of the students who feel frustrated with the project are those whose work looks great to me and their classmates, but who have really high expectations of themselves. These students may be bothered that their first portrait project isn't as perfect as they imagine it could be.

Medusa by Valeria Alvarez

Occaionally, I get a student who is so frustrated by the process that they end up disliking the end product. This happens in the throwing class sometimes, too. They expected the class to be easy or pure fun or something, but in the end they found it difficult and that somehow ruined the results for them. I find that both students who struggled and students who didn't appear to struggle can feel this way at the end of the quarter.

Two Geckos by Brooke Mason

Of course there are some students who struggle or dislike the project or their final results because they didn't really put in the time. I didn't really have that happen during most of the quarter this year, but it has happened in the past. 

Two geckos before firing by Brooke Mason

The clay can be unforgiving, breaking or squishing if handled incorrectly or worked on too wet or too dry. Just missing some studio time can result in clay that's too dry and needs to be entirely restarted. This isn't such a big deal on the wheel, most of the time, but it can be a major problem with a hand-building project that took weeks to build.

Dog by Yarelli Sanchez

The work I'm showing in this blog is (mostly) finished work as presented for the final critique. Students in the hand-building class had 5 builds during the quarter and they were required to glaze at least 4 of them. One of the 5 could be painted, the other 4 could be fired in the cone 10 kiln in a reduction or oxidation atmosphere, in the raku or pit firing, or in a low fire kiln. 

Dog by Yarelli Sanchez

Finishing the work mostly meant glazing or painting, and many students used underglazes with glazes. Horsehair raku firing was also an option, though none of the solid portraits ended up being finished with only horsehair raku (one was done with horsehair then re-fired).

Dog by Yarelli Sanchez

I also tell students that they can bring in non-ceramic materials after glazing and firing. This includes paint of course, but could also include epoxy, clear acrylic medium, hair, paper, or any other materials the student wishes to use. In the past students have added a dog collar, rubber, beads, staples and pieces of metal.

Dog by Yarelli Sanchez

This quarter, just two or three students used something besides paint. One added some acrylic medium to increase the shine on her piece after firing. Another added hair to her Gollum. Though Gollum doesn’t have a lot of hair, it makes a real difference. His particular hairstyle reminds me of when my hair was falling out near the beginning of chemo. 

Gollum by Amy Matson

Amy, who created Gollum, actually used her own hair. She shocked her classmate when she cut it off during class, yakima more than she probably needed. Whenever I’ve made sculptures that incorporate hair, I’ve used the fake kind that you can buy in a cheap hairclip—but maybe that’s because I knew I’d eventually lose it all. (Hmm, now I’m wondering why I didn’t save my hair that fell out for use in my future sculpture.

Bantha by Julia Snow

Hair and fur texture make a bit difference in making a sculpture look realistic, stylized, creepy, beautiful, or strange. In the fall, we had some pretty different approaches to hair and fur. Julia's Bantha has these tufts of fur, Yarelli's dog fur varies quite a bit across different parts of the body. Some others focused more on the form than the surface.

Bantha by Julia Snow

I can't wait to share images from this quarter, with student's permission, because we have some very different approaches to surface texture happening. I feel like each class cohort can have a very distinctive feel, energy, or approach. This quarter 6 students from fall are continuing into the Winter quarter, meaning this cohort combines new and continuing students. I've been kind of surprised how different the energy is. The winter group is a good group, they're making work and rising to the challenge of the class, but the humor and perspective is just a little different. It's a little bit difficult to name.

Dog on Pillow by Thunder Morales

I suspect part of the reason it feels so different is simply because half the class is working on different projects than the other. I've got six or seven beginners, doing the same assignments as the fall students, but with sometimes very different personal approaches. Then I've got 4 intermediates working on pretty independent and thus quite varied intermediate projects, and I've got 2 intermediate students who took the beginning class online or while I was on medical leave, which means their experience, background and perspective is pretty different.

Dog on Pillow by Thunder Morales

I'm definitely not complaining. I've been really happy with how the group has worked together even with the different projects. They've now completed two and a half builds, and I'm pretty much always happy when the builds get done. Some of them had to push a bit to meet the last deadline, but that energy (oh no! here comes the deadline!) can yeild some very interesting and surprising results.

Dwight from The Office by Jordan Golob

This week my three clay classes all start glazing. I'm looking foward to seeing what we get for the first firing, but I'm also interested to see how my intermediates approach glazing, having already had one or two quarters of experience prior to this class.

Derek Arneecher's Winifred after the second firing (with underglaze)

Sunday, January 8, 2023

Extruded Forms, Glazed & Finished: Fall 2022

Extruded sculpture, horse hair raku fired, by Yarelli Sanchez

An extruder is a tool that forces wet clay through a die to create long tubes or lines of clay in that shape. I have students use this tool on the second day of hand-building class to make mugs. They use a hollow cylinder die to create hollow cylinders which form the walls of the mug. Some students are assigned to the wall extruder, while others roll slabs for the bottom of the mug. Still other students use a small hand held handle extruder to shape uniform handle blanks to attach to the extruded cylinder.

extruded chia pet stonehenge (before chia seed application) by Julia Snow

Later, students are given access to several extruders and lots of dies to create their own sculpture. They can extrude hollow cylinders using the same die they used for the mugs or they can use a smaller hand held extruder (one that looks like a caulk gun) to extrude smaller hollow cylinders. 

Yarelli's sculpture, the rings on top are slices of the extruded cylinders

Once the cylinders are extruded, they can keep them tall like the mug, or cut them down. Yarelli used both tall cylinders and cylinders cut into small rings to create her horsehair raku fired sculpture of towers and chains.

detail of Julia's extruder forms, showing carved texture

Using the large hollow cylinder die, the extrusions can be fairly thick, meaning students may choose to carve into the thick walls of the cylinders to reduce the weight and add decorative texture. To make the walls of a cylinder thinner, students can use a larger interior die or they can stretch out the extrusion by rolling a dowel inside or by manipulating it with their hands. 

extruded hand by Carlos Garcia Alcantar

After the forms are extruded, the clay is still soft, so students can choose to squish, cut or bend the extrusion or attach different extrusions together. Sometimes the extrusions bend or curve as they come out of the extruder. Students can adjust the die placement or hold the extrusion as it comes out to avoid this, or they can embrace the curve as it happens. They can even adjust the die so that these curves are more likely to happen.

Extruded sculpture by Brooke Mason

Carlos combined larger and smaller extruded cylinders to make his hand. He left the fingers more or less as they came out of the extruder, but altered the large extrusion by flattening it to create the palm of the hand. Brooke did perhaps the most altering, using extruded cylinders as the basis of her stacked anemone-like forms, but she used pinch methods to significantly alter the shape of the extrusions.

extruded hand by Carlos Garcia Alcantar

Cylinders aren't the only shapes or forms that can be extruded. Our studio has a bunch of options for solid and hollow extrusions with the 4" diameter extruder and the smaller 1" diameter extruder, but we also have an expansion box that can be used on the 4" wall extruder to stretch out the clay into larger extrusions. Artists can also make their own extruder dies by cutting metal or wood or by printing their own designs. The YVC clay studio just purchased a couple of new 3D printed extruder dies we hope to put to good use this winter.

Extruded Robot by Thai See (@thaiidraws on Instagram)

Students in the fall class used a lot of cylinders, but also a few other forms. Thai used a square hollow die to create the body, head, and legs of her robot and she and several other students extruded coils or solid cylinders that were incorporated into their sculptures.  

Extruded teapot in the style of Ray Bub by Jordan Golob

Some artists, when working with coils, prefer to extrude their coils so they are uniform. Whether rolling coils by hand or setting up and using the extruder is more labor intensive may be up for debate, but I know some folks prefer their coils extruded. Jordan used coils both decoratively and as building elements to create her extruded/coiled blue form above. 

Extruded Robot (back) by Thai See

Both Thai and Jordan used the square hollow extruder for parts of their forms. Thai chose to alter her square leg extrusions to make them narrower where they attached to the body of the robot.

horned and antlered vases by a Fall 2022 student

Lots of people like to use an extruder to create uniform handle shapes, but handles don't show up as often in sculpture. One student, who chose to remain anonymous here, chose to used the handle extruders to create a vareity of different horns and antlers on a set of extruded vases. 

surfer on an extruded wave by Amanda Goodrich

One of the unusual dies I like to see students use is an extruder die that looks like a wiggly line. When students use it, it creates what appears to be a slab with a zigzag built in. Amanda used this slab-like extrusion to create a solid wave of water for her surfer guy. She chose a copper glaze in an oxidation firing which highlights the texture pools at the bottom of the wave with an oceanic color.

Pegasus by Thunder Morales

Thunder's pegasus also utilizes the extruded wave/slab/zigzag form. In the Pegasus's case, the wave makes up the wings. Thunder also used hollow extrusions for the body, legs, and head of the mythical creature. This sort of standing form on 4 legs worries me because the legs can dry faster than the body, resulting in cracks or collapse. 

Pegasus from the front

However, the extruder turned out to be a great tool for this form because the legs and body started hollow and started structurally sound. Thunder was able to focus his time and effort on shaping the face and creating the mane and tail, rather than on balancing the form so it wouldn't fall.

Cats and Coyotes by Amy Matson

Amy's wall hanging sculpture of cats and coyotes includes 3D printed, slabbed, and extruded elements. She used the extruder in the shape of a coyote to extruded most of the tiny creatures walking along the sides of the sculpture. This die has always mystified me a bit, because it only works if you plan to extrude a long tube in this shape, then cut it into lots of flat pieces where you can see the shape. 

Trick Teapot by Amy Matson

Amy's other extruded form was her trick teapot with bamboo. The bamboo decoration, as well as the bamboo handle and spout were made from hollow extrusions, but so was the body of the form, which actually has two containeed sections that we can't see, as their openings are quite small and hidden in the bamboo.

It's often difficult to tell scale in photos on a website, especially ones without references. Amy's teapot is fairly small, more or less regular teapot size, while Thunder's pegasus is fairly large. But the winner as far as scale is certainly Derek's ancient robot relic sculpture.

Ancient Robot by Derek Arneecher

Derek used the extruder to create quite a lot of material. He had a plan going in and pretty much stuck to that plan until it came to the firing. As I explained in a previous post, Derek's sculpture had a fatal flaw, a closed hollow section in the middle, which caused it to explode during the firing. Since it was a large sculpture to begin with, it made a large mess in the kiln, but I was very pleased by how he finished the form after firing, with epoxy and acrylic paint. He chose to highlight the cracks and make them part of the story of this ancient robot form.