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...

Gallery-worthy, if I do say so myself.

Here's a piece I ended up calling "Single-eared, multi-tiered whatsit" for the Greenwich House Pottery student show last Spring.  It's the first piece I think was really polished enough (in the sense of being "finished") to look like it really belonged in a real gallery show.  And that's given me some ideas about making that happen through my own devices - since the professional art scene in NYC is maybe a little out of my reach.

Here it was months earlier, right before it went into the kiln:

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Spinning under control

Finally got around to making proper videos of these two sculptures, posted at the end of this entry..  Notice the blue "ears" on the first one.  Now look at the image at the top of the sidebar column to the right. ==>
Yep, same piece.  I realized a month or so after that image was taken that this piece was not finished - every time I looked at it, I thought, it's missing elements, protrusions, wings, ears, horns, whatever it might be, to balance it and animate it.  So I added two curved horns, attached (>>gasp<<) with epoxy.  These are just underglazed blue with a clear final high-fire glaze on top.

The post-firing/attach-by-epoxy step was sort of a milestone for me.  I have never considered doing something like that before, because of a combination of lack of confidence and a weird sort of amateur-puritanism about making ceramic sculpture, based on a self-imposed ethos which requires the piece to be finished _in_ the kiln, never _after_.   The lack of confidence part is about not trusting my un-mediated artistry - meaning, as long as the final rendering takes place in a process which I have no control over (firing), then the art is sufficiently detached from my own hand so as to accept that the piece stands on its own.  The result of those two feelings is that, even now, as the blue-horned piece sits next to the Spiral Step piece on my counter:
 I can't look at the two of them without a little voice in my head saying, this one is "pure", that one is "adapted" (or, less charitably put, "tainted").   There is this thing about creating sculpture which has to do with the idea that the form itself existed as an idea in whole form before I even picked up some raw clay to start rendering it.  Was it Aristotle or Michelangelo or DaVinci? - who said something like this - the form exists inside the marble; the sculptor simply reveals it.   The ceramic-making corollary, in my mind, is that the firing process itself, as it literally transforms a temporary rendering into a permanent form, must be the final step in moving the form from idea to reality.   Put another way, it is as if, by radically changing the piece after firing, I changed where the goal-post is just because I wasn't thrilled with the initial outcome.   All of this internal dialogue, I'm hoping, means I'm in the throes of transitioning into thinking of form itself as an artistic medium I feel comfortable in (i.e., sculpture in a broader sense), not just the craft of ceramic-making.    Hope I didn't lose you somewhere in that paragraph, but this internal dialogue is what this blog is about for me.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Once again proving I'm an amateur - 1st Lamp, stage 2

Awesome glaze color & texture, not-so-awesome sticking to the firing tray.  I have no idea how I'm going to get this tray off of here, but at least it didn't stick to the shelf itself, which would have resulted in the kiln gnomes chopping the piece into bits.  I'm thinking some kind of little, very sharp & tough saw, and several hours of cutting are ahead of me.  Oh, the zoomanity.

I'll keep you posted!


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Another lamp in the works.

Hi, this piece is my second lamp attempt.  Looking at it now, I'm not sure how a lamp-shade fits into the equation, so we'll see - maybe I'll put a bulb down inside of it instead.    Please ignore the extension cord sitting on the windowsill...

 The first lamp attempt I think is still in the kiln. It's been waiting to be fired for weeks now and I am very anxious to see how it turns out. It's a crazy one. Here is the first one waiting on the kiln shelf, lying on its side.  A little forlorn looking.