Sunday, February 18, 2018

Preparing for NCECA

This weekend I had planned to work hard on preparing for my NCECA presentations. As it is a long weekend, I figured I could get some work done. Instead, I couldn't focus on much beyond cleaning on Saturday, then spent Saturday evening and Sunday helping to fix the furnace and the hot water heater, which both seemed to react poorly to the wind or maybe the long weekend.

I also had to do more intensive parenting than on most weekends. 

Preparing for the Blinc 20/20 presentation isn't all that exciting from the outside, especially since most of what I'm doing is just adjusting the size and order of images in a Powerpoint. It is essential, but dull as all get out. Somehow I found cleaning my studio more interesting than this. Must. Keep. Working.

one of my new installation shots of a "Protest Bulb"

Earlier this year I realized that if I'm going to be presenting at NCECA, I should probably be prepared with an updated website and business cards. If I'm going to be networking and meeting folks, I'd rather they be able to see up to date images and information.

business card front

The business cards I redid and had printed in January. I kept a similar format to the last time I updated them in 2011. Last time I redid them, I opened the box and immediately realized I had forgotten to include my blog. I added a sticker with the blog URL to the back of most of the cards. I did a better job this time. Hopefully this time it won't take me seven years to go through the stack I ordered. 

business card back

I started updated my website today, too, even though that's not what I should be doing (since the the presentation is due soon, but the website just needs to be updated by March). I was happy to discover that I had updated a lot of it within the past year. For example, the name of the school where I teach was accurate on most of the pages, but I also had a CV from 2014. I've now got a list and will work on updating it bit by bit over the next month or so.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Updates on Various Winter Projects and Shows

It has been a busy winter, but some of the things I'm doing don't really have images to go with them yet.* So here's a few updates on some upcoming and ongoing projects and shows.

NCECA Presentations (March)

I spent a chunk of time today working on my presentations for NCECA. Yes, I said presentations, plural. Last week I wrote about what I'm planning to do for my Blinc 20/20 presentation: "Grappling with Politics in Art." 

I'm also going to be leading a Topical Networking Group on "Culture's Impact on a Classroom Studio" on Wednesday March 14 from 2-3pm. Here's the program description: 
"Under-resourced students bring different cultural expectations and behaviors to the studio. How can we design projects and approaches that value students’ diverse cultural backgrounds? How can we develop clay studio classrooms that are vital to student’s educational experience and development?"

NCECA is the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts. The national conference features demonstrations and talks by artists and educators and lots and lots of related shows featuring ceramic sculpture and pottery. I went last year in Portland, but apparently didn't write about it. Perhaps because Janice passed away right after the conference. 

YVC photo setup for sculpture

This year's conference is in Pittsburgh. Unfortunately it is also during finals week, so my students and I are going to beta test online submission for glazed work. We've been getting ready for it by starting the firing process early (we unload our first winter 2018 glaze firing tomorrow) and using our photo booth in the studio to document work.

Top Pottery Blog of 2017

While I was waiting for some pictures to load (I got a new phone and am struggling with making all the updates to all the different logins and settings--like iCloud), I finally got around to looking at Pottery Making Info's blog and found my name on the list of Top Pottery Blogs of 2017. Last year I only got honorable mention, this year I'm the tenth (of 17).

Grappling with Politics in Art, the Shows (February & March)

As I've written about a few times, I have work in the Nasty Woman show at Yakima Maker's Space through February 24. I got in there this weekend to take new pictures of the work with better lighting than last time.

first amendment bulbs

When the show closes (open 10-2 on Saturdays), I'll pack up the work and drive it down to Hood River for the "Raising our Voices: Art as Activism" show at the Columbia Center for the Arts. That show opens March 2 with a reception from 6-8pm. This second show runs through April 1.

installation (detail) at Yakima Maker's Space

Studio Cleaning (January, February, and...?)

One of my least photogenic (and probably least interesting to anyone else) winter projects is my multi-month home studio cleaning project. This one has been overdue for years and years. On our first 3-day weekend, I spent some time pulling everything out of my studio cupboards, cleaning, tossing junk, and reorganizing things to be more accessible.

shelves, in order and a clean countertop

The biggest improvement in the use of the space (so far, at least) is the reorganization of my underglaze bottles. I bought some sliding two tier wire drawers. Each drawer fits exactly eight bottles of underglaze and each two tier set just fits inside my lower cabinets. I can slide out each drawer and bring those underglazes to my work space. In the past, I had them in boxes that would break or be too heavy to move. This is a huge improvement in convenience for me in my home studio.

underglazes, in order

I've got a ways to go on the whole studio clean up project, since I pulled junk out of the cupboards, some of it has to find a new home. As long as I was at it, I figured I'd do a thorough job of cleaning the whole room. I figured with two 3-day weekends in winter, there'd be plenty of time. What else am I trying to do this quarter anyway?

egads, I have more cleaning to do

YVC Studio Projects (Fall and Winter)

I've also been working on my flipped classes this winter. I've written about the winter class I'm flipping and the one I started flipping in fall. Last Monday a reporter for the Yakima Herald came to my class to talk with me and the students about flipped classes. It looks like the article was just posted as I was writing this. I haven't read it yet, but it was interesting talking with the reporter about the classes. Talking about what we are doing and what is working so well about it helped me see it from a slightly different perspective even than when I wrote about it.

student work, cut apart for hollowing

Northwest Artists Ceramics Invitational (April)

I've got one more show coming up this April. I was invited to take part in the Northwest Artists Ceramics Invitational at the Robert Graves Gallery on the Wenatchee Valley College campus. The show runs April 2 - 26, 2018 and there will be a reception April 6 from 5-7pm.

a new piece I'll probably bring to Wenatchee

The Slowest Commission Ever (2018-2018)

There's one last thing I want to mention: I started a commission for my Aunt about 100 years ago. I thought I would be able to finish it before Christmas, or maybe before the new year, but I kept getting stymied by the support for these pieces and how to make them stable and weather resistant. The pieces are meant to go into a large vase in my Aunt and Uncle's yard. I made a teeny tiny bit of progress this weekend, but I've got a bit more work to do yet. And then I'll need to figure out shipping for these large pieces.

commission pieces still in progress

*Often the process of writing helps me think. I discover ideas or approaches I couldn't think of before I began to write. Today, as I actually wrote this post, I realized I have a number of events, projects, and ongoing stuff that I haven't posted about yet but that do have some associated images. I guess I'll be posting about them soon.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Grappling with Politics in Art

My newest installation of work, dealing with politics and using a form and format I have been using for years, is currently on display at the Yakima Maker Space.

The Maker Space installation is a part of the local Nasty Woman show. This work (all of these pieces plus some that didn't fit in the YMS display) will be going to Hood River in March for the Columbia Center for the Arts' "Raising our Voices: Art as Activism" show. 

The shows I've mentioned before, but the new part of this, for me, is that I am also going to be presenting on this work for Blinc 20/20 at the NCECA (National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts) conference in Pittsburg in March. 

The First Amendment of the Constitution

The Blinc 20/20 format is like the PechaKucha format that people might be familiar with from events around the country. I presented in roughly this format for the International Sculpture Day event last spring. Of course the pressure wasn't particularly intense presenting in Yakima and with all familiar faces in the audience.

Systemic racism means that systems in our country are set up that privilege one group of people over another. When some people pointed out that black people's lives don't appear to matter in this country, based on the evidence that they are being shot and killed by police at an alarming rate, some other people were offended at being asked, as a country, to examine the systems that have led to black people being more likely to be killed than white people.

Last year's topic was also significantly less intense. I was discussing the evolution of the form that makes up my bulb installation and this simple form's presence in my sculpture and installation work. This year's work is based on that form and that same installation, but the topic of the talk is "Grappling with Politics in Art."

Nasty Woman at Yakima Maker Space

I proposed this topic because of the urge I felt last year, after the election and the first few months of the new presidential administration, to begin making work that was more direct and overtly political. My work has always been abstract (or occasionally functional), but I've never felt the need to be explicit in the stories I was trying to tell.

Who is the person in prison? Statistically, this is probably an American, since 25% of the world's prison population is right here in the USA, and a black man is 6 times more likely than a white man to be jailed in his lifetime.

Until this past year. 

Sandra Bland #sayhername
The frustration and feeling of powerlessness I felt as I saw decision after decision being made with apparent intent to harm the people of this country made me begin calling my congressman and senators regularly and attending activist events and meetings, but I felt like I needed to do more.

The overwhelming majority of scientists agree that the climate is changing, causing extreme weather events, which in turn damage our country's "crumbling infrastructure."

Some of this feeling of needing to do more came from feeling like I was trying what was available. The march was fine and the meetings, too. I called my senators and they mostly agreed with what I called about and my congressman mostly disagreed, but it didn't feel like I could make a dent.


It also felt, and continues to feel, like the serious issues themselves shouldn't be all that controversial. It doesn't seem controversial to me that all women should be able to live with the expectation of controlling access to their bodies and not being forced to be groped, grabbed, raped, or touched at all if they don't want to be. But I'm one of those radicals who thinks that women are people, with the same inherent rights and autonomy over their bodies and lives as male people are assumed to have.

The pussy hat is a pink hat with cat ears, a reference to the offensive use of the word "pussy" in a different context by a sexual predator who ran for office in 2016. Hats like this were worn at the Women's March by people who are offended by sexual predators winning national elections. 

It doesn't seem like a stretch to think that regular people can agree that all people should have the same access to clean drinking water, paid for by our taxes, and that when the local or state government fails to provide clean drinking water, maybe the federal government should step in and make that happen.

Systemic, institutional racism is a real thing in this country and it leads to real threats to the health, livelihoods, and lives of real Americans. Like when an entire US community is deprived of clean drinking water for more than two years.
I also feel a strange combination of hope and powerlessness when it comes to climate change, evolution, and vaccination. It seems like fairly reasonable educated people can learn and understand how science works and what sorts of information support a scientific theory. In a related direction, it seems like education can be the tool that helps people begin to sift through the mess of hyperbolic, fearful, click-baiting, and fear-mongering "information" available for a lot of these "controversial" topics that aren't controversial to experts in their respective fields.


At the very least, it seems like people just aren't pausing to think about what is being said, what is being implied, and what is being enacted into policy by our current administration, but really by many of our leaders prior to the current administration. If people would stop and really consider how the same comments and policies would sound if applied to white people or men instead of to people who, for some reason, are seen as the non-standard color, status, or gender, it seems like the frustrations of the left, the women, the minoritized peoples wouldn't seem so surprising.

knot of tension/things Trump says

As I try to articulate my frustrations, in advance of the conference presentation, I realize that I'm letting my naivety show. I'm making this art out of frustration and that stuck feeling of not knowing what I can do. In the immediate moment, the art I make is an outlet for me. In the next part of its life, showing in a safe space, like a liberal venue or show, it is an object, a snapshot, and a focus through which like-minded people can connect. But what I'd like it to be is more.

trump tweets

I live in Yakima, in central Washington, a staunchly conservative part of the state that I've heard referred to as Reagan (in contrast to the liberal West side of the state, which can, apparently, hold onto the name of our slave-owning founding president.) Living in this part of the state and in this city, I am constantly reminded, and constantly surprised, by the divisions in ideology between what I believe is most important in our country and what some of my neighbors and students and friends believe.

And, yet, I still have to believe that we aren't just opposites who naturally believe in contrary things. We all want to be safe and healthy, we all want our city to be better than it is. We all want to be reasonably happy and successful in our lives. We all have some interest in seeing our friends and/or family also safe and healthy and reasonably successful and happy. What constitutes success and happiness, probably, is the cause of most of our disagreements, but in all that shared humanity, shouldn't there be some common ground on which to build?
the opiate epidemic, insurance lobbyists, rich and powerful pharmaceutical companies, life saving medicines accessible only to the wealthy or the insured, insurance coverage of ED pills, but not birth control
When I first started making this work, I was illustrating events, controversies, policies, or statements that I think are fairly straightforward in their wrongness, visually striking, and fairly unambiguous to look at. Sandra Bland's traffic stop at gun point, Trump's most offensive tweets, and Flint's dirty water.


But after I had been making pieces for some time, I started thinking about where there were places of ambiguity. There are some issues that maybe most people recognize as a problem but that have complications that make solutions more difficult that it would immediately appear. For example, I think it is pretty clear that gerrymandering is a problem, but there's a little more to it than just cutting up districts in a grid.

A woman who is not allowed control of her body, cannot control her life.

There are also issues I chose to represent as an image, but without a necessarily straightforward one-way interpretation. I included a birth control pack because women's rights and women's ability to control their own bodies is obvious. But, I suppose, someone could look at that and see birth control as a bad thing. (No, I don't quite think real people with think that.)


I also included several images of general control or silencing: rope wrapped around the first amendment text and lips crossed out in tape. I'm not saying who is doing the silencing, which means the viewer can interpret the imagery themselves, though in context with the other images, the overall theme becomes a clue. And the tape is orange.

tent city, USA

I also included some imagery that is meant to be more specific locally, though not much, yet. I included what was meant to represent the tent city where a significant number of Yakima's homeless spend their summer nights.

Unfortunately the tent city is one of the least effective images, because the tents look like mountains. A related piece has a man in layered sweatshirts, hunched over against the cold with a shopping cart next to him. 

pollution, EPA, emissions standards, big business, tax incentives

I want the pieces, particularly the more ambiguous pieces and the installation as a whole, to encourage the audience to think about an issue. In most cases, I think I'd rather not have the pieces work as simply a quick code to reference a side on a two-sided competition. Ideally, people looking at the work will not recognize every image immediately, or at least not immediately recognize which side they're supposed to fight against.


I kept the colors intentionally muted compared to my typical work. Because the motivation for the work is so dark and depressing, it seemed wrong to make the pieces themselves bright and shiny. 

St. Basil's / Russian Interference

The pieces are sometimes pretty, as in the Russian interference bulb, which is just a depiction of St. Basil's in Moscow. I think the pieces as a group are visually pleasing and maybe pretty, but that initial attraction is, hopefully, a lure to a closer, more thoughtful interaction with the works and maybe with the audience sharing the experience of looking at the work together.

the rich getting richer, monopolies and lobbyists, corporatocracy 

I wish, as I look at the work now and write about the intent, that I'd had time to do more before the conference. There's whole swaths of topics that needed to be included that either hadn't happened yet or I just didn't get around to making. I'm presenting on this work at this awkward early stage, when I haven't figured things out and I haven't even created all I want yet. To be continued, I guess.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Student Solid Portraits

student work in progress, cat

My winter hand-building class started their solid-built sculptures last week. This quarter's flipped structure means that they are watching the demos on their own time and using class time almost exclusively for work time.

student work in progress, lady

This also means that I can structure their class time a little more efficiently. For instance, during this multi-week project, I am asking that the students all be at basically the same place in the progress of building the sculpture each class day. In the past, I have let the students have a little more flexibility with regards to how long they plan and build and how long they take to cut the sculpture apart.

student work in progress, gnome

Last week, the students were required to come to class on Wednesday with three photos of their subject. Naturally they also were required to have watched the solid-building video playlist and have read the requirements for the project.

student work in progress, fox

At the start of class, I asked students to make a maquette of their planned sculpture, while I went around the room talking to each student about his or her plans and photographs. During this time some students needed to revise their original plans, decide how much of their subject could be included, or choose from several poses. Some students were asked to find more photographs or alternate views before the next class.

student work in progress, batman

I asked the students to take only 20-30 minutes on their maquettes, about 1/4 of the class period. Once they had started their maquettes, we were able to discuss issues of balance and proportion so as to have them building sculptures that are physically stable and visually expressive.

student work in progress, back of woman with hijab

Every student who attended that class arrived with an idea for their sculpture and at least some images of their plans, which made for a successful beginning. Each of these students was able to spend roughly 3/4 of the first day setting up their armature and beginning to build their sculpture. 

student work in progress, fictional creature from a video game (I was told the name, but I forgot)

I asked the students to come to class on Friday with all of their armature covered and essentially all of the clay in place for the form they would be creating. Our focus during class on Friday was to adjust proportions of the form and begin to place important features. I think this day is one of the most important in a project like this because students who take the time to get the proportions right end up with portraits that are more realistic and more convincing than those who rush through this part of the process.

the cat has such a dynamic position that it encourages multiple view points. go sculpture!

I haven't always taken the time to emphasize proportions like I did this quarter and I admit that has sometimes led to students rushing through to get to the surface details, like adding in the eyelids, the hair texture, etc. I think this last Friday was very successful and the sculptures are coming along well. I wish I could go back and spend more time with students in previous quarters.

student work in progress, lady in a hijab from the side

I really enjoyed this day too, because I was able to see how each student was working through issues of proportion. It is complicated and tricky to move from two-dimensions to three-. When drawing a face, students only need to figure out where the features are in relationship to the top and sides of the face (and each other), but with sculpting, one needs to think of where the are with regards to top and sides, but also how far back one part is in relation to the others. Students generally have a hard time with this and often start with a flat face and/or flat features, which they then need to carve back or bring forward to give a sense of accurate depth

student work in progress, troll

Helping students see all three dimensions always makes me thing of the rivalry between Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. They feuded about which medium was better, painting or sculpture and mostly I think it is amusing to think of the two geniuses fighting, but I'll have to side with Michelangelo who seemed more chill about the whole debate. According to Gardner's Art Through The Ages, he said "I believe that painting is considered excellent in proportion as it approaches the effect of relief, while relief is considered bad in proportion as it approaches the effect of painting." ...before he goes on to suggest his "serving-maid would have written better [than Leonardo]" (Kleiner). 

student work from Fall 2017 (not the same project or class)

On Monday the students should be working on features, like eyes and eyelids, lips and expression, and textures for the hair, fur, clothing, skin wrinkles, or scales as the case may be. The forms should be essentially built by the end of the day on Tuesday so that the surfaces can dry for Wednesday. They will then cut apart the forms, hollow them out, remove the armatures, and put them back together. The forms should all be done being put back together by the next week.

student work from Fall 2017 (not the same project or class)