Clay and Fiber: New Work Experiments

 

Group of Knitted and Crocheted Porcelain Pieces, 2019

 

I’ve been cocooning myself in the studio for a couple of years now. Gestating, trying all sorts of new/old/new again approaches, bringing them along to the fullest expression and then, having learned all I was interested in learning, dropping them cold. Sometimes that’s called iterating, sometimes it’s called a major dry spell, spinning one’s wheels, procrasta-productivity, even – oh no! – an artist’s block (which I actually don’t believe in.)  I never felt stuck in this creative walkabout. Impatient to get on with it, yes, but never stuck. Breathe in, breathe out.  Anyhoo, since last summer I have been testing and forging ahead with the myriad of ways to combine clay with fiber arts, specifically knitting/crocheting. Once I entered the formidable front door, it proved to be a mansion of many rooms and I’d like to take the rest of this post to share annotated photos from my visits to a few of them.

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Make First, Explain Later – Or Not At All

Left to Right: Sheik Abou Ben, Angus, Kiku, Henrik, Mumtaz and Greta

 

I have a skittish relationship with naming my creator-self.  Saying I’m an Artist, Artisan, Craftsperson, Ceramicist, or even just the tony nom-du-jour of Maker, bothers me sufficiently that shortly after I adopt one I find it uncomfortably limiting, if not damaging.  While each may work as a signifier in the moment, they speedily run smack into the twin problems of demarcations and assumptions which divert, subvert, and pervert.  The root problem I have with labels is sort of a chicken/egg connotative conundrum. Does the Maker’s making (as a pure process) inform the Made’s meaning?  Or…does the Made Thing (a physical product) make the Maker something (as a byproduct of the product?) Humor me while I iron this out.

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Caterpillar Soup

Caterpillar Soup!

Exactly what happens in a cocoon, that organic black box of metamorphosis?  The caterpillar attaches, spins a blanket, and proceeds to digest itself, keeping only a few “imaginal discs” to generate the adult body parts it will need, and using the rest of the resultant goo for food.  In the months since I have last written in this Journal, I have been in a metaphoric chrysalis, happily sipping my own “caterpillar soup” which I am only now able to take a stab at describing.

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Compare and Despair*

 

Rio Del Mar Beach 2017

Are you jealous of the ocean’s generosity? Why would you refuse to give this gift to anyone? Fish don’t hold the sacred liquid in cups. They swim the huge fluid freedom. –Rumi

 

The temperamental obstacles of Comparison and Envy, which I haven’t fully morphed out of my life yet, have become opportunities for a transformative practice which helps them dissolve more elegantly. Discernment and competitiveness – generally accompanied by a high dudgeon and despair – were marginally more workable in my youth, what with school and jobs and boyfriends and such. But now, at a gentler juncture, they are entirely unsuitable and, left unexamined, bring little but boring uni-directional angst. Measuring myself against others in any way has outlived its usefulness and I am now quick to notice it skulking around and invite it to dance.  What arrives with the waltz, a “huge fluid freedom,” is where the juju is. So let’s talk about that instead.

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In Which It All Gets Done Handily, A Photo Essay

 

New booth banners

By the time you read this I will be one or less days away from my only major in-person show this year: the annual ACGA Palo Alto Clay and Glass Festival. There’s an unholy amount of prepping to do to ensure I represent myself well in a constrained 10′ x 10′  setting.  Add to that the fact that I haven’t been able to do this show since 2015 and have both cream-of-the-crop older and brash hot-out-of-the-kiln work to share.  Still, after five times, I know my drill and the Festival itself is fantastically organized, so it will all happen as it should.

After the art was finished and curated, I got curious to photo-document the maelstrom created by the show preparations. It matters that it’s done at a measured and sane pace because it’s absolutely the optimum way I support my exhibitorship in advance. The photographing, the pricing, the list-checking, the rounding-up of all the booth and display parts, the packing, the snacks and the changes of shoes all count. So, with only a few days to go as I write, here’s an annotated behind the scenes photo essay for you. Let’s start with the uncurling of the brand new but long-stored booth banners relaxing in the sun on the hot tub cover, looking like the Star Wars opening crawl — if it were done in classic Cooper Black  (a typeface “for far-sighted printers with near-sighted customers.”) 

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My Back Pages

 

ceramic centerpiece
“Centerpiece” Clay, Stains, Glazes, 2013

 

 Up in the attic pawing through tubs teeming with my older ceramic work, I sat chuckling and chucking a goodly portion of it. Then I hauled the remainder down into the daylight to plead its case for retention. Concurrently,  I clicked to the outer reaches of my Artwork Image Folders, creating sleeker organization and curating like hell. (Don’t worry, as of this writing 17,127 files remain.)  This trip through my overgrown creative back pages has served to both inform and to deeply overwhelm. SO much work and so many changes of techniques and styles! For clarity’s sake, couldn’t I have settled, made only one or two styles and just been happy?

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We Nourish Each Other

Artist's Alchemy Set 2018
“Artist’s Alchemy Set” Found and Acquired Objects, Ceramic, Underglaze, 2018

 

If this was a chapter in my autobiographical how-to book (working title: Fired Up), it would be much longer and charmingly anecdotal, starting with one premise but taking off on profound and oh-so-meaningful tangents before returning to a heart-rending culmination. But, instead, it’s a journal entry and it needs to get in and out in 800-1000 words. I think I can do it – particularly the heart-rending part – and I will tell you the word count at the end.

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