Monday, March 29, 2010

Artstream @ WCC

 Last week the Artstream (pictured left) visited Wabonsee Community College (WCC), Sugar Grove, IL.  This visit by the nomadic ceramics gallery is one of the reasons WCC has such a phenomenal ceramics program. Doug Jeppesen heads the program and has already booked similar events for 2011! Coming up soon is another great event: a week-long soda firing workshop with Gail Nichols.  The Artstream visit was a 2-day event with lectures and demonstrations by Lisa Orr, Tara Wilson, and Steven Colby.  Simultaneous demonstrations on Monday were fun and each artist had a very different way of working.

 Lisa (pictured right) worked on a treadle wheel with various molds centered on the wheel in which she hand pressed clay before adding more clay to "throw" the rest of the form.  Lisa seemed to be the most veteran demonstrator, speaking first and concisely about her process.  She did not hesitate to invite the audience to come up close to her wheel to see more clearly what she was doing and also to ask questions about it.  After the first form was complete, she passed it off to the first audience member, and everyone was pleased to be able to touch a freshly made form of Lisa's.  This was really great for the beginning students, who are familiar only with their own (usually plain and clunky) pots and with others' finished work (such as the Artstream gallery pots).  A tactile awareness of the material was experienced through connecting the visual and actual weight of a freshly thrown pot by Lisa's offering of her work to float through learning hands.   A couple tips from Lisa that I picked up were:  1) If you make a bisque press mold in several parts that fit together loosely, you can make similar forms in different sizes by simply removing a few sections of the mold.  2) You can make up a batch of slip in your studio, put it in a couple durable Ziploc bags, send it trough your checked luggage, and simply make a small cut in the corner of the bag for slip-trailing pots while on demonstration tour.  Nothing fancy here, except the finished work!

Tara (pictured left) worked very traditionally, sitting at an electric wheel.  She was quiet and methodical on the wheel, so that you almost didn't even notice she was making these incredibly graceful forms.  They transformed quickly from simple curved cylinders to majestic baskets and teapots.  One tip I caught from Tara was while making a lidded form, she made the flange for the lid about halfway through her pulls for the final form.  This way, she is sure to make a flange that is thick enough and deep enough because she has plenty of clay to work with at that point. 

Steven (pictured right) also worked on an electric wheel that was elevated to that he could stand while throwing his pots.  Steven worked "off-the-hump" because it allowed him to raise the level of the form so that he didn't have to bend to the side to see its profile.  It also allowed him to nearly finish the foot of the pot while throwing, rather than the traditional method of leaving clay at the base which is trimmed off at leather hard.  He worked with white and black slip decoration very spontaneously while the pot was still turning on the wheel.  Steven was very philosophical in speaking about his process and product:  1) He wants to make pots that have a [physical] weight that matches the visual weight of his surfaces, and aims to make an object that has purpose and integrity as soon as you pick it up.  2) He encourages dripping and bleeding of the slips on his freshly thrown pots by misting them with water from a spray bottle directly after it is applied, but not covering the entire form with slip.  He discussed his methodology of surface as "revealing honesty" in material, form, and surface. 

Monday evening the artists each did a slide presentation about their work, and a potluck followed.  I was bummed that I had to miss this fun part of the Artstream's visit, but yours truly still has that waitress job to pay the bills.  One day some aspect of my professional artistic career will do that . . .  maybe.

On Tuesday afternoon, Lisa did a short lecture on the research and philosophy behind her work.  Color is the undeniable trademark of her work. She spoke about referencing the color signals found in nature such as the co-evolution of colored fruit and the human eye (check out Studio Potter Vol. 35, No.1, December 2006).  She has recently produced a documentary on traditional Mexican pottery that has influenced her work.  See for details. 

The actual Artstream gallery was poetic as always, and shopping the gallery pre-NCECA was both a more pleasant and more exclusive, as I felt like I was attending the special members-only preview. Seeing the work of potters I know personally and the work of some potters I have never heard of is an exciting and satisfying jaunt.  I spent all the money I made waiting tables the night before on an Andy Brayman tea bowl with the elusive luster stripe, and a Steven Colby whiskey cup.  I really enjoyed Steven's demonstration and surface decoration . . . .  And, yes, I drink whiskey.

Cheers!  Thanks Artstream!  Thanks Doug!  And, enjoy NCECA and the rest of the tour!

Follow the links throughout this post and below to see images of these artists' work and more about Artstream's adventures. 

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Old Card New Card

Made a new post card for fun, and promotion.  Okay, print may be becoming passé, but when you're at NCECA, just check out the card table . . . . yeah, you know the one, right in front of the vendor hall where you stash anything with a cool image into your tote, and then go through them all when you get home.  Its a little like a Halloween goodie bag, but sans costumes and sugar.   Well, not really sure about sans costumes, considering what freaks we "clay" people are . . .  Nevertheless, hopefully, you'll find this card on that table.  It does not take the place of my presence there, nor does it excuse the fact that I will miss this 4-day fiesta of artists, designers, hippies, artsy-fartsy types, ceramicists, educators, makers, craftsmen, curators, collectors, students and party-crashers.   The OLD card showed up in some very cool and unexpected peoples hands, so I hope the same will be true for the NEW card, whose similarities abound.  I do have an acceptable excuse to miss this year's NCECA mania, which is that I will be leaving for my residency at the Yingge Ceramics Museum on April 19th, a mere 16 days post NCECA.  16 days is more than two weeks, I know, but it is not very long when I am traveling to the other side of the globe, with an open-ended return date.  Yeah, open-ended, that's what I said.   OK, fabulous, you'll pick up a card, and tell all your friends to too!  Hope you all have a fabulous time, and don't forget to stop by the Studio Potter booth--the best part of the entire vendor area.  Changed my life the first time I had a chat with Mary Barringer, so you should try it, and become a member while you're there!

Cheers to clay lovers everywhere, and have fun at NCECA friends!