Sunday, September 15, 2013

Unearthing an artist's statement - didn't know I had one!

I'm getting my résumé together, and discovered that my "commercial" web site ( ) has an empty link to a "bio".   I sorta remember a bio I wrote for my last job, so I searched my computer.  Instead, I found the below, which I think I wrote in 2008 or 2009, but I happen to still like fairly well.  Reading it and looking at the ceramic pieces I've made since then, it strikes me as, shall we say, "illuminatingly dissonant".  If I draw inspiration from the natural world, a notion originated by the Romantics, it strikes me as odd, but no less authentic, that my sculpture is totally abstract and often geometrically obsessed:

"Born in Oregon, much of the creative inspiration I drew from early in life was rooted in the awe I have for the natural world.  The forest, the mountains, the ocean - overwhelming visual stuff that makes everything that man does seem small and insignificant - it’s the stuff the Romantics of the late 18th/early 19th Century called “the sublime”.   I remember this feeling long before I had ever heard about the sublime - driving along the Columbia River Gorge, age 10, viewing a distant mountain formation that clearly began far beneath the Earth’s surface and extended up from the river, diagonally, a few miles, a few thousand feet up in the air.  I thought, that mountain has been there for millions of years and will be here for millions more, yet I, a tiny mammal at its base for a few minutes, am contemplating its massivity, dynamic shape and endurance and I am impressed by it - how absurdly pitiful and yet extraordinary this act of perceiving and appreciating the mountain is.  Later I read how that was an experience of “the sublime” - something beyond mere beauty - elemental, iconic and primordial.   Bizarrely, it seemed to me later in life when I began to appreciate modernist art, this experience of the sublime can occur even with something man-made if it is a similarly distilled essence of a form (however it may be perceived - e.g., music, or a taste of exquisite food, or even a smell)."

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Conceited - helix vase in progress

Just an update on this helix piece.  I did end up making 2 of them, and decided to fire them at Cone 2 instead of the usual bisque+high fire (Cone 10).  Everyone in the ceramics studio who gives me the time of day also advised me that the cantilevering structure would result in severe slumping at Cone 10, but that nothing like that would happen at Cone 2.  So, they're now waiting for Cone 2 firing, with a big sign on them that says "fire slowly - greenware!"  The clay is so thick at the base that I'm afraid they will blow apart if the firing isn't super-slow.  After the Cone 2, I will glaze them at low fire.  The logic is, first, they have to be fired hot enough to be reasonably hard, and hot enough for the two different clay bodies' post-fired color-contrast to come out.  Second, I want them glazed to be consistent with the other members of this two-clay-bodies series and for them to perhaps hold water (we'll see about that...).  As with almost all my pieces, this is apparently an experiment.  Anyhoo, here they are in their swirling glory, pre-firing:

here's the link if you can't see the video on this page:

Here's a piece I'm working on, which is sort of a marriage of two threads I've been doing over the years - the segmented-spiral theme, and the alternating-clay-types/colors vessels theme.  Robert said, "it's very Rolf."

It's a bit of a conceit, or a folly, or something, to think this could legitimately claim to be a functional piece (a vase), but maybe that's the point.  At this stage in my making ceramic pieces, I'm definitely looking for a point to it all, besides just being fun to do - if my work is to have any interest as fine art beyond the (arguably) decorative.

It's going to be one of a pair, or even more, and the companions might eschew the functional conceit, just to mess with the viewer's brain (another conceit).

Here's a link to this video on YouTube, if you can't see it here. >>

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Zebra-striping, branding!

Early last Fall I started experimenting with using alternating layers of sculpture clay and throwing clay, for creating a very rough-hewn color and texture contrast, and the few pieces I had done were semi functional. For Christmas gifts, for some unlucky family members, this year I decided to incorporate this technique into an experiment in creating a "line" of nominally functional everyday ceramics - coffee cups, tumblers.  Apologies to those who already saw this on Facebook...

Here are the results:

Saturday, April 27, 2013

You Win Some, You Lose Some, Then You Win One

First, the good news: this is the first time I've gone ahead and re-built from scratch a piece that had failed to survive firing (the bad news was that this piece did not survive firing the first time around - when I had used Throwing Clay, and apparently hadn't paid close enough attention to the strength of its connection-points, in its construction). Here's the version which didn't survive, just before firing:

And here's the re-created piece, after successful glazing & firing:

Sunday, October 28, 2012


So, it's been since MARCH since I've posted here.  Why it's been so long is probably as interesting to you as why I've re-started, so I'll spare you, for now.  Maybe I'll wax on about my torrid life later in the post, or maybe, as I already said, I'll spare you.

Anyhoo, here's a few pieces I've made in the intervening months.  I've posted about a couple of these already, while they were under construction, so if you're dying to know more about their origins, click back a few clicks to earlier posts on this blog.

This first one I think I was working on, in dribs and drabs, for maybe 5 months.  I'm guessing it looks very pretentious to the trained eye, but I don't care - I enjoy its swirling-ness which keeps the eye moving.  To paraphrase Diana Vreeland: the eye has to move!  What could be more pretentious than paraphrasing Diana Vreeland?

The second one is STILL unfinished - it's going to be my first lamp.  Since this video, I've installed a metal rod down the center to hold the electrical cord and lightbulb, but I still have to re-paint the whole thing (spray-paint! sacrilege!) and I'm struggling to figure out the best place to do that while living in a co-op high rise apt. bldg. with cameras in every common area.

As a point of interest (if you will), here's how it looked (overhead shot) when I put it into final firing.  It had disintegrated after/during the first firing, but was salvageable through the sacrilegious travesty of epoxy!

Here's a trifle I threw together with scraps from another piece which I think ultimately did not survive past "bone-dry" (pre-firing) phase.  Cute, but a trifle.   Notable perhaps only because I used only "underglaze" (clay pigment) with clear glaze over it - my first time trying that.  Nice, rich colors, for sure.   I had it lying around for like a year before I shored up the base with miliput & epoxy so it would stand up straight.  Justa sculptcha.

Lastly, here's another piece I made on a lark, although it ended up being a fairly involved process to attach the candle-holder discs - after firing, with epoxy (sacrilege again!).  The lark aspect was that these extruded strips were just leftovers - scraps, really - from extruding strips for that orb piece at the top of this posting.  I literally just slapped them on top of each other, glued together with slip, made a rough-hewn elliptical base and tossed it into the kiln.  In like 5 minutes.  The discs were a challenge because I had to fire them separately and match their support to the top of each stick - they were all just craggy shards of fired clay at that point.

Zebra-clay experiment in rough shape forms

[see also update, April 28, 2013]  
I'm in the middle of making a piece (or two) made of two different clay types ("bodies") used alternatingly in flat, slab-like formation.  Lately in constructing my pieces I've been using mostly "throwing clay", which for reasons I don't fully understand, is used at our studio primarily on the throwing wheel.  Its texture is somewhere between White Stoneware and "T-1" sculpture clay, but I think it's just as strong while wet as T-1 but has less "grog" (particles of rock) and is very flexible like stoneware.   It seems to have a fair amount of iron in it, so it looks red while wet (green) and pink-ish after bisquing, and reacts a lot to glazes.  So I built this tower, meant to be a lamp-base, and matching orb (seen below), just building the forms as if I were using coils, but instead using strips of the two different clays, in irregular shapes, alternating.  Originally these two were one piece and then I didn't like how it looked - the orb is too big for this base, I think - so I severed them apart.  Due to the mysteries of how the kiln-gnomes manage their work-flow, he tower got high-fired literally 3 weeks before the orb, even though I  had them ready at the same time, so here's the finished tower next to the orb before it was fired.  I used Nelson's Celedon glaze, anticipating that it would react with the most contrast between the two clays.

The results, in terms of that effect of contrast between the two clays, was far stronger and more pleasing than I had even hoped for.   I'm thinking of making a smaller orb to pop on top of this tower and having it be a lit-from-within lamp.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Tri-leg totem tremble.

It's a couple days before Halloween, and a day before Hurricane Sandy is about to hit the Eastern seaboard.  That has no correlation to this post whatsoever, I just thought I'd set the mood, as it were.  Today I just finished construction of a sculpture everyone at the ceramics studio is calling the best one I've made yet.  I appreciate their support a lot, but I've definitely learned the hard way not to consider anything I make worthy of my own pride until it's safely out of the kiln.  I'm a little worried about the legs, which have become quite spindly as they've dried, and one of them - you'll see in this video - is warping itself off to the right.  It's too dry to reinforce the legs at this point, but the base and the next level are almost autonomous, structurally, so it's conceivable that I could replace all the legs at once, as a module.  Maybe I'll make that module anyway, just in case, and just use it for my next piece if I don't need it for this one.  Sorry, just thinking out loud...

I'm taking suggestions for what to call this.  Maybe "caped three-legged whatsit" or "coy matador" or "ocular figure donning a shield".  Please weigh in with your thoughts...