The Space Between

I struggled for a long time with adding negative space to my work. My approach was the more texture the better, but after awhile I realized that more texture isn’t necessarily better.

Strangely, it was my planters that really got be started on using more negative space. Since these pots tend to have simpler patterns and less complexity in glazing I really got to explore the idea of leaving a place for people’s eye to rest. Then as I started enjoying more and more that quiet space, I began looking for stamps I had made that created interesting spaces that when repeated almost became the focus vs the textured impression.

The best part of including this little bit of space between my textures is that oftentimes those spaces create their own conversation like with this little planter. I love, love this fish scale texture and had no idea how provocative it might become once formed.

Stop by the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix this weekend to check this one and all of my most recent planters in person!

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.

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!

Is It Bathing Suit Weather Yet?

As you may remember from my tree bark mug post last week, I recently moved to the San Bernardino Mountains. Even if you don’t live in California, you may have heard that this has been the wettest winter in like a decade and has almost wiped out our drought. Although I’m thrilled that California’s water situation has drastically improved – I’ve been a little less thrilled with my part in it – namely, my newly developed arm muscles from shoveling all of that snow!!

So, in the interest of thinking warm weather thoughts, I thought I’d share one of my newer vases inspired by sewing patterns for corsets. This one, in particular, has always made me think of one of those bottom ruffled bathing suits. Now if we can just find some warmer weather to go with it – we’d be set!

Check out this vase and others from my corset-inspired forms online in my Etsy shop!

Sewing with Clay

It all started out several class sessions ago when a student suggested that we should try to make clay figures using doll sewing patterns as our templates. I thought it sounded like a great idea and did all sorts of research on doll sewing patterns until I found some great ones that could be translated into clay. Before long I had expanded my search beyond dolls to include dresses, corsets, blouses, pants, skirts – you name it, I have found some kind of sewing pattern for it.

I’ve even turned some of them into clay creations from simple one to two part patterns to complicated ten or twelve piece ones. I even ultimately had my class try them out as well using both clothes patterns as well as doll patterns. My research has even led me to other artists like Melisa Cadell who, for some of her work, uses a beginning for the torso that is seems inspired by sewing pattern thought processes.

My favorite pattern to date and the one I use over and over again is a super simple blouse  template. The pattern is perfect because the sleeves for this blouse are more of a suggestion then actual sleeves. The form is feminine and when put together suggestive of the female form.

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Above you can see an example of one half of the final piece (or either the front/back of the blouse). It is shown upside down since the wider part is actually what would turn into the sleeves on a fabric piece. I have used this pattern both with the wider part at the top of the vase as well as at the bottom.

Currently I’ve been taken with the notion of corsets since with the wider part at the bottom, this template lends itself so well to that feel. All of my texture patterns on the vases I’m making using this pattern recently have been done with an eye to that garment – some kind of seam down the middle, maybe a texture to suggestion darting – you get the idea. I actually think the example above looks a lot like a bathing suit, but was very gratified when a friend suggested that it looked like a corset when I posted it recently on social media.

Just like the blouse, each vase needs two pieces of “fabric” to work, so I’ve been creating set after set of matching clay “fabric” these past couple of weeks. Below are some of my initial vases I’ve formed. I can’t wait to see them glazed!

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Scissor Hands

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I have this pair of old fashioned metal scissors. I’m not quite sure where I got them from, but they have been in my clay tools for some time now. I was using them to cut paper templates and guides for my work until one day I decided to press the handles into some clay. The rest, as they say, is history. I practically never use these scissors for cutting any more – they have been moved permanently out of my tools jar and into my texture making jar.

I particularly love how their texture looks on this planter. It always fascinates me to see my textures distorted by the form making process and this one is no exception. I like the extra emphasis the belly-ing out gives to the fullness of the handle imprints.

Check it out in my online shop here.

Pinstripe Love Affair

It’s not unusual for me to be inspired by a texture tool. I collect new ones all the time either by making new clay stamps or running across a strange object. My newest acquisitions feature big in my texture patterns for the next several pieces I create.

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I don’t know how much this goes noticed or unnoticed by my fans, but when I run across an older piece it always looks a little dated to me. This is especially true if that texture maker has been moved to storage and out of my go-to set of tools.

Yet every once in awhile I hit pay dirt with my finds and stamp making. I have some textures that appear over and over and over again in my work. A great example of this are my handmade texture rollers. I learned how to create them a few years ago and over time I’ve made so many different rollers that my least favorite ones have their very own storage container.

Originally, I made these rollers to create sections of lines close together or, with wider rollers, lines of stamped patterns. More often than not though I find myself using my favorites to create pinstripes.

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It seems so strange to me that so much of my work is pinstriped. Anyone who has ever met me would tell you that I’m not a formal dresser – I’m not a snappy dresser at all. To me pinstripes have always implied formality – a word I wouldn’t use to describe my work.

I love the pinstriped pieces I’ve created though. I use them to provide a contrast to the more flowery patterns and textures I favor. They emphasize the roundness and belly I like to add to my forms as well as provide movement in a particular direction. They also provide a great, built-in, separation for my glaze and stain combination.

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I am constantly coming up with new ideas to pair with pinstripes. I can’t even imagine not having them as a subseries to my texture patterns. Who knew my crazy, whimsical pieces really just needed a touch of formality?

Inspiration for GEARED

One of the more interesting aspects of being an artist is trying to distill your inspiration source, thoughts, ideas, etc for a show into a short and sweet artist statement. Enjoy a little preview here!SAM_0558In GEARED, I explore the interplay between the natural world’s shapes and the structured workings of pocket watches. It might seem like a strange juxtaposition, but the more I researched the gears of pocket watches the less unusual it became.

I am intrigued by the kinetic energy built up through the manual watch winding process. Taking the back off of a pocket watch and observing the movements of the gears, the pulsing of the mainspring, is mesmerizing. There is almost a sense of aliveness in the sensory experience from engaging in the interactions between all the gears.

When I am recreating a single gear, my goal is to capture a circular pattern while introducing the beauty of imperfection from the natural world. The viewer may find the imagery less mechanical than expected. In my quest to evoke the stored power of the gears I have relied upon softer, organic patterns. The lines that are created from these unique designs radiate a directional and pulsating abstraction. From imprinting the texture to the orientation of the gear, I have encouraged the viewer to investigate all sides of the form.

It is that sense of aliveness of the gears that I hope to capture in my work.

Opening reception is August 8th from 6-9 pm at The Studio Artists’ Gallery. Check out all of the details here.