Low Riders

I thought I’d share a peak into my newest planter designs leading up to this weekend’s Central Arizona Cactus and Succulent Society’s Annual Show.

I love these kind of designs with a zipper-esque approach with all of the texture falling in between two lines. I spend way more time than you probably imagine working out the exact flow of the line before I add any other textures. I especially like how on this particular planter the line reminds me of pants worn low on the hips – the lack of glaze above only emphasizes that impression for me.

My favorite pieces are all, in some way, like this planter. They evoke an unexpected image or two with my texture and glaze choices.

I’m Not A Very Symmetrical Person

Doing art shows is a lot of work. Packing all of your work up, loading the car, unloading the car, setting up the booth, re-packing any unsold work, loading the car and finally unloading the car. The thing that makes it all worth it … beyond the art sales although those are important too … is getting to talk about your work with complete strangers.

Strangers have no compulsions whatsoever to be nice. In fact, oftentimes they can be quite rude when they think you can’t hear them talking to their friend. Its one of the best ways to get unfiltered feedback and commentary on what you’re creating.

If there was a theme to the discussions I had about my work this past Sunday at the Downtown Redlands Art Walk it was symmetry. I can’t quite remember when I’ve talked so much about the fact that my work isn’t symmetrical before in a single afternoon. It’s true though, it is not symmetrical … intentionally not symmetrical.

Most people who talked about it with me expressed that that was what they liked best about my work. It wasn’t perfection, it wasn’t round – it “had attitude,” as one woman said talking about my mugs.

All art is essentially a self portrait on some level, so my standard answer to the symmetry questions goes something like, “Well I’m not a very symmetrical person.” This is both true and not true. I have a tiny bit of OCD when it comes to certain things, don’t we all, and they have to absolutely be that particular way.

I think my art is my way of challenging that more controlled side of me. The more wonky or expressive I can make my work while still retaining functionality is my way of saying, “Up yours!” to my inner control freak. I like to think it’s a healthy practice for me as long as I don’t go too far with it and start walking asymmetrically. I’m enough of a klutz already!

Oh, That Drip

Glazing … it tends to be the bane of most ceramic artist’s existence.

Why? Well, where to start?

I suppose I could begin with sharing that the glazing process is a chemical reaction activated by the heat of the kiln. Before firing glazes all tend to look kind of pinkish, brownish, white-ish, red-ish or sometimes grey-ish, but certainly never the color they will be after firing. Its enough to drive a person batty imagining the “correct” color.

Catch those quotes in my last statement? Chemical reactions also mean that glazes don’t necessarily combine based on the color wheel or logic. My favorite example of this is a beautiful turquoise matte glaze that turns maroon when a clear is applied over it instead of a shiny turquoise color.

I could go on about glaze application thickness and application methods, but I fear I’m digressing from that drip I mentioned. All of that activating heat also means that glaze doesn’t like to stay where you put it. Instead glaze tends to run and pool. This can be extremely helpful as well as frustrating.

You see, glaze that runs can run right off of the pot onto the kiln shelf fusing your pot to the shelf. So, that intriguing little drip when it happens is something that gets ceramic artists very excited. This is especially true when that lovely drip stops just before disaster and instead leaves behind a focal point on your piece.

You can find this bottle and more of my work at Artisans Etc. in Big Bear. See more of my glaze experiments – and seem to be always experiments! – online in my shop!

In Search of History

I adore texture and, equally as important, texture making tools. Just when it seems like I have enough different tools to make impressions in clay I run across another one I just have to add to my collection!

I have long been a fan of the work of Michael Wisner and the simple yet amazing textured surfaces he creates. So, much a fan of his work that I had a demo of his imprinting technique on my beginning class’ project schedule for this past week.

It was just random chance that I happened to learn about the work of Kenneth Standhardt when scrolling through the explore tab on Instagram. Kenneth approaches his surfaces much in the same way that Michael does, but with even more amazingly intricate results. Unlike Michael who creates his own tools out of hacksaw blades, Kenneth uses mainly a common enough item – church key openers.

Using these everyday items, Kenneth creates patterns on patterns on patterns for an end result that defies explanation. I’ve shared a brief video of his process below so you can check it out for yourself!

Needless to say I am in the market for my very own church key opener – both the standard one that is widely available on the internet as well as the notched one. I expect I’ll be haunting thrift stores for the foreseeable future looking for that small piece of history.

Standhardt Studio from Engaging Media on Vimeo.

Bark vs Snow

It can be so hard to know where an artist gets the inspiration for their work – such is the case with this lovely little bark mug.

I’ve been making fake tree bark, or faux bois if you want to be fancy, in clay for what seems like forever. An artist I met some years back, David Gilbaugh showed me the basics of creating bark and even gifted me a special tool he had made to help create realistic bark.

I’ve never achieved David’s level of expertise – he’s a true master and can accurately re-create the bark of any specific tree with ease. Definitely check out his work if you get a chance as it is stunning.

I can, however, create basic generic tree bark easily. It makes a great parlor trick to show my students and I’ve been pulling it out of my back pocket for years as a fun impromptu demo. In fact this mug was created during one such demo a few weeks back.

I was showing some studio folks not in my class the mug pre-glaze and one of them offered up that I must be getting inspired by all of the tire tracks in the snow now that I live in the mountains.

Sadly, no. Snow has yet to inspire anything, but hard physical labor in me this winter season. Have I mentioned how much I *enjoy* shoveling?

I did, however, love getting the reminder that even in what appears an easily interpreted piece of art can take on so many variations when viewed through another lens.

Check out this mug and more non-snow inspired work in my Etsy shop!

Foot Noir

There’s a great Instagram account called Pots in Action run by a wonderful ceramic artist named Ayumi Horie that runs weekly challenges to post ceramic work on Instagram. It is an example of all that is right in the world of social media and does what often seems impossible to bring together ceramic artists and collectors together across the world.

This week’s challenge is all about the foot. Not the walking around on variety, but the part a pot rests on foot. If there was ever a nemesis to my ceramic process it would be the foot. Constructing just the right foot for a particular pot taking into account the structural soundness of the work as well as the aesthetic aspect has long been something I’ve struggled with over the years.

So, I’m taking on this week’s Pots in Action challenge on as a sort of practice and continued search for a great foot for my pieces. I’ll be posting later this week my attempts and trials, but thought I would share another use of a foot in my work with you first. The best kind of foot, in my opinion, is the one leaving a great impression in clay. Too bad it doesn’t absolve me from tackling the other!

Check out more of my foot and footwear inspired work here.

Monday’s Muse – Nancy Selvin

I got the pleasure of meeting an artist whose work I have long admired, Nancy Selvin. In fact, seeing her work for the first time a couple of years ago got me started on handbuilt bottle forms.

While I mainly know her through her clay work, I was not surprised to learn that she additionally creates in watercolor and gouache since aspects of a more painterly approach to her surfaces is the most striking part of her ceramic work. In fact from the right angle its easy to interpret her sculptural work as a drawing. In addition to her wonderful surfaces, her forms are very loose and open inviting you to investigate closer.

The marriage of the two aspects of her work – inviting forms and painterly surfaces – creates a collage effect especially in the wall vignettes she creates.

I highly recommend checking out her website and her work for yourself!

 

 

Long Live Sloils!

Excuse me while I geek out for a moment, but the other day I got the opportunity to meet one of my all time favorite ceramic artists – Fred Yokel.

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Fred’s work is mainly figurative. What really stands out and separates his work from others is the expressions and movement incorporated into each piece. Fred draws his inspiration from cartoon characters he doodles – typically in action. I love the absolutely love of life and humor that comes through with each piece. They say that all art is a self portrait and after meeting Fred, I can absolutely see his personality shining through his work.

I first encountered Fred’s work several months ago on my never ending quest to find new inspirations and projects for my adult hand building classes I teach at AMOCA. I immediately felt drawn to Fred’s work, but what sealed the deal, so to speak, about including him as an inspiration artist for my class was his construction technique.

Fred uses a coiling technique to create his work that he refers to as sloils – that is a flattened (like a slab) coil. Slab plus coil equals sloil in Fred’s book and it is a term that my students have since adopted as their own. In fact the other day they debated the merits of constructing with coils vs sloils. It made my day!

Fred’s sculptures, which he appropriately calls “Jestures,” have resonated with my students as well. A few of them were there the weekend Fred was at AMOCA for a workshop and they were as thrilled as me to meet him in person! I think we embarrassed him a little bit.

Be sure to check out his website and work for yourself! It is not to be missed!!

Sunflower Deja Vu

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We all have a tendency to revisit and return to the comfortable and the designs I create with my found objects and stamps are no exception. I think its interesting sometimes to compare and contrast the use of my texture patterns between pieces.

Take this plate, for instance. At first glance the colorfulness of the glazes most likely first catches your eye, then as you take a closer look you might notice a sunflower up in the top right corner. The same sunflower I talked about using as a repeating pattern for some of my planters in my last blog post.

On my planters, this stamped flower is overbearing and almost seems larger than the pot. Yet, here on this plate, that same sunflower is less prominent and has to compete with the rest of the textures and all those glaze colors. It seems so small in comparison to the ones on my planters despite all of them being the exact same size.

I really enjoy how the same textures can change and shift based on their context – just like most things in life really.

Learn more about this plate and others in my Etsy shop!

Monday’s Muse – Linda Sikora

Sometimes you hear the exact right words at the exact right moment.

That’s what happened to me this past weekend. I follow a wonderful Instagram account called Pots in Action that is a community based feed connecting artists and art lovers. The other day they posted a video clip of Linda Sikora speaking at a recent ceramic workshop series.

Linda Sikora, “…It’s more important to keep paying attention and to follow your attention, than it is to think about meaning and content, because meaning and content come from paying attention to the world.”

This. Exactly this. You just have to keep showing up everyday to evolve.