Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Gone WalkAbout

This blog will go on WalkAbout for about 2 weeks while I transition to sunnier climes.

I'll be relocating my clay workspace too, which may take a bit of time to get everything up and going. Really looking forward to it.

See ya soon!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Tools I Can't Do Without

Home Made Bevel - I can't even remember where I got the wooden block for this tool. It knocked around the studio for a long time before I realized I could attach a wire and slide it along the edges of a slabs to cut a bevel for joining pieces at a 45 degree angle with a lightweight, neat seam. A worm of clay on the inside; application of a roller on the outside to keep the edges sharp. It's so simple: the block, plastic-coated jewelry wire, 2 screws and washers. Used it for years and years. Never had to tighten the wire.

Level - Perfect for keeping everything square and level. Especially when hand building something. You can suspend this light-weight level in the center of a plastic ruler and make certain the top rim of anything is level and true with the other side. I sometimes use it on the wheel too. Of course my wheel is absolutely level, but it's nice to double check the top edge of things.

Graduated Hole Cutters - Bought these in Japan. Musta' walked a mile off somewhere into the boonies and rice paddies to a building loaded with clay goodies. (Where the heck was that, Rick Mchaffey?) I guard them with my life, since I only have one set. They always go right back into the plastic sleeve they came in when I'm finished. You can see how small the gradation goes down to. You could almost do something intravenous with the smallest one, I swear. Have never used it, but have certainly used the larger ones. They are very sharp.

Bison Tools - Absolutely the best trimming tools going. Beautiful, easy, comfortable handles. This is a few of the ones I use. Wonderfully handmade tools by master toolmaker, Phil Poburka, You can find them at www.bisonstudios.com. You can find Phil at bisonstudios.blogspot.com.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Changeable Vase

A vase with interchangable necks. Interesting idea, although I don't much care for the 'lock down' feature on the side and I wonder what the black ring and small ring are all about. I believe this example is made in Germany, judging from the Euro price and the attaching device--makes me think of old enamel German and British breadboxes and modern canisters with latches.

Makes you wonder, 'why go to all the trouble of calibrating the fit?' when it would be just as easy to make three vases. Of course, this is probably a cast commercial piece. It would be possible for a studio potter to do the same thing, although I'd more than likely figure out some kind of inner flange-fitting design to hold the different vase necks in place.

I once made a very tall vase that was wider at the top and bottom than the 'waist' and fitted it with a lid. I was quite proud of it and took it to a show. A woman was very interested in it; liked the look, but asked me, "What is it for?"

"Whatever you want." I said, puzzling.

"Yes, but what do you DO with it?" she said.

"Well, you could store spahgetti noodles in it." I said.

"Humm." she said.

"You could use it as a flower vase." I said.

"Yeeess, but what would I do with the lid?"

Maybe a multiple-choice vase is too much.

More Mueck

Thinking further about Mueck's work and his use of scale:

Most of us look at something in a cursory way in order to identify what it is. I think we're wired to do just that. It may be a function of survival to instantly recognize our surroundings and be sensitive to things if they don't appear 'normal'.

So many of us don't really look at things; study them, see the shape, the color the surrounding background as it relates to the object. See the line, mass, composition, structure, light and shade or the movement of muscles, bones, fabric, leaves etc.

It's interesting to be in a museum gallery full of abstracts and listen to what people say to one another. I've heard them say something like, "Oh, that's clouds and a river." in order to organize what they are seeing into something recognizable. I've even heard women say, "I'd like to have a living room that color", looking at an abstract painting. So there's all kinds of ways for people to 'see' and interpret.

It's been my observation that hardly anyone sits on a museum bench spending a long time looking at an abstract painting. They usually stroll rather quickly through these large rooms devoted to 4 or 5 large pieces.

Segway Allert:

Once I came across a house-sized painting done completely in grey. That is, the entire canvas seemed to be nothing but grey. I started to walk on further when something tugged at me. I stood a distance away and began to study, to look at the canvas. It dawned on me that it was really an impressive exersize in the manipulation of color. One upper corner began with a medium dark, very warm grey and this pigment progressed diagionally across the canvas to the opposite lower corner resolving in a cool grey. The exact reverse process was going on from the opposite upper corner to the opposite lower corner. In other words, the artist had controlled the tint of grey creating a gigantic X with all the subtle gradations of grey from warm to cool and presented an absolute, totally neutral grey in the center. And no stumbling on the way, it was a mastery of tone as well as tint.

A man walked up to me and asked, "I've noticed you looking at this painting for a long tiime, may I ask you what you are seeing in it? I can't understand it." When I pointed out to him what was going on, he was amazed when he began to realize the skill it took to pull the thing off.

Museum goers will, however, sit and look at a Victorian work chocked full of things or a large, heroic painting of a battle, an intricately painted still life, an exquisitely painted portrait of someone in an elaborate costume. That isn't to say one is good and the other is bad. The intent of the work results in the response of the viewer a lot of times. Abstract work can create a mood, an emotional response while an intricate painting like one by Brugel for instance, can be filled with symbols, myths, parables, puzzles, allegory and illicit a completely different response from viewers.

Art can be as different as a poem is from a textbook.

Murek's work demands you look at it. First, because it has the impact of easily recognizable forms. Second because it is hyper-realizm--just about as close to 'real' as you can get. And third because it is presented in either in gigantic or miniature form.

A work in miniature focuses the attention on the object. We are compelled to try to see if the miniature is as good as or equal to the full-sized object. When the work is enlarged, the same effect happens. But, as in the case of Murek's work, the piece gains presence; translated into gigantic form makes use of a kind of 'awe' effect comes into play as well.

I always have to chuckle at the huge typewriter eraser that's installed at the end of the Mall in D.C. It's a great combination of forms. It's taking something that is mundane and makes it monumental and it's also amusing because I think of all the pages of type that has flowed out of all those buildings for all those years. How many of those erasers have been applied to paper in that few square miles?

If you saw a typewriter eraser on the sidewalk, you would hardly give it a thought or even look at it except to think, "It's an eraser." Seeing one that must be 15 feet high is another thing entirely.

Moving sculpture, walk-through installations, drastically altered common things, shocking things, distortion, using multiples to create texture are some of the things artists use to make the viewer "see" in a new way.

Historically, much of art has been about the capturing of realism. The more convincing an image, the better the art. That is until artists began to shake thing up with what one historian has labeled "The Shock of the New". New ways of painting light. New materials to work with. Using art to send a message. (Although the religious art of antiquity certainly had it's message too). Methods of gaining fame by scandalizing, shocking, or upsetting viewers. There's lots of devices to manipulate the work and the viewers.

It is communication, but visual and mental. It bypasses language. It's a mysterious thing because it is all bound up in perception; the artist's and the viewers. I think art speaks to people in unique and individual ways, on so many levels of consciousness. That's why it's so difficult to pin down into language.

Sometimes art means no more than, "Here's a beautiful pear".

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

More on Seeing

You just never know when you'll find a good pattern. I mean, why bother with compasses, folding paper and using scissors when perfect patterns are available everywhere around you? (This is cooking directions in a pizza dough package.)

One of my favorite patterns for a spout, like the one pictured on the square teapot at the top of the blog, came from a label on the side of a Ketchup bottle.

The best thing I've found for making really tough templates is x-ray film. That's not so easy to come by, but if you can find a supply, hoard them! I just happened to see a bunch in a trash can when I went to have my annual mammogram and asked the tech. if she would give them to me. (Now I know that most places send them somewhere to have the silver reclaimed, but evidently this place didn't know or didn't care to do that.)

Another good place to Med-Scavange is from you friendly neighborhood dentist. Old, worn out dental tools are great. Made of good materials, easy to clean, non-rust steel--can't beat that. It's getting more difficult to find them because of concerns about disposal/contamination/liability , but it's worth it to ask. If all else fails, you can probably find them on eBay. Everything else is there.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Ron Mueck

I just discovered the work of Ron Mueck, a hyper-realistic sculpture who works in fiberglass and silicon. His figures are so realistic, you expect them to breathe.

**Segway Alert**Michelangelo's 'David' is like that. When I walked into the room where David stands in Florence, I realized I was holding my breath, unconsciously at first, waiting for him to breathe.

I wonder if Michelangelo was aware of images of Alexander......more than likely.

There's a real similarity between the face of that sculpture and those depicting Alexander the Great.

But I was talking about Ron Mueck. And Mueck creates extremely realistic figures. His attention to detail is incredible. This is intriguing enough to make us look closely at his work, but he does yet another thing to further focus our attention. He changes the scale of his subjects to either 1/2 to 1/3 size of the real thing or he builds giants.

A 30 minute video located at blip.tv/file94203 shows the process of making the figures.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

A Small Bowl

This small bowl looks much better in reality than in photos. I've nicknamed it 'graceful'. I love the curvy shape. This bowl is relatively small--about 6 inches at it's widest.

The black accent is intended to be a foil for the elongated shape opposite. The next step might be to, instead of applying this element, to carve out a 'keyhole' for balance. I'm absolutely fasinated with form and love to play with it. Can't do it too much in clay, though. Especially porcelain. It will 'dig in' and say, "Whoa! Enough! I quit!"

Photographing this piece is a real headache. Something happens when a round object gets translated into a flat image by a camera lens. There's a very subtle distortion going on.

But that's the subject of a whole other discussion.

Monday, October 1, 2007

October 2 update: Last night I dreamed I was digging in the sand and coming up with handfuls of jewelry like this.

There was so much of it I couldn't hold onto it.

AGAIN no pockets!

What the heck does that mean? Wait......a.......minute......

I think that's the history of my fiscal life.