Thursday, September 10, 2009

Discovery and Disappointment

This probably seems ridiculous but since I added the pictures apparently in reverse order I am going to write my blog in reverse too. Starting from least finished work to most (but not yet) finished work.

Things have been busy and challenging this past week and a half. The weekend before last I went home on Friday to stay until Tuesday but when Monday night came I couldn't bear the thought of leaving yet. Thankfully we bought the tickets with frequent flyer miles and we were able to change the ticket for free and stay for one more day! For whatever reason that one day made a big difference and I was ready to return for the last stretch by Wednesday. I came back and jumped right in. With a little less than a month to go (minus the few days I will need to pack up all of my stuff) I was feeling a little panicked! So as I do each semester for school and as I encourage my advanced students to do I made a firing schedule in reverse order from the last firing I had to do which I scheduled for the 24th and then went backward to the beginning of the month...and so far so good, I am on schedule.

But since this is a reverse kind of blog I am going to show you my progress in reverse...

These first images are the grasshoppers I have made so far. Today was my last day to cast and I will have approximately 7 sculptures to work with. I have decided not to make the twig sculptures here as I think they will be virtually impossible to pick up and at home I will build them on my kiln shelves (I actually may make one just because I have the pieces cast...but no more than that). I was originally planning on making 10 of each piece but as the reality of bringing all of this work home (including all of the molds)dawned on me I decided to scale back a bit...



They are like rabbits!...More and more of them!

At first I wasn't sure I liked the grasshoppers...they seemed silly but as I made more and more of them they became both funny and kind of gross...kind of like owning one or two cats is cool but owning 100 cats is creepy. I plan on glazing them with colorful but crusty glazes, I think it will help them become more awkward and uncomfortable looking...kind of gross and all over the place...and that is the goal. In Arkansas (in my opinion) summer is about hot, sticky grossness, it is uncomfortable, sweaty and I am trying to make these pieces have a similiar feel of overwhelming discomfort.

Below are details of what I like from the glaze firing of the snowballs and the birds. I was not happy about the results that came out of the kiln overall but there are areas of hope and excitment on many of the pieces. Forunately the exhibition I will be in here at NCC won't be until next May so I have time to really get these right...which is important as I will be showing with some other people whose work I really like and honestly feel like they are way out of my league...Carrie Esser who teaches at the Kansas City Art Institute and Ursula Hargens whose work I love and Maren Kloppman who everyone knows, beautiful work...yikes! you could look up the work of all of these women online if you are interested in seeing what they make. It is a lot of pressure! I should add that many folks here commented that they liked the work, which I appreciate, however they do not fit my vision of the project so I see them as unacceptable even if thet don't seem it to others.

This is an example of one of the things that caused my disappoinment and something I like all in one. This yellow glaze was actually a chartreuse mason is NOT chartreuse, and I used it a lot so instead of lush greens with areas of yellow and orange I got a lot of yellow....not spring lie at all. However, I do like the combination of yellow slip under this yellow glaze and may use it in smaller areas or in the summer pieces.

Below on this one you can see the other major disappointment in combination with what I actually wanted. On the left of the piece the overall color looks anemic, thin and too white. On the right side especially the little bird the green is applied over another green slip and is much is far more vibrant in real life than what it looks like in this image. It is interesting because these are all glazes I use on my pots and have only occasionally thought they looked thin and overly white but on these larger pieces it seems to be emphasized 100 fold!

You need to look closely at the next two images as they are white on white slip and glaze application. I really like them, they are subtle and pretty beautiful in real life but I think the glaze needs to be a little less shiny, a bit softer looking, like a satin matte clear for it to really work like I see in my minds eye.

This image looks a little grey but it is actually bright white. I love this I drew a pattern on the piece with a blue underglaze pencil and filled it in with an icy copper blue glaze then covered with a clear glaze...and the side of the balls where the glaze ran it brought the pencil down with it and on the top it stayed pretty sharp. I really like the variation.

This is one of the more heavily pierced pieces which I like quiet a brings a lightness to the form which I think could be effective in future pieces and in the overall composition of the large panels.

Here is a picture of me thinking about how these might look together...that will be a whole other big problem to solve!!!!!!!! I imagine at least ten pieces per panel that are all different but also have unifying elements...
Here are the some of the birds that I feel okay about...again the overall yellow coloring is absolutely not what I wanted...but once that problem is solved I think I will like them all hung in a group. These pieces seem to combine en masse more easily and successfully than the snowballs. I'm pretty sure it has to do with their outward push (visually the wings acting as directional lines away from themselves and towards other pieces where the snowballs are more internally (closed forms) directed, they close in on themselves rather than direct ourtwards. This happily works with the sense of the seasons that I am trying to capture but nonetheless will make for a challenging layout.

Below you can see why it will be important to have a darker background. Above the pieces pop forward more but below on the lighter background they disappear a bit. UGH see all that white and light colored glaze...FRUSTRATING!

Here are a bunch of the snowballs...ditto on the darker background

Here you can see the last two shots which are of the pieces glazed but pre-fired. It is hard to tell but each piece is 12 inches big and bigger, they look very small in these overhead shots. Those round black discs are 13" bats that we usually use when throwing on the wheel. So there you have it. I have been pretty disappointed since I unloaded the work this past Tuesday but I am pushing through and trying to get over it (the piece of chocolate cake I ate today acted as pretty good solace which was what I was hoping for). As we speak I am cooling a kiln full of these same pieces that I have fired lower to cone 05. I wanted the backs of the pieces to be glazed too so I flipped them over glazed the backs with a lower temperature glaze and am firing them upside down. I am hoping that the firing doesn't do anything to the glazes (make them craze(crackle) ) or to the pieces (it is possible but unlikely that they could slump).

So tomorrow I put together the last of the grasshoppers, unload the 05 firing and start decaling, china painting and lustering to my hearts content. I plan to load the grasshoppers for bisque Saturday or Sunday.

In other news the Northern Clay Center is having its annual American Pottery Festival which is their major fundraiser of the year. There is a HUGE selection of work to be sold in the gallery by some really great potters...I want to say there is something like 70 potters represented in total and I have gotten a preview of the wares...if only I were a millionare I could buy all of the pieces I like. There will also be workshops, lecture and parties to be attended. Walter Ostrom is speaking on Sunday which will be a treat to see, and there will be a party Saturday night with artists and collectors which should be fun!

A few weeks later Patti Warashina will be here to present a lecture at the MIA and she and Ron Meyers will have a formal conversation about a lifetime in clay the next day at NCC. That should be interesting as they have both had very long and distinguished careers in ceramics but their work is very different.

To all of my ceramics students...Minneapolis is an outstanding place to be if you are interested in ceramics. (Actually they recently became one of very few, if there are any other, states that has arts funding written into their constituion!!!! so really it is a great place for all artists to be). I had always heard this to be the case but being here and experiencing a bit of it has proved it to be true beyond what I could have imagined! You should all apply for a Jerome or Fogelberg fellowship here at the NCC and try to get in on this action! Or just move here can't take a step without your foot landing in a clay opportunity!

Until next time...


  1. Wow!!! I know they aren't exactly what you want but I think they are really lovely and I'm enjoying getting a clearer picture of the overall project. I think it's great!!!

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