Monday, July 28, 2008

A cool pottery poster

As I was breezing through lots of posts by fellow potter bloggers, I went onto Hannah McAndrews site. She does lovely slipware and is in Great Britain, and she had a post about some shows called "Potfest", with a link. Of course, I had to jump over and see what that was about, and found that you could download a copy of their poster, which is really great. So, if you would like to see it, try this:

The family of vases in living color

The little family has experienced a break up, due to several pieces going to good homes at the Open House this weekend. More members are in production, however. I have really enjoyed making these handbuilt pieces and they look great on their own, or filled with fresh flowers or utensils.
My friend Bobbie said they reminded her of some larger, sculptural kimono pieces that I have worked on over the years. Until she mentioned it, I really hadn't thought about it, but I do see that inspiration in these works. Funny how it takes someone else to get you to look at your work in a different light sometimes.
When working on these, I started using a different clay for some of the button attachments and the little powerhouse arms, because I wanted a contrast with the white clay. While doing the next ones, I realized I could use the blackbird slip I have been experimenting with, and just paint it over the white clay attachments. This saves me from worrying about firing two different clay bodies that mature at different temperatures together. I don't have to walk such a firing tightrope! I think that it why it is important to work in a series of pieces. You can't anticipate all the changes you will experience and experiment with in one or two pieces. I like problem solving and working things down from a complexity into a simplicity.

Team North Carolina

These are a few shots of the U.S. Transplant Games in Pittsburg, PA, July, 2008. The top photo is Jim, standing in front of a banner for the Games, which is a picture of him from the 2006 Games. He had me paint "Thanks Sis" on his chest, with an image of a kidney before he swam his events in the 2006 Games. Unbeknownst to us, they used that on several of the different banners for this year's games. What a cool surprise! The second shot is of Team North Carolina at the closing ceremonies. You can see the thousands of people in the background. Quite a moving and inspirational event, with many tales of immense physical barriers that people have overcome.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

4 Gold Medals at the US Transplant Games

We just got back from the U.S. National Transplant Games in Pittsburg, PA and Jim won four gold medals in swimming, setting new records for times for the the Games. Of course, pictures will follow. Team North Carolina did a great job. There were 35 medals earned by the team, placing in gold, silver and bronze in various events like swimming, biking, track, etc.

Unfortunately for me, I got an "ear thing" while there, so was only able to see Jim win two of the medals. The rest of the time I was flat out on the bed, wishing to be home like no one's business. There is hardly anything worse than being ill, out of town and in a hotel.

But being back brightened me right up and getting back into the studio was an elixir for health. I am preparing for the open house next week, firing, glazing and last minute preparations. Anyway, just wanted to share the good news about the Games.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Brood

The young chickadees from the family reunion.

It was great to see them and be together as a family. Spencer serenaded us during the trip and Katie and Ryan had us in stitches with Ryan taking lots of photos of the clan.

Guest Artist with Circle of Eight

I'm really excited to be the guest artist with the Circle of Eight at the Pullen Arts Center in Raleigh, NC in October. These are a great group of potters and I admire the way they have worked together to promote their artwork as a group. They have had shows in Charlotte and you can check out their schedule at the blog link above.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Advice on making work

This was a response to a friend who wanted some feedback on their artwork. I have some fairly strong viewpoints on critiquing artistic vision because I feel like we are putting ourselves on the line every time we put something out for view. It takes courage to put artwork out there and only a little negativity to inhibit goals and dreams. Ultimately I believe the artist best knows how true to their vision they have been. It is just a matter of learning to observe. No one is teaching that in school anymore. It has gone the way of grammar and spelling. But until you can observe, you really can't think for yourself. Everything remains being based on another's opinion, other knowledge, etc.

First: I hate critiques. I don't know that they are effective at anything except making people get too introverted about their work. So, I'm not going to offer you a critique. What I will offer you is some advice that has worked for me, so take it and use it if you find it's worthwhile. Disregard it, if it is not.

You have a vision--either contained in your head or on paper about the pieces you have made and the ones you are going to make. Take a look at that and see how closely the work that is made has reached the vision image. See what works in real life and make changes based on that. Gravity doesn't seem to exist in our visionary world, but it sure happens when we make things out of clay.

Look at your work objectively. Look at feet, handles, spouts, lids, etc. as parts (on their own merit, does the part look good, make you proud, etc.) and then look at the piece as a whole. Do all the parts work with the whole? Do any of the parts detract from the whole? You may have to tone down or bump up parts to make it all work together.

Decide about usage and technical craftsmanship. Do you really want people to use the teapots, vases, etc.? If you do, then make it work functionally. If you don't, then why bother making things even pour? It's really about function or sculpture. Deciding what you want will clarify how you need to work.

Work in a series or go back to things you have made before and make them again, trying to solve problems. The first of anything will present you with lots of food for thought and explorations of changing one thing in order to see what will happen to the idea.

We can make one of a kind pieces of art, but that doesn't mean we have to only make one of something, then move on. Michelangelo worked on body parts and cloth draping on most of his sculpture, figuring it out, pushing limits, exploring.

Work as much as you can, whether you are inspired or not. Work, work , work. Something happens in the doing that you can't anticipate in the thinking.

Set goals for yourself. My personal goals began when I looked at pottery that Doug Knotts (an instructor at Gaston College around 1998) brought in from California. I looked at the way the potter treated the feet of his pots and got inspired. I gave my pots' feet more attention. That led to giving the handles more attention. That led me to thinking about where lids and tops met and how I didn't like the look of the bare clay next to glaze. That made me think how I could solve that by making lids differently. Which led me to thinking about how I wanted to deal with glaze and color as a whole. I think those thoughts began to move me into a deliberate way of thinking about making pots, and I was the one making the deliberate decisions, rather than just letting everything kind of go where it would.

So that's it for the advice. Hope it helps.

I do make explorative pots and funky pots and I have tried to save pots that shouldn't have been fooled with. Sometimes they work and often they don't. Then you are back to observation and some deliberate decisions about whether to celibrate and learn or consign them to the throw away pile.

The Tea Party

Got the artwork done for the front entrance with a teapot and pottery theme. I have found myself breaking about 4:00 each afternoon for a little tea and cookies to help fortify the couple of hours left in clay, so it's appropriate. My friend, Jay, a very handy man, was able to attach the boards to the brick work in no time flat and now I've got a bit of whimsy and humor to brighten up the building.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Getting ready for open house

New work that I will have for the open house at the end of July.

They are colored pencil/watercolor. What you can't tell from the images is that the one on the left is smaller--about 5"x7". The one on the right is about 5"x18". I'm working on getting them framed and matted.

I have also been busily making some new sterling earrings. I guess you could call that a hobby for me, since it is somewhat fraught with frustration. There is the frustration of aging eyesight, tiny little beads, letting go of a whole strand and trying to feel for the loose beads on the carpet so the cat doesn't eat them. Anyhoo, as those North American neighbors say up Canada way, that's why it is a HOBBY.

Ron's Sale

A shot of Ron from his sale and some new plates, two weekends ago. It was great to drive out to see him and Sarah and see all the new artwork he has been making. I have quite a lot of his salt fired pottery and had to add a couple of new plates from the earthenware he has recently been doing. I even got them mounted on the wall yesterday. That's a feat you may not appreciate, because I have had a few things sitting out to be hung for over 6 months. So these plates were in speed of light time for me.