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  • Local Talkers Close Up

    On: August 6, 2009
    In: Artmaking, Creativity, Studio Journal
    Views: 585
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    Taking a closer look at two of the small face jugs I am making all this year, as described in my previous post. On top is Week #16 and below Week #20. I affectionately call them Bland Man and The Dude. They both were unusual experiences in the making, and that is is why I am featuring them. (You are able to see front views of them in the group shot from my last post.)

    There are typically four faces to choose from each week in the Local Talk column. I am often magnetically drawn to just one and, while I don’t decide for sure until I am actually sitting down with the wet clay to make that week’s jug, it doesn’t change all that often.

    Bland Man was my response to NOT getting any buzz going that week. (No offense to any of those folks featured in that column!) This project has always been more about responding to what I see rather than creating a portrait, but even creative responses benefit from close observation of the details. No matter what I did, nothing niggled or intrigued. What else to do but to go with that then? I am happy I did. There is something timeless in this simple little jug. It has whimsy and wisdom and a calm abiding sense that recalls more ancient art. Bland Man, then, is a tiny little joke, really. Beneath that calm exterior lies….

    Now The Dude I talked of last May in the Mother-Daughter Double Jug post. If you recall, I was tempted to make another two-person jug, but the angles were wrong, so I went with this covered-up but still full of personality (or attitude?) young guy. And, usually I put the week’s number on the neck or hair in back, but the big ole “20” got pressed into the front of the cap. There is swagger and self-satisfaction in this one for both him and me.

    Of the six weeks I let this project ride while I studied ceramics at Skyline College in San Bruno with Tiffany Schmierer, the Thursday columns lined up on my studio wall like fence posts. I spent time studying them yesterday. I mentioned before that I had never seen anyone mugging in a Local Talk column…well, dear readers, I have a Mugger for you. I also have the lovely face of a local classical sculptor who teaches European methods (gee, am I intimidated? Nah.) And there are LOTS of people in sunglasses because it is summer in Santa Cruz! Not quite sure what will develop because of that. We’ll all know in October’s post.

    Like I also have said, nearly all are smiling or doing something to make ME smile. Such a gift. At mid-year I am very pleased with this project and looking forward to bringing it into its fullness. I consulted with Tiffany about applying colors and glazes, so I even have some insight into where I will go with that when they and I are ready. It all feels just right.

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  • Local Talkers Class Picture Day

    On: July 31, 2009
    In: Artmaking, Creativity, Studio Journal
    Views: 618
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    It’s been fun thinking up how to show you all thirteen weekly small face jugs from the second quarter of my 2009 year-long series based on the Local Talk column in the Local Rag Called The Good Times. It’s basically a face-a-week proposition I have been working, working, working.

    But ever since hitting the half a year mark in June, at 26 weeks, I have been letting the columns pile up and taking some time away while I did a six-week summer intensive at Skyline College in San Bruno, CA with Tiffany Schmierer. (Much more wonderfulness on that later.)

    This group shot is reminiscent of an elementary school shoot: line ’em up on some risers and try to capture everyone looking their best. Obviously, some have misbehaved! Love that.

    I also have stylist tendencies, because I put them all on a 2×4 on the laundry room water heater. Let’s go urban funk. It excites me in some great way to do anything BUT the perfect gallery shot. I’m saving that for when the whole series is decorated, glaze-fired and complete. Which is, gee, a whole six months or more away. I’ll wait. In the meantime, I will photograph whatever and wherever I like.

    So here are their sweet and lively bisque-fired faces. What I have learned in the Second Quarter is that the smiles really speak to me, even if they are “window smiles.” I know I talked about smiles in a previous post, but responding to them goes deep and satisfies.

    I also have to admit to understanding my work better when viewed through a lens, blogged about and published. It’s a bit like putting a frame on a painting because it sets it apart and allows another understanding of it to come forth. So does good lighting. So do 2×4 water heater risers in the laundry room.

    I also have learned to stay loose and interpretive this quarter. Hence the Bland Man: I’m sure you can pick him out. But there is also the Temptress and the Dude. (No, not that The Dude, who abides, but a relative.) Such fun.

    I have a few close-ups to post soon. But I wanted to share this Class Photo from today to get things started. It was a great July away..and you will hear me talking about that soon enough…but for now, just enjoy another small body of work that leads to a huge one.

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  • Quinn’s Traveling Journals Project

    On: July 10, 2009
    In: Artmaking, Community, Creativity, Studio Journal
    Views: 586
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    Those two (formerly) blank journal pages up there were mine to do anything with: write, draw, apply thin collages… whatever called me. I had a deadline I wanted to honor before mailing it back to Quinn McDonald in the padded envelope provided, but that was it. I took my sweet time and for once was blessedly serene. No Blank Page Problem here! I was in the tree-stand waiting to trap some lovely creative prey. I was drowsing at the Old Fishing Hole, knowing I would lightly spring into action when I felt the niggling idea on the line. I’d say it was deliciously downright recreational and a grand way to allow art in.

    Since this was the Unthemed Journal #3568 from the Traveling Journals Project, the only thing I felt vital to the effort was my well-considered and deep authenticity. Oh, and don’t fuss. Yeah, yeah: go deep in the most spontaneous way possible! The more this thought grew, the more it seemed the pages needed to be about a moment, and not much more. I wanted an enso, a Japanese brush circle. That much was settled.

    Here came the technical, logistical, physical, spatial, practical, formal, artful problems shuffling in their predictable queue right behind that enso-shaped wish. I kept on waiting. I invited them to my campfire, my drum circle, my tea room. We got along great. They left, tipsy and sated, their ears ringing a bit and I received turquoise and amber, opals and jade!

    They (by now very old friends) suggested that to make an enso in an unthemed traveling journal I use: high contrast, blankish simplicity, pen stippling, my own handwriting, label machine printing, red, humor, and a tiny surprise, but not to plan it in the slightest, just begin. The real-time making was over in, say, 27 minutes. Sweet.

    May I recommend you give yourself a similar creative gift? Sign up for one of the Traveling Journals: Unthemed, Travel, Dreams, and/or, if you’re near Quinn, Summer in Phoenix. You’ll see how by clicking on that link in the second paragraph up there. You also can see all the other pages completed so far. Quinn is definitely in my emerging online family, and I told her I loved doing this so much, to please put me on the lists for Travel and Dreams. Maybe I will see you there.

    And, thanks, Quinn, for letting me use the photo you took, since I forgot to!

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  • The Mother-Daughter Double Jug, or How I Learned to Love the Process

    On: May 22, 2009
    In: Artmaking, Creativity, Studio Journal
    Views: 470
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    When my Art Salon met at my studio recently, I showed them all thirteen of the 2009 First Quarter’s Local Talkers, the small face jug series I am making based on photos from a weekly newspaper column. (Read my previous two posts for the complete backstory!) This mother-daughter double jug from Week 9 was quite a favorite of the group. It is the only double face jug and the only one of a child, at least so far, and it sure is sweet, even if I do say so myself.

    I had an opportunity last week to choose another double, a mom and baby, but the angles were kinda strange, the heads were apart and a hand was involved, so I passed on it and did the scruffy bearded dude in the baseball cap and wraparound sunglasses, even pressing the week’s number (20) into the front of the cap! (I plan to feature all of the Second Quarter jugs in July’s posts, so look for him then.)

    Anyhow, as you may see in the photo, the clay has been bisque-fired, but is waiting for decoration. It is pretty raw looking, but it sure lets the form of each piece be the star. Each one is a stand-alone sculpture. I think I have already mentioned that I plan to do the decorating early in 2010 when I have all 52 or 53 jugs together in a complete body of work. That is both a good and a bad thing.

    What’s Good:
    Able to develop a deeper perception of parts/whole before randomly colorizing or glazing

    Plenty of time to gather ideas and test them out on other pieces first

    Able to consult with others, especially ceramics colleagues

    By decorating them all at once, there will be the same “hand” at work and the same kiln for the finish firing, creating unity in a subtle way.

    What’s Not So Good:
    The earliest made ones are bound to get dusty and oily from being handled more. (I already store them under wraps, but will probably need to re-fire them first to burn off what they have collected over the months: dirt and oils do affect how colors and glazes look and stick.)

    Always the possibility of breakage….but I will just deal with that if it happens by re-making it.

    Might develop real conflicts over several decorating options which seem promising, which would be just like me. *Sigh*

    Might get to like them un-glazed a little too much and consequently be so blocked by that as to not know how to take them to the next place. This is pretty common in the ceramics world: by the time we meet a piece after it has dried and been bisque-fired, we need to reaquaint ourselves with the spirit of it in order to know how to continue the vision. (Unless, that is, one has been thinking about the finishing all along…which I definitely have been doing, so this is probably not going to happen!)

    Well, like I have said, I have never worked this way before and weekly am finding out new things. Know that I am also getting glimmers of how they all will be displayed to best effect…and I will probably talk about that in a future post, too.

    Somewhere in the past I read that artists are not so much problem solvers as they are problem seekers. It’s not by asking WHAT so much as by asking WHAT IF? that creates the itch to make art. To pose a personal “What If” is to seek out challenges. I like this problem which I have put before me. I like that is it just out of my control, just a little bigger than I can understand, that I must wait for it to reveal itself over time and yet has measured chunks of responsibilities for me to execute. It’s a fantastic way to live and has already made this year a memorable one. Can’t wait to see where it takes me!

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  • Keep on Talkin’

    On: May 12, 2009
    In: Artmaking, Studio Journal
    Views: 606
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    When you sign on for a year-long project lots of things happen you did not expect. Last post I spoke of being happily surprised that folks who appear in the weekly Santa Cruz Good Times Local Talk column are so pleasantly countenanced. (I am basing my 2009 one-a-week small face jug project on these faces; first 13 weeks crammed into the shot above.) I guess anyone who agrees to answer the question man is, well…agreeable!

    Some things I have never seen in the column: an answer without a photo…..a dog or thing instead of a human in the picture, someone really mugging, or with their hands in front of their face, turned sideways or backwards…or even looking miserable like in a booking mugshot. Does that mean my facial sampling is skewed a bit towards the thoughtful, articulate, courageous and well-socialized among us? Sure! And, I am fairly sure that sometime in the past, one or all those things I don’t recall seeing have actually been there. This year, however, I live in a bit of dread about them. What, artistically, will be my response if it happens? Maybe I don’t want to know. Maybe I will pick that shot and really get stoked on the relief of seeing something new. Maybe I will play it safe.

    Oh, yeah, and please, Good Times, don’t cut the budget for this column this year! I have thought of alerting the publication to my efforts, but it feels both wrong and premature. I need to let it all unfold as it will, being a patient B.S.-in-Sociology participant-observer! It’s heady enough (pun intended) sharing it with my family, friends, Art Salon and you out there in the cyber ethers. Let’s keep it our little secret and surprise the Good Times later, OK? And let’s hope they don’t surprise me too badly first.

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  • Work in Progress: Local Talkers

    On: May 5, 2009
    In: Artmaking, Creativity, Studio Journal
    Views: 606
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    Now for some dramatic new art! Here is a stage-y shot of most of the First Quarter of 2009’s year-long small face jug project which I have set for myself.

    Some of the backstory about this project: Our local entertainment weekly rag, the Good Times has run a column for all the 20 years I have read it called Local Talk. It’s a Question Man-type column, the kind where the reporter hangs out somewhere like in front of the bookstore, stopping random folks and asking them the burning topical question of the week, or even some general-interest question like, “What did you eat for breakfast?” The peeps who are amenable get their picture taken and their answer published in the column. I have even appeared in it! (And, interesting side-note, after I answered the question on the spot, I changed my mind and wound up calling the reporter later that afternoon to tell him my new opinion! That’s a Libra for you.)

    Anyhow, years ago, when I was new to ceramic work, the Local Talk column asked, “If you were a vessel, what would your purpose be?” The range of and reasons for those answers still astound me. Those five people said they would be containers like ships, sustenance holders, and blood vessels! They would carry truth, food and oxygen in the interests of peace, cultural sharing and fun. I just never thought outside the utilitarian ceramic “vessel” until I read that column.

    Somewhere soon after that column came into my life, I got the idea to make a piece of art each week based on one of the faces from it. Well, it took nine years, but this is the year I am doing just that. Each Thursday morning I go out early and grab a Good Times, bring it home and gently tear out the column and date and number it with the week. I pin each one to the wall in my studio until I can make two or three weeks’ worth of face jugs at a time.

    I never know which of the three or four faces I will pick. Some weeks the faces are just so tantalizing and choosing is difficult. Some weeks, everyone just looks the same. Fortunately I have never sought to make portraits, but rather to use facial features, expressions, accessories and hair/hats as springboards for a fun little jug. Sometimes I am so lost in the faces I never even read the question or the answers!

    I sign and date the bottoms and stamp the week’s number into the leatherhard clay when I am done. They are bisque-fired, but I am waiting to have the entire year done before I color and/or glaze them.

    A side benefit to this project which I did not foresee: almost everyone is smiling or at least has a pleasant expression. They are a gentle, amicable bunch, this First Quarter grouping. I have a bit more to say about actually making them, so will write about them again soon.

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