Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The first of many, and cleaning time.

Hey there fellow pottery enthusiasts! This week we'll start a new tradition. Every Thursday I'll try to mention two potters whose work is inspiring me. The number of incredible contemporary potters is truly a vast and deep well filled with awesome pots! So let's jump in with this weeks artists. 

“If I don’t love and encourage a piece of clay, if I don’t help it inch its way along to become the most beautiful thing I want it to become, it’s sort of a futile process to me. The need to feel all of this as humans [support and encouragement] is synonymous to making a pot because it’s intimate in the same sort of way.”  - Matthew McGovern  

Matthew McGovern is one of the potters I've been paying particular attention to this week. The images of his pots have a peaceful quietness to them that is outstanding. He manipulates slip on the outside of his forms with outstanding results. I rarely attempt this for of decoration but whenever I see results like this I can't help but long to try my hand at it. Along with Matthew I've been looking at the wood fired work of Kurt Teeter. Teeter studied in MFA program in at West Virginia University. I heard about Teeter from my mother, and after first opening his web page I've had the colors of his pots in my mind. Especially the earthy deep blues of the pot pictured below. 

They are just the best kind soft. To my eyes the interplay of line between the uneven edge of the pot and the blocking of color and lined texture above it. Just visually wonderful and stimulating to me.

It's been a strange week in the studio. It is test week which means there is only about a 50 % chance that I'll make it into the studio. Unfortunately, at least two days this week have had me banished via locked doors and missing keys (you wouldn't think that could be a problem) to the silence of an empty staff room and the endless digital wastes of the internet. This time was immediately put to finding new potters and pottery articles to read up on. On Monday I cleaned EVERYTHING. The ever growing mound of cast off trimmings was beginning to take on a life of its own, so it was time for a fresh start.

 I did manage to glaze pots and load the kiln for a small glaze firing that will be on track to open on Monday.

In a somewhat out of character move there ended up being a lot of blues and greens in this batch of firing. Something in the pots made me want to play with color in a more experimental way than I typically do. I think that I am naturally drawn to earthen tones, and natural glazes. Glossy colored glazes typically turn my eye (just not my style), but I also think there is room for a new level of layering that I have trouble achieving with my matted glazes. I'm hoping that the under-glazes and brushwork I attempted to practice will shine through the semi transparent blues and greens I glazed with this time. That's right brush work and glossy! . . . Where did Andrew go?. . . I know right.

Hey, growth requires experimentation.

The last push of creation and experimentation this week was another attempt at dialing in what an A. Sartorius Ceramics tea pot will look like. Right now this is what is coming off the wheel. For me, it's not there. In rare form I like the handle and the curve of the body, but the lid and the spout need more work. None the less, progress!

To wrap up this week's post. Go experiment. Try something new. Stretch your comfort zones and create something new. It's the only real way to grow, and I am certainly am seeking growth more than anything else.

Friday, May 30, 2014

New Horizons

As the sun rises I awake to the sound of swallows on the windowsill and the river flowing behind the apartment, and increasingly when I wake I greet the day with the thought that today is going to be a day to create. A day to play. Another day to dream more. I am getting closer and closer to the genesis of my love for pottery. It is one of the few areas I have found where I am actually able to directly (at times at least) translate my dreams into physical being. Sometimes those dreams are spawned from seeing other potter's work, sometimes from nature, and sometimes from the clay itself as it spins on the wheel. My enthusiasm for pots has only been on the incline since I last wrote my friends.

Now, I know that was a long time ago, and I am sorry for abandoning you a bit. You see, I created a Facebook business page for A. Sartorius Ceramics, and the benefits and progress of continuing to post there are far and away more measurable and read than my continued posting on Blogger has been. This could be, and probably is, user error to some degree. However I have a new resolution to do my very best to post once a week here. I like having the ability to go more into the details of what I am reading about, listening to, and thinking about my making process. So I think we'll dub Thursday the day for thoughts and thinkings on all things throwing and pottery related.

In the time between our last conversation I've stumbled upon a few really great things for all those creatively minded with a pension for pots. The Tales of a Red Clay Rambler  is a weekly podcast put out by Ben Carter who is fantastic potter. Ben is doing some really incredible stuff and is very vocal about potters being culture makers. His interviews with other potters talk about everything from the state of the contemporary market to artist's inspirations and creative movements. I look forward to the new podcast each week, and you should check it out!

May was a busy month for me, with two really fantastic shows. The first was an event in Matsuyama, Ehime at the Sen Guesthouse. Live music by three of my very good friends from Kochi, and the guest house owners mixed up some delightful specialty cocktails for the event. Loads of great people came bye.

Towards the end of the month I participated in a group show at the Quard Market in Ino. This event was WAY busier than I was ready for, and was an absolute blast to go to. A day of local artists, food vendors, and musicians all coming together. There were tons of people. Great times all around.

Like I said I am going to make a concerted effort to bring this blog back into the light of day once a week. There's always more to talk about, and pots to be made! Hopefully I can revamp the blog a bit and get it up to the same level as the A. Sartorius Ceramics facebook page (which you should definitely go check out), and while you're there you should go ahead and pop on over to my brand spanking new Etsy shop! It's just getting off the ground, and I'm a total beginner at managing all this digital media, but it's the way of the future! And that future, it's coming our way. See you next Thursday!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Photo Journal: The Dragon

Pots out back of Thow Kwang Pottery Center
The baby dragon. 

One of Singapore's last 2 dragon kilns. This thing was massive! 

Inside the dragon. 

So back in the holiday season Stephanie and I went to Singapore, and I may have mentioned that we adventured our way to one of Singapore's last giant climbing dragon kilns. When we got to the slightly out of the way location it was starting to rain, we were being devoured by mosquitoes, and it turned out that there were no classes being offered that day. So. . . resigned to only getting to look at a kiln without really getting a chance to learn much about it we explored the large open air studio. A whole lot of the work sold at this pottery center isn't had made in Singapore, but we managed to find one of the artists in residency at Thow Kwang Pottery, Steven Low. And he saved our day of pottery center exploration. Steven talked to us about the ceramics community that had grown around these dragon kilns, and about his time as care taker for the kiln. He also talked with us a little about his new lines of work. His kindness and personal attention to two wayward travelers interested in a bit of pottery was incredibly generous. Thank you Steven! If you are ever in Singapore and want to have a guaranteed great time GO VISIT STEVEN! The dragon kiln is a stunning sight, and the work that comes out of it is equally stunning.

Steven with some of his work in progress. 

I love his tea bowls. 

Steven loves making tea bowls, and has a huge collection of beautiful creations at the pottery center. This little beauty was irresistible, and is now happily siting in my apartment.  

Steven's studio. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

DigiDestined . . . ?

So this happened: 

I am ever unsure about the need for a digital presence, and am especially tentative about self promotion, but it seems almost inescapable these days. I find myself in the midst of an effort to better upkeep my digital potter's portfolio. The FaceBook page will hopefully be a link between my instagram (name: bearsartorius), the longer ruminations on my making process at this blog, an etsy page (currently in construction), and also serve as a road map to my own pottery curiosities and inspirations. I think one of the things I've enjoyed most about my four year exploration into the pottery world is the broadening sense of community I have been able to find. Granted, most of the work and studios I'm finding and following are professionals on a far more educated plain than I am, but it gives me something to aspire to. My hope has always been that my posts about pottery will get others excited to give it a whirl and see where their hands take them. 

If you a missing out on the reference in the tittle just do yourself a favor and pop on over to view a bit of my childhood

I have about half a kiln loaded with work that'll get fired today. I have some new glaze combinations in this firing that make me a little nervous, but I'm hoping that they turn out just like I'm imagining they could. That's the best part though isn't it. Not really knowing exactly how it'll come out in the end. I love that to a degree I relinquish control of my work in the final stages and let heat do all the work for me.  

Get out there and create something! 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Updates and Spates

Every monthish, maybe month and a half, I am fortunate enough to get a package containing one or two new Ceramics Monthly. I could write about how charged up they get me to learn more and try new things in the studio, but I wanted to share a very well stated description of an artist named David Hicks. The reason I'd like to highlight him is for his description of his creation process.

"I tend to work in short encounters with my wall compositions. These encounters are broken up into multiple focuses. For example I initially begin by producing five or so objects that will set the tone for a piece. Once that has been established, I work to make pieces that relate to or respond to those initial model objects. This process is usually a fast-paced process that is heavy handed and quick so I can keep my direction. I have a tendency to drift with objects in an evolutionary way. Works keep evolving and changing, and I keep it quick so I don't stray too far. Honestly this pace also keeps my interest fresh and focused." 

Hicks continues on, describing how he chooses objects and hanging methods for his seedpod inspired wall clusters which have such a fluidity and organic sense I can hardly stand it. The repetition of form, but not exact form or glaze pulls my eye in in a way that many other works of similar theory (collections of many smaller ceramic pieces grouped together) tend to loose my interest. 

If you're in need of some beautiful sculptures to look at or perhaps a great short article (this isn't the one from the Ceramics Monthly but it'll give you a little more of an idea) Check it out! It's what's inspiring me this week. 

I'm trying to really crank out work for a bisque fire this Thursday. I have been working on a few larger forms, and am still cranking on the slab plates. Any way! If you're a reader tell me about your creative process. I think the biggest reason David Hick's work  speak to me is because of the episodic quality to the collection of work featured. They have a real sense of exploration within a given time to me. I've worked for three (going on four) years in a borrowed studio space here at Susaki high school, and I think I may have to use his words to express how my creative process has worked here. Each day, perhaps week at best, is an episode of my imagination. I can rarely build up any type of concrete process or method, so my work comes in spates. My goal for this most recent outcropping was to create forms in sets. except for this beauty below. 


Until next time. Go create something! 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

New Year / New Pots

Happiest of 2014's to you all. It's a balmy, grey, 10 (C) degrees today, and I'm none to envious of the reports from America of temperatures hovering down far closer to zero (F)  than Kochi will ever get. I have so much to tell after a six day trip to Singapore and the issuing in of a new year, but I'll save all that for a post all of it's own. 

I've been able to sneak back into the studio since returning to school, though not near as much as I would like. In the time given I've been cranking out forms to be carved after they get to leather hard. Mostly slab work but they're a blast to crank out. I miss the wheel and can't wait to have a biger block of time to devot to it at work.  

Look at those lovely rows of comerical cups! Meet some new inspiration : the Kopi coffee cup. But! That looks like a regular cup and saucer. You might be thinking. In Singapore drink stands are called kopi tiam, and there is a lovely little history to these style of cups. The suacers are deeper than their more conventional cousins, and I just absolutely love both the coffee (sweetend with condensed milk) and the form of these little mugs. Hopefully I'll have time soon to try my hand at them, but figured the first post of the new year should include at least one goal for the comming year. 

Speaking of the new year i have a host of resolutions and hopes for 2014, a good deal of which deal entirely with pottery. On our way home from Singapore Steph and I stopped in Kyoto to aquire some good luck for the comming year.  

Nothing fills the heart with better feelings for the comming year's potential like macha, a delightful little sweet, and the best company I could ask for - all enjoyed in the outer guardens of Kinkakujin (the Golden Pavilion). It's going to be a wonderful year. I hope your Holidays were magical and your already doing well with your own resolutions.  

Monday, December 16, 2013

Tobe: the Real Deal

Two weeks ago Stephanie and I took her friend Sarah to Tobe Yaki. Tobe, like Bizen, is a traditional Japanese pottery center. Tobe's style couldn't be more different than the dark reds, bronzes, and gold browns of Bizen's climbing kilns, but the feel is largely the same. Almost every home has some little ceramic detail, and every garage, livingroom, or back yard has some type pottery studio, collection of slip molds, or even a small kiln shed in the back yard. IT WAS GLORIOUS to see.

Simply the idea of an artistic community dedicated to preserving, promoting, and simutaniously modernizing local pottery traditions is like stepping into my dream list of job titles and making them materialize before my eyes. The Tobe Culture Center has a fantastic show room that takes you through the early traditions of the pottery, and also showcases the way the various artists and families of potters have changed the traditional forms and had fun with the glazes. Tobe is most well known for its navey blue brush work on white clay, but as you can see there are many takes on this old standard.

We got a chance to try our hand at painting a pot of our choosing. My brushwork clearly needs work, but I think Steph is a natural! It was great fun, and I'd return in a heart beat to show just about anyone this little treasure of ceramic culture.

Here are a few of the more contemporary designes we saw at the cultural center. There was a huge (very cool) store where you could buy work, but photos were prohibited.

I have some peices in a local christmas market in Kochi City. If you're in Japan and have just been itching for one of my pots then this would be a good chance. Yamma Neko gallery is a great place.
Mr. Leach even made time to stop in. It's always such a pleasure to see his work.
All this typing about pottery has me itching to get into the studio and get back into the making cycle. I saw some really fantastic slab work in Tobe and have been thinking about trying my hand at it since. I'm off to create something, you should do the same!