Archive for the ‘Artist’s Thoughts’ Category

Comments Off on A Place to Build Ceramic Musical Instruments

A Place to Build Ceramic Musical Instruments


Studio ExpansionConstruction can be a fickle friend. Maintaining a focus on the final product and hanging on to one’s wallet seem to be conflicting concepts.

Progress at the house and studio are actually moving along well. The studio expansion is part of what we are calling our last remodel.  That remodel includes a serious facelift of siding, all new windows, a larger HVAC system, and an upgrade to the electrical service. All of that work also means an extended period of construction.  It also means that clay production work on new ceramic musical instruments will have to wait a little longer.

June is here and I am anxious to get my hands back in the mud.  My sketch pad will soon switch from studio accessory designs back to more fluid clay concepts.  I check out the flow diagram often just to make sure I don’t skip something basic.  After all of this work and waiting, I’ll not be a happy camper if I find myself needing adjust plans after the dust settles and the paint dries.

Stay tuned (no pun intended). Studio images will be coming soon.

Comments Off on More CityScapes Coming Soon

More CityScapes Coming Soon


Stoneware CityScape Bottles by Paul ChenowethThe initial CityScape project  that consumed much of my free time in December was well received at York & Friends Gallery…so much so, that I am scrambling to get a few more pieces ready to show.  Having a bad case of hail-storm-damage-life-interruption hasn’t helped much but there may be a silver lining.  It is one of those, “while you are at it” doing repairs, replacing roof and windows,  how about let’s get this studio conversion completed as part of the process.  So it goes. One more iron in the fire and much to get accomplished in a short period of time.

These bottles are fun to build. The taller ones are wheel-thrown in two sections and then carefully joined.  Once joined, the finished spout is collared-in and pulled to its finished form back on the wheel.  The result is a fairly light weight, thin-walled bottle.  I have been asked a couple of times to show that exercise on video but keep forgetting to take a camera into the studio. Yes, that’s what I need…yet another project.

What you see here is the impatient stage. The bottles are tightly covered for a week or two and allowed to get leather hard.  From the leather-hard stage, there is a considerable amount of carving, sculpting and texture work to accomplish before the first, bisque firing. Those images will have to wait for another day.  More CityScapes are coming, even if coming slowly.

Comments Off on Connecting the Dots

Connecting the Dots


Paul Chenoweth - York & Friends AnniversaryThere is quite a space between the first time that I ever showed work publicly  in a Birmingham Art Show back in 1971 and the event pictured here.  Art and architecture have been part of me for just about as long as I can remember, but I don’t recall it  feeling this personal.  There is quite a difference between working for someone on a project with a clear expectation of a contractual payday and creating work that you really enjoy doing,  in the hope that someone will share that enthusiasm and seek out your work…and pay you for it.  I know that concept isn’t new.  It is, oddly enough, something that takes a bit of getting used to.  I know of other artists who work hard, create excellent work, and yet struggle to make the connection with clients who equally appreciates the creation.  One might think that this is a simple step in the artistic  process that begins with an inspiration and ultimately ends with a happy, paying customer.

Some artists are able to do it all: plan, create, produce, market, sell.  Others find folks in the middle who help with pieces of the puzzle that are distasteful/uncomfortable and then trust them to be a part of the process of connecting all of the dots.  I am grateful that there are people who can do the heavy lifting of marketing and sales so that I may focus my energies on  a body of work, a better studio space, and a healthier lifestyle.  There is a little letting go involved.  There are clear benefits to realizing that you don’t have to do everything yourself and that letting go is the right direction. It just takes some people a little longer to figure that out.

Comments Off on Facing 2012

Facing 2012


Stoneware Mini-Mask If there is a pattern in my recent work, it is a fascination with portrait sculpture, particularly the capturing of human emotion via facial expressions. Students in Clay I constructed some really interesting, multimedia clay masks last semester while I was sequestered in a corner of the lab carving architectural pieces for this month’s show. As a testament to the influence of learning communities, I must confess that those masks were an influence in the mini-mask direction that you see here.

I still refer to Philippe and Charisse Faraut’s book, Mastering Portraiture- Advanced Analyses of the Face Sculpted in Clay, on a regular basis. There is so much great information on the art and anatomy of portrait sculpture illustrated in the book, I consider it a must-have companion when sculpting clay faces. I am still hopeful that this summer’s travel schedule will not conflict with an opportunity to study directly under Philippe at a weekend workshop somewhere close.

A full-scale portrait sculpture still takes me all day to complete, but these hand-sized studies can be pinched from a fist-sized ball of clay and completed in about three hours. It does get a little easier to do with practice…and a review of the first of these with the last of these seems to tell me that I am making progress. Ultimately, I envision 5-7 of these little guys displayed together in some sort of installation…that’s not a completely original concept, but it is new to me.

So, here I am facing 2012…and looking forward to the adventure!

Comments Off on Work in Progress

Work in Progress


When I proposed a thirteen bottle, sculptural piece as my initial clay project for this semester, I was thinking that a couple of hours on each bottle would get the job done. As it turns out, 5 to 6 hours of throwing, carving, and texturing to this point translates into the fact that not even the first, test bottle has been fired or glazed. All that to say, I need to get some images online for everyone to see the work in progress. It indeed has turned out to be a bunch of work!

Comments Off on Processing Italy

Processing Italy


Paul - Sienna, ItalyLess than a week ago, Deb and I were traveling across Italy with the Belmont University men’s basketball team. It was quite a trip. We hit Milan, Lake Como, Sienna, Florence, Lucca, and Rome in glancing blows that would make even the most seasoned traveler’s head spin. I would be remiss if I did not add what a pleasure it was to be around the team, the coaches, and family members…a terrific group of people!

I will claim Florence as my favorite place and the city that I would most like to re-visit just to spend a week or two exploring in greater detail. Our hotel was just a block or two away from the Duomo in Florence, so walking was the perfect means to see the sights. I will probably NOT climb the narrow steps to the top of the cathedral dome again, but the view from the top was well worth the sweaty clothes and sore calf muscles. I would definitely allow for more time in the evening to eat and people-watch from a sidewalk ristorante or two.

Among the 700-800 images that I captured on the trip are just a few of me. This particular shot was taken by Cheryl Byrd during our brief stop in Sienna. It may have been the only time I was off my feet all day. The smile does tell the story of the trip. Great fun. Great company…and much to process.

Oddly enough, I don’t recall seeing any ceramic musical instruments during the trip…but there will be more coming soon from a clay lab here in the USA, I promise!

Comments Off on “M” is for Maquette

“M” is for Maquette


I have some serious doubts that ancient, mesoamerican musical instrument builders spent time building maquettes of the ceramic musical instruments they created.  Maquette has French, Italian, and Latin genes, originally translated as “speck” or stain”. In contemporary use, it is more commonly used by architects and sculptors to mean a small-scaled, study model for a larger piece. Arguably, ancient Mayan and Incan musical instruments that feature a character holding/playing a much smaller ceramic musical instrument qualifies, I suppose, as a maquette.

Maquette and Sketches of Whistling VesselFor me, the retired architect, building a maquette for a complex piece that is intended to be both sculptural and functional makes sense. Certainly, sketches are my first step in visualizing what is coming from the mind’s eye and to establish some sense of scale, but there are other benefits. Clay is a very malleable and forgiving media that enables the artist to make mid-course corrections and changes in the designs. Building a small maquette helps to reveal some of those options that might otherwise hide themselves in a two-dimensional drawing.

The maquette and sketches in the picture on this post are for the whistling vessel that is currently under construction. Not wanting to fire the work in multiple pieces, the interior height of the electric kiln became a major factor in the scale of the project. Between the sketching and the constructing of the maquette, a number of changes happened to the original concept as the piece evolved into something that (potentially) will be an unusual whistling vessel. In this instance, the pouring of water through the vessel will play a tone as the water escapes the spout, and, the vessel will play a different tone through the stopper as the vessel is tilted back from a pouring position to its upright state. If it works, I will be thanking that Physics of Fluid Dynamics professor from decades ago. If it doesn’t work, I’ll be blaming the “C-” that I received in the course *grin*.