This weekend was basically every ceramic enthusiast's dream, I was able to take a break from studio and go to Providence, Rhode Island for the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts annual conference. First off Providence is beautiful, it is stuffed full of history and quirk as if each brick has a history and story to tell. I was able to ignore the dreary weather by taking many coffee breaks, yet never walking into a chain or repeating coffee shops. It is now on the list of cities I could see myself moving to someday. It was love.
It was Mud.
I guess I'll explain for non-ceramics people what a national ceramics convention looks like. It looks like thousands of artists, teachers and students, vibrant with personality and passion coming together to share ideas, listen to lectures, watch demonstrations by world-renowned artists and shop for the latest tool or program of study. My favorite part of the weekend was the lectures, I went to as many as I could fit into the hectic schedule. I am going to write up a summary and my own thoughts of each this week, so stay posted! I just knew I could not tackle them all in this one post.
When not in lectures or coffee shops, we went to exhibits associated with the conference. NCECA has a Biannual and a National Student Juried Show each year, which are the best of the best.
While you wait for me to wrap my brain around everything I heard this weekend and write a post with a bit more meat, here are some pics of beauties I saw along the way.
It is week four here in the world of senior studio II. You may be wondering what I have been up to for the past four weeks? What have I been making? (if not, just humor me). Week four is the week before week 5 meaning I am making lots of messes and cramming in some firings before the big ol' 5 week reviews!
This semester I am going in a new direction, taking pieces of all my other directions and making a somewhat cohesive path. But before I get to the making, I have to do a bunch f tests. This is the part most people do not see or know about ceramics, it is completely behind the scenes and actually kind of systematic like an actual lab. I have tested three things: clay bodies, colored slips, and glazes.
Like any good nerd, I did my research on different types of porcelain clay bodies that are good for casting. There are thousands since artists have been making their own porcelain recipes since the BC Chinese dynasties. I picked four to mix up, cast and fire. In the firing I tested shrinkage, slump and transparency, all characteristics that will be important when actually making pieces.
After examining the tests and altering the recipes a touch more, I chose a Makins Porcelain with both Custer Feldspar and Nepheline Syenite. It was a balance between a pure white and little slump (the whiter clays , slump and sag more than the less pure ones).
For this series of work I am using colored slips for the stained glass like surface patterning. Slip can be colored by minerals or commercial mason stains, I am using mason stains because it is more consistent. I wanted to be very specific with my colors so I tested each possible mason stain at a gradient of percentages and then fired them. The porcelain test cookies were adorable and made for good instagram shots. Drumroll please, the chosen mason stains are: Bordeaux red at 13%, Vanadium yellow at 6%, Sky blue at 10% and taupe at 5%. Give a round of applause to exact measuring, a handful of dirt and a touch of time!
The last step to any ceramic piece is the glaze but to have enough information to pick the very best glaze, ceramic artists make glaze test tiles first. For this semesters project I wanted a glossy clear glaze that had a touch of gold where it pooled. I made a bunch of tests yesterday and pulled them out of the kiln today. I have picked a whiting base clear glaze with 1% iron (a yellow colorant).
Now that all the tests are complete, I am at a point where I can actually make work. Planning and prep is boring but so important to an artist, even though no one sees it when they walk through a gallery or drink coffee out of a well crafted mug.
My two favorite things start with C, so they are related. One because of their initial letter and two because they are my favorites. Camp and Ceramics. Actually three things: 1. Christ 2. Camp 3. Ceramics. So to start off this first semester of my senior studio, I wanted to share my favorite place through my favorite medium. Here are just a few of my dabblings. They will be uploaded to my portfolio and shop at some point, hopefully soon.
Besides being a visual and functional representation of my favorite place, the illustrations on each vessel bring childhood whimsy and fun to an otherwise "adult" vessel.Trays are associated with adult tasks or responsibility of service or entertaining. Mugs are also associated with being an adult, having a busy life. Isn't funny that in the media adults are always depicted with coffee or needing coffee? So by adding the illustrations onto these vessels, I am infusing this fun and whimsy into everyday life. They act as a reminder to embrace amusement and vagary but also asks the larger question of why adult life must be so different than camp. The specific song lyrics themselves are just my personal means to the larger concept in the end, just like the songs are a means to a lively and enthusiastic camp day but they are not Camp.
I built my first soft sculptural installation this weekend. For a while now I have mentally played around with the idea of using textiles in my work but since it has such a loaded message (women's work) I waited for the appropriate moment or at least until I got up enough guts to tackle it head on.
This piece is about memories and how they pervade a space, intentionally using symbolism from my own personal memories to then talk about the more broad sense of the growth of memories. Memories come and shroud a space with all of their associated feelings and emotions, yet they are ephemeral, not lasting. The process of installation serves this message perfectly. Though the process was time consuming and exhausting, it was also very emotional and ceremonial as if I was understanding the memory more with each new stitch.
Click on "Read More" to see the rest of the pictures!
Teri Frame is a ceramic and performance artist. She works with clay directly on the body to explore human beauty related to race, gender, age and disability.
I was very excited and honored to see both a demonstration and artist lecture on Monday. Her working method is very interesting because of its tactile quality, craft and relation to the human body. And then on top of that, her concepts speak of human binaries that have been present throughout history and are still present today. I am drawn to her work because of the performance element that is intriguing for any type of viewer, not necessarily an artist. Once the viewers are drawn in they can begin to explore the concept, what she is really doing.
For about 6 months now I have been working on a project called Clemson Community Supported Arts. Clemson CSArt is a program that supports artists by offering shares of art for sale to the community. It is modeled after community supported agriculture. So one can buy a share into our CSArt and then receive 6 pieces of handmade work at the end of the season. There are CSArt programs popping up all over the nation so Clemson Ceramics decided to give it a try. And I am very very excited to announce that our first shares go on sale this Monday!
If you are interested in the program, supporting us or just curious, check it out HERE!
A little girl was wandering the world in search of who she is. "Who am I?" asks the little girl. She journeyed each day, looked, observed, asked questions and tried new things to hopefully find her place in the big world.
She skipped around some shops and came across a dance studio. All of the costumes were so pretty.
"Am I a dancer?" asked the little girl.
"No. Well, not yet but you can try," said the prima ballerina. So the little girl stayed a while. It was really hard work.
"No you are not a dancer," she was told a couple different times.
"Perhaps this is not my place after all," realized the little girl.
She continued on her search.
Next she came to an office building.
All of the workers were in their cubicles typing away. Click, Click Click.
"Am I an office worker?" asked the little girl, as she bounced back and forth on her heels with nervous anticipation.
"No. You have too much energy for desk work, unless you can calm down and stay still," said the boss of the office building.
She skipped away, secretly thankful this place with no trees or enthusiasm was not her place.
Still very alone, the little girl was walking through the forest one day enjoying the trees, when she met a camp director. She looked wise, friendly and loving.
"May I come to camp?" asked the little girl, "I am looking for myself."
"Yes we accept everyone!"
And so the little girl timidly went, again ready to try new things. She sang silly songs, played games and swam. She also cleaned up after others, tied shoes, kissed boo boos, comforted teary eyes and gave many hugs.
"Is this my place?" asked the little girl once again.
"Yes you are a helper, a teacher and a comforter. You are not afraid of getting messy. You are enthusiastic. You are a hard worker. You are Camp." said the great camp director.
The little girl had found her place. her heart was huge and full.
"This is where I am from. This is my home."
And she stayed.
May has flown by, leaving me very little time to blog or check off everything off of my list. I have a habit of making lengthy to-do lists, or goal lists that are not humanly possible to complete in my decided time period and it usually makes me pretty bummed out. But seriously, sometimes my expectations for myself are ridiculous and then add to that, almost always life gets in the way. So I am making a new and improved list- a list of everything I have accomplished.
This weekend I am representing the Clemson University Visual Arts Department at Artisphere, which as an arts festival in Greenville, SC. I have recently learned that it is one of the top arts festivals in the nation, so I can not believe I have never been to it or really even heard of it before. The event is full of performances, artists and educational opportunities for kids plus its super fun. The list of all the wonderfully talented artists can be found here. Today, I was reminded of how helpful and supportive the arts community is. I had the chance to talk to many ceramics artists about what they do, the materials they use and how they do what they do. I learned about some new clay bodies from Larry Allen and I talked to Pat McCaffrey about classes at Penland. I also talked to artists working in other mediums such as Amber Marshall who works with glass and Lisa Morris who uses old sewing patterns to create beautiful drawings. It is always refreshing and a burst of inspiration when I am able to see and learn about the work of so many innovative artists firsthand. I highly recommend for everyone to check Artisphere out even if you do not consider yourself an artist, it will still be interesting and educational. If you have kids, they will enjoy it too! This years event has one more day, tomorrow, but there is always next year so put it on your bucket list!
Above is a picture of Brent teaching a future artist about clay and the wheel. It was great opportunity to educate the community about my favorite thing, clay! We had a large audience, ranging from the littlest artists to the saintly seniors, and everyone had a variety of questions for us to answer and ponder upon. Though demo-ing for two days straight (about to be 3) is exhausting, it was definitely worth it!