The Story (and science) of a Pot

These words I write are for the people, by that I mean, most people, ones not involved in the underrated world of ceramics.  I want to explain how this pot came into existence and shed light on the process so “the people”, my people, understand how cool ceramics really is.  It’s an art form, but it’s also a science!

For the ceramics savvy , this was soda fired inside a large bowl, that is the reason for the gradient colors, the bowl acted as a shield!  If that last sentence is confusing, keep reading.

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Clay is intriguing due to its range of characteristics, it can be thin as syrup (slip), malleable like play dough, or stiff like soft wood (for the sake of knowledge, keep your mind out of the gutter).  Then you fire it and everything changes right down to its molecular level, clay turns into glass and stone.  The way this particular piece was fired is actually what makes it special but the making came first, so….

This bottle was thrown on the wheel and altered afterward by hand to give it its voluptuous and wavy form. It was fired in a kiln/furnace to 2,300 degrees for around 24 hours and the color and texture come from chemical reactions within the kiln during firing, I did not directly design the surface, but I did influence it.

I’ll admit, the transformation within the kiln is not as as mysterious as Santa Clause but it still feels like Christmas morning to open one.   The color and texture are the result of flame interacting with clay and its form.  You can think of every kiln as its own unique palette, then factor in the type of fuel you use, firing method, clay body, and glazes.  These all play a major roll in how the finished product will be.  Since this isn’t a college course and you don’t have 4 months to read I will fill you in on the most interesting part, the science of a soda kiln (also known as an atmospheric kiln)!

The type of kiln I used here is a Soda Kiln. During firing, sodium (similar to baking soda) is dissolved in water and sprayed into the kiln, instantly vaporizing, turning into a gas. Flame and vapor flow around the pots in streams and eddies like a river. (During loading the maker imagines these streams and tries to predict how his/her pot will be affected.)  As sodium gas flows through the kiln it turns to glass when it comes into contact with the pots and “glazes” the work. The dark green and black glossy area at the top of this bottle is where the vapor made heavy contact with the pot, the bottom is dry because it was totally protected from the streams of flame and vapor.

The interesting thing about this piece is that it was fired inside of a large bowl, protecting the bottom half from the vapor like a shield, that is why there is a gradient of texture and color from top to bottom.

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Certified Fine Artist

Its been too long since I last wrote…I am in the final stretch of my BFA degree and I can’t wait to finally be certified as an artist of fine things!  This is my last semester here at NAU and I’m working on my first art show.   I have been working hard and have done a lot of growing up.  The new soda kiln was just finished today and I’m jonesing to fire it!!!  I still have a lot of work to do with only 6 more weeks till my BFA show.  I just hope I can figure out how to create a cohesive body of work….Vase Pitcher Mughere are a few good non-cohesive new pieces

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The Taihu Stone

This is a Taihu stone, they are awesome

A Taihu Stone is a form of garden art which originated around 700 years ago in Chinese gardens and represent humans influence and collaboration with nature.  These rocks are found on the countryside and chosen based on their unique shape.  When a rock is selected, the artist carves into it to accentuate its features, then he places it in a river for around 30 years to let the water erase any manmade marks.  A generation later, a descendant of the artist retrieves the boulder from the river as a finished piece and the work repeats.

I imitated a Taihu stone with clay and covered it with soil to allow nature to reveal it over time as a reference to the original process. Here are a couple photos of it right after installation- DSC07839DSC07844

At one point the soil offered a place for flora and fauna to grow referring to the sculpture’s original intent as a garden piece.  Its placement near the Japanese teahouse refers its history as these rocks are collected and revered by the Japanese.

The next two photos shows the soil wearing away

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And this is what it looks like today!

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Ephemeral Studios!

HI!  I am excited about an art gallery in Jerome my painterly friends opened (I contributed a few doll hairs so they let me be a part of it).  Jerome is an awesome old town up in some mountains which are in a desert which is in Arizona.  The view from town is amazing as it offers a vast unobstructed view of the desert below.  The town was established by a mining endeavor which is now kaput.  There are only 444 residence and supposedly, all of them are “high”.  I don’t know what that means but I read it on the back of my waitress’s t-shirt while eating at a restaurant in Jerome.     Here is a photo of the townAerial view of Jerome, AZ.  and here is a photo of the view from the town Now if you would just look closely at this image, the buildings with the red roofs compose the “Old Jerome High school” which a bunch of artists now inhabit.  if you look at the highest and leftmost part of the high school, that is where our gallery is!  not too shabby.

Here are some photos of opening day which by the way was a huge success.  

ephemeral studioSo that is that, we have a gallery in Jerome.  We are having another show/opening Saturday June 1st, 5:00pm.  The address is 885 Hampshire Avenue Jerome, AZ 86331 Studio 300 A.  Come visit us.   Also, check out all of our art at http://ephemeralstudiosgallery.com/home.html

 

 

Hot Out of the Kiln

Howdy!

Here are some new pictures of my latest.  I want to say that although not much has changed, I realized the academic system feels like its constructed in a way to beat you down.  There is this thing called senioritis where students stop showing up their last semester and then quit art all together after their degree.  I understand why it happens and how they feel but I realize this and I am not going to slow down.  I am going to grind it out all the way through my Masters.  No rest for the weary

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Scholar’s Rock

Scholar's Rock

The inspiration for this piece comes from a Chinese form of art called scholar’s rocks. In China, people find interesting shaped limestone boulders and carve into them to accentuate their features. Then they put them in the river for 30 years. During this time the river defines these features even more and polishes the surface. The next generation then fishes these boulders out and repeats this process for the following generation. I thought that was an interesting story so I decided to use clay to mimic this long process.

Just a few words

I felt ridiculed during my last critique among fellow ceramic majors and professors.  I showed them what I thought to be substantial work.  I talked about my work like students are expected, but what I had to say was the problem.  I explained that there really is nothing to explain.  I free form my pieces and they turn out to be this way for no reason, at least, no reason that I can explain, until now.

I have been thinking a lot about how I feel so strongly connected to functional pots but have a desire to go sculptural.  I have been told that it is best to go one way or the other in order to focus and enhance a particular skill set.  I was thinking and I realized I don’t necessarily have to choose one or the other.  I am going to blend the two by making thrown and altered forms that have the same origins of inspiration as my functional work.

After much contemplation contemplating things I never contemplate, I realized my  enthusiasm and inspiration for making pitchers comes from the human form.  I know it sounds weird but I am attracted a finely made, wide bottomed pitcher in a similar way I am attracted to the opposite sex.  I believe it is hardwired in us humans to respond to attractive human form, therefore, our sense of aesthetics is developed based on our taste in an attractive counterpart.

The features of my pitchers are highly gestural as they relate to the human form, this is a fact and I have been subconsciously driven by during the past 4 years.  crazy.

So I am going to continue pushing my functional work and at the same time make sculpture with the same methods, techniques, and inspiration.

Now that I have that business all straightened out, one last word regarding my current sculpture project.  Today, as I was working on the large sculpture in the photo below, it collapsed, fell over, and was ruined.  it took me about 8-10 hours to get to that point, on top of that, it was my final assignment in my sculpture class.  I feel like shit and heartbreak.  that’s ceramics for ya.  times like this makes me feel like ceramics is my master, testing the will of my heart.  It has been a struggle to keep things in context and not get upset.  Overall I feel good though because from the second this sculpture fell over, I felt acceptance.  It wasn’t until I was loading the mess back into the pug mill that the loss set in.  I reformed the clay into a similar shape but not nearly as striking as the first form, due to the time constraints of the end of this semester.  We will see how it turns out.