Monday, January 15, 2018

Nasty Woman Exhibition at Yakima Maker Space

Resist Bulb in progress
Come see my NEW work in the Nasty Woman show this coming Saturday, January 20, 2018 at Yakima Maker Space. The opening starts at 6pm and there will be live music and TWO interactive art pieces. I have no idea what they are, but can't wait to find out. One of the interactive pieces will be done by my talented friend, Kelly McKnight.

I have an installation of 30 Resist Bulbs in the exhibition, the composition similar to my last installation at YMS, but with a very different subject and intent. Some of these new Protest/Resist/Patriot Bulbs (I've been playing with titles) were shown previously at Larson Gallery for the Membership Exhibition, but some are new, including several with the First Amendment text stamped onto them.

First Amendment bulbs being darkened with oil (I had some trouble with the surface color)

I worked on the bulbs during the summer, with an eye to this exhibition at Yakima Maker's Space in January. The exhibition coincides with the one year anniversary of the Women's March. This year Yakima will hold another Women's March on January 20. I'll see you there before the YMS Nasty Woman show.


I started making the bulbs last year for this Nasty Woman exhibition, but also in reaction to the current administration and the divisive political climate we now live in every day. I felt, for the first time, really, that I couldn't not address current events in my work, which has usually remained abstract, inspired by nature, and fairly apolitical.


I started these pieces because I felt I had to--for me--but three opportunities have come along this year because of these pieces. I had spoken with Eunsil Kim, the curator and organizer of the YMS Nasty Woman show early last year. Over the summer, while discussing plans for a different show down in Hood River at the Columbia Center for the Arts, I was invited to show these pieces in CCA's Art as Activism show coming up this March (I install in Oregon the day after the YMS show closes).

#SayHerName Sandra Bland

The third opportunity came as a bit of a surprise. I applied to talk about these works, and, in particular the urge to transition from abstract to narrative work given the current political climate, in a short presentation at the NCECA (National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts) Conference in Pittsburg.

Flint Water

And here I am, writing about the showing of the work, but skimming over the content of the work. Content, especially content that is not meant to be wholly open to interpretation, is something I haven't had to address much in talking or writing about my work, as it has pretty much always been abstract, ambiguous, and personal, not to mention not my main source of income. 


These bulbs are ambiguous up to a point, but taken together my intent is certainly to make people think about a particular set of issues, most of which have I have strong views about. Some of the topics, like gerrymandering, dirty water in Flint, pollution and police violence come across fairly unambiguously just in a single image. Others, I have designed to be unambiguous, by showing the Monopoly man hoarding money and by collecting some of 45's less impressive tweets and statements in one place.


I also have bulbs in this collection that are simply images of symbols of our country that are worth preserving and considering in our calls to action, such as the flag, the first amendment, and the Capitol Building. 

US Flag
There has been fairly little publicity about the Nasty Woman show (PSA, be careful Googling this show) at Yakima Maker Space and one theory was that the YMS wanted to avoid controversy because of the tone of this show. (I suspect lack of paid staffing is the more likely culprit for the missing advertising.) However, I've found more than one person discussing the exhibition by downplaying the controversy and politics and focusing on the raising up of women's voices. True, some of the work is not explicitly political, but I think mine is fairly clear, at least if one spends any time with the work.

First Amendment, Trapped
As you can tell by my writing about it, I'm still working out what it means to begin making political work now, but I am hoping that by the time I have these two shows done and am ready to present at the NCECA Conference, I'll have a more comprehensive view of the work and its reception. Help me out: come talk to me about the work at the YMS opening this coming Saturday. Or, you know, reply here or on Facebook. I'd actually love to hear from people (ahem, not from Trolls).

Installation view of part of the earlier iteration of this work at Larson Gallery

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Nesting Cats, Done

cat family

Somewhat to my surprise, I got the stacking cats done before Christmas. And, on the bright side, most of them can stack inside one another, more or less.

bowl of cats (drying after their post-grinding bath)

After the bisque firing I was very disappointed in the cats. I had tested all of them for fit before leaving them to dry, but somehow, most of them warped during drying or firing. While they all can close just fine, most of them didn't fit inside one another as well as they did before firing. 

cats and interiors

I was able to use a Dremel to sand down most of the cats to fit better, but the biggest one is way, way off. I'm confused, because I checked the fit on all of them and I remember the big one fitting really well. I suspect that I was tired and either used wetter clay for the big one (so it shrunk more than it's fellows as they all dried) or I simply measured with the wrong interior cat. Darn!

snow cat

After I ground the cats down a bit, they fit okay, but need some careful handling to go together. The ears are probably the biggest problem with fit, but the cats are snug on their bellies, too. Though I made these for a 4 year old, they aren't really the best design for a 4 year old, since they are hard to put together. Hopefully the 4 year old will be patient with his aunt's attempt.

moon cat

I applied underglaze colors for the cats. The color of the outside of the cats matches, more or less, the color of the cats in the Kevin Henkes book. I had intended to highlight the whiskers, eyes and mouths, but simply ran out of time and energy.

rain cat

I also used his book illustrations for inspiration for the interiors of the cats. The smallest cat that opens has a dark interior with a white circle for the moon. The next smallest cat has rain inside, though the colors don't quite match the book. The next largest cat has snow, more or less, and the largest cat, the one that is too small, has butterflies inside. I recommend reading the book, if you'd like to know why I chose these interiors. 

butterfly cat with whiskers and eyes done by my daughter

If you'd like your own set of stacking cats, you'll have to look elsewhere because I won't be doing this again (unless my nephew asks me to).

Monday, December 25, 2017

Making Gifts

odd ball dishes that I threw before coming up with the plan to include textures for underglaze inlay

Once the quarter ends, I always think I will have time to spend reading and chilling. Instead, I usually fill up all the available time with new projects, like recording 50 videos and making sculpture examples for class, or like building a set of stacking cats and throwing dishes for gifts.

plates in progress

This December my over-ambitious time suck was making plates and bowls for my brother. Possibly this idea started out as a birthday gift but I quickly passed the time that would be appropriate for birthday. I have now passed the time that will actually get these to him by Christmas.

re-enactment of what my brother does with the dishes I made for him

My brother informs me that, like our family, they have been breaking the dishes I made them years ago. Apparently there's some sort of family competition for breaking pottery. My daughter is all-in on the competition, but she keeps breaking the pyrex bowls instead of the ceramic dishes. I'm ok with her approach, as more of our dishes are made by people besides myself and therefore harder to replace.

big plates with blue, purple and blue underglaze decoration

Anyway, I decided to replace some of my brother's dishes for Christmas. I took a day to throw, half a day to trim and then I figured the glazing would be pretty fast. I'm not sure why I thought this. Apparently because my time estimates are just way off when it comes to what I can make and how fast. This is a chronic problem that is most noticeable in December.

trimming plates = more fun than glazing plates

On Monday, a week before Christmas (because that's how I roll) I spent over 6 hours under-glazing the dishes. I know how long it took because I listened to almost an entire audiobook start to finish while glazing today and the Audible app tracked my work time. 

three different size/shape of plates, notice that the set has only 3 of the smaller sizes because I already broke the others

I was trying to get the dishes glazed in order to fire them before traveling for the holidays. This is a bit silly, as I am unlikely to want to carry a bunch of dishes on the plane, and neither is my brother, but I did want to get the cats done in time for the trip and the plates and cats were going in the same kiln.

the bottoms don't match = fun!

I painted underglaze on the tops and bottoms of all the plates and the interiors and exteriors of all the bowls before bisque firing (because occasionally I do plan ahead). I then intended to apply a contrasting color to the indents and lower sections of all the plates and bowls followed by a coat of clear glaze.

the smallest plates

While I was throwing this seemed like a good idea. Several hours into underglazing the bisqueware I was convinced this was a terrible, horrible idea and the results would make me want to move to Australia.

the wacky not-matching dishes

When I unloaded the kiln, I was really happy with the results and stayed that way until halfway through taking pictures. I wanted to get pictures taken before leaving to see my brother so I could show him what he'd be getting (he doesn't need it all, so he can choose favorites). 

I enjoy throwing bowls, bowls, bowls

I decided to go to the trouble of getting out my photo backdrop and table and stand and taking semi-careful pictures. I'm glad I did, though I drew the line at getting out my tripod and camera and just took cell phone pictures because I know for a fact that I should not be allowed to try to upload pictures on the same day as I plan to travel. I am already on technology time-out after an incident involving iTunes and a significant amount of foul language yesterday.

these bottoms don't match either

Joking and travel/holiday related anxiety aside, I actually am pretty happy with the results. Ironically, they look very different from what I planned. The colors faded and darkened in ways I didn't anticipate. My fears about how they would look around hour 4 of glazing were proven incorrect--to my relief.

the inside is only one underglaze for these little bowls---and my favorite

I am still not getting them to my brother by Christmas and I may even take some better pictures when I get home (yeah, that's not going to happen--Winter quarter starts January 2, so my brother will be lucky to get the dishes in January). I plan to grind down a few stilt marks, do a quality check, and then send on his favorites via UPS or something. Unlike the stacking cats (see this space later this week for an update on the nesting cats), these dishes I might actually make again.

my favorite to throw and to glaze
And now, with the dishes staying home, and me leaving the state, I should be able to avoid starting any ridiculous projects this week. Merry Christmas, everyone!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Building Solid for Video

the ear was moved between the first and the second picture to be placed more accurately

Last week I spend three days on videos for flipping my hand-building class. I demonstrated a whole range of things, from rolling slabs, using the extruder, and using coils to glazing and clean up.

the armature, pulled out the the partially disassembled bust

Several of the videos I did for my flipped class video project showed the process of building a human bust on an armature. For the videos, I demonstrated all the steps starting with showing some armatures and explaining how to set them up. 

the head after eyes and lips were partially shaped

In separate videos, I demonstrated how to build up the thickness of clay on the armature; how to shape the head, neck, and chin; how to plan for the position of the eyes, ears, and mouth; how to make a reasonably convincing eye and add lips and ears; and how easy it is to adjust incorrect positioning and size.

the ponytail, nose, and ears were covered to facilitate slower drying

On the second day, after he bust had dried some, I demonstrated keying and cutting the bust apart; hollowing out and measuring the wall thickness; and on the last day, putting the pieces back together and repairing the seams.

the bust ready to be cut apart

This is always a tricky demonstration to do during class because it requires timing and requires me to work ahead of the students. I need to build wet, but then the piece needs to dry to about leather-hard on the outside before cutting. The interior is still wet, so it can be scooped out. It takes some time to scoop out all the wet insides and then the piece needs to be put back together. 

cutting off the face to reveal the armature

For the demonstration piece, I built up the armature the day before the first video, then set up a second armature for the first video and started on that one. But after the first video ended, I switched to my prepared armature to save time. The next video showed shaping the head and face. Then, with the camera off I did some more shaping between videos. I let the bust dry between day one and day two.

cutting out the extra clay of the head

On the second day I cut apart the head and thinned out the top section and ponytail, but carved out the rest of the bust off camera. It took me most of the afternoon to finish carving out the bust and put the bottom sections back together. 

the face and ponytail, cut off

I saved the top section and ponytail to put back together in the last two videos. In the videos I talked about how to clean up the seams and demonstrated on one or two, but I spend another hour on Thursday actually cleaning up all the seams.

the face and ponytail hollowed out and the head waiting to be hollowed

It was important to do my own videos of this whole process because I wasn't able to find what I needed online. The demonstration videos that I've been able to find online don't start simply enough for a beginning class and don't talk enough about drying, measuring thickness, and putting the whole thing back together.

the armature revealed

I haven't viewed my completed video demonstrations yet, but I think each was probably in the 5-10 minute range and there were about 8 videos total for this process.

the bottom of the bust looks a mess before hollowing and clean up

That's a lot to watch in one sitting, but the length of the videos means that students can break those up and watch them one at a time and when they are ready for them. They can also rewatch, slow down, stop, or skip to the sections they need, unlike with a live lecture where the clay might dry too much or not enough to show a particular technique or part of the process again later.

the neck scored with slip in place before putting the ear and chin section back on

I enjoyed building the bust, but I was torn between wanting to get the thing done and wanting it to look good. I compromised a bit, not just because of time, but because I'd like to keep the bust in the studio as an example.

the inner seam of the neck, before and after smoothing

I know from experience, if the finished work looks too good, it sometimes wanders away. Luckily this one will be big and awkward to carry.

the keys on the cheek help me get the pieces back together correctly

The last solid built form I made (start to finish, usually my demos are not completed because of time) for the studio was a small Maneki Neko (lucky cat) and it hasn't been seen in several years. I suspect it was too cute and now lives with some previous clay student with sticky fingers.

the piece ready for the last day videos