Archive for the ‘Artists’ Category

What is it? Sugar and Rodin Quotes

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

“To the artist there is never anything ugly in nature.” Auguste Rodin

When I started to clean the oven after a baking mishap, I paused to look at what I scraped up.

Burnt Sugar

It is burnt sugar from an apple spice cake. At fist glance it looks black, nearly ash. On closer inspection it has a lovely texture of holes and craters.

Burnt Sugar

In the past I used sugar as a stiffener and in molds. There is a history of folks using sugar as a stiffener for crochet. I had been using microcrystalline wax, shellac, and varnish to stiffen and age my work. Wondered if sugar might work as a substitute.

Sugar Twine Vessel

This is my first test piece, made in 2006. It is constructed of cotton baker’s twine. I immersed the cotton vessel in molten raw sugar. The sugar impregnated twine collapsed. I wrung it out and place it over a foil covered coffee can taller than the vessel. Placed the lot on a plate to collect the sugar run off.

The piece is still strong and not in the least bit sticky. And no insect activity.

I also made a series of cast sugar vessels. I used several recipes for sugar glass. One recipe was 3 1/2 cups of raw sugar, 1 cup corn syrup, 2 cups of water, and 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar. I used a silicone mold for the casting.

Melting Sugar Cup

Clearly I did something wrong. Raw sugar rather than granulated. Possibly the thickness. Temperature.

But it was fun to watch the sugar cup melt.

Will I try it again? Sure. Will I have success? Maybe.

“Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely.” Auguste Rodin


Spencer Byles and Andy Goldsworthy

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

Today I ran across the work of Spencer Byles. I was not aware of Byles’ work. So, I looked at all of the images of the project, A Year in a French Forest before reading about his process and checking out his body of work.

Spencer Byles Sculpture

Sculpture No 15. from A Year in the Forest. Photograph by Liza Karakova.

This is a portion of Spencer Byles’ artist statement:

Every piece I create is a different and new experience. I work with different materials, these can be ‘man made’ or ‘natural forms’. There isn’t a common link to these other than I find I am drawn to materials that lie abandoned, or discarded.

I find that one of the most interesting things about choosing materials that have been abandoned or discarded is to integrate reference of their previous life into a new context. That doing so respects the previous life of the material. It can also act as a point of access for the viewer.

While viewing the images of Spencer Byles’ work, I of course thought about the work of Andy Goldsworthy. I love Goldsworthy’s work. It is lovely and elegant, often seeming to defy gravity, but always feeling that it somehow occurred naturally.

Goldsworthy Arch

Andy Goldwworthy Woven Branch Circular Arch, Dumfrieshire, 1986. The image was found here.

Some of the materials that Goldsworthy uses include: large rocks, ice, branches, and even leaves. I have not seen any of Goldsworthy’s work in person, but suspect if you are lucky to happen on one of his works what would occur is what folks write about when they use the phrase, startles the soul.

There are several books of images of Andy Goldsworthy’s work. I only own two: Hand to Earth: Andy Goldsworthy Sculpture 1976-1990 and Wall.

To see more images of his work, check out the Andy Goldsworthy Digital Catalogue.

There is also River & Tides, a great video about Goldsworthy’s work. It is available to rent on Netflix, and to rent or purchase on Amazon.


Lichens and Glazes

Monday, July 4th, 2016

When my chosen medium was clay, I used a lot of layered, often gritty glazes. In the back of my mind always thinking lichens.

Today when I was sweeping the deck, to my delight I found this piece has actual lichens growing on the surface.

Sculpture on Deck

Sculpture on Deck with Lichens

The piece was made in a class at Ohio State in the early 80s. The clay is a buff colored sculpture body with some nice aggregate. The piece was bisque fired to cone 5. A cone 05 lithium blue glaze was applied for the base color. Then low-fire lead glazes were applied. The last fired to cone 015.

The piece has been on the deck since 1994. It looks so much better with the addition of lichens.

Sculpture on Deck with Lichens

If interested in viewing lichen glaze surfaces, check out Lana Wilson’s work. Lana’s text, Ceramics: Shape and Surface has some great information for the beginner; and it also has loads of information on how to achieve gorgeous glaze surfaces. The text is available on Lana’s website.


A note about my use of lead glazes. Yes, they are gorgeous low-fire glazes. But lead is potentially dangerous. I haven’t been used lead glazes for several years. Since I have been attempting to use safer materials and processes, I reluctantly decided to remove all potentially toxic ceramic materials from my studio. I had quite the stash. I was fortunate that during the yearly clean-up, the materials were accepted for disposable without cost.

Did I really remove all of the lead from my studio? Well, I did keep a small bag of a leaded frit, just in case. I also found a small sheet of lead that I kept. It is a lovely soft material. I used it to line and wrap portions of boxes.

Lead Detail

Detail of a piece in my Make Your Own Luck series.
The vertical section is wrapped in sheet lead.
The nest-like material is lead wool.
The three objects are whole nutmeg.
Nutmeg was used for luck.
If consumed it could be deadly.


Stick Bug Came to Visit

Sunday, April 19th, 2015

A stick bug came to visit. It hung out on the screen door most of the day.

Stick Bug

I kept hoping that there would be a magical transformation like the one that occurs in Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth. But, it didn’t happen. The next morning it was gone.


Concrete as an Art Medium

Saturday, September 6th, 2014

I attempted to use concrete several times over the past 20 years. While some results were promising, I wasn’t ready to commit time to figure out why problems occurred.

I am currently working on a series of pod pieces. The pieces are constructed of actual woody pods. The contents removed and replaced with coins or metal bits woven into fulled wool, with hinges and bindings added.

Pods in Progress

Yep, they are in a plastic box. Ever since casemaking moths came to live in my studio, everything they might like to eat is stored in plastic or glass.

The plan was to make cedar boxes for the pods. And then a fun thing happened. I was rearranging some things in my studio and found some concrete cups and tiles from my last concrete casting attempt.

Concrete Cup and Prototype

The concrete cup on the right was cast in a silicone mold.
The mold was made of a waxed woven cup similar to the on the left.

Immediately I started thinking about making concrete boxes for my pods. But how? Concrete box with wood lids? Concrete with bamboo support? Concrete with inlaid copper? Concrete with metal mesh and code?

I googled concrete and found loads of stuff on using ready mixed concrete to make functional objects and tons of stuff on hypertufa.

Then I found Andrew Goss. He has a website with lots of great information for using concrete to make art pieces.

After reading the information on his site, I realized that I had attempted to cast thin walls without compensating for the removal of aggregate. Adding latex wasn’t enough especially when I was not caring properly for the pieces. I did not know the importance of wrapping the pieces in plastic. Why, I don’t know. My background is in clay and I definitely know how to care for clay during forming and drying.

I selected four concrete and hypertufa mixes for my first test–

 Materials Mix 1  Mix 2  Mix 3  Mix 4 
 Concrete
 Vermiculite 1.5    
 Peat Moss    1.5    
 Sand      

I added very little water so that I could press the concrete into silicone cup molds. I wrapped the concrete-filled molds in plastic. After two days I removed the pieces from the molds, leveled the bottoms of the cups, then wrapped them in plastic. Every day I have given the concrete cups a dip in water, then rewrapped them in plastic, and popped them in yogurt cups. I do think that a thinner plastic would be better.

Wrapped Concrete Cups

The main objective is to find a concrete mix that when cured will live nicely with my pod pieces. I like the texture that results from using peat in a hypertufa mix, but I do not like the bits flitting about in the air when it is sifted. Wearing a respirator does not keep the peat dust from collecting all over the studio. Also, I really dislike the way it smells in the wet mix and every time I unwrap the test pieces.

Since I want to make a success of concrete this time, I thought it would be a good idea to use good and tested information. I purchased Andrew’s book, Concrete Handbook for Artists, Technical Notes for Small-Scale Objects. I wish that I had found the book the first time I attempted concrete.


Andrew Goss’ blog, Art Concrete.

Elder Jones’ blog, Sandpudding Studio. Wet Carved Concrete

John Annesley’s blog, Sustainable Buildings as Art. Burlap-crete

The Hypertufa Gardener

The Cement Tile Blog


Dots

Friday, June 7th, 2013

When a dot is placed over a vertical line it can become an i. When it is placed at the end of a sentence it emphasizes a thought. Dots and dashes together can become a message in code. Dots used by artists can become so much more.

It is amazing that minimal materials, tools, and a limited palette can result in such beauty.

Today I ran across the work of Dorothy Napangardi on Margaret Cooter’s blog.

Dorothy Napangardi

Dorothy Napangardi

And then I saw Junko Kitamura’s bowl on Musing About Mud.

Junko Kitamura Bowl

And finally the post Africa on the Floor on Fibercopia.

Africa On The Floor


Unexpected Connections To The Past

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

Tim and I went to grad school at WSU in Pullman. Friday He rang me to say he was on his way to Pullman. One of his former students was having their thesis show. We caught up and reminisced. I can’t believe that it has been 20 years since I had my thesis show.

On Saturday I received a letter and the following newspaper clipping from Mark, my friend from my days at Ohio State. He saw the article and remembered how excited I would get whenever I opened a kiln to see what the kiln gods gave me.

Soda-Fired Article

Hearing from Tim, reading Mark’s letter, and seeing Dustin Harris’ soda-fired piece brought back memories of my own past firing experiences and my year as a research assistant working for Ann Christenson on her vapor glazing project.

Phone call and letter, coincidence and connections. I am fortunate to have such thoughtful friends.


Ann’s Work

More of Ann’s work can be viewed on her website.


Tim’s Work

An image from Tim’s Figures in Landscape series. You can see more on his website.


Dustin Harris Piece

More of Dustin Harris’ work can be seen here.


The Two John von Bergens

Monday, July 9th, 2012

Today I was reading a Booooooom post and saw this image. I like the quiet elegance.

Hang Nail

Hang Nail (part 1), 2011, Steel nails, jute, epoxy, graphite, 1.5×25.5×4 cm (0.5” x 10” x 0.5”), Mikesell Collection, Miami. Photo by Denis Darzacq.

According to the post the work is by John von Bergen. Since I liked the work so much I googled him. In doing so I found that there are two people with the same name who make sculpture.

This is the site of John von Bergen who made the piece–

http://www.jvonb.com/

Check out the pdf for more images and information about his work.


So the very cool thing is that the other John von Bergen is a sculptor who has a description of the sand casting process with a short video of a pour on his site. I do miss casting.

This is his site–

http://www.johnvonbergen.com/artist.html

And this is the url for the sand casting information and the video of a pour is near the bottom of the page–

http://www.johnvonbergen.com/methods.html

I picked this image because I like that it looks a bit sharp and pointy and yet protective.

Almond


Neil Gaiman–Make Good Art

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

Today I received an email with a link to Zen Pencils. There are some illustrations based on comments made by Neil Gaiman in a commencement address given to the University of the Arts. Thank you Neil for reminding me to not forget “the journey to my destination.” Sometimes I allow life stuff to consume my studio time.

Neil stated that he learned to write by writing. That brought to mind Art & Fear, a book that I read during my first year of college teaching. There is a story about a ceramics class and their project for the term. The class was divided into two groups–the “quantity” group and the “perfection” group. The quantity group would be evaluated on the weight of their work at the end of the term and the perfection group would be evaluated on their one perfect pot.

Most folks know that the more work you make, the better work you make. Mistakes and pieces that don’t quite work can offer loads of important information, perhaps even new techniques added to your bag of tricks. I feel that making lots of work allows me to be more creative and not too fussy with a single piece.

If a piece doesn’t quite work, why? Perhaps something does–the combination of materials, a technique that I might want to develop, or maybe the work is so ugly a hammer is in order.

In undergrad there was the Ugly Wall and in grad school Bisque Ware Bowling.


“the journey to my destination”

I had the pleasure of taking a film class when I was an undergrad. Much has stuck with me. We viewed François Truffaut’s film, Day for Night, a film within a film. Truffaut is the director of the film and plays Ferrand, the director in the film. There is a quote about process that often comes to mind when I am working on a piece and something isn’t going quite right.

“Shooting a movie is like a stagecoach trip. At first you hope for a nice ride. Then you just hope to reach your destination.”

The titles of my Avian Headboxes are the result of my love of literature and film.

A few of the titles are Ferrand  from Day for Night, Adele  from The Story of Adele H., and Victor  from The Wild Child.

Adele


South Carolina Highlights–Art-o-mat

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

When I visited the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art I had the pleasure of seeing my first Art-o-mat.

Art-o-mat

During my undergrad years I started making pocket art. I continue to make small scale pieces so the idea of dispensing art via the Art-o-mat is interesting. I read through the guidelines on the Art-o-mat website a few years back, even downloading the box template.

Art-o-mat Detail Random

Visit the Art-o-mat website for the guidelines and to download the official box template.