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Dealing with Old Axiom-Idioms


In the many hours of lab work that go along with getting a degree in architecture also came a bombardment of idiom-axioms that apply to the design process. Many are attributed to famous architects. Other idiom-axioms, I think, were just annoying things that my instructor would say for lack of something original in the way of a critique. You may have heard, “Less is more” and “Form follows function”…those still rattle around in the back of my head. I’m OK with those iconic-architectural skeletons. Those quotes take on different shades of meaning when applied to clay art rather than architecture.

Runner-Exercise Mug Trophies

December 2012 – Mug “Trophies”. High fired stoneware with stains & glaze in reduction…approximately 6″ tall.

When working on a personal assignment this semester, another old idiom/axiom floated to the surface: “Good is the enemy of the best”. This generally speaks to process more than it speaks to results in terms of design. That first sketch of a project might contain glimmers of brilliance (good), but additional development with an eye toward uniqueness often leads to “better” and “best”. I have experienced this on many levels in my years on a personal level as well as a collective/collaborative level. In a Google world, it is humbling to sketch up something that appears to be world-shattering-unique, only to discover that another individual has already done something similar and posted it online. But that is where the Good-Best uncomfortable dichotomy comes into play. Yes, I look at those sketches or the results of other artists and ask, “Is there another level above this? Is there a best that would be the enemy of these (good) results? Is there a twist, parody, derivative that will take me there?”

There are many questions that I ask myself when reflecting on sketches that have been set aside to mature or mellow. What once looked like a great idea becomes something better simply because of the original glimmer of good. So, enemy might be harsh, considering that good isn’t all that bad. But when it comes to striving toward best, a shot of reality harshness, be that from a humbling Google search, a mellowed sketch, or constructive criticism may be what it takes to be unsatisfied with good.

What may be the most difficult lesson to learn is that the trash can is your friend when good sketches push you toward best designs.

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Inspiration Happens


McAfee Concert Hall - Belmont UniversityTwo events of the last day or so  inspired me. One of those events was viewing the YouTube video that you see at the bottom this post. The video clip displays an udu-lamellophone performance.  It is an unusual combination for ceramic musical instruments and it isn’t completely unique, but it is interesting that my sketches of a more complex instrument of the same combination never came to reality because I couldn’t imagine anyone being particularly interested in such an oddity. Certainly, the market is a narrow niche, but it does re-affirm that there are people who seek out unusual instruments to play and enjoy.  This inspiration is one of the kick-in-the pants variety.

The second event happened last night. Deb and I attended the grand opening of  Belmont University’s McAfee Concert Hall.  There are hardly adequate words to describe the amazing acoustical qualities of the space and the performances.  Belmont’s music faculty and students deliver excellence consistently and last night was no exception. The chill bumps kept popping up on my arms all evening long.  If my musician-dad had been there, it would have taken a seat belt to restrain his elation .

There was one thing said at the grand opening that hit very close to home…and I wish I could remember who made the remarks. In describing the architectural treatments and the intentionality of how music would be affected by the space, the speaker said something about the architect-musician becoming one.  Both the architect and the musician build, if you think about it.  And the fruits of the musician and architect have an impact on the people touched by their work.  I needed to be reminded of that.  The architect and musician parts of me, even if shelved as part of my past, resonated a bit when those words were spoken.  As I wrote at the first if this post, I  was inspired…and caught off guard when it happened.

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.

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Garagio Planning


Garage + Studio = GaragioIf the space in our home  actually housed a vehicle in the last 15 years, I might feel guilty for commandeering the 240 square feet of concrete floor to create a clay studio. It isn’t original, but the concept of garage + studio = garagio certainly applies. It will do until the space is formally named.  I’m considering “The Budget” for a sign on the door.  With that in mind, I could legitimately tell someone on campus, “I’ll be home working on the  budget and won’t be (completely) untruthful…just kidding, of course.

The preliminary clean-out is done.  That means that a box full of contractor sized trash bags is just about empty and the city dump is a little less empty.  It also means that there is a POD sitting in my driveway with salvaged treasures that must find a new location once the project is complete. That is a whole different story.

It might sound shocking that this retired architect hasn’t drawn up every little detail for the garagio…that will come in time. For now, I am still relishing the thought of having a dedicated space and I am researching what others have done to optimize small spaces to accommodate the numerous functions associated with the creation of ceramic objects.  There are numerous steps and inter-related functions to a ceramic studio and the workflow diagram that I illustrate here is just my first draft…more detail will be added before it is complete.

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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.

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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.

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York & Friends Fine Art


York & FriendsI am very pleased to announce that Ron York of York & Friends Fine Art has agreed to represent my clay sculptural work in his gallery.  Ron and I have known each other for many, many years but just recently began talking about the possibility of representation.  For the “networking works crowd”, our conversations began at the   2012 Belmont University Alumni Art Exhibit where Ron’s paintings were displayed near some of my sculptural bottles.

York & Friends Anniversary - Gallery CelebrationThe York & Friends gallery is located at 107 Harding Place near the intersection of Harding Place  and Harding Pike here in Nashville, Tennessee.  If you need a good excuse to stop by, please mark your calendar for the York & Friends anniversary party reception on March 10, 2012.  I am making plans to be there to mingle and talk about my own projects and would love to see friends stop by. From the description, there will be a great crowd and great food…plus new work from the featured artist, Vicki Shipley.  If you are unable to make the reception, it is my understanding that the anniversary celebration runs the entire month of March.