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!

Creativity Block?

Blocks are not just for writers anymore – all of us can find ourselves struggling to think up new ideas and fresh perspectives. The trick is not to avoid those times when creativity blocks happen because let’s be honest, you can’t escape, but instead to look upon it as an opportunity.

I find that I go through cycles with the texture patterns I create in my work with the same patterns emerging over and over until I’m stuck in my comfort zone. Since what else is a creativity block except getting nice and comfy, all curled up in the same old thought processes?

I have some tried and true methods for helping me break out.

For an easy fix, I set-up out in the “wild” – somewhere that will bring me into contact with lots of people. I’ve always found engaging others as part creators of my work forces me to solve for the unexpected. I never quite know what someone will do when I give them free reign to place an imprint on a piece of clay. Viewing this unknown as a problem that has to be solved (I’m not allowed to simply scrap it out of the gate) usually introduces fresh ideas into my work.

Sometimes though I’m stuck just a little bit more than one of my quick fixes will help.

I find in those situations that I need to completely leave behind my main medium, clay, and explore other mediums. Whether it’s through research into these other mediums or actually creating non-clay works, it puts me in back in the realm of a complete newbie. I can’t fall back on any past experience. I might explore outside of the world of clay for a day or a few weeks before feeling that I can return recharged for my work.

What do you do to help get yourself out of your comfort zone?

 

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!

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!!

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.

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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Brick Work

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You may have read my previous post about the time I spent this summer collecting shoe prints in the wild up in Big Bear to kick start some new texture patterns. This is one of the plates I created except there is not a shoe print in sight! During a slow period in folks walking passed the gallery, I decided to press this clay into the sidewalk bricks.

Sidewalk bricks? Yep! See that thick blue line dividing up the sections of the plate? That is the essentially the grout line between the bricks. Pretty cool, huh? I think so.

I liked this version of plate textures so much that each of the other two times I’ve set up to collect shoe prints I’ve gotten at lease one new brick pattern plate each time. The rest of my brick pattern plates are in various stages of the firing process, but I hope to be able to share them with you soon!

Until then, be sure to check out this plate and those with actual shoe prints incorporated in my online shop!