Thursday, August 8, 2019

Art in the Village

as well as everywhere else.


I'll be at Art in the Village on Sunday, in Carlsbad. Stop by if you like. There's lots to see!

That's Grand Avenue, downtown Carlsbad, cool and coastal. I'll offer you a chair in the shade.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Copying Ancient Greece

In the archeology museum in Heraklion, Crete, I saw this pitcher. I don't remember how old it is, but certainly from some time in ancient Greece. Could I make it, or a reasonable approximation?

It's a technical challenge, to try to reconstruct what someone did, just from a side view on a museum shelf. I can't call and ask the potter. It's also an effort to walk in someone's shoes, to understand what he (probably) did and considered normal. And it's a try to make something I like.

This pitcher has a nice shape, a spout like nothing I've ever seen before, and requires a tricky cutting and assembly job. Ancient Greek pottery is famous for its painting, but also is very complex in form, and so in making. This is a relatively simple piece for them.

My first try was really about making the parts and assembling them. Nah, looks more like those Italian espresso pots.

So I measured the picture to get the proportions right and tried again.

Not quite right. I found it hard to get enough width near the base, after that neat lift, and then collar in enough for the "waist".  The top is a bowl, but, again, the proportions are hard to produce. A lot is cut out for the shape of the top section, and for the spout.

I've always thought of and learned to make spouts that are a protruding  angle. This is a cut out arc.

 I had to make the pot to find out if it pours and keeps control. It does, very neatly, so long as you don't pour too fast; that lets the liquid flow around the spout as well. And will those points just break off easily?

The handle works better unglazed, like the Greek pot. These days we make wider, flatter handles usually, with a rectangular, rather than round cross-section:

 The round handle, with a glossy glaze, is really slippery, and the full pot is hard to hold.

A fun project. In some way, it's difficult  -- they were skilled potters. In some ways it works fine, and offers an alternative to what we usually do. In other aspects, I prefer our way. Well, of course.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Wild Stuff

Look at this!

It's work by Masaomi Yasunaga, a Japanese ceramic artist. He trained in and joined an approach to ceramics which is all about sculpture, in opposition to functional pottery.

 There's an exhibit, only this week, at Nonaka-Hill  in Los Angeles. Pictures are as close as I'll get to  it, but it's fascinating. The individual pieces don't grab me quite so much, as it is not at all my usual taste.

 But the combination, in this exhibit! Pieces on gravel, and the whole makes me think of objects retrieved from ancient shipwrecks.

That's odd, given the intent to make anti-traditional pots. His contemporary work is made of glaze; that's the material, not the surface covering. The only clay involved is that in the glaze. Because it melts in the kiln, the glaze is shaped in sand or earth forms, which go into the kiln, and the pots uncovered, like an archeological dig, after firing. So very new, and referring to very old things.

He also makes dishes, sold at art prices. I like them, with far less of a jolt to my ideas and feelings.

This is wonderful -- the pots, the ideas, the exhibit design, the shake-up for me.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Hands Across the Distance

In my college alumnae magazine, there's a short article about a student's work experience, recording items in "the Penn Museum's Near Eastern collections. Kennan photographed objects, some dating back to 5000 BCE.

A high point? "'A piece of pottery that still had a little fingerprint on it from the person who made it...That was amazing.'"Bryn Mawr, spring 2019)
. .
I get shivers at the thought of a touch with someone 5000 years ago, maybe, and around the world.

The student's experience reminds me how much pottery is about touch. First it's the maker's hands touching clay and the way the clay shapes itself to what our hands do.

Then the touch of the pot's user. These are the common connections of maker and user through the pot.

I tend to make marks on pots with tools, like these carved designs

or the spirals I put on the bottom of almost everything.

But what if it is fingerprints? Hands make a much more intimate touch.

The lines across this jar are throwing marks, fingers held on the pot as the wheel turns and the pot is shaped.

And what if the mark of people crosses history, or even prehistory? Besides the fingerprints on ancient pots, there are footprints in some of the painted caves in France and Italy, at least. And much older ones, where people and pre-humans walked in sand or mud that became stone with the prints still there. Ooh!

Friday, June 14, 2019

Medieval Skills in Demand!

I love it.

A disastrous fire in the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris destroyed the roof and a tower and maybe weakened other parts of the structure.

A week ago, an article in the Los Angeles Times: "A medieval role model for Notre Dame rebuild", suggests people could rebuild the 12th century roof using materials, tools and techniques from the time the original was built. How do we have access to those tools and techniques?

Of course, because there are people engaged in, passionate about, everything. In this case, there is a fantasy castle build going on a couple of hours away from Paris. With an imaginary owner and story, a 13th century castle is being built, as accurately as possible, with researchers, carpenters, masons...learning, reinventing, and practicing medieval building skills. They are offering their knowledge, labor and training for repairing Notre Dame.

There is something encouraging and delightful about this project, the live past. To a certain extent it is historical play, like reenactments. What delights me is the sudden practicality of this esoteric hobby. Now it is needed, in the contemporary world. (Evidently, in France with all its medieval monuments, these skills are always needed for repair and maintenance, so it is not really sudden.)

And I go directly to pottery making by hand. It was a practical skill set in the past, and still is in some less industrialized places. But could potters be needed, here and now?

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Quiet Pots

In the Flow Gallery a few weeks ago, in London, I had an inspiring conversation with one of the gallery staff. I think it was Celia Dawson. She described the gallery's bent towards "quiet pots", the owner's taste. Of course the gallery reflects the owner's taste, as well as what sells successfully. My taste too; what a pleasure to find a curated collection just for me/us.

It's not all ceramics, though that's their emphasis. Wonderful art basketry,  a bit of jewelry. Mostly neutral colors, simple elegant forms, yum.

And why I am not getting any screen shots? Have a

Thursday, May 9, 2019

I Was in London Last Week

and isn't that fun to say! Actually I get to London every 2-3 years, and have built up a set of favorite galleries I go to, for inspiring pottery. For your next trip, they are

Contemporary Ceramics Centre
Flow Gallery
Contemporary Applied Arts

This time, just from looking for ceramic events while I was there, I discovered a new marvel. This is Bridget Macklin's work. Check out

 It's wonderful and improbable. She 's engaged with clay as earth, and earth as whatever mixes with soil. She thinks of it as a focus on geology, but it seems to me more about the mix of things in the earth's surface. To fine porcelain clay, she adds elements she picks up, in places meaningful to her. It's not supposed to be possible to mix ingredients with very different amounts and rates of expansion and contraction under the heat of firing, even under the stress of drying a pot. The always-predicted results are cracked, sometimes exploded pots. She agrees, and some of hers do crack, BUT! Here they are.

 She's got crumbled colored earths mixed in, but also big chunks of rocks, bricks maybe,  whatever she finds. Not possible, but successful. That's a marvel in itself.

And beautiful and sensitive. Sometimes she adds decal images, from photos she takes in the places where she finds her additives.

 Pots very much in and from a place. I love it.

I met her and her work in this exhibit, and the talk with the artists.

 All three (Bridget Macklin, Desa Philippi, Camilla Webb Carter) are real artists, with well-made, thoughtful work that expresses something they want to say and comes intuitively from their experience and choice. But only one really grabs me, that strange thing about taste. The others make pieces that are attractive, and serious; Bridget Macklin's pieces are compelling for me. 

What is in the earth around us anyway? I can't resist adding this picture, the ground on Delos, a Greek island that went, in the unpleasant reality of long history, from sacred site to big port city to declining village to pirate' hideout to national park and sort of sacred archeological treasure. Look! The tan colored bits are broken pottery, everywhere!