This little green sprout is all that remains of a plant that nomadically moved from my office, to studio, or home since 1996. Pretty easy plant to upkeep; just water every couple weeks + low light = happy plant. It used to be HUGE and even recovered after two months without water. This time around I saw the wilting and browning happening in December but wasn’t able to keep the thought in my head to act. Unfortunately, this plant and my studio practice were running on parallel lines. I took the surviving vines in May and re-potted them with some compost. This picture is of the one survivor. Ready, cuz’ here come the Cheez Whiz…cue the sappy music. Now I need to ensure my studio practice continues to grow along with this plant.
Like the super vine, the studio has been having a difficult time finding room in my life since coming to my present job. Not to mention the challenges of being a dad and husband. I was having a hard time whittling out studio time. When school starts up this week my family and studio practice will get less attention until December or by appointment. Yes, I feel badly that my family is forced into second place to my job and working on that.
So this summer was great for studio and flora!! I discovered new ways of revitalizing my studio practice. Some are more specific than others.
Why Craft Wars?
As Marylena and I watched Craft Wars last week I started getting anxious. Hole-E-shit we’re going to be on NATIONAL TV!! Our episode airs tomorrow, August 21st, at 8pm on TLC. I will be the Igor to Marylena’s handmade apron wearing mad craftientist. It was quite the experience for us with a lot of deadlines, pressures and contracts. Now we get to see how we get “painted” to a national audience.
I was worried about the flack I might get from artist friends. Being on a show including a judge who made/makes his fortune with Glitterville might seem to be blasphemy…but the key word here is fortune. Stephen Brown is a multimedia mogul, DIY apostle, and a gateway to the arts. YES crafting can be, and often is, the gateway drug for the arts. How many artists interest in making happened when they were kids making model airplanes, working in woodshop, cutting out collages, or gluing rocks together to make something? Crafting rules!!
The people making a living on their art/ crafting careers are multi media marketers. Christa Assad is a Carhart model (she’s on a poster at our local hardware store), Kristen Kieffer has a great tutorial DVD, Ayumie Horie is a web marketing mastermind, and Brian Jones has a great podcast that everybody should hear who is a maker. The key with these people is not only the quality of their work but their careers. They are not just marketing their work but who they are and in the process use all forms of media to promote. You don’t make a living off of your work you make a living off of your interdisciplinary approach to your career. From gearing up for our cable debut (blogging, FaceBook Fan page, updating my website, taking images of work…etc, etc) making work is just a part of what goes into making a career. My work was a large part of why I was even considered for many of my past and present teaching positions. I have a deepened appreciation for all that the above mentioned people do.
Regardless of the outcome with Craft Wars there is no good or bad PR. There is just PR. If all goes well then great! But who wants to look at your vacation pictures of the beach or the great time you had? They want to know how customs did a strip search after that horrible flight through the thunderstorm and you found a tarantula in your underwear drawer at the hotel. In the end it’s all about how the story gets told and we have no control over how TLC angles it.
Vay-cay-shun with the whole Sevigney clan is coming soon for us! Relaxation is the key (does that happen with a 3 year old?) I’m really looking forward to looking over one of my largest (literally and figuratively) influences; the ocean. It is beautiful here in NH and I know the Big Blue is only 1.5 hrs away but I miss having the smell of the salty bay (Narragansett Bay) at my doorstep or being able to drive to the beach in 5 minutes (Wells, Maine). Plans are to walk the Jetties @ Wells beach, Big Daddy’s Ice Cream, flying kites and having a few barley hopsilicious treats on the beach. Lobsters and steamers are a must!!! One of Graham’s favorite stops at the grocery store is to visit the Lobster tank. I’m wondering how he’ll feel about having one on his plate?
Sketching for ideas.
The September exhibit deadline edges ever closer so I’ll be bringing my sketchbook, drawing pad and pens to get some ideas down. When the brain relaxes good ideas tend to surface. Mmmmmmmm…..pennnnnnnnnns. I stopped using pencils because erasers are not a good thing for my sketchbook. I’m already obsessively compulsive in my working habits and pencils allowed me to erase “mistakes”. A pen’s permanent line requires me to work with all the marks I create and adds a random variable important for idea generation. My favorite pens are Lamy AL- Star fountains loaded with Noodler’s Heart of Darkness ink. I spent too much money on disposable pens over the past decades. I have experimented with gels, Microns, and rollerballs but most have fallen out of favor for numerous reasons. Fountain pens create the best line quality and allow for ink choice since they are refillable. For larger drawings good old Sharpie bold fits the bill.
I took a trip to RI to drop off some work that needed a soda vapor fire and spend some time with my buddy Jay Lacouture (in a glaze and decal-athalon stage right). 3.5 hour drive down, made cone packs, wadded my pieces, reminisce about my time in RI, and 3 hours back ( faster at night). Before leaving we hit up Flo’s Clamshack looking over a drizzly First Beach (where Marylena and I got married)and enjoyed a beer and fried clams. Good stuff!!
Glazed for the RI commute.
I do love clay but am just as enamored by the community that supports it. Contrary to what most get into it for… the BIG money!! I’ve been lucky to work with some great people in the ceramics community. As Jay said "We all have NCECA to thank for this community." Although, NCECA is becoming a bit predictable and I’m starting to wonder when some organizational change is going to happen. I’m concerned changes won’t happen.
So here are some of the tests out of Bertha’s 3rd fire. I’ve got a solid liner glaze, an interesting terra sig that crackles and flashes, and a copper red glaze. If I remember correctly at cone 06 you can get surface sheen and flashing from soda. This clay is SO vitreous at this temp and a nice chocolate color. I’ve put grog in this body because in most of my work people are surprised it is clay. I want people to be able to see the tooth in the clay and want the surface to speak more to the material it comes from.
Lessons from this fire:
· I need better flame travel around kiln shelves. The bottom reached temp but the top wasn’t close. Good that I have a supply of shelves in storage and found four 17” square shelves.
· Spray more soda solution in the kiln.
· Get wood scraps to add BTUs and more reduction at the end of the fire.
And now off to mow the lawn…joy. Mowing is like shaving; tedious but the brain gets to rest and allow ideas to percolate. Mowing and shaving are both mechanized but mowing takes longer and is more effort…and as Michael Scott from The Office would say….
Bertha / yankee style roof including cement block for wind proofing.
Blog post or children’s book title? I’ve fired my phoenix kiln (aka Bertha) thrice and am still in process of getting consistent results from the firings. I loaded the kiln yesterday and fired today just before the severe weather rolled in. Earthenware at cone 1 or 2 with some soda ash tossed in gets such a vitreous satin chocolate surface. I’m looking at layering surface and adding terra…digressions…save for other posts.
Over the years I have hoarded burners, pipes, valves, bricks, old kilns and kiln furniture in preparation for having a legit home studio. I patched together my system from an old raku burner system and two venturi burner systems from 10 years ago. Ward Burner Systems is the place to go if you have questions or problems. The new Baso valve and most of my purchased kiln supplies have come from Ward.
The resulting kiln isn’t a pretty arch or masonry masterpiece (and my wife reminds me of this since it sits in our back yard) but gets the job done and only cost $250 (kiln was $50 and new Baso $179).
The key is getting the maximum amount of grunt work done since our last week of daycare is next week! The kiln needs to be running on all cylinders! Balancing family, studio, and work is my greatest challenge. During the summer months work is at a minimum but I’m making up for the family time I miss out on for work. Seems studio is the middle child and needing more attention.
Work table on casters that I built out of timbers taken from the roof of the studio. My little L&L I bought back in 1991 is on casters. Office desk & dumpster dived stereo with turntable.
Looooooooong time since posting so a reboot effort is needed for my website. Classes are over at PSU so I’m dedicating the summer to my solo exhibit at Salve Regina University’s Dorance H. Hamilton Gallery that I start installing Sept 20th. I’ve attached some pics of the updated and lived in studio.
I have been working intermittently making Yunomi. These have been quick studies that I only allow myself a day to construct and act as boiled down versions of my work with a function slant. They can be used…but who will?? Interesting that when people pay a certain price for a functional piece they don’t use it. Price precludes function. I’m curious what the cutoff is?? My guess is $75, my personal cutoff is $60, but who knows? If you know or think you know feel free to inform!! If nothing else my dad will be happy since I’m making “Something cool that you make and people can buy.” This relates to something Sandy Besser told me when he bought some of my work “Be careful of your prices. You could end up being your own best collector.” Sandy gave me a financial boost years ago when he bought a few of my pieces and I was sad to hear of his passing.
First day in the studio that felt like a real studio day. Turned on the stereo, started the music and don’t remember the mix stopping. I’m upping the scale a bit and making absurd Rube Goldberg cyborg contraptions that don’t know how to work. I stayed up late last night to finish what I was working on since the clay is drying out quick and I want to start on other contraptions.
Yesterday’s music selection started with Beck but what stuck in my head was Beastie Boys/Santigold Don’t Play No Game That I Can’t Win(RIP Yauch and the Beastie Boys as we know them). It has a killer trumpet hook. After we made pizza for dinner Graham, Marylena and I danced to that song. End to a great day!!
I just had an article about me printed in Plymouth State University Magazine. Teaching people to think for themselves...quite a course objective I'll tell you! Even a pic of me making bowls for an Empty Bowls event we supported.
New furnace in the basement, melting snow in what seems to be an early arriving mud season, and the heat is back on in the studio! I’m in an exhibit at the Kimball Jenkins Estate in Concord NH titled 5 Potters and Sculptors. The website is http://www.kimballjenkins.com/events.htm for details. The exhibit is up until April 1 with a great mix of works from across the New Hampshire ceramic spectrum. I have some newer work but the pieces I planned to have completed were put on hold when our boiler quit and the studio got too cold to work in. Now the space is back up to heat and ready to work in again.
I’m going to TA for Richard Notkin again this summer at Haystack for anybody looking for a fantastic workshop to attend. Goto http://www.haystack-mtn.org/summer_workshops_session5.php for details if interested. A great view, fantastic food, great artists to hang and make work with, and a jump in the ocean every day at 3pm. You can’t beat that with a big stick!
Just scored a $50 electric kiln I plan to strip and make a Phoenix kiln out of. It seems to be an old Paragon kiln entirely encased in sheet metal. Sides top and bottom all screwed together with sheet metal screws from the factory. Pop in a gas burner and aWaaaaaaaaay we’ll go. I want me some low fire soda in the back yard this spring/ summer!!