I Think I Missed March

2014
04.10

raku wall masksI would like to attribute my March writing-absence from the world of potters, ceramics, and all things clay art to something besides getting older.  There was this Madness thing going around…and my family stays up to their eyeballs in basketball when the Belmont Bruins are playing.  Then, there are these little guys (and one princess) that are called grandchildren that seem to provide an endless source of entertainment. Then again, old man winter kicked me out of the studio for an extended period…I could go on.

Surprising to me, is the amount of clay work that I have accomplished in the last few months.  I re-discovered the hypnotism of doing raku firings and have enjoyed my venture into the world of whimsical masks that have been raku fired.  Those pieces now outnumber any other artwork hanging in my office.  I fully anticipated that it would be something else (like several ceramic musical instruments)…but, no.

And, after a year of procrastinating/pondering the use of custom decals, I have made several, applied them to test pieces, and successfully fired them.  It took a little digging, but the discovery that my old HP LaserJet printer ink contains iron in the pigment, made it a good candidate for water-slide-off, paper decals.  Like so many things in the word of ceramics, making one’s own decals takes a bit of planing and set-up time, but the results are simply cool.  If I can quit jumping up-and-down long enough, I might even get images of new cityscape bottles online with the decal embellishments.

So. March is gone. It was the best of Madness. It was the worst of missed writing opportunities. It was the age of procrastination. It was the age of re-discovering lost arts.  I evidently missed the Dickens out of March!

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Your “Whistleblower” is Watching

2014
02.28

Happy HornblowerThe modern day context of an employee reporting the wrong doings of an organization, (i.e. Whistleblowing) is reborn here. Whistleblowing crusaders rarely wear a mask or a visual identifier of their actions…being real people builds credibility more-so than anonymity.  However, it frequently means less than pleasant consequences for the individual.

But what if that elite fraternity of credible whistleblowers wore a mask. And what if the mask wasn’t a means to conceal the intent but instead to clearly identify the wearer’s intent to be a whistleblowerWell, here it is.

Let’s not get all practical and explain how silly this is. This mask is more of a narrative.  The person behind the mask has a covert view but displays an overt intent.  The cynics of the world might say that real life whistleblowers are more likely to have an overt view, but a covert intent.  For me, I see this as a piece that hangs on the wall greeting the owner with the message, “there is a Whistleblower watching you, you have been warned!”

The freshly formed Lizella Clay piece pictured here will fire to a terra cotta color in the first firing and will be highlighted with stains and glaze in a second, Cone 6 oxidation firing…available in early March 2014.

 

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Nashville Makes Top 10 List

2014
02.10

Looking at the list of The 10 Best Cities to be an Artist, I feel like Nashville is in pretty good company and should be pleased to be holding down the Number 6 spot…and I am really surprised/pleased that Atlanta, another city in the South, is ranked Number 1.   I’d like to actually hear from some of the artists in these cities to get their particular perspectives.  For instance, I can see where Nashville is a great place to be an artist, but is there a strong community of artists, particularly in the visual arts?

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Getting it in Gear

2014
02.09

cupimaticThis is another test of the 3-D gears-on-tiles that I started a week or so ago. This time, I used old clock gears to make imprints into the tiles as a textured background for the project.  Hopefully, a little stain or wiped-off glaze in the imprints will add dimension to the piece.

When finished, this set will be mounted and framed 12″ x 12″ panel.  I’m still pondering if the mechanics implied by the gears should produce something that overflows the half-cup in the lower Left-hand quadrant..or, if light emitting from the cup might be a better effect.

The best news about this sort of project is it can be spread over several days of preparation and the actual construction completed in a relatively short span of time.  The 3-d gears begin as small bottle-top flanges that are cut from a larger lump of clay on the wheel (throwing off the hump).   That first part, the preparation, really does give new meaning to getting it in gear.

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Finding Potter – Not You, Harry

2014
02.02

As the popularity of JK Rowling’s characters exploded, the likelihood of successfully searching Google for a local potter /craftsman by including the word “potter” in a search string diminished dramatically.  I posted that issue on a forum over at ceramicartsdaily.org just recently and received good reactions to my post, “Google – Find a Potter“.  The consensus of opinion from a small group of responder (but very engaged/passionate responders) is that the following search terms are most likely the best to use when searching for a potter/clay-artist…obviously, if you know the individual’s name or the name of the studio your chances of success are excellent.  But what if you are in a new place and just want to see who-is-doing-what with clay?  Here are the recommended search terms:

  • pottery
  • ceramics
  • potter
  • crafters
  • hand made

I like this list, even though I’m scratching my head about still including “potter” on that list (no offense, Harry).  So, here goes.  I reviewed the meta data, title tags, and content on my own site and have made sure that these words are included…ok, I excluded crafters to avoid the whole clay is a craft not an art debate.  In the next month or so, the amount of time that it seems to take Google to circle back around to index the content on my web site, I hope to enter “Nashville” plus some of these terms and have my site show up on the first page of the search results.  I tried it today, and…nothing – not even page 2 or 3, so today is my baseline for this experiment.

For those who actually use Google to find clay artists and potters when you are on the road, I would be curious to know if you use other search terms…I guarantee that there are artists out there who need to know! And for the hard working potters in the world, take note: look at your web content and make sure that your copy includes descriptive words that people might actually use to find you (see list above).  Don’t be a muggle…use your magic to be discovered on the web!

P.S, And bless all those clay-artists/potters whose actual name is “Harry“.
P.P.S. Yes, I get it. This very post is the most likely to return in search simply for the concentration of key words…we shall see:)
P.P.P.S.  No one uses “Home Page” in a search engine  to find you, so use something else in you title tag…trust me on this!!

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Back to Not-So-Basics

2013
12.30

MugPhlute 2013 This year took a turn (no pun intended) to wheel-thrown pieces. That ‘turn’ is one I did not expect to take a full 12 months. Making functional wares is not my favorite thing to do, but the process is one that has deepened my respect for those who do this full time. Immersing myself into several hundred pounds of porcelain and stoneware also improved my skill level immensely. The exercise of making 300+ mugs (and improving along the way) alone became a challenge as well as significant time for personal reflection. There are clear signs that ‘production pottery’ is not a direction that suits me. I still trim the bottoms of my pots and I consistently texture the bottoms and imprint my initials…those actions take time. For some production potter friends, it is more time than they spend throwing and finishing a pot of the same size. I can’t seem to cut loose that fact…and am OK with that realization as well as the financial consequences.

I am revisiting the sculptural aspect of clay. The hand-built MugPhlute image on this post is something that I made 2 years ago, but did not glaze fire until the end of 2013. The form did not seems to stand on its own and I was afraid to glaze it, knowing that multiple glaze firings would be risky with so many joins and varying clay thicknesses.  Now that it is glazed, I think I can call it a completed sculpture with functional parts (a couple of horns and a ocarina).  Even completed, I am having second thoughts…

Clay is such a plastic media and I love taking advantage of that plasticity.  There is a point, however,  where functional plasticity and clay gymnastics cross that I want to explore.  The MugPhlute in this post crosses that line too far, methinks.  If I had to create a Likert Scale that ranged from Pure Function to Sculptural Whimsy, this one falls off the end of the whimsical scale.  Somewhere in the middle of that scale is a point where function is implied and sculpture re-enforces the implied functionality…the piece is still true to its functional roots but stands on its own merit as an artful sculpture.  Although I cannot put my finger on it, my thoughts lean toward religious icons from a number of past civilizations where pieces possess middle-ground qualities of  functional narrative and figurative sculpture,  simultaneously.

It may be back-to-ocarina building time for me. It may also be back-to-figurative sculpture time. Maybe I can train my wheel to take some of those functional, basic forms and get to that not-so-basic middle-ground world. Or maybe, I should simply take less allergy medication (having just re-read what I wrote above) *grin*.

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Hope House International Project

2013
01.14

Hope House Project MugsA few years ago, I was invited to attend a gala dinner event for Hope House International, a non-profit organization that does incredible work with orphans in Ukraine. As part of the event, there is an art show that features paintings from children in Ukraine and others from area artists. My host friends were talking about this one day and we bounced around a few ideas of how some of my clay work might end up in that show. Well, here we are, about 6 weeks away and I am frantically wrapping up the pieces to be fired, glazed, and prepared for this event.

I have my own orphanage story from Ukraine. It isn’t one associated with Hope House, but it remains fresh in my memory as I work in the clay that ultimately turns into something (no pun intended) that will have some small impact at Hope House. In 2004, I traveled with the Belmont University Sports Evangelism team to Ukraine to work with a local church In Zhitomir. One of our adventures took us to a nearby orphanage where I met Aleksandr and a couple of his friends. The three boys played with my camera/video gear while I watched nervously, and although I understood nothing of the words spoken, we had a good time. I thought little of it until our leader stopped me a while later to say that I had no idea how special that time was for those boys. That time with the boys and the comment from my team leader stay with me even today, several years later…knowing always that there is still much to be done to bring hope to the many children who find themselves in Ukranian orphanages.

I continue my support of Hope House International and am happy to be a part of this year’s gala event. I would like to say Thank You for the quick turnaround (and solid advice) for the custom clay stamp from Joel Socwell at 4clay.com.