Tue

14

Apr

2020

Virtual Ceramics in a Pandemic

Even in the best of times, it's tough to find success as an artist. We work diligently to get into exhibitions, find galleries and make sales. It’s never the easy part of pursuing a creative career. Most of us would prefer to make our art and leave the business side of things to someone else, but of course there is usually no one to pick up the slack. If you want other people to see or buy your work, you have no choice but to discover and pursue the opportunities available to you. 
And then along comes the unthinkable — a pandemic! How are artists affected? Well, if you are like me, you do your work alone in a studio where social distancing is a part of everyday life. Making art is not the hard part of coping with the current situation, in fact it’s an escape from all the bad news, the stress and uncertainty. What gets me down is the news coming from galleries, art centers and museums announcing closures and the suspension of their exhibition calendars. Virtually every facility that features art finds it challenging to stay in business during normal times, even when the economy is thriving. And now? I shudder to think how they will get by.



One by one, I have received messages from the galleries that represent my work telling me they are “closing indefinitely,” or doing "deliveries and curbside pickup only.” I was informed that the "Hard Won, Not Done" exhibition at the Muscatine Art Center had to close early, and the reception and the artist panel discussion I was planning to participate in were cancelled. It saddens me to think of all the preparation that went into this show, and how far back the planning went. How many other exhibitions around the globe have suffered the same fate? 
 
I had also been looking forward to the upcoming “7 Artists, 3 Dimensions” exhibition at the Olson Larsen Gallery in Des Moines. It was my first opportunity to show my work in this venue, so I was excited. But of course, that too was affected by the pandemic. Fortunately, the gallery is finding creative ways to continue with their plans, so this show will now be featured online. There’s no substitute for seeing 3D work in person, though, but right now it simply isn’t possible. 



Read More

Thu

29

Aug

2019

Hard and Soft: Contrasts in Nature

An Exploration of Extremes in Nature Using Clay as a Medium

Read More

Wed

02

Jan

2019

Disaster Averted!

As anyone who works with clay can tell you, sometimes disasters in the studio can't be stopped, but when they can it is such a relief! And yesterday I nearly destroyed a piece I'd worked on for hours, just as I was adding the finishing touches. Peering closely at the texture I'd added, I got distracted, and tipped the top-heavy piece a little too far. The next thing I knew, it was falling, and I grabbed it as fast as I could. As I did, I heard the sound of pieces breaking off, and I feared the whole thing was crumbling apart, so I closed my eyes and didn't look until I was ready to face the damage. But to my surprise, only a few pieces had broken off, and it was clear my sculpture could be saved.

Working against me was the fact that this tubular structure was becoming brittle, as it was drying out faster than I preferred.This time of year the air is extremely dry, and with a space heater on in my chilly basement, keeping my wet clay pieces in workable condition is a challenge. I have my spray bottle handy, and frequently mist the sculpture I'm building, but even so, some pieces get a little too dry.


I'm aware there are other methods for preventing rapid drying, such as draping dampened paper towels over the form while it's stored under plastic wrap, or keeping the piece in a damp box in between work sessions. It's also good practice to keep a large piece under wraps during construction, while allowing only the section being worked on to be exposed to the air. However, I find it's hard to resist the temptation to look at the sculpture in its entirety as I work, and the trade off is that my pieces dry out fast.

Read More

Wed

15

Aug

2018

Should You Enter Pay to Play Art Competions?

I once won a $1,000 prize at an art show, and I liked to think that money went a long way in covering the expenses of subsequent competitions. Nevertheless, like many artists, I've wondered over the years whether such competitions are worth the price. As I thumb through my latest copy of Ceramics Monthly, and check out the "call for entries" page, I'm frustrated by the rising cost of entry fees. $45 to enter a show that I may very well not get into, and even if I do, I have to pack my work and pay the shipping expenses. If I don't win a prize or make a sale, is it worth the trouble and expense?

In doing a little research on google, it becomes apparent to me that a lot of artists are struggling with this question.

Some websites and artist's blogs tout the benefits of entering competitions:

https://www.agora-gallery.com/advice/blog/2017/01/16/right-way-to-enter-art-competitions/

"Art competitions can be a great way to develop your confidence, your career, and even your own understanding of your art. They are like stepping stones in your artistic journey. You get a chance to showcase your works in front of an esteemed jury and gain recognition for your talent. Even if you don’t secure a position at a competition, there will be a whole lot to take away from this journey that can help one grow and evolve as an artist."

 

Read More

Sun

17

Jun

2018

Building with Overlapped Slabs

Layer by layer, a patchwork vessel is created with small slabs that have been carefully overlapped and sealed together. I enjoy using this method now and then, usually on tall cylindrical, or rounded vessels, such as the piece above.

 

When using this technique, each small slab can be roughly the same shape, size and texture, or they may be different, depending on the desired results. The form above was made from canvas-textured slabs with torn edges, and of varying sizes and shapes. I've sometimes used clay stamps to give each small slab a different appearance, and the result is reminiscent of a patchwork quilt. (image below)

Read More

Wed

07

Feb

2018

Letting in the Light: Ceramic Lanterns

Scallop Lantern
Scallop Lantern

Is it art or a light fixture -- or both? The beauty of putting light into a ceramic form is that it can be an interesting piece on its own, while providing a unique accent light at the same time. Unlike any standard light fixture, a sculptural ceramic lantern casts shadows in unusual ways, letting light through openings in the form or alternatively, through ultra-thin porcelain walls. A porcelain lantern with a thin, carved surface will cast images and patterns when light shines through (see photos below). The piece at left is is a new one of mine, a closed cylinder with pierced "shells" covering the form.

Read More 0 Comments

Fri

05

May

2017

Naked Clay

"Why don't you add some color to your work?" That's a question I am asked now and then, and while I don't mind explaining, it's hard to put into words, as it is a matter of subjective preference, not one with a clear answer that's right for everyone. For the functional potter, in to have a non-porous, durable surface suitable for everyday use, glaze is a must. But for ceramic sculpture, glaze is optional. I'm not personally opposed to glazed sculpture, in fact some of the pieces I most admire are beautifully glazed, colorful works of art.

Yet there is also a rich tradition of "naked" or unglazed ceramics, in which the surface of a piece is enhanced by texture, stains, burnishing or pit-firing. Artist Jane Perryman has written a book about the history of naked clay, and her book would be a great place to start if you're interested in learning more about  the subject.
Here's a link:
http://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/naked-clay-9781408111055

Read More 0 Comments

 


Spherical Swirl Lantern
Spherical Swirl Lantern
Interwoven Vessel, detail
Interwoven Vessel, detail

Large Floral Pod, 16" x 16" x 16"
Large Floral Pod, 16" x 16" x 16"
Small Seed Pod
Small Seed Pod