Thursday, April 30, 2009

Question answered

I started writing this as an email in response to a friend's question, but it turned into something that looked more like a post than an email, so here it is. He asked if I've found that common aesthetic I was talking about in my first post.

I guess it's complicated. My hand-built things are definitely, unmistakably mine. Even when I make non-footed things (I just made some pinch pots with weird rocket-fin legs that I like an awful lot) they have that same round, pinched, lumpy thing going. And a certain stockiness that I really like. Which is weird, since I'm not stocky at all, and I think people tend to mostly create self-portraits when they're doing humanoid forms. Stylized or idealized, but still self-portraits. Like people say that authors always write autobiographies even when they're writing fiction. So anyway, yes, there is definitely a sense of "me" in my handbuilding.

Thrown forms though, I'm not so sure. There are certainly common elements in my work. The way everything is always very tight and controlled. The roundness (spherical-ness) of everything. The curve at the tip of my spouts and curve at the top of my bottles are similar proportions.

One thing that really bugs me though is when people just have one thing they do. Like at showcase, the one person makes the gargoyle heads, the other person makes those polka-dot fish on strings. I really like both of those people's work, but they just keep doing the same things for years, no variety. I don't want to be the chick that makes the vases with the feet. I want to continue to have variety in my work, while maintaining a sense of myself in, so people say, "Oh, did Amy make that?"

I also want to avoid making nothing but functional things. Not that there's anything wrong with making functional things, it's just not what I want from my own work. Guess I've always (since I was a small child) seen myself as an artist. I've experimented with a lot of different media, and clay is the one that stuck (for now), but I feel like I need to get back to the "art" side of the art v. craft line. And to me that line is about intent and message. Art has a message beyond the object. A mug can be a piece of art if it has something to say other than just "drink coffee from me." A painting can be non-art if all it does is go with your couch. Gross oversimplification, but hopefully you see my point. I want my work to mean something to me when I'm making it, and hopefully to say something to people who view it. Something more than "I'm a little teapot..."

I feel good about the concept I'm working on now. I hope I can find the time to finish it before I lose momentum. Need to go to Georgies on Saturday...

PS: Good news! Lisa ( and I are getting a studio in June! More room to spread out--yay! And did you notice that I finally opened an etsy shop? Only two items in it so far. Baby steps.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Woodfire -- kiln opening

We opened the kiln yesterday. The variety of work that came out was really spectacular.

During the firing we knew that we weren't getting as hot in the back as we had hoped, but the front was plenty hot. We used a combination of hardwood (maple and alder) and fir. The fir was slightly wet. The wet wood gave us a really interesting reptile-skin effect on many of the pieces, especially in the front. We got a lot of color and iridescence--almost too much on some pieces. People commented that they got some of their best work ever out of the front of the kiln.

The back was another story. In some areas of the back, the temperature was so low that glazes didn't mature and ash did not completely melt onto some pieces. So some will need to be re-fired. But others in the back came out really well.

As we were unloading, my pieces looked really great. I got some great flashing (flame patterns), lots of color, no major problems. But when I unpacked this morning, I was surprised. Usually pieces grow on you after a while. Jay says they look better the farther they get from the kiln. But when I unpacked my boxes I started feeling like there was an awful lot of apricot-colored stuff. I ended up liking the darker pieces (Santiam and Cannon Beach clay) better than the lighter clays (Umpqua and Deschutes) that I thought would be better for the kiln. Some I still like a lot, but others I'm less sure about.

The photos here are two of my favorites--and a good example of the difference between lighter and darker clay, and the front vs the back of the kiln (the darker teapot is Santiam at the front of the kiln, while the more peachy teapot is Deschutes White from farther back).

Jay is planning to fire again in August and I hope to be invited back. I'll probably re-fire a few pieces then. Might put a couple in the MHCC Nanagama this June too and see how they change. Remind me to write more about that--we're going to harvest wood next weekend. I'm so happy to have done the firing at Jay's before that trip--I'll know much more about what we're doing!

Stay tuned, I'll update the gallery soon with some newer pieces, and I'm working on opening at Etsy shop!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Woodfire Weekend!

Ok, so remember back when I was trying to decide whether to go to Arrowmont or to a woodfire in Alsea, and I chose the woodfire? I just got back from the firing weekend. I absolutely made the right choice, it was awesome!

First, and most importantly, the people were really cool. Everyone was super welcoming and by the end of the first day I felt like I'd known them all for...well, for more than a day.

Second, the food was fantastic. I made a quinoa/tabouli salad--used the Moosewood tabouli recipe but subbed quinoa for Bulgar. Came out really good. But the highlights of the weekend's hard to say because all the meals were great...the curry with prawns and sweet potatoes, the chili verde, and the ribs (I don't usually like ribs, but they were really good!). Oh, and the pumpkin-pie-squares with pecans on top. I'm getting hungry just thinking about all the great food!

Third, the location was wonderful. Jay's property is southwest of Corvallis, past Mary's Peak. Hiked up the hill one day and got some wonderful views of the coast range. Plus the weather went from rain on Thursday and Friday to balmy sunny days on the weekend. Not too warm, but cloudless.

Of course it wasn't all fun and games, there was a lot of work too. When I first arrived, I helped Sandy clean out the kiln. It had to be vacuumed out, and all the stuck-on wads chipped off. Throughout the weekend we were constantly hauling and splitting wood too (with a fancy power-splitter!). But everyone chipped in so the work was not too grueling. Spending a few days working hard felt good, since I usually spend my days at a computer.

The hardest part is now--waiting until Friday to unload and see how everything comes out. It takes all week for the kiln to cool enough to unload, and the waiting is torture. But I've seen work from previous firings and I have no doubt that I'll get some lovely pieces out of this one.

See more pictures from the firing here: