Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Filling up the kiln... firing up the kids

I can't think of many things that I wouldn't put in the "favorite" category when it comes to my art. Filling up the kiln is one of my many favorites.

I usually start out just making things with no thought to what will fit in the kiln. When I've filled up a few of my "to be fired" shelves, my mind starts clicking into "what will fit" mode IF I'm working toward a show. The "if" is important 'cause when I'm in pure creative, no deadline mode, who gives a rip what will fit in the kiln? I just go and go until I can't put anything else on the to be fired shelves and then start trying to figure out how to get stuff in the kiln.

Either mode, I love filling up the kiln for the initial bisque fire. It's like sending kids off to high school. You've raised them, sweated with them, put all your creative energy into getting them ready for the big move and now it's time to see what happens when they're tested.

The glaze firing is college. You've put your final touches, done the best you can do and now they're off, ready for the final test. Hopefully they're ready for the big world, all on their own.

Just like some of our best efforts in raising children, sometimes what comes out of the kiln isn't exactly what you'd hoped to get given all your best efforts. Luckily in many cases you can re-glaze and re-fire the pieces. Not necessarily so with many children as they're truly on their own when they leave college and resist any tampering from their parents. However, as I'm one of those who didn't come out of college quite perfect, there is hope for many of the children who don't initially live up to YOUR expectations ;-)

Hah, another analogy --- some of the pieces that I haven't particularly been pleased with after they come out of the kiln have been grabbed as favorites by others. Just because I didn't think they met my standards or expectations didn't mean there wasn't value and they weren't just what they were meant to be. Ditto with our kids. It's a great big beautiful world and everyone isn't going to walk the walk we might choose for them. Yep, you can take that one and twirl it around in your mind for a bit to come up with better ways to tie pottery and clay to raising kids. I'm done with that thread!

I do have a tendency to meander from one topic to the next, don't I? Here I am thinking about that full kiln load out in my studio, wanting to share my enthusiasm about closing the lid and firing it up, and somehow I'm off on raising kids. They can both be fun, rewarding and trying at times.

Of course, when the kids drive you nuts, you can always find an excuse to head to the studio and pound some clay!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Don't you just love it when you get a new issue of a ceramic / pottery magazine?

Every day I get bills, junk, and the occasional letter in the mail... It's yawn, oh no, and hmmm type mail most days. However, when I open the mailbox and see one of my pottery magazines it's like a mini-Christmas. Ideas, tips, cool pottery and even some great ads with new glazes, equipment and tools, oh boy!

If I tried everything I wanted to try from Pottery Making, Ceramics Monthly, Clay Times, etc. I'd have to plan on living for a few thousand years. I have forgotten more things that I want to experiment with than I've created over the years I've been working my craft. It's a wonder I ever manage to create anything with all those ideas rolling around in my head... not to mention the time involved with devouring the magazines!

It's not enough that I take every magazine that has the word "ceramic" or "pottery" in the title, but I also have a tendency to subscribe to any freebie how-to that flies across my computer screen or pops into my in-box.

One of my favorites is from Ceramics Art Daily. They send some of the coolest tips and instructional stuff right into my inbox. With a quick click of a link I get video demos, written instructions and, of course, solicitations to buy books which explain more.

Since I work with slab, coil and hand building more often than wheel I'm very happy that they have a nice balance.

Today's email really caught my attention. I enjoy coiling but don't do a lot of it these days as I usually cut slabs and build in a coil type method for ease and speed.

However, I'm going to have to try the method outlined in today's Ceramic Arts video / demo. At some point I'm sure I'll be sharing a piece or two or ten on here made using this coil method... And I thought I knew it all when it came to coiling. Ha.

Here's a teaser from the page you'll get to if you click the link below:

Hand Thrown: East Asian Wedged Coil Technique
A Master Potters’ Approach to the Coiled Form

Coiling is one of the first things we learn when we begin pottery. It’s a simple and basic technique we all know. But are we making the best coil pots we can? Ones that don’t crack and are not limited by size or scale? Joyce Michaud came across a coiling technique used for centuries in the Far East...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Jury Fees

I seem to have plenty of company when it comes to disliking "jury fees". Since setting up the Southeast U.S. Call for Entries group on Facebook, and in many discussions with fellow artists over the past month regarding which shows, the topic of jury fees has come up frequently. Some are insulted by the fees, others are angry, but no one likes them on the artist end of the process. I'd bet show and festival organizers like 'em though!

Shows have always had entry fees, which seem to range anywhere from $35 to over $500 depending on the quality, age, reputation and traffic of the show / festival. No problem on those at all... after all, the organizers have costs, many give out cash prizes to top artists and even more use any money above and beyond the cost of the show for scholarships for budding artists, to support local arts or to help local charities.

However, many are now tacking on a non-refundable jury fee. If you get accepted, they keep the $25 - $50 jury fee and you then pay the regular show entry fee. If you don't make the cut, they still keep the jury fee. You really, really have to think you're going to get into the show if you're willing to fork over the non-refundable jury fee!

I haven't talked to any of the show organizers, but I would bet there is a two-fold reason for the fee:

1. It cuts back on frivolous entries by those who would never make the cut, or the hobbyist, those hoping to sneak by with buy-sell, etc. work.
2. It's another way of making money.

Given the fact that I have just started applying for more shows in the fine art festival market I am experiencing the fees for the first time. In the past all the shows I've done have been repeats and I've been invited back, haven't experienced the additional "jury fee" until now. I am guessing, but don't know, that after the first year you make it onto the "invite" list and you're not subjected to the jury fee. I could easily be wrong.

I'm curious to find out what your thoughts are on the jury fee. Do you feel insulted? Do you have ways of bypassing the fee? (note: some of my friends have said they get out of it if they know the show organizer (s) and / or make a phone call)

If you're on the other end, an organizer who gets inundated with applications, etc. I'd love to find out if I'm correct in my assumptions.

I added my info to ZAPP and am now getting a great email update with upcoming shows. All of them have jury fees and I'm "assuming" that all or a portion of the money goes to ZAPP.

I've applied to one show via ZAPP thus far. It was an interesting process. You can upload up to 40 photos of your work to use for entering, one being a booth shot.

I was stymied by that one as I've taken plenty of photos of portions of my booth at shows, but never a "whole" shot. There's a whole new world out there when it comes to applying for shows. I think it's great that booth shots are required --- it cuts back on those who enter with one piece of original work and then fill their booth with junk. However, I do a lot of indoor shows, gallery events, private showings, etc. and only a few festivals (until recently). Hopefully the shot I showed was sufficient for the powers-that-be at the show I entered or I just wasted $30. Bummer to the nth degree!!!

Another interesting part of the process was the category that wanted me to list the pieces I'd be showing. The show is in September, Labor Day weekend. I have shows and some events between now and then. The art that I might enter now may not exist in my inventory in September and I'm not willing to bypass a sale to hang onto work. I just put that I'd have all new original signed art for the show... hopefully that passed the muster, also.

Which reminds me --- more and more shows are requiring that your work be signed. That, I assume, is to stop someone from showing the work of their best friend or fellow artist... or to stop distributors or whatever they're called from setting up a shop with multiple artists... and possibly to stop reproductions, copies, store-bought, mass produced work. Good idea. And a good reminder for me to remember to sign every single piece I make!!! I get so involved in the process of creating sometimes that I only realize I missed signing it when I pull it out of the kiln. I think it looks chintzy to have an added after-the-firing signature, but it's important to have your mark and / or signature on each and every piece.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Buzzy bee...

Do you know how hard it is to try and come up with catchy titles for blogs? Well, do ya? OK, so I quite possibly fell short of the mark this time...

I've been a busy bee lately as I've shared in previous blogs. Somewhere in the midst of my non-stop show schedule last month I set up a new group on Facebook titled "Southeast U.S. Calls for Entries & Galleries".

The purpose of the group is to have a central place (or maybe another place, cause I'm sure I'm not the first to come up with this idea) for gallery owners and show organizers to share art competitions, calls for artists, etc.

I'd also like to have individuals join who want to find shows, competitions, etc.

So far we have 32 members, which is pretty good for a new group I'd guess. Of course, I don't have much to measure against so who knows, maybe it's lousy ;-)

I can't quite figure out a way to get a clean link for you to click from here as I'm logged into Facebook and every time I go there the link shows where I came from in the URL... If you'd like to join or see what everyone is posting, do a search on the title and it'll come up quickly enough. I included the logo so you'll know you're in the right place --- given we're the only one with that title on Facebook if you need the logo to figure it out you've been inhaling way too much clay dust ;-)

Hope you'll join and share your info if you're from Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, North or South Carolina, Tennessee, etc.

Inside and Out

The inside of my pieces has always been just as important to me as the outside. I want to make sure that anyone looking into the interior sees "art", not just smooth boring sides.

Of course, some of my pieces are functional so having nooks and crannies or strands of clay winding throughout doesn't work. But still, I try to make it a piece that can stand alone without veggies or fruit or flowers!

The piece to the left (Recycle Rewind) is an example of how important I view the inside of my art. The view you're looking at is from the side. Below, right, is a shot of the piece looking down at the inside. I have flutes, the strands drape over the outside over the edge into the interior to carry the eyes on a journey.

It's kind of hard to tell much from my photos, but it really is a pretty creation. It's one of my favorites... but it now resides in someone's home other than mine! The new owner was very enamored of the piece and I know it's sitting somewhere in a place of honor. I share the story of Recycle Rewind on my website if you're interested in learning more about it.

I've been in the studio for the first time in about a week and oh is it wonderful to have my fingernails all clayed up again! I keep them short, but still the clay slips under the edges. In fact, that's one of the first things I look at when a female tells me she wants to take classes -- her fingernails. It's difficult to work with clay if you have long fingernails. Not impossible, but certainly most will be smoothing those crescent impressions off the clay frequently.

But I digress... this isn't about fingernails... Well, it wasn't my intention to write about fingernails!

I just created two new pieces and while I was shaping I started musing about my penchant for spoofing up the insides of my pieces. Some of them have flutes that hold water and cut flowers or plants if desired. Some are designed around the interior --- I start with an idea for the inside and the outside just happens.

I think of my work as clay art or ceramic art more so than pottery given that much of it really is a cross between sculpture and pottery. I still remember the first piece I ever made back in high school. It was a tower with hands reaching out of crevices.

I wish I still had it, not sure where it ended up. I do have one piece I made in Governor's Honors (art of course). We were tasked with creating something from a wet three-holed brick. I made a dragon. Hmmm... I need to take a photo of that and share, don't I?

Sometimes when I share on here I manage to travel all over the place, don't I? Ah well, hopefully you're able to follow my mind as it flips from subject to subject. I've seen people shake their head as I talk sometimes, trying to figure out how I jumped from one topic to the next... and I've had to explain the logic of my jumps! See, I jumped again ;-)

OK, time to get back to the studio. I just came up to grab something to drink and check the weather. It's pretty bad on the north end of Atlanta and I wanted to see how much time I had before I had to close up shop. The studio sits in the midst of a lot of trees and I don't like being out there in a lightening storm. I much prefer my nice sturdy brick home!