Thursday, June 28, 2012

FInals, busy, and wordy

Happy Thursday everyone! Everything survived the firing, and I just started the glazing process. Looking to work mostly in the reds and yellows from the last group of new glazes. There's a new blue green glaze that I am looking forward to trying out. Unfortunately, I forgot to take any pictures of the firing's results (but really it would just be the same picture as last time with a brighter shade of red).

School is really winding up for the end of term tests, and that means I don't have much time in the studio until summer vacation begins in mid July. This delay of reliable studio time means that I must get my ceramics fix in other ways. This weeks outlet . . . YOUTUBE! I've especially been enjoying clips of Warren MacKenzie at his wheel.

MacKenzie, a student of the man the myth - Bernard Leach, is an infamous figure in my mind. I first saw his work in one of my early issues of Ceramics Monthly alongside an article talking about his struggles to keep art collectors from exorbitantly raising the prices of his work. To me, this man is absolutely one of the best. Watching him at work and listening to some of his thoughts on the creation of objects intended for use and the role of the craft / art creator is a real pleasure, only available to me in my current residence through the glories of internet and its many pathways. 

 "It's not that you try to communicate, but you try to put something into the work which will be there for the person who uses it to find - if their sensitive. If they understand the language. You know?" 

One of my greatest struggles with ceramics, at this moment, is that I lack a mentor. There are days when I feel like I'm past the stage MacKenzie speaks of, where I've explored form and my creativity, but now I want to (I have to) push my technique. There are times at work, in the 10 minute breaks between cups of coffee and classes, where I look up the summer's ceramics courses at Penland and drool uncontrollably at the thought of having someone experienced to guide me. Sometimes I even catch myself rereading the Studio Visits in Ceramics Monthly. Just stuck mentally revisiting vignettes of different lives dedicated to the creation of beautiful objects.  I could ramble on my fantasies and the seeking of an unclouded view of my future all day and night for the next 10 months, but that is hardly an interesting read. 

Before I go! If you are kicking around the web itching to get a good fix of ceramics viewing for this week (and man do I know you are) check out the Tomio Koyama Gallery page and take a gander at the Function Dysfunction exhibition. It features one of my very favorite contemporary potters, Ani Kasten. Her work is just a continual inspiration! If you're in Japan and heading to Kyoto before the 14th of July go check out her work and tell me about it. Unfortunately for me, the exhibition's slideshow will have to suffice. 

Alright, I'd say that's enough of the wordy junk for a while. Have a great weekend. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Form for function?

Walked into the studio today to find several of these posters.
 Lovely little thank you's from the students for the tools and glazes I donated. 
Happy Monday everyone. Loaded up the kiln today with all the bone dry work I have. Lots of coffee mugs, wine goblets, some sake flasks, a few ochoko, and two tea pots. 

Just wanted to take a moment to highlight a laughable little miscalculation in my first take on a tea pot here. I pulled the body of the pot to be a taller form, always with the intention of placing the spout lower on the body bell flare of the pot. I thought it would make some really nice lines, and I am happy with the overall (although still a bit clunky to my eyes) shape of it. BUT, after drying and further examination I've come to the realization that due of the placement of the spout this teapot can never be filled to capacity. WWWWWHHOOOPSS! Having the spout so love means that water is just going to go right out of it as one attempts to fill it. So. . . lesson learned. Perhaps once it is fired I will be proven wrong, but I find that doubtful. The second tea pot is much more functional and successful.

Here's hoping all goes well with the firing. See you all on Thursday.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

For Becky

One of my first memories of playing with clay was at a workshop in the basement of the Unitarian Church.  I was very young and my mother was with me. A husband and wife were teaching a lot of folks how to make slab built pots and simple sculptures. I don't remember much about the workshop to be honest.  I remember the finished product, a round blue flower vase with a clay maple leaf on it’s front.  

Becky last summer 
What I do remember, vividly, is how kind and patient the woman instructing me was. That is probably because throughout my life this couple’s kindness became a constant every time our paths crossed. I grew up an only child under the parentage of two artists (well, one former artist turned extreme art enthusiast / HR manager). This combination led to lots of time at local art shows, gallery openings, open houses, and art courses.  There are many faces from those days that became friends and mentors, but the couple I'm speaking of, Claude and Becky Deegan, stand out amongst the rest.

Becky took a pottery class at Parkersburg Community College and as far as I can tell made and sold pottery locally for many years. Becky and Claude would open their home during the holidays and serve hot apple cider and snacks while friends and customers walked about their beautiful home and studio looking at the works they had created. I have been eating off of Becky's pottery all of my life. She made a small baby dish for my parents when I was born. My mother tells me it was simple and the perfect size. She said it was my main bowl at feeding time. Becky's work was wonderfully functional, and when I returned home last summer for a visit I remember eating from her plates made being home feel even more . . . homey. I also learned that Becky was struggling with dementia. My parents and I visited the Deegan's home and studio and had a magnificent day. A friend of the family, and Becky's original ceramics instructor, Henry Aglio, was also there helping Becky continue to create pottery. They were in the middle of a firing. He said that making pots was really good for her, and that, even though some days she couldn't remember him or other things, she seemed to always remember parts of the creative process. It was a brilliant day. I took a lot of pictures of her more recent work. 

The new work Becky was producing last summer. 

Wednesday morning I received an early morning Skype call from my father informing me that Becky had passed away. My thoughts and heart go out to Claude and the rest of the Deegan family, but words offer little in the way of comfort when confronted with loss and sorrow. My childhood, and life, were better for having Becky's smile.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Read up

That is the second coffee mug I made in Japan. I use it every morning. 

The rain has finally started in Susaki after a day of warnings and promises of the approaching typhoon. If it's as bad as they're expecting I'll awake to a call from one of my English teachers at 6:30 telling me classes have been cancelled for the day. Should that call come, I'll get a day to play in the studio free of courses and lessons, but I'm not getting my hopes up.

As you can see, a new shipment of Ceramics Monthly has arrived, and I am really irrationally excited to read through them. These two issues are full of artist profiles. I get a lot from reading about the logistics of people managing a career in ceramics, and the photos and other articles are always just the right tool to scratch that pottery itch I keep getting. Ceramics and the artist life were very much on my mind at the Conference in Tokyo. I go to learn how to better help the JET community I live in. They train us in counseling, disaster preparedness, active listening, and other such cheerful subjects. Truthfully it's the best professional training session I've ever attended. I truly impressive and successful event, but after the meetings and neck tie and after the great dinner in Tokyo with friends I returned to my hotel room and thought about how different my time would be without ceramics. It keeps my mind so active and hungry.

Speaking of hunger, these magazines are dying to be read, and with a cover like that (GOD HOW I WANT TO PULL A HANDLE LIKE THAT ONE! And that cloud blue glaze. . . ) how can I resist any longer.

To all those in Japan stay dry as the weather comes in.

We'll see you on Thursday.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Chaos Season and Restock

Well it's that time of year again folks. That chaotic time when school is in full swing, work requirments have me prepping for up comming orientations and Tokyo trips, and I'm constantly pushing for more time to dedicate to those fine friends who have decided to exit the JET Program. All of that busy translates to less time for the studio. All excuses aside, the news I meant to share last Thursday was that my new shipment of clay arrived, and that I had been working on a sculpture that warped significatly in the drying process, but I, surprisingly, liked the results enought to keep it as it is. I have to go to Tokyo for the end of this week, and won't be getting any studio time. So considder this your ration for this week.

My father always talked about how his attitude would change when he got closer to a show. How he would just want the world to drop its pressures and allow him to focus on his work. My trouble is I have two works. I lead a rather stressless life, and am happier than a canned peach with my position at Susaki High School, but it is a very different kind of satisfaction when compared to the satisfaction gained from a day at the wheel with hands in mud. Speaking of satisfaction, I spent the weekend with some of the best guys I've ever known, some of whom are about to face the next step, and speaking with them, after some whitewater rafting, beers, and general great times, I can't help but think on what my next step will be whenever I take it.  But, we musnt be hasty now. Mustn't we?

Cabin's view from the weekend with the lads. 
Everything is just another rotation of the wheel. All anyone can do is continue to hone in on the shape their mind pictures in that moment.

We'll be back next Monday after I've returned from Tokyo. Have a great week everyone.

Monday, June 4, 2012


New clay and glazes came today, had a great weekend, and am really busy because classes have kicked fully back into gear. Gotta go map out some more English lessons. Hope to be doing some sculptural work this week (time permitting). Don't think ya'll have ever seen the white and red piece called "Tower". Have a great week.