Bits of how I got to Here & Now (2/21). Rather than archive all my past blog posts, I've selected just a few, some only excerpts, that remind me of where I've been, where I'm at, and where I think I am heading. I can't find one of my favorite posts, titled Perfectly Cracked. It was a nice overview of my stylistic fragmentations, excavations, cracks, holes, tears, rips, broken bits (salvaged for aesthetic usefulness) and other attributes of my sculpturally functional approach to clay objects that may serve as household and office utilitarian decor. It will be interesting to watch myself morph into a willing participant in the refined and polished realm of the commercial retail gift shop market.
And So It Begins 7/13/2014 On my “Rambles” blog a bit ago I wrote that “I am going to build a potter's place on my back porch. Way cool--just (ha-"just") winterize it, put in shelving, electric, water, sink, a good linoleum floor, wheel, kiln, wedging table, buckets and so forth.” (Thick Water 11/13) Of course since then the flooring, construction, placement and just about everything else has changed. Tomorrow is my birthday. I love my birthday. Doesn't matter whether it’s a whoopee-do year, or a leave-me-the-fuck-alone year, I still love my own special day. The studio is my gift to myself. 7/15/14 and so it continues…I will walk the clay path, touched by the spirits of phyllosilicate minerals, frit, flux, flocculated slip, grog, kaolinite, and all the luscious ingredients that come with the territory, plus the archetypal spirits of ceramists everywhere.
Happiness is a feeling; optimism is a belief.
Not news, but for some reason this phrase has become hyper-operational in my world view, moving the glass from half empty to half full, at a minimum.
“Today we put the finishing touches on things at the Sharon campus anagama. My profuse thanks go to NHIA ceramics studio manager Eric Maglio, graduate and CE student Lori Rollason, and a newly returning to ceramics Lee Ustinich for helping out today cleaning up the kiln area, bricking in the doors, sealing the ports, covering some of the wood, and getting the 4 probe data recorder pyrometer system in and tested. We are about one day out from the start of the firing at 8 AM on Thursday, October 30th. Kiln master (kamamoto), internationally known John Baymore, wrote the above on his FB page, which tickled me to no end…I guess I really am “coming back” to my art-rooted self…I've been showing up, which is the first step of any journey.
I Love My New Timer
Three & ½ inches, digital, inexpensive and has the best “time’s up” extended alarm I could find. The requirements were: (1) being audible several rooms away or while deep in thought; (2) the sound had to be tolerable and harmonious with my spirit, and; (3) a sound that is not easy to dismiss via the brain-override-ignore it thing that happens, as whatever is cooking on the stove burns to a crisp.
The maiden voyage of Fushigigama* is almost complete except for the fanfare of the unloading event, tomorrow, which ought to be a blast! I am making soup to bring and don’t want to overcook the stock. Hence the mention of the new timer.
* Essentially means "..."Wonder Kiln", but that does not catch the true meaning of the Japanese name (which)...has the multiple connotations of not only wonder, but also curiosity, mystery, miracle, marvel, and just a hint of curious strangeness." Fushigigama is a huge anagama kiln built by John Baymore and students of the New Hampshire Institute of Art; kiln installation is co-credited to Maureen Mills, chair of the Ceramics Department of NHIA, who is a fantastic educator as well as a renowned ceramist. I also appreciate the shared expertise of program director and clay artist Chris Archer, who told me how they build the holzhaufen, the beehive wood stacks.
Art Speaks: Arrange for an Interpreter
I am torn between the notion of art speaking for itself, standing on its own, beauty in the eye of the beholder and so forth, and the cannot-be-disputed need for art history, art critics, and educational enlightenment.
I think of serenity as an inner peace, which we humans can nurture within ourselves, to whatever degree, by seeking, learning, doing, being, and basically just attending to those trickles or deluges of energy and insight and gifts of revelation-for better or worse-as they come, or are sent, our way. For whatever reason, the notion of art speaking for itself always supported that dynamic of serenity, for me, far more than all that messy art history, art criticism, and art interpretation, agitating and throwing grit around.
The whole tension between the whispers and shouts of art, strutting about the world, made me think of Dick Carlyon (1930-2006). (I adored him, as did many others.)
Richard Carlyon was one of VCU’s most extraordinary art instructors, nationally known, and the most exquisite art interpreter. He showed me how to look, how to see, how to think, how to do, what was essential to know, where to find the imperative backstory, and other useful gems. I wrote down most of what he said in his art history class, and have lots of notes. Here is a little gem he rolled out one day, in his effortless way, when he was on an educational rant about something. “Art is the early warning sign of the culture.” Put that in clay, I thought. See what happens. Don’t know that I will, or can, but I have been gnawing on it ever since.
Pride-is it really a Sin? "What has clay taught me: Humility." Steven Branfman (raku master) I am so pleased with myself. Why? Because I like how my stuff is turning out and it makes me feel good. It is nourishing, somehow, to find, in retirement, that I am still able to THINK creatively after 30 years of servitude to rent-paying 9-2-5 work in public sector human services, which is not overly conducive to having an idea and going anywhere with it. I assume the humility will come along right quick.
The early pride (is it really a sin?) and the sense of accomplishing something, followed by an insuppressible drive to keep doing it, fueled my innate drive to do something creative with myself. Growing up in NJ, I began to study how to draw Woody Woodpecker from Walter Lantz's books, and horses from Walter Foster. I ignored Bob-with-the-big-hair and creepy affect when he was on TV. Saturday morning was the highlight of the week, because I got to use my Magic Window TV drawing screen for the Winky Dink show (Wiki it). Spent all of my allowance on art supplies. Going to the art store in Hackensack was the best thing ever to do on a Saturday afternoon.
I learned about Jackson Pollack the year he died, when I was nine. He made sense to me and I wanted to do what he did, be what he was (the artist-not the alcoholic). A big financial sacrifice in my family, I was given watercolor lessons from Mrs. Anthony, a woman who used purple for shadows for everything—every single thing, every single painting. Decided I did not need lessons, I could figure it out on my own. Got fired from my first job in H.S. for drawing on the paper bags instead of paying attention to the customers.
I went to all the museums in NYC from an early age-my favorite places, aside from the New York Public Library, of course. Won a place in the old Greenwich Village sidewalk art show, but lost it when they found out I was a minor. Moved from Jersey to the city after high school. Lived in the East Village, impoverished, and with larceny in my heart--I stole tons of art supplies from the NYU bookstore. Finally got caught, and learned several painful lessons about criminal activity, humiliation, guilt, and shame. Stopped thieving. Kept on painting and drawing.
Finally went to art school in my late 30’s. The great Phil Meggs (His book History of Graphic Design is the definitive standard read for the study of graphic design.) advised me I wasn’t going to be the next great graphic artist and suggested, as a single mom on welfare and under a lot of stress, that I try the Crafts Department, being a tad less intense than Commercial Art and Design. I did, and it was less intense as far as not being saturated with highly competitive rapid-fire complex projects, yet equally intense in terms of the level of creativity and craftsmanship expected. I discovered ceramics as an art form, and here I be! Ta-da.
It was a lovely spoon rest…I was excited, anticipating what those mystery glazes are and how it will come out. Terrible habit---which I am not willing to break: I do not take glaze notes. Works for me. I love it when several pieces have glazes that dry in the same dull brick red, so I no longer have any idea which is the shino over the rutile or vice-versa.
I am getting ready to fire tonight. I’m listening to the Weavers’ masterful album, “The Best of the Decca Years.” A wonderful version of Old Paint (Ride Around Little Dogies) is entertaining me while I load greenware onto the utility cart. I single fire, so that means I am not loading bisque. That has nothing to do with the spoon rest breaking, though. It broke because the handle failed. I was not being conscious of the weight and glaze thickness of the spoon area vs. a relatively thin handle with fewer glazes, so it crashed when I lifted it by the handle, which cracked off, of course. Dunno what I was thinking—I really do know better.
It is OK though…even as it hurts. I have been focusing on “honoring the survivor”, which informs the leaving of imperfections in my approach to the clay, and accepting gifts that may come of breakage. That’s an over simplification, but it’ll have to do. So far, I have done a few pseudo-masks (face-pressed selfies). When the piece broke, I rescued the best fragments, smoothed the sharp edges, added more glaze/color features, and made something of the “tragedy”. See “Survivor of No Secrets”, No. 4 in my Hidden Mask Series. That is often how life works, isn’t it, if we have the steam to keep on truckin’?
did I know I was going be an Artist?