Archive for June, 2010

Un-Titled Ocarina


Pinch Pot Ocarina - June 2010I am not stressing over the idea that each of these musical instruments needs a title, but it is something that I am considering  more seriously after reading Allyson Stanfield’s post,  5 Reasons to Title Your Art .  Looking around at different online shops that sell ocarinas, there are few that do more than identify the key, the color, and perhaps the shape…and that may be enough for someone looking for a utilitarian device.   For someone seeking a conversation starter or a pedestal piece, I believe bestowing a title to each instrument will deepen the interest level.

About a year and a half ago, Terry Holiday on the MyCreativityBlog posted an article, “Giving Your Artwork a Creative Title“.  Terry’s suggestion for brainstorming ideas are noteworthy.  I particularly appreciate the idea of including place, emotion, and color into a creative naming convention.

As I work through the processes to get these things beyond a fragile greenware state, the mental exercise of generating titles must be tempered with an old adage , “Don’t get attached to your pots until they are out of the kiln.”  For ocarinas, I’ll go with, “Don’t title your toots until they’re toast.”

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Nashville ‘Art Destination’


American Artisan Festival 2010 - Nashville, TNIt is not surprising that Nashville made the American Style Top 25 Big Cities, destinations for art. We certainly love our music and we have some amazing venues for hosting music, theater, and art exhibits.  From my perspective, the fine arts dominate the studio, gallery, and museum scenes in Nashville and that may be the justification for the American Style selection.  Of course, I would love to see clay artists (potters or sculptors) take a more prominent position in the community (and there ARE some notable choices among clay artists)… but as for a sense of community among clay folks in the area, it is a weak link in the arts’ chain and that is reflected in the absence of public studios, workshop opportunities, and cooperatives.  Perhaps Nashville is just a little too far removed, geographically, from the traditional arts of Appalachia to be a mecca for clay people. I’ll not even entertain the stale, potters aren’t artists debate…save that for the classroom.

This coming weekend, the 40th American Artisan Festival will take over Nashville’s Centennial Park and will provide a great fair-style show with 165 exhibitors. This is a show that I will meander through in spite of the hot-humid forecast.  If the attendance at the Spring TACA show is any indication, the era of run-and-gun sales at outdoor craft shows in Nashville may be on the decline. I am still hopeful, however, that low attendance is just a cyclical economic indicator.  Ya’ll come on down!

P.S.  No. I am not showing at this event.

Another Weekend, Another Ocarina


B-Flat Ocarina in stonewareFriends are telling me that an ocarina of this size (approximately 7″ tall and roughly 4″ wide) is a better option for a shelf display than some of the earlier MugPhlutes that are two and three times that size.  That sounds pretty good to me, since this sized piece takes much less time to craft,  is easier to voice, and probably won’t takes weeks of slow drying to avoid warpage and cracking.

So, what’s with the mezoamerican looking pots, anyway?
My reading and research continues on glyphs that feature references to Mayan music, K’ojom.  There are only hints that musical notation ever made it to print and those artifacts have disappeared over time due to the frailty of the bark paper used for writing.  To say that music was never carved in stone illustrates the higher status of the scribes compared to the status of the musical priesthood.  Dr. Bowen’s personal experiences at the Uxmalico archeological site bears witness to this:

EB Note Top“It is becoming clearer each day that conflict developed between the scribes and the MugPhlute priests. Can it be mere coincidence that references to music played for high calendar, astronomical events clearly identifies the date, who ruled the event, what instruments were played…but have the names of the musicians obliterated? Something odd happened at Uxmalico. Something powerful…and it involved the impact of music at these events.  Was there jealousy between those who chronicled these events into stone and those whose music from the event became portable and available in the lowest of households?  Was music a threat to the status of the scribes?  Did the evolution of sophisticated instruments and talented players elevate music to a status beyond simple songs of every day Mayan life?

We’re excavating an area that has exposed large quantities of shards of pipe and bulbous ceramic shapes.  At first glance it appears as little more than a garbage dump from a ceremonial clean-up, but there is a layer below with skeletal remains aligned in a manner to suggest burial of the living.  What did these individuals do to meet their fate in such a cruel fashion?  So many questions and so many new markings to interpret. ”
EB Signature

Pondering Promoting Pots


Most of these ideas on meylah for promoting handmade products aren’t particularly new, but they do look good when posted in one place.  I do find it interesting that the art and craft community seems to embrace social media (Twitter, FaceBook, Etsy, etc.) as a means of promotion and marketing when much of the corporate world seems to be focused on the risks.  As a whole, crafters are not considered to be particularly tech-savvy…but they have adopted technology to create on-line communities and to keep their crafts in the public eye…and it is working!

Sowing Seeds and Thank You’s


Paul's First MugI spent the best summers of my college days on the staff  at Camp Ridgecrest for Boys herding campers from one fun activity to another.   One of those activities involved a trip to the crafts lodge where Frances Clark set up shop to teach the basics of clay construction.  With amazing patience, Frances demonstrated to the boys how to roll out a slab, join pieces of clay together with slip, and ultimately how things would turn out once glazed-and-fired in this shiny contraption called a kiln.    Not to be outdone by a bunch of 8 year-olds, I  picked up the mud and made my very first mug…the one pictured on this post.

It was Frances who cheered me on as my simple mug transformed to a mustache mug, to a mustache mug with my last initial decorating the side.  As best I can remember, that was the only pot (mug) that I made at camp that year and yet the memory of that experience stays with me some 40 years later.  The very nature of ceramics is permanence, but I wonder how often we consider how important it is to sow the seeds of creativity like those that Frances shared with so many campers (and staff like me).

Over the years since camp, one of my greatest joys is hearing from a former camper who reminds me of some event or interaction (that I rarely even recall), but that made an impression or impact on his life.  Well, it is my turn to return the favor to a fellow staff person.  There are many Thank-you’s that never manage to get spoken.  To Frances and the many others who sowed seeds of creative energy in my life (and undoubtedly the lives of others) I say, Thank You!

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Geeky Artist Activity


Most artists that I know are partially powered by a high level of curiosity and adventure (the rest are powered by caffeine *just kidding*).  Those powers inevitably show  up as some aspect of the creative work regardless of the media.  But how far into geekdom does that artistic energy run? This morning as I was adding Google Analytics to “M” is for MugPhlute and for the MugPhlute Etsy store, I asked myself if that sort of activity is something that most other artists even consider?  As an old experienced blogger, it used to be enough to add a SiteMeter to a blog or web site to measure visits, page views, etc.  Now, with Google Analytics, the level of sophistication for tracking traffic, ads and marketing efforts is almost beyond belief.  It is a lot to consider for an artist these days.

That is all. You may now return to your regularly scheduled mug of coffee *slurrrp*.

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New Pinch Pot Ball Ocarina in “C”


Pinch Pot Ball Whistle - OcarinaWithout the benefit of specialized workshops or classes on musical instrument construction, there is a lot of trial and error that goes into the learning process.  I would contend that the earliest Mezoamericans who began constructing flutes of clay would relate to the trial and error experiences of construction…compounded by the challenges of inconsistent clay and unpredictable firing techniques.  All that to say, with some additional reading and research on handbuilt ocarinas, I changed the approach to assembly of these pinch pot ball instruments to allow for last minute adjustments in the air way, tone hole, and fipple edge. The result is a much better quality in the instrument’s tone, tuning and perhaps better ergonomics.  Additionally, feet appear on all of the newest versions with the thought that table (or shelf) display will be the best way to present the finished products… I’m not crazy about the foot, but there are practical considerations that might avoid breakage from rolling off a display area.

This particular piece is approximately 8″ tall, plays in the key of “C” in the green ware state, and is constructed from Standard’s mid-fire, Brooklyn Red clay.