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.