Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Breaking News--This just in--

The Bulwar-Lytton Contest results are in --


The best contest of good, Really bad writing.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Footnote to the previous post----

The little verse seen on the sculpture in the previous post is a quote from an inscription said to be engraved around the silver collar of a dog belonging to Prince Fredrick of Wales, eldest son of King George II. Said to have been given to the prince by Alexander Pope, Probably similar to the one shown.

--Looks uncomfortable for the dog.

"I am his majesty's dog at Kew,
Pray tell me, sir, whose dog are you?"

So, in other words, I began to stop being my job's dog and become my 'own dog' - mentally at least. : )

Thursday, June 24, 2010

What You Do Today Affects Tomorrow

When I was working at a 'regular job', I commuted an hour+, worked eight hours plus, sometimes attended an evening class, commuted back home, did the regular house thing, cooking, cleaning, etc. went to bed and started all over again the next day. I was up before the sun and many times fell into bed long past evening time.

Weekends were spent catching up on things that had been left hanging during the week like food shopping, running errands, the million other things that have to be attended to in life.

While I liked my job, felt I was learning new things, living on a small farm in a beautiful valley, and was reasonably happy with my life, many times I was just too tired or wrung out to pick up my art and do anything with it. For me, art requires a bit more peace.

True, I did have windows here and there where I was commuting on a ferry or waiting in the queue to board that didn't require me doing anything but sit. And I sometimes read, ate, slept or just zoned out. It wasn't a bad commute.

One day I realized I was actually grieving about losing my desire to make art. That's when I made a promise to myself. I would FIND TIME EVERY DAY to do SOMETHING to "feed my art". And I would carve it out wherever I could find a few spare minutes.

I would sketch.
Read an article from one of my magazines.
Visit a supply store and catch up on new products.
Go somewhere to see new works.
Plan or get a new project going.
Sort through my stash of supplies.
Interact with other artists.

Soon, I felt I was doing something. My mood lifted. I began to find more time to work and made some good things. I even arranged for a showing of my pieces in the gallery space where I was working. I didn't feel like I was just plodding along.

Even though it was slow going, this time period helped me find focus and was the basis for the kind of work I did for many years to come. It was a creative seed bed. I would have missed that whole evolution if I hadn't woken up one day and realized I was wasting time I could be using for myself instead of handing it all to other demands.

Sometimes you have to be selfish for your art......

"We are what we continually do."
---attributed to Aristotle.

Note: This little sculpture was cut out of a flat slab of clay. Patterned from a piece of cardboard, the form was cut out, then gently opened up to make it stand. A cardboard 'tent' held the legs apart while the piece dried. The collar is 3-D and fitted when the piece was drying. The black chain was from an old necklace. Lettering was done over the dry glaze prior to firing. Cone 5/6 oxidation.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Rules for Artists - Work Environment

Find your own best work environment:

This would work nicely, but the turret needs some kiln vents....

For years, due to my husband's occupation, I had no workspace of my own for clay. A spare bedroom or the dining room was fine for other things like weaving, painting and drawing, fibers, etc. But clay is a different matter. Finally we settled in one place where I knew I could plan on returning to working in clay.

My first studio of my very own was an old dirt-floor garage/ex-chicken house ca. 1940 on a small farm we bought. It had drafty barn doors, single pane windows and was about 30 feet from the house. There was a standpipe outside the studio door for water.

The first thing I got was a kiln. There was already shelving at the back of the garage, so I bought plastic sheeting to keep the moisture in and used that to store my works in progress.

I poured a concrete floor for the kiln space and, using pre-formed concrete deck footings built a floor for the rest of the space.

I heated it with an old-fashioned kerosene heater. I had an old drafting table I covered in plastic and canvas, an old wooden stool and I was in business. That first year I made sculpture and slabwork pieces.

Since then, I have been lucky enough to expand to a two-car garage with wonderful lighting and big, bright windows. The only thing bad about it is there's more space to clean! So aside from the physical space, what other aspects of a workspace is best for you?

Solitude or in a Group Setting?

I prefer solitude with music. It helps my concentration.

But sometimes--

I like working in a group because I like the give and take of conversation and being with other artists. I learn a lot that way. Sometimes working in a group studio setting is the only way you can go, but if you have a choice, Ask yourself these questions:

Do you work best by yourself?

Do you find others distracting?

Do you feel pressure to 'perform' well in a group? Are you competitive?

Do you need positive reinforcement from others?

Do you learn better when watching others work or when you can work it out by yourself?

Do you need to have someone show you how to do something or can you solve the problem by using a book or video or working it out alone?

Do you pick up a 'vibe' by working with others?

If you work alone:

Is silence the best atmosphere for you?

Do you like music?

Do you listen to discussions on the radio or like to hear recorded books?

How about your physical surroundings?

Are you bugged by mess? Does everything have to be clean before you can get down to work?

Do you need :
Lots of elbow room or only a small space?
Lots of tools or only use a few?
Do you like to work in your own area or are you comfortable in a shared facilities situation?
Do you like to work a while, leave it, then return to work more or are you one of those Stay-up-all-night Gotta-get-it-done-before-the-inspiration-leaves kind of artist?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Rules for Artists - Safety First

First and foremost, you must school yourself in clay safety.

Sure, you will hear people say, "I've been spraying glaze/looking in the kiln/sweeping out the studio/ for years and it hasn't affected me." Or something else of that ilk.

Maybe it hasn't affected them..............yet.
How would they know until it is too late? Hazardous materials have a way of building up in your body. You may not have symptoms for years. But when and if you do, it could be devastating.

How many times have you walked into a pottery supply place where classes are going on and a kiln is firing in the back? You can smell it the minute you walk in!

Or have you known someone who lets their toddler play in the studio while they are working? I even had an instructor (internationally known artist and author who shall be nameless) say when she was a child, she played with a box of powdered asbestos her clay-artist father (also famous and nameless) had in the studio when she was a child. "And it didn't bother her." (!!)

Always take care of yourself and be mindful of others' safety when working with materials and firing. There are no prosecutable laws governing material content of clay, glazes, colorants, or handling. It's up to you to school yourself. If you can't find the information, proceed with judgement.

Safety of materials is not usually a part of the arts curriculum, but in my opinion, it should be the FIRST thing covered in any program.

For instance, I never handle glaze, underglaze or any material that could possibly be hazardous without wearing surgical gloves. As a matter of fact, surgical gloves can actually help in handling freshly-glazed pots because the glaze doesn't come off or smear. The gloves are cheap, disposable, easy to use once you get accustomed to them. (There is an ad that runs in clay magazines showing a young girl with a paintbrush in her mouth and hands covered with colorant that just sets my teeth on edge.)

I never mix powdered substances or clean the studio without a respirator on.

I never fire lead or other hazardous glazes in the kiln because I know the residue can stick to the walls and affect future firings.

I never eat or drink in my studio or invite others to do so. (I can't tell you how many classes and workshops I've attended where food and drink is available. I even went to a class where I wondered if it was for clay or eating!)

Here are some resources:

The Artist's Complete Health and Safety Guide - Monona Russell - available at Amazon.com

Artist Beware: The Hazards of Working with All Art and Craft Materials and Precautions Every Artist/Craftperson Should Take - Michael McCann - also available at Amazon.com

You can review both books by sourcing them on Google Books)



Monday, June 7, 2010

Rules for Artists

-- The symbol for Zen--

Some time ago, I was reading an article about the art of writing. Famous writers were asked, "What advice would you give new writers?" While it was specific to writers, in some respects the basic ideas could apply to artists just as well. The article was rather long and detailed and I won't go into it here. However, it got me thinking. What would I tell a new potter who was just starting out?

I began jotting down thoughts as they came to me. They weren't in any kind of order. I saved them in a file and from time to time, when a new thought hit my brain, I added it. I put it aside. Then, a few days ago as I was going to sleep, two more ideas occurred to me. I jotted them down on the sheet of paper on my nightstand.

Looking at the list again, I decided to break it down into sections. I will write more later in coming entries.

Overall Philosophy Department: "The first 10 years are the hardest."

This is a quote from the writers' list. It is sort of a joke and not a joke. The same statement could hold true for artists.

It's great to have an innate gift, but talent undeveloped is still just that. Mastery is the prize. It takes time and work to develop talent into the sum of skills with the materials, understanding and cultivation of your own technique and using your gift to bring artistic thought into reality.

There is a book entitled 'Finding One's Way with Clay'. That's a great title and a good book to have. You must figure out our own unique path in the clay otherwise, the work is not yours; it's someone else's.

You may take classes, and seek out instructors for workshops, pour over books on aesthetics, technique and materials. You might pick the brains of colleagues and suppliers. But in the end it is just you and the materials and time.

And really, what could possibly be better than that?

I dub thee Master of the Pot.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Beatrice Wood at the Renwick

I had never seen a Beatrice Wood piece before I saw these pieces sharing the case with the previous teapot.

Now I know why everyone has a fit over her glazes. (The formulae for which she took to her grave, unfortunately.)
They absolutely GLOW. This is a mustard glaze with a rich brown background is almost hare's fur glaze. It just vibrates. I wish so much I could take my jeweler's glass to that surface. I think I would see a slide of microscopic crystals tobogganing down the sides of the rims and across the surface.

I'd love to know the heft and weight of these pieces; they look as if they could be light.

Too bad my camera's battery sighed it's last just after I took this shot.