As week 6 came to a close we were given some extra time over the weekend to expand on and iron out some of the details for our follow-up project. With it we’re to create a still life full of objects that a person might use in a certain profession – in a trade or craft, like a blacksmith or a doctor. Both my grandfather and my father have worked for the railroad in the past.. My grandfather who passed away a year ago, coming the 21st of this month, maintained the railways in Mississippi for over 40 years.
I toyed with the idea of creating a set of objects that my grandad might have had with him while he worked on the railroad back in the 50’s / 60’s. After talking with my dad he gave me a list of some pretty cool stuff – a pocket-watch, a lock & key, and a lantern. I already had the idea of creating a nail and hammer, so that completed the 5-part still life. I began working with the form of a railway spike, or nail. So far it’s been a challenge creating life-like objects. I’m pretty used to creating natural/organic sculptures that are mostly created within a responsive process, so having to work with industrial, rigid objects is going to be an interesting change in direction. I’ve also transferred over to using a cone 3, red clay-body. When it came in, almost a month ago, Jesse made the suggestion that I use some of it. This week I figured it would look great for the objects. The clay is going to be soda fired so I’m hoping to get a rustic, time-worn look out of the work.
Before week 6 rolled around, this project experienced two push backs – I wasn’t complaining, I felt like there was a lot of ground to cover before I could have presented this thing. One pushback was due to a visiting artist lecture from Elenor Wilson, an artist / writer for The Studio Potter, an acclaimed limited edition ceramics magazine – this was a pretty mind opening experience in terms of being lectured on job experience as an artist beyond working in the field of creating art, and in seeing / hearing about the behind the scenes of magazine editing. I felt like the conversation about altering the medium for which magazines are consumed and distributed to fit the mold of the Web was interesting. I’m in the process of creating a website for a professor, so this jogged up some nice inspiration and thought experiments for the Site. The other push back was earlier in week 5.. mostly because of everyone’s status and openness to having more time to work. Again, I wasn’t complaining.
I finally attached the face sculpture to the body of the work, and began texturing the piece. My initial thoughts were toward developing the texture of a mountainside, but, since this has been such a responsive project, that idea sort of drifted away as I started to sculpt in textures. The product is a somewhat rocky, organic surface, which I think compliments the face’s features and expression – I’m hoping to push the contrast between the two types of textures and create nice, deeply carved features into the form.
Week 5 was pretty solid and productive in Ceramics 2. Monday we loaded the gas kiln, known as Lil Eddy, full of new student work and glaze test-tiles. Brian ran our small kiln loading group through the steps of cranking it up, testing the heat levels, and loading in the pieces. It was my first gas kiln loading, but things went smoothly. My piece has been gaining some ground (and some height) this week as well. The whole process has been a bit of a challenge in terms of building up the structure’s stability while keeping an eye on the balance and proportions of the work. It’s definitely been a responsive process as I didn’t document any plans for the structure or make any initial measurements to work off of. The idea is difficult to communicate to people without sounding weird, but I’m hoping the piece comes out how I imagine it – so far the process has been successful.
I also worked on throwing when I had some spare time after class this week. I had a nice session where I worked on my cylinder forms and practiced pulling. Out of that came my tallest cylinders to date, which is pretty awesome. I hope to gain some major throwing practice-time in the weeks to come – being on the wheel is really rewarding and exciting for me and it’s definitely where I want to be when I’m making with clay.
Our fourth week started out kind of slow, at least for me. I feel like I was lacking the motivation to prepare ideas for the next project… But after reflecting on the Verb project and looking into what that work embodied, which was sort of this inadvertent use of a time-based formula – capturing progression of time, or warping perceived time – I felt confident in revisiting the form that I created for that piece, and the sensation of working with time-based media. I also felt like I needed to avenge the work that was incomplete in the previous project. However, there is a stark difference in the approach we’re supposed to take to the final product for this new project. It’s called Again and we are to use our chosen verb (mine being “emerge”) to make an object that demonstrates the verb’s action – the same concept as the previous project, except this time the clay must be fired in a kiln, rather than worked with in a wet state.
I’ve chosen to create a landscape, or a geographic feature, that my sculpture, similar to the face in the previous project, will be emerging out of. I felt like it was necessary to visually mimic the final stages of the previous project, where the face appeared to be resting on some sort of mountainside or landscape, and create a physical and imposing form that projects the sculpture outward… I also wanted to contrast the previous piece’s black color, so I sought out a white stoneware to build with – I plan to fire the raw clay-body, possibly with some flashing slip around the sculpture of the face for emphasis. I’m using one of Sam Chumley’s recipes for white sandy stoneware – I’m a big fan of Sam’s work so it’s been pretty awesome working with his clay.
The process is still at an early stage, but I’m hoping to wrap up the structural bottom-side today, which is Monday, so I can focus more on texturing and thinking about the piece’s surface throughout the rest of the week.
It was a pretty big week in Ceramics 2. I was out of town this previous weekend visiting my brother in Georgia so I had to jump right in to catching up on finishing this first project on Monday. I got some final touch ups done to the sculpture, but the clay was still pretty saturated – which has been an issue since the clay-making process two weeks ago. We had applied too much water to the mixture so the clay was still at a wet state even after being left out. I left both of the heads out to dry all night and into the next afternoon, hoping they would be leather-hard by the time I came back to shoot. They weren’t, so I went ahead and decided to use my test sculpture as a reference for how long they might take to dissolve at this state. Needless to say it took a long time for even the slightest amount of degradation to be visible.
I called it a night early, put both of the sculptures in the anti-fridge to sit overnight, and woke up around 4am the next day to shoot. I took about 700 photos over a 6 hour period that was worked in throughout my school schedule that next day, but I had to call it on account of my Ceramics class period starting at 6pm. I was pretty bummed. I settled with some progress stills that actually had some very beautiful clarity when blown up. I’m very proud of these stills, but it would have been great to see the whole project come to life in the form of animation as I had originally intended. Next time I hope to be more adamant and cautious about timing with clay.
Week 2 of Ceramics 2 started off with some larger modeling after my test sculpture from last week. I have virtually no experience with resizing three-dimensional objects, but I was able to create a sculpture roughly 3.5 times the size of the test model. Brian also showed me the spiral wedging technique, which I think will come in handy this semester as I start to take on large scale projects and will need greater amounts of clay to work with at once. I had to sort of dissect the sculpture once it was done and hollow out the head. I’m also using a black slip over both of these sculptures to make the clay-body appear to have darker tone – as it dries it loses some of it’s color.
Testing out the new clay on the wheel is still a breeze. I really enjoy throwing – it’s nice to be able to step away from sculpting features on a hunk of clay and practice at the wheel.
Today is Friday. Week one of the Fall Semester, here at IUS, began Monday. Ceramics 2 opened with a new project called the Verb project, with which our class is to take a verb, an action, and exemplify it with clay while it is in its green state (unfired, wet). It’s a wide open project that has potential to involve multimedia. Initially, I felt pretty uncertain which direction I should take… But I felt pretty good about the idea of creating a video installation, which is something I’ve never achieved beyond working on a Claymation video and a brief digitally rendered Video Art project.
I was looking into using words like: regress, repeat, connect, scale, imitate. I fell onto the word emerge and my thoughts were drawn to imagery of a figure emerging from a shallow puddle. I hoped to create a circular environment that the figure would be rising from – the puddle itself being shaped by a circular structure (I’ll need to do some research into some possibilities here.) After discussing with the class during our idea presentation I felt that using black clay would contrast well with a white environment that I had come to realize for the piece. I had never made my own clay before, nor had I used black clay in any previous projects – I was definitely excited to try it out. Yesterday, I threw with the black clay and it was super smooth, which was refreshing since the class clay we used last semester was coated in grog.
I’ve got some planning and trial/error stuff to work out for this new project over the next week, but so far this has been a good start, both in terms of ideation coming together quickly and in jumping in to uncharted territory so early in the semester.