Friday, September 18, 2009

The more things change...

Sometimes the less they stay the same!

I was recently reminded of the whirlwind my life has become in the last few months when an article that I interviewed for was published on the Handmade News Blog. I enjoyed reading it, it was done just on the brink of some extensive changes for me. I also noted that it had been a while since I had written a blog entry, and these things seemed to occur about the same time.

I discovered that a local gallery was in need of some help, and I decided I was in need of a "sustainable income" so I tracked the owner down and shortly thereafter became the gallery director at the gallery. A week after I started, I discovered that I am pregnant! My partner and I had been trying to get pregnant for some time, but it hadn't happened, so to some degree it was unexpected.

My first trimester has passed and everything looks good. But after reading that article I was chuckling to myself about my proclamations of working for myself and building up yet another business. Now my hands are full with the gallery and all the duties and projects and goals that entails as well as keeping up in my studio (which like the blog, has only been recently revived) and getting my partner and our little house ready for a baby. Oh, and I'm the featured artist in the local Fall ArtWalk this November 13, so I have new work that I'm making for that. Somewhere in there I'll be taking pictures, posting new work to my Etsy and ArtFire shops, and of course writing more blogs!

Maybe things don't change that much after all.

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Night out with Archie

Last night I attended the 13th Annual Brickyard Bash Benefit Auction and 2009 Resident Exhibition. I saw the most wonderful work - cups, mugs and teabowls for the cup auction, the fine work of artists all over the country for the silent auction, and the mind-blowing holy smokes pieces that are in the live auction.

The resident work this year is spectacular as well. Some of the best work I've seen at this particular exhibit in a long time. The summer residents as well as the "regular" residents all show in this exhibit and most of the summer folks have to ship existing work for this show because they've only been here two weeks or so.

The Archie Bray Foundation website is becoming a beautiful dynamic thing, so keep checking in because pictures will be added from the reception, and some of the work will be available for online auction.
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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Exploration of Form

From the last post you may remember that I've been doing a lot of reading lately, catching up from a stretch of hard labor. While catching up on my reading, I was inspired to give myself the challenge of focusing on a singular form.

The form that I chose to explore is the jug form. I learned to throw this form as a cylinder first, keeping the lip and neck tightly compressed and collared then bulging out the belly and shoulder. What has been fun about this exploration is the time and ability to play with this a little. Use a finger or a tool of some kind to make the belly, working on the shape while keeping close eye on the neck. Some success, some not so much, but unless the piece completely collapsed, I kept it.

Initially I started with very measured weights of clay, 1 lb., 2lb., 3lb., etc. Then I realized this is about exploring the form and all the different things I can do with/to it, not reproducing exact replicas. Then the weight of the clay began to not matter.

The reason I am focusing on a particular form is because I felt I needed to practice patience and focus. My goal is to complete 100 jugs. The side benefit that I didn't consider beforehand is that this is another opportunity to practice pulling handles. I have had little to no success with being consistent with my pulled handles. I find them very frustrating. However, I have to say that I am so far pleased. I seem to have finally overcome the mental block I had against them.

The pictures included with this post are some of the jugs that I have gotten thrown and bisqued. In the middle of this process I got an order for more tiles and bowls, so I have interrupted my exploration, but other than time, I don't think it will have disrupted the process. Of course, time will tell.
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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Ringing Bells and Carroming Thoughts

I have been reading a lot of journals lately, and wanted to share with you a quote that I read in the May/June 09 issue of Clay Times:

"I really don't think there's any artist worth mentioning who hasn't been inspired by the natural world." -Peter Callas

For some reason this has been ringing in my head.

Thoughts of natural textures I use in my own work go carroming through my brain - How am I improving on this? Does it invoke nature as I intend it to? Can I make this have more depth, be richer?

I also decided to challenge myself to explore a single form. I am not restricting the size, in fact I am going to make as many different sizes as my skill will allow. Nor am I restricting the finish. I intend to explore deep textures as well as some abstract designs. The only restriction, really, is the form itself. A jug. A larger belly, narrow neck and mouth, and a single finger handle. So far I am 25 pounds of wet clay into this adventure, I will share the process with you in the next few posts.

Reading is a good thing, hopefully it inspires thoughtful contemplation of self and one's surroundings. Today, reading has caused ringing bells and carroming thoughts.
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Friday, May 29, 2009

Artists that Inspire

I have recently been catching up on my reading. Since the end of March I had been working on a late 19th century house that had suffered some fire damage. The family was also requesting some remodelling. Needless to say, between that and my own home renovation projects, I haven't gotten much time in the studio, or time to keep up with ClayArt, or read Ceramics Monthly, PMI, ClayTimes, Studio Potter, etc. Then there is all of the online blogs and info available on the internet. My Read It Later tab under my Bookmarks is lengthy, I assure you.

But the last couple of days while fighting a weird stomach illness (I'm a celiac and I'm sure I ate something that had wheat in it) I have been doing some catching up. Now mind you, I as of this writing have 3342 messages from ClayArt to read, but I am down from 3500 or so, so I'm feeling really good about that. But the reason I'm not about to just delete those files is why I am writing this.

One of the fairly regular contributors to ClayArt is an artist by the name of Snail Scott. Snail writes with thought and compassion and her posts are beautifully written and just a joy to read. So I want to just say thank you Snail, for inspiring us to bring thought and beauty to more aspects of our lives.

Another person whose writing I really enjoy is Michael Kline. He is very engaging and also really sincere in communicating with his audience. Not to mention he makes great pots!!

And so, I continue to read, continue to write, continue to communicate with my online friends and with my life friends online. I've been thinking about my own work as well, the new direction that I want to go with it. I am not sure how much production pottery is in my future, but what ever direction I ultimately go, I will be listening, reading, and ready to interact with all of it. Here's a taste of what I'm toying with....just a taste.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Annual Spring Art Walk

I participated again this year in the annual Downtown Helena Spring Art Walk. It is usually very lovely, weather-wise, as it was again this year.

In the foreground here, you can see my friend Julia who has a lovely voice and sings with her bossa nova band "Rio". The trees have just started to leaf out, and our downtown is a walking mall, with these fabulous old buildings from the late 1800's. The building directly behind Julia is the one where I had my show.

The space was quite large, a recently recovered lobby space from when the building had been a high-end hotel. Somehow, all the artists who shared the space worked very nicely together, though it was less than ideal. Lighting was a major issue, and having all of the varying types of work spread throughout the space, and the space itself being not quite fully renovated offered each person their own challenges. The host decided to pull out of the Downtown Helena organization's advertising- flyers and website, for an as yet unknown reason. That caused some concern, especially since we weren't notified about it until a couple of days before the event. The host did print posters which they papered the area with and an ad in the local newspaper, so that was good.

My sweetheart was finally talked into showing his photography. There is a lot of photography out there, and in our little artsy town, there is a bunch. Most of it is, frankly, mediocre. John has "a day job" and doesn't necessarily feel the need to sell his photography. Biased as I may be, I think it is unfair of him to not share it with the world. And perhaps the reason his work is so good is because he is doing it for himself. The feedback that he received from the people who came through was fantastic. Four or five of the twelve images really got some excellent attention. Absolutely wonderful debut. You can see some of his work here.

Traffic is always lighter at the Spring Art Walk than at the Fall version. We did have several hundred people through, one of the artists brought a friend who DJ'd and played guitar for us, so the atmosphere was festive.

All-in-all, it was a good show, we had a good time, and I even sold a few pieces. It is always a boatload of work to get ready for a show, then take it down. But hopefully, we've educated the public a little bit about what good art is and gotten some good exposure in the process. I'm looking forward to showing new work at the Fall Art Walk!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Erotic Art Show

I participated in the annual Erotic Art Show here in Helena, MT this last Saturday and had a wonderful time. I have to say, the level of art has improved immensely over the years. The slide show of erotic photography always seems to get the most attention, but the artists who are bringing their work to show are bringing some really nice pieces. There is black and white photography, oil paintings, bronzes, and of course, ceramics. The hosts at the Staggering Ox have a buffet, no host bar and a band. It's a great time for $5.

There was a new artist by the name of Nancy who had some nice charcoal portraits, a young artist by the name of Charlie who had a framed painting that was very cool (you can get a hint of it behind my sculpture in the image below) and some fun oils and found art. The work presented in the show in general seems to be progressing from tacky to more sensual, but as my friend Jodi has stated, "One person's erotic is another person's ordinary." Too true!

I took Daphne Awakening, and she seemed to be a hit. I changed her up a bit, darkened her colors, made a pedestal for her, and I am very pleased with the result. I will be updating the studio photos of her soon.

So what is Erotic Art, anyway? What makes one piece more erotic over another? To me, it is subtle - the suggestion. But I'm curious what you think. Comment below!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Thinking about Colors and Patterns, Part 4

I was thinking about texture, color and patterns, and the artists who are inspiring to me that use these markers for their own work. I kept coming back to what I originally fell in love with in ceramics, particularly wheel-thrown functional work -- Form.

When I came back to ceramics as an adult, I was fortunate enough to enroll in a summer class at the Archie Bray Foundation. I am grateful everyday for the Bray and its community outreach programs. In any case, this particular summer was one of the hotter summers in recent memory. We experienced 100+ degree Fahrenheit temperatures many too many days in a row. The classroom managed to stay relatively cool, though the irrigation canals nearby had hatched a fine bunch of mosquitoes, so it smelled of citronella and a multitude of bug repellents.

That summer I met Jeremy Kane, known as "Jr.", though I couldn't bring myself to call him that. Jeremy is an artist par excellence, but also one of the truly committed and talented ceramics teachers I've had the joy to study with. Form is Jeremy's specialty, though I suspect some will make an argument for his finishes of layered glaze, decals and lusters. He uses his form as an elegant canvas upon which to express his observations of kitsch, his commentary of absurdity. His finished work from a distance will spark thoughts of French aristocracy, and as you begin to study the detail you may be reminded of a '57 Chevy, early Playboy, or even KFC.

It is the form of the piece that is the foundation upon which the rest of the work will stand. That is what inspires me.

Jeremy is currently the head of the ceramics department at the University of Alaska-Southeast. Here are a couple online sites to see his work: The Red Lodge Clay Center, The Alaska State Museum.
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Friday, March 27, 2009

Thinking about Colors and Patterns, Part 3

Work that inspires me:

Miranda Howe has made work that draws me like a monster magnet since I first came across her work when she first became a resident at the Archie Bray Foundation in 2004.

She has a gorgeous deep blue glaze she uses on the interior of some of her cups that is just amazing.

I urge, urge, urge you to look at her website: and when her work is shown near you, I heartily recommend checking it out.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Thinking about Colors and Patterns, Part 2

Work that inspires me:

I met Jennifer Allen when she taught a decal workshop in Helena, MT at the Archie Bray Foundation in 2007. The focus of the workshop was the making and application of decals - screen printed, laser printed, and commercial to various surfaces.

At some point one of the participants asked her to do a throwing demo because her forms are so intriguing. After being a studio assistant for Kris Bliss for four years, Jen has developed an efficient and beautiful process. She throws more quickly than anyone I have ever seen, and watching her demonstrate her technique was truly a pleasure.

Jen's process is, to me, a graceful example of combining form with color and pattern. By using slips, glaze and underglaze she makes gorgeous functional pieces of Art.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Thinking about Colors and Patterns, Part 1

Work that inspires me:

Recently featured on the cover of the March/April 2009 "Pottery Making Illustrated" Amy Sanders' work is beautiful, functional and full of pattern and color.

From the 14th Annual Strictly Functional National. Click here to see more work from that show.

From the Ceramic Arts Daily website.

From the American Craft Council: Baltimore Show 2007.

I am attracted to Amy's color palette, very earthy tones and muted colors. Her patterns are lively and elegant and the way she assembles the pieces is inspirational and innovative.

Don't forget to check out her Blog!

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Monday, March 9, 2009

The struggle for inspiration

It occurred to me about a month ago that my pottery continues to be attractive to other potters, but not necessarily to the general public. I reached out to a few respected people for critiques.

Now I was looking for actual critiques. Not the kind of "oh you are wonderful, don't change a thing..." critiques. People who love you give you those kind of critiques, because they don't know any better. I was looking for the kind of critique that would tell me what I was doing wrong. Because something is definitely wrong. My work sells, but barely. People who love my work are people who can and do make their own. They don't need to buy it, they can make it. It's a great ego boost to have a fellow potter say something to the effect of "Wow, look at that form!" or "I love the way you applied that glaze!" or "This pot is so light!" but it doesn't put bank in the wallet.

So what did I hear? Color. My color palette does not translate well in the online market. I need to add discernible patterns and color to my pots. Less browns, coppers, bronzes and golds. More white, green, and (gasp!) blue. I need to find a pattern and apply it to my pots.

This has led me to be acutely aware of repeating patterns in our society. Patterns show up frequently in home decoration, tile, wallpaper, fabrics. I have been looking at the work of my friends and colleagues and have been analyzing what they are doing in their own work. What colors do they use and how do they use them? What patterns do they employ? Do they draw them or do they stamp them, or is there some other technique? Why do they choose to use sprig molds to add clay or shellac and wax resist?

I want their work to influence me, what they are doing right to show me the way. It's a fine line between influence and imitation. I am working to maintain my vision of my work and allow these ideas to become mine. I have found patterns that touch me, attract me, and I am allowing those patterns to begin to work their way into my consciousness. The next step is allowing them to be a part of my work.
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