Why would I, a longtime confirmed handbuilder-of-clay, seek out and buy a book dedicated to wheel throwing? Am I switching teams? Not hardly! I have no intention of throwing pots.
So, then, what gives? And why this particular book? I’ll explain.
A few years ago, my friend and clay buddy John Albrecht sat me down and described his passionate idea for a new clay place. What he outlined back then was not just ambitious, it was a little outrageous. It would be a place, he said, that reached out to both clay diehards AND clay newbies. It sounded like my kind of theme park: excellent facilities, enticing projects for spontaneous drop-ins, members’ studio space and privileges, local clay artists available for consultations, date nights, movies, interesting flex hours. Oh, and a gallery with exhibits and work for sale. (more…)
This is to introduce you to a concept and a word I wish I had invented. But no, that honor and distinction goes to Academy of Art University in San Francisco Graphic Design MFA candidate Flora Cruells Benzal.
She defines Typoramics as the place “where ceramic art and typography meet.” And is creating her thesis-including-book around the artists who practice it.
A woman after my own heart in SO many ways: ceramics! graphic design! education! synthesis! word coinage!
After six years, I’m stepping away from the Santa Cruz County Open Studios Art Tour for at bit. I won’t even apply again until 2015 at the earliest. Good for me!
Like eating peanuts, I made sure I ended on a good one. This year’s effort was my best showing ever, in both artwork and presentation. It had the most attendance (over 400 visitors) and satisfying sales numbers in all categories.
I know other local artists who create a on-off Open Studio schedule, some as an every-other-year practice, some sporadically, as other projects and interests allow. Might it work for me? (more…)
It starts with the intention to make molded clay animal cracker pins to raise money for Cabrillo College’s Ceramics program and ends with….ceramic animal cracker pins that do just that.
But the journey is the interesting part. Not the noun what, but the verb how.
Let’s enjoy the fascinating loop-de-loops, curious sidetracks and obtuse angles to get there, learning a thousand things that don’t work on the way.
At first, testing to find the best approach:Which clay? Body stain or not? Oxide washes? Underglazes? Glaze? Testing, testing, testing. Always comparing the results to a real sample, which is surprisingly ORANGE toned. Important, too, are the molding methods and whether or not to add any clear glaze. (In this case, no, unless you want frosted animal crackers!) What you see above are the first efforts, which admit a bunch of possibilities, most of which prove unsuitable. Next slide, please!
After a few more trial runs and notes, the Final Four Finishes (ignoring the clear glaze on some of them) sit alongside a real cookie and ask for comparison. The crowd-sourcing group preferred #4 without the glaze, and so did I, so that finish was the emphasis in the next round:
The Final Four Finishes Favorite with an added toasty edging. Could anyone guess the real ones from a random grouping of clay? In this shot the real ones are turned over, but most could not distinguish among the lot beforehand. The closest guesser noticed the excess material at the mold’s edge, not the applied colors. The job ahead was clear: make neat moldings and color them well.
And that’s what I did. Nearly four hundred crackers, pressed and molded neatly. Over twenty of each kind!
And bisque fired in several tumble-stacked layers.
Most of the animal cracker shapes were clear: Lion, Giraffe, Gorilla, Koala. But there was one Mystery Animal. That’s the cracker at the bottom of this photo. Was it a pig? A big dog? A lactating mammal with gills? It provoked a lot of feedback and speculation to my Facebook query. But the definitive list of official Nabisco Animal Crackers appeared from a Friend, identifying it as….. a hyena. Really? Ah so. We also learned that the older molds from older crackers were larger and more detailed than the fresh-out-of-the-box-this-week cracker molds. Ah, profitability.
The task at hand: to color and glaze fire the collection. The sheer volume is daunting. Time to put tailbone on the stool and just get it done.
And the first fired round turned out too dark and blotchy! At least with low-fire clay and underglazes, an artist can just re-apply the lighter color treatment and refire. A burnt cookie is a burnt cookie, but a burnt clay cookie mostly just needs color adjusting and refiring. That’s what you see in the shot above, lightening each one to send back into the kiln once again.
With a successful RE-firing, it’s time to glue on the pin-backs. Long live E6000, or at least its smell.
A few fully formed, fired, re-fired and fitted animal cracker pins for fabulous fund-raising.
–Liz Crain, who thinks a curiously tenacious work ethic, a few laughs, and raising funds for Cabrillo College’s Ceramics Program are definitely worth the kink in her neck from hours in the same intent position.
This post doesn’t have 101 items, but it talks about about someone else’s 101.
Seth advocates imagining possible new worlds. Austin dishes on how to trick out our idiosyncratic creative arenas. Kit gets down with the 101 ways we need to pay homage, dues and attention to our art .
If I could make a Venn Diagram of Seth/Austin/Kit I would get the kernel that is this post, the seminal coalescence that resonates and feeds me.
Let’s work backwards, because you might not know what a paracosm is, any more than I did before I first read about it. Just understand that it’s a fantasy world, detailed and believable, at least to the fantasizer. The most fundamental example is a kid with an imaginary friend, but whole genres in literature and film are devoted to this dynamic. Think Oz, Neverland, Avatar.
Seth Godin expands the concept of a paracosm from child’s play, sci-fi, or magic realism, to include all conceptualizing outside of our comfortable world view. It’s a detailed answer to What If______?, which is the lead-in question vital to invention, creation, even survival. He goes on to say it’s a disloyalty to yourself and your future to NOT employ this kind of exploration and hypothesizing. If our current cosmos also easily admits alternate or evolved versions as a paracosmos, we are more informed and more resilient. Plan B in 4D!
Austin Kleon’s Steal Like An Artist, 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative actually includes 34 Sub-Things and 27 Deleted Scenes Things. So that’s 71 Things he shares. I especially liked:
New ideas are mash-ups of other ideas: Yup.
School yourself: Google everything. Go deeper.
Use Your Hands: Duh, I’m a clay artist!
Don’t Throw Any of Yourself Away: Find out about everything that calls you. (It’s for the art historians to find the unity in all you do.)
Be Boring: But only in your habits and life, so you may break loose in your art.
Choose What to Leave Out: Self-editing helps you get to the heart of what you want to say.
Kit White’s 101 Things to Learn in Art School, another squarish little black book, recalls Austin’s in that it makes points and holds brief discussions about them. Yet the points Kit makes fan out in a different quadrant. I’d put them in the School Yourself area of Austin’s book, but they go much deeper than that. Sometimes in studio classes there just isn’t the time and inclination to cover theory and a person could leave art school without much more than a whiff of it. While Kit may echo Austin (or vice versa) with things like #89 Eliminate the nonessential, he captures my fancy with these:
#2 Learn to draw. So glad I did! You too.
#16 Words are images. I’ve always loved fonts. Words add meaning and form.
#28 An idea is only as good as its execution. If you think nobody will notice where you fudged your detailing, you’re wrong.
#53 Sculpture occupies the same space as our bodies. Working in clay, this is crucial. Human-sized is my new middle name.
What to make of these three? The takeaway always involves the personal. You will read these books and blogs and extract meaning all your own. But you will extract meaning, no doubt. If I were to boil it all down to one sentence as it pertains to me: Your personal paracosm is the prime mover and you owe it to your best creative self to cultivate and understand it deeply and to foster it in any medium you’re attracted to in the best way you and your hands know how.
~Liz Crain, is a ceramic artist who tries to make simple meaning out of complex input.