Thursday, May 31, 2012

Going along for the ride (2): The (glazing) medium is the message.

 Sometimes the process intervenes to affect the outcome. In this case, the procedure I use to  get a certain effect intervened to influence the look of the piece in a way I definitely didn't intend.

I use a lot of  water-abrasion on my work, which means I use (mostly) a glazing medium mix to mask sections. The problem with glazing medium out of the bottle is that it is clear and sometimes difficult to see on the piece it is applied to:
Glazing medium with no color added.
I began to add acrylic paint to the glazing medium to make it easier to see how much mask had been applied.

Glazing medium with black acrylic added.
When I  added the underglaze, the unfired piece looked like this:
 The black background really makes the design jump out. But as I said, the acrylic medium burns away in the bisque, so if I wanted that look, I would have to add the background with something more permanent. I put a layer of black underglaze on the piece prior to masking on some of the pieces:
After bisque the mask has burned away. Two with black background applied.
Example of a finished piece with black backround .
So the use of color in the mask, which was by intention, only to allow me to see the mask, ended up influencing the look of the finished product. I still use the white background as well , but will continue to experiment with the background color, possibly substituting black slip for the underglaze.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The shape of things to come: Going along for the ride

No question.
When I am in the middle of a series of pieces, I really have no idea where it will take me, how it will morph into variations of itself, and when I will decide that's all I want to do with that, and move on to something else.

As I said to a colleague recently, my work keeps changing and I go along for the ride. It clearly helps for me to make multiples of the same shape. It is what prompts me to try  variations, often when I am not even intending to.
 I  take photos of my pieces when they are just assembled. Looking at the photograph of a piece often gives me an objective distance that eyeballing it doesn't, like seeing it at a distance with a different pair of eyes to look at the form more critically.
My wife will often be another set of eyes to test against. I show her these photos of what I am working on from time to time. Its easier to get her to look at a photo than to get her away from whatever she's doing  (normally its the chickens) and out to the studio to look at the piece. But I digress....

Case in point: I have a process I follow in making (what I call) my triangle bowls, which  started out as a variation on my two sided bowls and 4 sided bowls bowls. I normally cut away  sections of the bowl like this;

incised bowl. top sections are removed, tossed.
I then remove those top sections, toss them, and end up with the basic triangle bowl:
newly constructed triangle bowl.
Last week, sitting down to make 10 of these in a row for upcoming shows, I began looking at the cut-away pieces I was tossing in the reclaim bucket, regretting their loss: I hate losing clay to reclaim whether it is from trimming or from these cut-aways. I wanted to do something with them. With the last 5 pieces, I had had enough of my symmetrical cuts, so I  added asymmetrical cuts, still regretting throwing out the cut-ways, but  throwing them out anyway . I was ending up with forms more like this:

 Finally on the 10th one, unable to resist the urge, I took the cut-away sections,  reversed them, and reattached them to the initial form, adding the lip sections used before on top of that, creating a deeper shape than my tried and true shallow triangle bowl shape:

 I haven't even fired this one yet. The concern for wasting clay and the urge to use those interesting cutaways joined to provoke me into a new direction.
This is where I am at now-today with the transformation of my triangle bowls. I think there are other forms to alter to, and I am planning on incorporating those once I have made a number of these to see how I feel about them..
 For me its usually best to limit the number of variations or alterations in each piece, so as to not miss subtle variations that can really enhance the form. I also have other variations of other shapes which have not run their course which need to be addressed. More on that later...

Thursday, May 17, 2012

What is it for? (and what do people do with your artwork once they buy it)

Don Bendel was my Ceramics professor at Northern Arizona University. He told this story that I get a lot of traction out of when dealing with the question " what is it for?".

Don used to put these on the top shelf of the salt kiln, toss empty beer bottles on top,creating a glaze pool.

 "I got this commission for a dozen or so of my pots.
 She wanted to use them in her garden. I made and delivered  the pieces, and she thought they were great. Later, she invited me over to show me how great they fit in her garden. I was led into her garden and there were of my pieces, turned upside-down, buried up to the foot into the earth, being used as stepping stones.
After getting over my surprise, I realized that once I sold the pieces to her, they were hers to do with whatever she wanted. I then had to agree, they really did look good in her garden.”
  That's how I remember it.

It is not uncommon for me to relate this story when I get asked what one of my pieces is for, a  fairly common occurance, actually. Sometimes they make a suggestion, indicating how they might use it: "

Well, I could put a candle in it", or I might even suggest something "some people put a frog in the bottom and use it for an Ikebana. Of course either is fine with me. Normally I do explain that what I am really doing is looking at form and construction techniques and playing with them. Function following form. But then I usually define the vessel to them as what it in terms of function, that it is a bowl, or a vase.

It might even look good turned upside-down and used as a stepping stone in a garden!

This one does baffle a decent number  of people:
Mmmm, gravy boat? In term of function, I leave it up to the buyer. As form, its what I cal a two-sided bowl.

One my  favorites is when I had an 8" maquette of this piece on sale at an art fair:
Patron: "What is this for?"
Artist : "Its a band-aid dispensor" (the mouth was just about the size to hold 5 band-aids).
The patron was very amused, (but apparently not enough to buy it ).
So, when I have a patron who wants to know, what a piece is for, I like to relate Don's stepping-stone story. It lets the patron know they are free to do whatever they want with the piece, and allows the artist to accept it too.

Don, Sheila(sister) and me at my BFA show, circa 1981