Friday, October 26, 2012

Of Nature and Inspiration: Snowy Owl Project

Inspiration can come from many places. In this case, it came from a PBS show in the Nature series. This particular one was about Snowy Owls -- my favorite bird, and one we were privileged to see on a birding trip to Amherst Island in Ontario, Canada one February, many years ago.

The Snowy Owl is one of the largest owls in the world. That, combined with their striking white feathers and incredibly golden yellow eyes.....well, you know!

So I've decided to make mugs, using those eyes and that coloring. I intend to keep the mug white and use yellow and black underglazes to paint in the eyes and beak. Then, if I feel it's appropriate, I'll add some light carving to accentuate the feathering around the beak.

My concept is that the owl will be recognizeable, even in the absence of more details. I might even play with the mug's shape, to reflect the roundness of the Owl's head, though I'll have to make sure it doesn't lose function with that inward curve.

With an injured finger, I probably won't be back on the wheel until November. But that's soon enough and I can't wait to work on this idea!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Kitchen Sink: A Mini-Master Workshop at NCECA

One of the presentations I attended at NCECA last month was a Mini-Master Workshop in the K-12 education programming schedule. I got there early so I could be one of the first 40 people who got to work with the clay. Anyone after that quota was filled attended as an observer.

I'm sharing this because I think it was a fabulous exercise in creativity, and not just for kids. I would even do it at the beginning of a handbuilding class and then, again, at the end, since it would be fascinating to see the evolution of one's skills and creativity.

We were given a coffee cup tray with three plastic cups containing some materials, a leather hard slab of clay, a soft block of clay, a small bottle of ugly green glaze, a brush, and a pencil. When they were put in front of us, we were told not to touch anything until after instructions had been given and we were told to begin.

We recognized what was in one of the cups: a cross between soft clay and slip. As for the other two cups, we kept looking and guessing.

Once all the trays were distributed, we were told we had been given clay in all its forms: wet, plastic, dry (the pieces that looked like rocks), and grog (fired clay broken up into very small pieces). We had to use up everything (EVERYTHING, including all the glaze, excluding the containers unless we wished to incorporate them) on our tray and make a head. We had 45 minutes to work. "GO!"

The results were interesting and outstanding. Rather than write more, I'll simply present a gallery of what people created.

The Gallery Show after we cleaned up from the workshop.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

NCECA Seattle

Just a short post with some photos from the 2012 NCECA (National Council on Education in the Ceramic Arts) Conference in Seattle. It was a great opportunity to see and hear what's going on in the larger world of pottery and ceramic arts, visit a great city, do a little birding (see my other blog), and visit with my son, Dan.

Visiting the vendor's exhibition space was like stepping into the Garden of Temptations. So many things I would have liked to have gotten. I guess it was lucky I had no space in my suitcase for the larger items, like a wonderful hump mold which fit over bat pins, and open forms for forming slabs. I'll be saving my pennies for next year, when I can drive to NCECA Houston.

Then there was the gallery exhibition, with several Washington art galleries selling select pieces of pottery and art. I wanted to resist. Truly I did. But one plate screamed "buy me": a handbuild beauty with a Snowy Owls on it.

The Gallery Exhibition

My Plate!
I also donated a mug to the sale raising money for scholarships and purchased three. One was for a gift, the other two came home with me and are now being used in rotation with the rest of my beloved handmade coffee cups.

Mug Sale

As for the actual conference, it was an interesting melange of lectures, demos, discussions, and a "mini master class". I was kept pretty busy, going from place to place, often having to choose between a couple of different presentations which sounded appealing.

I think my favorites were the "mini master class" (I'll write more on this tomorrow), the talk about Contemporary Ceramic Art in Israel, and the tandem demo by Walter Keeler and Tip Toland.

Walter Keeler and his altered pieces

Tip Toland, whose work can only be described as "unbelievable"

My favorite slide from Contemporary Ceramic Arts in Israel. Take a closer look at the negative space between the vessels.
All in all, it was an extremely worthwhile event. Next year I'll have a better idea how to tackle it. For now, I think it will be fun applying some of the techniques I've acquired and seeing how the conferences inspirations interact with my work.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

I've been working on an album via Picasa/Picaboo with as much family history as I can garner, including photos I have of family going back to my Great-grandparents on my grandmother's side. Let me tell you, genealogy can suck you in, usurping your time and brain cells.

My Great-grandmother Rivke Lea Scher

However, looking at all those names and dates and pondering all the generations that have been lost and found, or lost and not yet found, has inpired me to begin work on a new series of Judaica which I'm going to call "L'Dor V'Dor" (From generation to generation).

I'm going to use images for a collection of mugs, tzedaka boxes, and plates using fire-on decals as the final decorative layer.

The concept is still crawling around in my head and I'm not quite sure of the exact approach and additional techniques. But inspiration is a good thing, so I've ordered the decal papers and am looking forward to beginning the creation testing process when I get back from Seattle/NCECA at the beginning of April.

One of my "lost" family members

My grandfather

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Happy New Year!

I'm back in the studio and one of the things I'm working on is another Passover set with an Elijah and a Miriam cup. I wanted to use something different on the Miriam cup this time and came across these lampwork beads from an Etsy Israeli Artist named Meital Plotnik:

Distant Seas
Their color is absolutely luscious, bringing in the azure blue of the sea and the wonderfully feminine deep pink, their shape referencing, at least for me, a timbrel (tambourine).

The shape of the new Miriam's cup is a bit different than the previous, so it will be interesting to put it all together and see the effect. I still need to go out and find a chain. I'm hoping to find one which will be a bit easier to connect.

I've other multimedia ideas rolling around in my head, so stay tuned to the blog!