Saturday, September 26, 2009

Clemson Art Faculty Show

I was so excited to return to my alma mater for Friday evening's reception for the Art Faculty Show. I have only been back to Clemson a few times since I graduated in 1996, and it was so good to see some of the folks who influenced me during those formative BFA years.

First and foremost is my Ceramics professor and mentor Mike Vatalaro. Fortunately for me and my fellow BFA classmates, Mike had no Ceramics MFA students at the time, so he felt compelled to try out those Alfred glaze chemistry and kiln building lectures on us. He just needed to share his vast knowledge with someone, and we were his captive audience. I was rapt. Jay would come to the studio and discuss thermodynamics with Mike. Frankly, I liked it better when Mike explained it. When I took John Britt's cone 6 reduction class last May, I brought along Mike's notes on glaze technology. Besides being a glaze nerd's trip down memory lane, Mike's notes were eerily similar to John's. Gentlemen, I think I actually get it. For the most part.

I also saw my Sculpture professor Dave Detrich who taught me to arc weld, current Ceramics professor Sue Grier, and Lee Gallery Director Denise Woodward-Detrich whose work is above. Their work was inspiring and the conversation enlightening.

The Ceramics studio has changed considerably since I was there. The MFA studio spaces are ample, and the ventilation has been given a much needed upgrade. All but one of the electric kilns are computer controlled, a feature I do not completely trust (probably because I don't have one). Ironically, the only switch-controlled kiln (in the corner) is an EvenHeat nearly identical to my Runt. One BFA student commented on how he had never seen the Alpine updraft fired since he had been there. It was a royal pain in the ass to fire, but it was my kiln of choice and I had mastered firing it.

I am truly envious of the soda kiln they have built. In school, I really wanted to do a soda firing. When I figure out how to scan photos, I'll post photos of the kiln I used as a soda kiln. It was a hand-me-down from the Ceramic Engineering Department, and Jay had serious reservations about the safety of my firing it. You'll have to wait to see the photos to see what I mean. Stay tuned.
Marty Bynum (1997 Ceramics BFA), me, Fleming Markel (Sculpture MFA) and Brenda Shotwell (1996 Ceramics BFA)

We were missing our classmate Ceramics BFA Deborah Sorenson who lives in California. Marty and I met my first semester at Clemson, and I didn't get enough time to talk with her on Friday. She stopped by my booth at Bele Chere this summer. She teaches Art History at Tri-County Tech and is working on her Master's in History. I hope I'll have a chance to catch up with her in the near future as I've been tempted to come back to Clemson and bring some work to fire in their Anagama. Mike had just started building one in 2001, and they are starting a second wood kiln. I suppose I'll have to visit some of the wood-firers up here to see what that's all about.

I had a great time, but was disappointed to have missed seeing my Printmaking professor Syd Cross and retired Painting professor and Senior Advisor Tom Dimond. I was a budding printmaker before I was lured into the Ceramics department. Syd doesn't know this, but I made it through 3 (maybe 4) semesters of printmaking without ever making a lithograph. It just sort of fell through the cracks, my being a transfer student...I feel so much better getting that off my chest, but I've always felt like I've been missing something. Syd, are you teaching any workshops? How could I learn from anyone else?

One of Mike's pieces from his sabbatical semester in Taiwan

I'll be back in the studio this week and will have pictures of my new work. We haven't retrieved the SD card from the interior of the computer but Allison's camera works just fine.
I am flying high after seeing where it all started for me.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I Did Have Some Pictures... go with this post. However, in a moment of distraction I inserted the SD card into the wrong slot in the computer. Now it is lost in there somewhere and with it, the pictures of my newest work. I suppose Jay can find time this weekend to take the darned thing apart to retrieve the card. And I suppose that I will pay closer attention to what I am doing from now on.

I am working at the Toe River Craft Shop in Celo tomorrow. And we'll see if both kids' schools can manage to get them on the correct bus to deliver them there after school. And, boy-oh-boy, we are going to Dollywood Saturday. Jay's company is providing the tickets and lunch. I think they do this every year. We were all set to go last year, and then I wrecked my van.

In other news, I had a piece accepted into TRAC Fall Celebration of the Arts 2009. The Opening Reception is October 10 at 7 pm. Hope to see you there.

So, you can look forward to seeing shots of some big-ass baskets next week. I haven't made large-scale work like this since college. I made three out of Brownstone for a cone 6 load, one of which I think is too big to fit into the Runt for bisquing. Not sure how I'll solve that problem yet. I made two others out of Zella Stone along with a dozen smaller, tray-like vessels. Next. I'll move on to some more wine bottle coasters. I really need to stock up.

I wish I knew what to call some of the things I make. I also wish I had a better answer for the folks who ask me what my pots are for. "I make them with no specific funtion in mind" is a pretty lame answer, but it's the truth. If I like a piece of pottery and can afford it, I often buy it. I rarely think about how I am going to use it. I just know that I want it around.

Fellow potters, what do you say when someone asks you what your pots are for?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Working with Kids

Last week, Ben's teacher asked me if I would come to class to make clay Cherokee masks with the 4th graders to go along with the unit they were studying. If I needed substantiation that moving Ben to this school was a good idea, I got it. You've got to love a teacher who integrates the arts and utilizes parent volunteers.

I rolled out slabs and showed the class of 23 how to cut off the corners to make an oval. When working with kids, I try to interject only when necessary to demonstrate technique or ask open-ended questions. Ben likes to assist, too, handing out tools and showing his peers the best way to attach coils or apply slip. However, when it was over he described the experience as "havoc".

I brushed a clear glaze over the masks and single-fired them yesterday. I unloaded today and will deliver them this afternoon. I think the students will be happy. I thought the clear was a bit too thin, but the masks are supposed to be primitive so it works. Also, the green slip was not very green at all. I guess I'll double the copper.

In other news, I have been making some rather large baskets. I haven't been able to photograph them because I have no batteries for my good camera, and I can't figure out how to get the flash to work on the other one. Those pictures will have to wait until one of my kids can teach me how to set up the camera.

Another sure-fire sign of being on the wrong side of the generation gap.