This weekend marked the very last making push in the greenware stage so that I can finish everything before my next two events.
I’m doing back to back sales in May. My first show is the Colorado Potters Guild Spring Show that runs May 4-6, 2017. I’m also participating in the Horseshoe Market one week later on May 13, 2017. What this means for me right now is that it’s crunch time!
I’ve been making as much work as I possibly can so that I have enough ware for both shows. Inspiration strikes at curious times for me – often when deadlines are looming. So, this weekend really was my last making push with greenware. My goal is to bisque fire my kiln this evening, glaze tomorrow and then we load the soda kiln on Wednesday afternoon at the Colorado Potters Guild.
Did I mention that I’m also the chairwoman of the Colorado Potters Guild show this spring? It’s always a busy time right before the show, but now it feels doubly hectic.
New Forms – Creative Exploration
My schedule is busy and also why my creative muse always seem to show up when all pistons are firing…or maybe it’s just procrastination on my part? I’m not sure, but I’m starting to feel the crunch. This past weekend was really the very last opportunity for me to work on any “wet” ware. Of course, I took the opportunity to explore another form that has been lurking in my imagination – again based upon seed pods.
This form (see above) doesn’t exactly look like it did in my imagination. I’m going to fire it, but I don’t expect to make it again. It’s just too fussy for my taste. I probably could have used my time a little differently this weekend, but I’ve learned to answer creativity’s call when it happens.
I’m keeping this post short today, but will return on Wednesday when I’ll share some of the process of getting work ready to fire in the soda kiln on Thursday at the Colorado Potters Guild.
Several months ago, I had an idea while I was out walking with my dog to create some ceramic wall hangings. Initially, I imagined that the ceramic pieces would stand alone. The idea makes sense to me – especially since I already make ceramic wall art. Then, I became fascinated with the resurgence of the art of macramé.
Yes – the art of knot tying that had its heyday, most recently in the 1970’s!
A friend of mine from high school tagged me in an Instagram post of a macrame owl wall hanging that she made in the 1970’s with her grandmother. Isn’t this awesome? What a sweet memory and I love that she still displays her owl. To me it still looks fresh…but I do remember the art form falling out of favor in the 80’s.
History of Macramé
According to Wikipedia, “Macramé comes from a 13th-century Arabic weavers’ word migramah meaning “fringe”. This refers to the decorative fringes on camels and horses which help, amongst other things, to keep the flies off the animal in the hot desert regions of northern Africa.”
So, it’s actually a decorative and functional art that’s been around a long time. The art form later moved to Europe via the Moors and then to other parts of the world by sailors who passed their time making gifts using rope which was readily available on a ship.
So, as a ceramic artist, I decided to combine clay + macramé to create some home decor pieces. In preparation of trying my hand at adding fiber/cord to my ceramic work, I made a couple of stand alone wall hangings using some simple knots.
My first attempt was just okay. I was much more deliberate with the second one. My daughter loves it, so I gave it to her and she hung it up in her dorm room.
Can you see my vision? I don’t think that I could have made the ceramic components without first trying my hand at making some simple macramé wall hangings and practicing making various types of knots.
I even purchased about 600 feet of 3 strand cotton rope to finish my ceramic wall hangings. Also, I borrowed a couple of macramé books from the library to use as reference. I’m excited to finish these and perhaps make them a regular part of my online shop.
Today, I share some of my botanic inspired ceramic work in progress – and some finished work from my last soda firing at the Colorado Potters Guild.
All of the work in progress is “green”, meaning it hasn’t been fired yet. Greenware needs to be “bone dry” before undergoing the first firing, also known as the bisque firing. At this point, if I mishandle or bump one of my fragile, bone dry pieces, it will break.
Bisque firing makes the work slightly stronger and able to withstand bumps etc. Glaze firing pieces makes ceramic work vitrified, or water tight and much stronger. Of course, being ceramic, all work will break if it’s dropped on a hard surface.
I’m having a lot of fun with these. In a sense, it reminds me of my childhood a bit. I could spend hours and hours playing by myself in a world of make believe. I would create environments or rooms using my cracked open books for my dolls. The end papers of my books made beautiful wall paper or even a forest. I developed elaborate story lines that could last for days until I decided to move onto a different activity.
Today, I’m using some of the botanic or flora photographs as inspiration. In some cases, I attempt to replicate what I see, in others, I take artistic liberty to depict a flower or seedpod. In truth, it is really hard to make the real thing better.
Other Botanic Inspired Ceramic Work
I’m also fully aware that I am not the first artist to attempt to capture seed pods or flowers in clay. Just check out my most recent Pinterest search. What I find incredible, is the range of interpretations. Each person has a unique life view and will interpret the exact same subject differently. We each have our own way of working with clay – our touch is different, our tools, our mindsets, our preferred color palette and even our firing methods. All of these inform our making and interpretations which makes ceramic art (and all art) really exciting.
Finished Botanic Inspired Ceramic Work
Why have I moved in this direction? I’m not sure, is my honest answer. I have been content to explore drawing and clay. In fact, I still am. This newest work seems to be an tangent of my sculptural explorations and my stacked ceramic totem sculptures. It’s fun and joyful which makes going to “work” in my studio a great day.
One of my goals for this work is to create functional ceramic objects that are also beautiful on their own.
A few days ago, I randomly noticed a post on a Facebook group that I belong to announcing that former and current students in the Make Art That Sells e-courses were participating in a 100 Day Project. I don’t exactly need one more thing added to my to-do list, but I signed up anyway.
The premise is that for 100 days, participants will post an image of their project. Participants choose their own themes for the 100 days. I chose 100 days of patterns with the notion that I would use this exercise to work on surface design for my clay work.
History of the 100 Day Project
According to the 100 Day Project website, “The 100DayProject is a creativity excavation. It’s about unearthing dormant or unrealized creativity by committing to a daily practice everyday for 100 days.”
I like this so much that I couldn’t really improve upon the description. The website and idea is in its fourth year right now. It’s so popular, there are literally thousands of posts on Instagram that use the tag #100dayproject.
100 Days of Patterns
I knew that the time that I can commit to the project is limited. With that in mind, I decided to choose patterns as a jumping off point to explore clay surfaces. I intend to spend no more that 15 minutes a day on each sketch and will do it first thing in the morning. Sketching first thing in the morning over my first cup of coffee is also probably a much healthier alternative to signing on to my computer. It’s a warm up exercise to start my day creatively.
100 Days of Patterns – Beginnings
Translating a 2 dimensional surface to clay is limited to using slip, underglaze, glaze and texture instead of pen, ink, etc. I can explore circles, squares, lines, and other shapes at leisure. Since I have 98 days left, I’m spending the first part working with circles or dots. I’m also limiting my color palette to black and white for consistency.
After I decided to work with a square format – mostly chosen for sharing on Instagram, I had a crazy idea on day 1.
I’ve been meaning to play around with paper clay and to explore the non-functional ceramic art realm. What if I used the 100 Days of Patterns as a jumping off point to explore paper clay? I can use the structure of the 100 Days Project to make a large body of work that can be shown together, but also broken up into smaller groupings.
What if I made paper clay tiles and used the images from my 100 Days of Pattern to create 100 tiles? Maybe, I could propose a gallery exhibition locally that featured all 100 tiles and the accompanying sketches. What gallery and where? I’m not sure, but I have 100 days to figure out how to make my idea a reality.
Currently, I’m reading (rather listening) to Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert while I work in my studio. It’s a bit woo-woo, but the book is speaking to me. Yesterday, I listened while she hypothesized that the universe flows with inspiration and ideas looking for a vessel for expression. Being open to inspiration and embracing the challenge is good and maybe even cosmic intervention.
Many people have similar ideas, but each of us expresses them uniquely. Part of expressing an idea is to welcome it, announce it to the world and to act on it. Creating habits, like 100 Days of Patterns is my first step at realizing this lightening bolt of an idea that popped into my head when I started drawing on day 1 of my 100 Days Project.
Nature is pretty darn interesting and makes beautiful artifacts. I’ve been collecting images of plant seeds and seed pods for visual reference to use in my ceramic work. This direction is a new one for me, but one near and dear to my heart as a former landscape designer and Colorado Master Gardener. I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to translate these to clay, but decided to use the winter months to experiment and the following ceramic seed pod wall art trio is the first incarnation.
Originally, I started this exploration with the intent of making ceramic garden stakes for use outdoors. Each one has a hole in the back in which I planned to attach a 3 foot long rod that could be planted in the dirt of a garden bed.
Being a bit of a pack rat, I had saved a dried lotus flower seed head that came in a flower arrangement I had received last year for future use. I think the form is interesting and provided a jumping off point to begin sculpting.
Making the ceramic seed pods was slow going for me. I’m a novice sculptor and translating the likeness of a seed pod is tricky.
In fact, I asked myself why I would even want to try? It’s not to improve upon an already interesting form, but I want to translate the essence of nature’s artifacts at a larger scale for permanence and decoration.
Decorating and Glazing
When I was sculpting these, I learned some (new to me) techniques that abstracted the forms in clay.
Throughout the process, I continually reminded myself that these were destined for the soda kiln at the Colorado Potters Guild. I thought about how to glaze the forms and how the soda ash would affect the surface of the ceramic seed pods.
Final Finished Ceramic Seed Pods
When we unloaded the kiln about a week and a half ago, my firing partners remarked that these would be really interesting as wall art. While I originally designed these as garden stakes, I have to agree. I make a lot of ceramic wall installations and would like to expand this direction and think that this is a good start.
On a technical note, the two enclosed forms on the right hand side of the photo above are rather heavy. I have some technical issues to resolve and think that working with paper clay would help lighten the sculptures.
With that in mind, I picked up a new book on paper clay by Rosette Gault to learn a bit more about the medium. I haven’t been able to dive in, but am really excited about the possibilities!
During the month of February, I’ve been making some more experimental work. I’ve felt drawn to stacked ceramic totem sculptures as a form and method of arranging components which is entirely new for me.
Since I’m not quite sure how to execute larger ceramic totem sculptures, I decided to repurpose some table lamps that my husband and I were going to donate to our local thrift shop. The size and shape of the lamp base is perfect for a table top ceramic totem sculpture.
My husband kindly removed the electrical bits of the lamps and yesterday, I started to play with the placement of the ceramic bits that will make up the pair of sculptures.
While, the minimal white of the components in the video is beautiful, I envision a more graphic composition. I’ll be working on the decoration today. Stay tuned.
After this firing cycle, I plan to work on a ceramic totem for my garden and think I have figured out how I will anchor it in the ground. There just doesn’t seem to be a ton of info out there, so I’m drawing on my experience in landscape design to figure out how to anchor the sculpture so that it does not topple during weather events.
Meanwhile, check out my Pinterest board where I’ve been collecting images of ceramic totems.
What is a totem?
“A totem (Ojibwe dodaem) is a spirit being, sacred object, or symbol that serves as an emblem of a group of people, such as a family, clan, lineage, or tribe.”
While it is somewhat controversial for me to use the cultural term “totem” to describe my sculpture, it’s descriptive of a tall stacked sculpture and easily understood. I will need to really think about the language that I use as I finish my pieces in the future.
More appropriate terms include stacked ceramic sculpture, columnar sculpture, garden tower or garden stacks. Ultimately, I want to be thoughtful, respectful and deliberate.
I’ve let the last two weeks worth of sketches accumulate without documenting them here on my new blog…but I have been working hard to translate some of the imagery to my pots. I blame my deadline for my fast approaching group sale for the lax posting. The pots in the photo above are currently cooling in the soda kiln at the Colorado Potters Guild as I write this. My compadres and I will be unloading them on Monday, April 27th at 2pm – just in time to inventory them for our Spring Sale happening April 30 – May 2!
An interesting thing happened when I was working my sketchbook imagery to my clay work – the mark making has to be simplified when adding it to a pot. Conversely, I started getting a ton of ideas that I wanted to explore in 2D once I started adding surface interest to the pots. My sketches have become increasingly more colorful, playful and detailed.
I’m having so much fun with these and am considering recreating some of these as prints. The one thing I keep asking myself is why haven’t I keep a sketchbook before? I’m past the 30 days of sketching and often have ideas lined up for future drawings. It does take some discipline to make time to draw everyday, but it feels like such a great investment.
Since I haven’t kept up with my posting, here’s a quick 15 second Flipogram to highlight the first 30 days. I am going to make a concerted effort to post at least 3 times a week going forward.
From 2006 to 2009, I was a regular blogger – I kept a schedule. As a returning blogger, I find that I have to relearn the rhythm of keeping a regular practice of sharing images of what I am working on and to write a little context. Today, I am sharing 6 fairly quick sketches (most took about 20 minutes or less, with the exception of 13/365 which took about an hour) of last week’s efforts.
Some of these sketches come more easily to me than others, but I am super excited how each of these is going to make quite a library that I will be able to draw on for years. 365 days of sketching is a big commitment, yet so far, it is easy to squeeze in 15 to 20 minutes here and there. Sometimes, when I am making a drawing, ideas pop into my head for the next couple of day’s sketches. Some days, I stare at the blank page and am not sure how to start.
Not knowing how to start and relying on past work has always stunted my clay decorating efforts. It’s much easier to go back to what I know than to expand on what I’ve done in the past or to invent something new. I hope that through this year long exercise that I will be able to make some serious creative break throughs.
This past week, I’ve really enjoyed working with sumi ink and pen – so I’ve decided to continue in the same vein this week with the addition of a single color.
Below are last week’s sketches along with the “ingredients” list. I was careless a few days and didn’t photograph all of the ingredients.
I don’t have a ton to say about this sketch, except that I was experimenting with the ink and it didn’t quite go as I envisioned. I attempted to save it with the line work. Someone mentioned on Instagram that it looked cosmic – funny because after I drew this one, I started researching constellations. 😀
Later in the day, I headed to the Colorado Potters Guild to work on some pots that I’m planning on firing in the soda kiln with a group later in April. I’m pretty psyched about using this daily drawing practice as fodder for surface decoration for my clay work because I have always left the decorating/glazing up to the last minute and it shows. I have always enjoyed the making part and want to make the decorating more thought out and just as enjoyable as the making.
Sketches 7 + 8 came pretty easy to me and are the inverse of each other. I decided to give myself some self imposed weekly parameters to help guide my sketching efforts. This week is ink and pen.
Keep in mind, I’m trying to use these as potential surface design treatments for my clay work. Some of my first week’s sketches could translate to clay, but after drawing 7 & 8, I know that these can definitely be used on a clay surface. In my mind, the ink is an underglaze or slip, the black lines are Mishima, and the white sgraffito. I’m will be heading to the Colorado Potters Guild this afternoon and am going to start the process of decorating some slab/coil built pieces that will be soda fired April 24.
Meanwhile, here are the other sketches I neglected to add, along with the “ingredients list” for each should I ever want to attempt to recreate one of these: