Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pots in Action!

The kiln is still a little wet so that even though it is not raining today, it feels like the proper thing to do is give it the day to dry out completely and fire tomorrow. It HAS to happen tomorrow as Friday I leave for a whirlwind tour of the Philly area: woodfiring in southern NJ with Bruce Dehnert, then a two-day conference entitled Making Through Living - Living Through Making: Studio Pottery in 2010. Finally, on to NCECA for Wed, Thu, Fri - my first conference!

I was making dinner for the family last night and had just shown Trish the new plates I purchased from Sam Taylor and Mary Barringer (see earlier posts on the show). Decided to put them to use for the meal and thought it might be fun to see Pots in Action. So I issue this challenge, to all three of you out there, put up some images of pots you have collected that you use on a regular basis. It would be great to see some wonderful pieces being used as they were meant to be used:

Here is our morning coffee set-up: Todd Wahlstrom for Trish on the right (half and half, no sugar), Jennifer Allen for me (everything in it), Barbara Knutson sugar bowl...

The aforementioned Mary dish, Sam plate, and old friend Makoto Yabe for the kids...

Friday, March 19, 2010

Unloading, Cleaning, Reloading

Today, we unloaded GreenFire. I will post our notes from the unloading on the GreenFire blog tomorrow. Suffice to say, we are pretty happy with our results, especially considering how easy it was to fire. We cleaned the kiln, rewashed the interior and the shelves, and reloaded. I will fire it by myself on either Monday or Tuesday. Nora will be in South Carolina.

This is the firing capacity of the kiln: about two tables worth...

Will post studio photos soon, hopefully before the end of the week...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

St. Earth and GreenFire

Did anyone else read St. Earth's blog about bilateral and trilateral symmetry? Jeepers, it was a good post. First, Three Is A Magic Number is definitely my favorite School House Rock song. Second (or should I make this the third point?), I am a big fan of trilateral symmetry and often think about numbers when determining how many I should make of something. Third, I love the discussion of history, culture, science, and mathematics that permeated the blog. It was invigorating to read and the only bummer I could find is that I couldn't easily leave a comment. Anyone see how to do this?

Yesterday, we fired GreenFire. 14 hours total. I write a little bit more technical stuff on the GreenFire blog. It was a beautiful day to fire and the first that Nora and I did on our own. It was a little nerve racking in the beginning to get the thing off the ground - the last time we fired, we had a huge crew on hand, everyone fighting for time at the stoking area, or time to ask Kusakabe a question, or cooking, or eating, or whatever. It was exciting and crazy and energizing. This time it was super quiet, with just the two of us firing. We brought it up slow (worried about dampness from the winter) but it climbed beautifully and reached temp in about 11 hours. We side stoked for two hours and then monitored cooling for another hour before shutting it down. We'll unload tomorrow. If the work turns out well, it will be so exciting to have dialed in this part of the process. Now, just to make some interesting work...

Monday, March 15, 2010

Hideaki Miyamura at Pucker Gallery

Yesterday afternoon, after driving through some crazy rain and battling the downtown Bostonites for parking, I was able to make it over to Pucker Gallery for an artist talk by Hideaki Miyamura.

The gallery is beautifully laid out and pairs Miyamura's work with paintings by Jim Schantz - a powerful combo. Miyamura was an extremely humble man who spoke for about a half hour about his process, his work, his history.

Miyamura grew up in Japan, the son of architects. He eventually found his way into traditional ceramic apprenticeships, where he honed his skills at the wheel. He became increasingly interested in glazes, based in part on his love of Chinese temmoku pots, which helped define his shapes: pure, smooth, with generous curves and often, tiny necks and rims. He works in a custom porcelain, again to ensure an absolute perfect surface for his glazes.

I'm not a big glaze fan but recognize this is a major shortcoming of mine - I am so much more about texture and form and atmosphere. Miyamura's work really opened my eyes to the discipline and work needed to really push this part of the pots. He has made tens of thousands of pots and had thousands of failures to get to this point. He continues to fire tens of tests pieces in every kiln. I really admire his work ethic and the vessels are a testament to his investigations.

The images above come from Pucker's website and the work is on display until mid-April.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

GreenFire Loaded

GreenFire has been loaded. Nora and I spent most of the day loading it up and bricking up the door. Poor weather pushed the firing date back a bit - we are going to get hammered with rain so we decided to fire first good day of next week. Here's some images of the loading chamber. The space on the left is for the side stoking. The small square chamber is for raku, which we will load when we fire (and remove in the middle of the woodfire.

I love the piece on the floor - it is one of Nora's students and it is the stand for a cup, which sits in at the juncture of the crosshairs.

The O-ring teapot in the back is by one of my students who will hang a cup from the little hook at the top of the inside of the O.

The little striped bottle in the foreground has a "Mary Barringer" texture as a belt - my fingers are crossed that it comes out ok. Can't wait to see how these all come out!

Monday, March 8, 2010

A Followup on Spanish Architecture

This image of the Santa Caterina Market is the one that really got me thinking about my work and how it might fit into the (canon?, history?) of Japanese influenced ceramics.

I am acutely aware that I do not have the personal or cultural history to tap into Japan when it comes to finding influence. Yet so much of the work from Bizen or Shigaraki or Mashiko speaks to me, in the way the work of Franz Kline or Jim Dine or Willem DeKooning did when I first encountered them (and honestly, still do). And I must count the most recent influences - Makoto Yabe and Masakazu Kusakabe - of high importance - one of forming, one of firing, both for attitude and ways of seeing and understanding. Somehow, this way of working seems most natural to me.

To come back to this image: I love the way the contemporary roofline flirts with the traditional buildings that surround it. The arches that peak out from underneath. The layers of meaning that are held with the piece (the pixellated image on top of the roof refers to the produce that it protects beneath it).

What I want to do is try and embrace this attitude as I continue to work in more traditional methods and forms. I love Robert Yellin's website that incorporates both traditional and contemporary Japanese potters. Robert recently posted about a young new talent: Gomi Kenji. This work seems to have some Santa Caterina Market in it, no?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Barcelona Architecture

Just returned from a short trip/long weekend/second honeymoon with Trish to Barcelona. An amazing city, a wonderful city, never such a city will I meet! We saw many of the sights, traveling easy by Metro, and generally getting ourselves lost and then blundering into a square or piazza (I know, Italian) that we could find on the map. We did much less sitting and watching the world go by then we have in other European cities - too much to see.

As to how this trip will permeate itself back into my clay world, I was struck by the integration of contemporary architecture into the modernist and classical buildings that made up the city. And I was reminded how free from convention contemporary architecture can be. I have been searching for a way to break the raku work away from the wood-fire work and this attitude of invention in the middle of the classical and traditional seemed just right.

Antoni Gaudi was much more than I thought. I loved La Sagrada Familia with its integration of the organic and the mathematical. When I was inside the cathedral, it was strange to feel small in a different way then most other of "God's Houses." Most cathedrals have you focus on the heavens with its soaring ceilings and tall pointy spires. Gaudi takes a different approach - there is still the incredible height but when looking up, with columns branching into trees and a ceiling matrix that transforms into sunflowers, you realize you underneath a biological canopy, shrinking you down to ant size. Humbleness set in the context of the natural world, but still of God's doing. Pretty incredible...

In addition to modernist architecture, the city is filled with incredible contemporary buildings as well. It reminded me of the MoMA exhibition On-Site: New Architecture in Spain of a few years ago. If you have the chance to go through the multi-media on the page, you will see a clip of the Santa Caterina Market, which Trish and I wandered through. If we had rented a little apartment instead of a hotel room, we probably would have been there daily to pick up our produce and meat.

I started on a series of "soft architecture" or "little buildings" that I intend to raku fire . I will pull up some images and perhaps do a "Kristen Kieffer" influence page soon...