This is my Oscar Acceptance Speech. Or maybe it’s my Jimmy Fallon-style Thank You Notes, and I promise to keep it short and heartfelt. But guys, just look at that shot of a portion of my Games People Play Solo Show! To make such a sustained effort in the studio and to see it showcased so nicely gives me a thrill over and over. It’ll be great to move on to whatever’s next, but first, a moment please, to acknowledge the crap ton (a technical term) of help from my friends that I had in bringing it to this point. It would have been insanely harder, if not impossible, without them. In no particular order, other than what my perforated remembrance affords, they are:
We’re continuing our explorations of the artworks that will comprise my upcoming solo show, “Games People Play,” with this take on the venerable boardgame family internationally known as Draughts. (That’s Checkers to Americans.) In this version, which I titled Gummo, the ceramic playing pieces are fashioned to resemble used chewing gum and, just like gum, they can cling to the underside of the checkerboard when not in play. Whaaaaat? How? Why?
Let me formally introduce you to the first installment of a series that I’ve been creating for my upcoming (March 2018) solo show at Roscoe Ceramic Gallery in Oakland, CA. With a working title of “Games People Play,” the show’s all about seven artfully intriguing and fully playable games which incorporate my hand built ceramics in major ways. I fashioned the playing pieces for all of them, and sometimes I created the playing field as well. Found Objects abound. Let’s look at the Big Idea for this Exhibit and then at the first game I made. We’ll explore the other six over the month of February, providing I finish the last two!
Each year I do a short unstructured ceremony in my studio to review the year and reset my sails for the next year. Most years I assemble the work table altar items with care over the week preceding my session: flowers, candles, music, and aromatics join meaningful pieces, well-considered written summations and questions, paper for note-making. This year was different: I needed to not just record, but to JOLT things, so I began calling the event an Intervention. To support that idea, I roughed out a space in the over-crowded studio for just a scant few basics and went to find the recipe for the Nasty Woman Cocktail, a leftover from a former time of optimism.
Clay work as I experience it is unforgivingly slow-going. Asking clay to do the wrong things at the wrong state of wetness doesn’t yield desired results. Rushing claywares to dry invites problems the whole rest of the way. Bumping a bone dry piece can see it revert to dusty chunks. Not wiping bisqueware off before glazing it is just asking for glaze burbles. We won’t even speak of all the ways an inattentive firing can ruin entire loads of works, regardless of whether they were circumspectly made and decorated or not. I say clay taught me patience. Now I wonder if I learned that lesson a little too well. I’m certain that I make clay work even slower in at least ten ways. Let’s count them out.
For me the past couple of years have been an exploration of new artistic avenues. I wasn’t particularly stuck (once I figured out I still wanted to work with clay, that is,) I just had no compelling path forward. So while waiting for that path to appear, I goofed around, tweaking old works and testing all new inklings, until I found myself curious again. Sometimes that re-working involved happy breakage. Here I explore a few rationales for both the rambling and the rupturing.
First off, a hearty welcome to new readers of the Studio Journal who joined us last weekend at my Open Studio. That annual crush of enthusiasts always gives me a chance to tell old stories related to how I came to make the stuff I do. Here’s one I’d forgotten and I thought to repeat it here because it contains one of the best pieces of advice I have ever received.