My husband and I just returned from a long weekend visit to Phoenix, AZ where we visited long time friends. It’s was a great get away and I’m so in awe of the Arizona landscape. It’s desert, but, WOW is it ever dramatic from the incredible sunsets to the plant and wild life and dramatic colors.
Today’s post is just a recap and I will return to my regular blog schedule next week.
On first glance, the landscape is just brown with a touch of dull green thrown in. On further inspection, however, the plant life and surrounding landscape is teaming with texture and color. Luckily, we didn’t meet any wild life up close and personal. (ie. rattle snakes, coyotes, etc.)
We visited an enclave of homes built into a hill side in Carefree, AZ. We were told that these are $1,000,000+ homes, but it sure was fun to look and dream.
One night, we attended an outdoor concert at the Ak-Chin Pavilion at sunset. The temperatures hovered near 100 degrees F during the day, but cooled off dramatically in the evening to around 65-70 degrees. Just in case you’re curious, we saw Dead and Company with John Mayer.
This is a later view from our perch at the Ak-Chin Pavilion.
There was even a nice view from our friend’s back yard – an those plants!
Though I’m generally not a pool person, I took advantage of our friend’s pool to cool off during the day. The large flowering tree is an oleander which I’m told grows like a weed in Phoenix.
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.
I am obsessed with the photographs of German artist and teacher, Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932). I discovered his work on Pinterest when I started researching plant forms – specifically seedpods to serve as a spring board for my clay practice.
A sample of Plant Photographs by Karl Blossfeldt
He developed his own cameras that could make photographs that enlarged a subject up to 30 times its size. Originally, his photographs began as a teaching experiment at the Unterrichtsanstalt des Königlichen Kunstgewerbemuseums Berlin, now part of the Kunstwerbe Museum.
Among his preferred subject matters were plants.
He believed that ‘the plant must be valued as a totally artistic and architectural structure.’
Ultimately, his photographs served as teaching aids for his students. By sharing his magnified photographs of plants with art students, the photographs illustrated how the intricate structures of plants can inform design. Sounds a lot like “biomimicry“, before the term earned a fancy name.
To see more of his work, please check out some of the links that I provide in this post.
History of the Collection
Karl Blossfeldt’s collection of photographs was published in 1928 in Urformen der Kunst or Art Forms in Nature 30 years after the photos were originally taken. Here is a link to an in depth pdf for more information.
In 1974, Ann and Jürgen Wilde purchased the negatives of the photographs and established the Karl Blossfeldt Archives which is now part of the Ann and Jürgen Wilde Foundation associated with the Bayerische Staatsfamaldesammlungen, Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich, Germany.
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.
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.
Shortly after New Years, I didn’t have much going on in the studio…it was quiet after the holidays and a couple of online classes popped up on my radar and I thought, “Why not?”
I signed up for Molly Hatch’s/Ben Carter’s “Think Big” class and enrolled in Diana Fayt’s “The Clayer – Surfacing” class which ran concurrently for a bit. Why? I had been humming along just fine, but felt a bit bored creatively towards the end of 2014 and decided that learning something new would be a good jump start for the new year – a way to make some creative leaps with external motivation in the form of a class. I had already started the process of mixing things up in the studio, but then stalled once the holidays crept up.
I’m typically the type of person that jumps in head first and gives 110% to whatever it is I’m doing. It was no different for these e-courses. Emotionally, I was all over the place in the Think Big class. We were asked to do some real soul searching about the direction we wanted to move towards creatively, spiritually and financially. I am really inspired by Molly Hatch’s multi-faceted career as a maker and designer and I always look forward to Ben Carter’s interviews with “artists and culture makers” on The Tales of a Red Clay Rambler. At first, I didn’t think that I was interested in expanding outside of clay, but now I’m rethinking the possibilities.
I have always been a Jill of all trades, mistress of none. Yet, I have worked hard to focus on clay in the past two years in an effort to craft a career in ceramics. I have not dabbled in other mediums – I have concentrated on clay. The effort has not been for naught. I lost momentum in 2009 when I decided to go to graduate school for landscape architecture. I returned to clay in earnest late 2013. I also returned to making and working like I used to do before taking a clay sabbatical. In essence, I found it necessary to relearn how to work with the material, to understand the work flow, the making cycle and more. Going back to what I knew was easy. Switching gears is hard, but I’ve done my homework.
Graduate school was both a blessing and a curse for me. I loved stretching myself mentally and physically – accomplishing things that I never thought possible. It was a bust in that I adopted a more contemporary aesthetic that wasn’t totally authentic to me and I decided that I didn’t want to practice landscape architecture. The gifts that graduate school gave me are endurance, thick skin, humility and an ability to think bigger. Did I need to go to school to learn that? Probably not, but I can’t change the past.
The Clayer – Surfacing class was great! Diana is a fantastic instructor and was very encouraging to everyone. I wasn’t sure if I was interested in many of the techniques that she was teaching, but I love her work and have followed her on social media for years. We were given assignments every week and shared our efforts with each other and sometimes the world via social media. I have learned that I like Mishima (or the art of slip inlay) as a technique. I love creating my own patterns through the use of hand carved rubber stamps. Mono-printing on clay is cool. AND I really like hand building with clay.
I found joy again in creating, trying new things and working in multiple mediums. It was almost as if I were given permission to play and to go back to what I was doing before I went to graduate school. It’s the freedom to do what I want with no expectation of a particular outcome. I also know that I am throwing my whole business plan out of the window.
Between these two classes, I have discovered that I actually have something to say and that I want to share these creative explorations out loud. Instagram, Twitter and Facebook just don’t have enough space to delve deeper.
I am not new to blogging though – I started journaling online in 2007 at Colorado Art Studio which is now defunct. At the time, Colorado Art Studio was my ceramic business name and about 1.5 years ago I changed it to Ceramicscapes and in a momentary urge to purge, “out with the old – in with the new”, I deleted it. I still have a backup and every so often, I contemplate importing the contents for posterity’s sake. I regret deleting my old blog.
In the past year, I’ve asked myself if blogging is still relevant? I’m not sure what the answer is to this question. With the popularity of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and other social sharing sites, it’s so much easier for people to interact on a single platform or two. Yet, I have come to the conclusion that any traffic, while nice, is irrelevant. I am in the process of shifting how I work and want to document the process for my own sake, albeit publicly. Plus, I find other people’s blogs to be a fabulous resource when I’m interested in what they do, what their motivations are and how they work.
Recently, Michael Kline and I had a brief discussion via Twitter about blogging and whether it’s a. relevant and b. how to name a blog. Ultimately, I decided to start a fresh blog using my real name. (Sawdust and Dirt is one of the first blogs I started reading back in the day.)
If you’ve landed here now and have read this far, this is my first post. The date of my first post isn’t random either – today is my birthday. 😀