Processing Faces

Face drawing process

I’m going to open this by repeating the phrase, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” and then pump the breaks. I pause because I cannot remember if the number was a thousand or ten thousand words now. I get confused as I say it. I do understand the meaning behind it and how the phrase blew up in the 1920’s. Wait was it the 1914 and was it “a look?” My mind said to me once “A look” referred to real estate advertisement or was an ancient Chinese or Japanese proverb. Fred Bernard pops into my mind as I wonder what his face looked like as well as the faces of the proverb writers. Due to the proud fact that I have never written a ten thousand, a thousand, or even five hundred words about a picture that I was fond of I have issues relating. What did their faces look like? 

Fully confused by the connect the dots picture gone wrong now in my mind, I would like to add a new phrase into this world of knowledge. 

I would like to add a “A look,” wait scratch that, “The face is worth ten thousand written pages of a false history if one cannot remember the face that represents its culture”. 

drawing in progress

“Your welcome and if someone has already stated my quote then that means they were at least as smart as me,” is how I would follow my new phrase. This, to you that do not know me well, is how my brain thinks. Always rapid and most of the time lots of imaginary nonsense  presented as fact to myself. Yes but how does this fit in with the body of work Weighting to Rise your asking yourself?  Creating the faces fell into a couple of categories in my mind. 

For starters the look of Weighting to Rise in Kate’s mind and in my mind had to be set. Yes our work would respond to each other’s and physically change a little but the basic structure was hashed out before I ever started a face for the show. The faces to me are just as important as the vessels or the wall hanging that they are mounted on. The feeling of the cultural belonging is more important than the individual always runs through my mind as I am painting or drawing a face.

clay painting process

 Secondly, the faces should not dominate the space that surround it. A little bit of emotion in the face is ok but the eyes can not reveal to much. I need the work to feel coveted to the point that if you were to polish it one more time the face will be lost forever. The faces have rules just like every other artistic project I work on. The ideas of loss is not only in the content but also in the firing proses. When drawing onto green ware or bisque with my underglaze pencil I always expect to loose atleast %30 of the rich black. I have a couple secrets about that pencil and that’s why the loss is only %30. Sadly, muhahaha, I will not speak of such secrets. When it come to loss of the underglaze pencil work when the low fire glaze is happening, the ideas of predicting what I will get out is very bothersome.

finished wall hanging

    Then Gwaby, then with tears running down his cheeks into his beard, put his hands into the air and shook them passionately while shouting, “why glaze, why must you eat all of my work!!!” The glaze bucket, in response then said to Gwaby, “wow… tantrum much? Dude your the one who made me.”

Gwaby taken back by this experience wiped his tears and said back to the glaze bucket, “word.”

Underglaze- and mason stains

clay painting process

Thirdly the face needs to be a basic face. Let’s say you did know the person whose face is depicted. You  could write ten thousand pages about that persons face and in the end it could be summarized and he or she had a very average face. I find it very difficult to create this work. Fighting the impulses to make each face as tricky and visually dynamic as possible is so hard. Working in slips and mason stains is an art and props to he artist of the world that can do it perfectly. One of the way i can work through compulsive perfectionist issues has been to do a three step deconstructive process. I work on paper as loose as I can let my self. I’ll render a face in my favorite lighting, hair styles, and value changes. From there I will make a reverse transfer that will go onto the clay. This transfer is a very stripped back version of the drawing. This process helps me to to get to just the basics of a face versus sitting down with a brush and a slab and going nuts with it by doing all the detail I could possibly think up. I put myself in the head space of and artisan of their time. The essence needs to be captured and nothing more. 

transfer process

In my mind Weighting to Rise deals with the passing of life and how Kate and I choose to depict an imaginary version to be. The faces are a way for those people to simply remember their dead. The face, to them, implies that the after life journey is not done yet for them.  If these people could not remember the faces then some how the culture and history would be lost. 

Clay bodies and Slips for Weighting to Rise

Our newest installation, Weighting to Rise, engages our interest on many levels, including our love of ancient art history, conceptual evolution of religion and a contemporary understanding of archetypal imagery. The foundation for all this speculation however, is clay.

In the earliest concept drawings for this show I was thinking about terra-cotta red. I love the color but I also wanted to focus on lower kiln temperatures for this show.  The red clay reinforces the connections were making to ceramic objects of a certain age and there is no need to focus on durability or use for these forms as their true purpose is visual contemplation.

Initially we wanted to source the clay locally, from summit brick, but in cleaning out the studio in preparation for this new work we discovered a reclaim emergency. We hadn’t done any major reclaiming in years and there were hundreds of stashes of future intention in every corner of the studio. Organizing and reclaim all this detritus reframed our thinking on the project. The show is in many ways about beginnings and endings and there were so many of those in our lives when we were conceiving this show. The end of Grad school was one of the larger of these transitions and it was partly the deadline challenges of the student lifestyle that left so many bags abandoned. We just didn’t have the time for so much of what is normal studio maintenance. It seemed right then to use what we could of what we had and reclaim all the rest into a new studio body for the coming year.

Some of it we could rehydrate in the bags and wedge back to life. This is a lot of work but the clay does not have to age as much and so is more immediately useful. We slaked the rest down in buckets and mixed with dry. This clay must be aged for some time to enhance plasticity so we did the reclaiming early in the year to accommodate that need.

Reclaiming clay is heavy and demanding work so its great to get help, Gabe’s girls ran the pug mill for a day and really helped us out.

The rest of the hand wedged stuff was random small batches of the clay we had used in the studio for the last four years. There was a little more than 150 lbs of the 200 we mixed when we first moved in to this studio, about 500 lbs of reclaimable White Stone from Laguna of which we bought a ton in late 2013 and a number of clays we only had a bag or two of. These  clays were for special projects or bits friends gave us to try. It was in this last batch that we had the red clays. The one we started with and held to for the entire project was Laguna’s R2 with grog. we had a box of this from my mom who bought it and didn’t use it so it had gone hard in the bags. We started using this as a sculptural medium in the earliest pieces for the show but we found it couldn’t handle water as well as some of our preferred clay bodies so we decided to use it a slip for surface treatment and not the structure of the work.

We were especially focused on its interaction with another Laguna body, Babu porcelain. we’ve used this for years as a slip in the studio for its very smooth texture and titanium free white color. It was the interaction of these two clays that we intended to build the bones of the show.

While I focused on the structure and build techniques we would use, Gabe began experimenting with using clays alone for building up 2 dimensional images.

As the work continued we considered what to do for black and for firing temps more and more. The black we started out using was a commercially prepared engobe that needs a clear glaze over to develop the color fully. While we really liked these results the surface shift with the gloss was not something we wanted to see everywhere and the terra-cotta looks best a little warmer (Cone 01) and the glaze was 06 making once firing impossible.

From here we went off the rails a bit playing with slips and firing temps. We had a small chunk of clay we brought back from the Rain Harris workshop that I really wanted to integrate. She uses the most beautiful black clay from Aardvark, Cassius Basaltic is a cone 5 clay that is very black with a vitreous surface that is beautiful when used as a slip. Using this would eliminate the need for a clear on the black and the porcelain at least can handle the higher temps.

This switch did require a switch in red bodies. For that we wanted to go with a clay that a friend from grad school in Kansas was mining. It’s a midrange clay with a dusty red finish at cone five and we had about 30 lbs of it, plenty for slips. We really loved many aspects of this look, but the higher temps were often too much for the sketchy assembly techniques and so were abandoned. This wall hanging is the best of that combo, before and after firing

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wall hanging with face fired

It was really the bull that forced us to get real about the firing temps. The technique we used to put that together was risky enough, asking that hot mess to make high temperatures seemed like a recipe for disaster so we brought back the R2 and began looking for another black. We settled on barnard clay for that, straight out of the bag. On its own its very saturated at cone 01 and was a decent compromise.

From here we began using mixtures of various strengths for developing color in the show using the 3 main bodies as a base: Babu porcelain, barnard clay, and R2 terra-cotta

As mentioned earlier we wanted to use what we had around the studio for most of the project but there were a few pieces we wanted science on our side for. After all the struggles with using white stone for slabs that we ran into with The Magic Box, we chose to put some of the trickier aspects in a clay we knew we could rely on. Laguna’s soldate 60 is a work horse for our studio. While not the most beautiful body, its durable, fires well and so forgiving both to students and sculptors who must push edges.

Part of this winning formula is the 200 body we get from the local brick yard as an attaching slip. So much of the insanity of this show is possible because the perfect combination of Soldate with 200 binding it.

Making The Bull

As we move forward into the work of Weighting to Rise the work seems to need a larger purpose, an aspect of the culture that would give rise to such elaborate and lasting funeral ritual. We needed some belief beyond the honor of the ancestor, a god or possibly a sacrificial ritual to honor the god or the dead or both to give the culture a greater depth and the mystery of antiquity.

Looking for a solution to what the show was needing coincided to my coming across a passage in Stephen Karcher’s translation of the I Ching. In figure 26, Great Accumulates there is mention of a pure red bull, sacrificed by the king with arrows on behalf of the ancestors that renews the year and opens the fields for planting. The bull seemed to fit beautifully, bulls as gods, animals sacred to gods and as sacrifices to gods are nearly universal in old religions and their stories.

Once we had a concept we needed a technique and build procedure. To begin we sought the right bull. Looking at old Minoan mosaic and painted pottery and Picasso’s treatment of the animal we knew we wanted the animal clearly recognizable but just as clearly symbolic.

Graffiti and its process is important to nearly every project we undertake to one degree or another. Graffiti is public, you don’t need to be chosen by a gallery or representative to have the work seen, and it has a fierce sort of beauty that is not easily put into a critiquable box. Those qualities give it a sacred and living quality that layers nicely with the fusion of history and technology that we tune into. We really wanted this ancient, sacred image to have that feel. That lead to imagining some of the techniques Gabe has worked with before the Foxy-Wolff, primarily stencils. To reduce an image in all its complexity to blocks of shape and color seemed to distill the animal into a concept, an object and an ideal.

Gabe discusses the drawing process in this way:

Kate and I had a conversation about the need of "the bull" to this body of work. I looked up pictures of bulls and eventually wound up trying to remember my Myspace account pass word. Luckily Kate came to the studio the next day with pictures of bulls that she had found. The printouts were little 5x7 inch on printer paper. I think I said "cool I can work with that. So how big are we doing it?" So taking the printouts to 3x5 foot seamed like a no brainer to me. I would get out the projector and boom done.

Kate had that look and I knew that I was wrong. She said to me" I want it like that work", as she pointed to The Crazy Aunt tryptic that hangs in the studio. So The Crazy Aunt is in essence a black and white drawing and it relies on the shadow I love. Needed line vs implied, fine art vs illustration, imagery shapes vs the shapes that should be in place, and so on and so on. Yup, I have a lot.
Kate was just so happy about the plan I took it as a personal challenge to see it through. So no projector and no trace paper. Trace paper is how I do versions of The Crazy Aunt and so now what. I guess I'll just have to draw it out. The Bull became three main tasks. Finding the look, life studies, and transferring the image.

I did a 8x10 inch cow head drawing in the stenciled look of The Crazy Aunt and we decided that it needed to simplify a lot. The shapes of the cow head got five colors in very specific areas. Picture in your mind a black and white cow head. Now assign a grey scale to just the most important parts (eyes, nose, etc.) and the light the cows picture was taken in. Then I make up shapes that work best fit the drawing versus what's really there.

Second step is life study applications. Like in any sketch of a flower arrangement from across the room or the architecture of a building, proportion is the name of the game. I can think in step one and two at the same time and so I just started drawing The Bull.  I taped butcher paper down to Kate's desk and started my crazy process.
When the drawing was finished and we both liked it I had my wife come over to the studio and color up The Bull. Black was black, white was white, and browns and reds filled in the rest.

After completion of the drawing, Gabe prepared a butcher paper trace of it, sort of a paint by numbers thing with all the shapes clearly defined and each of the colors assigned a number value. After some discussion on the depth of the back ground we settled on a total of seven colors, two separate colors on layer two so that areas that touch would not be the same color for different objects.

After the complex generation of the image, the build was fairly straight forward, if not simple. The trace was used as a layer guide. After cutting out a layer, it was cut off the parchment and used again to trace the next layer and so on. The parchment was a genius innovation, trace goes to crap the second it touches wet clay, it can handle no water at all. The parchment, because it’s design for food preparation, it held up beautifully throughout creation of all 6 layers to a tile.

Our first step of the build was to make the slabs. Layer one was 3/8″ deep and all succeeding layers were 1/4″ slabs. This took a good deal of forethought as we tried to estimate the number of whole square inches each layer of the 10 tiles would need. It also began to indicate just how massive the project was going to be.

While I prepped slabs, Gabe prepared the drywall. Four new full sheets  were purchased that week and all would be used in both the easel and the build.

Breaking the bull down into manageable chunks was another discussion that we gave much time. The debate focused on the joins of the tiles. Each of the four or five possible options we discussed had merits and drawbacks, in the end we chose the one that would make the initial build more simple but the assembly on tile board more complex. A basic grid was layer overtop of the parchment drawing with the horizon line at greater than 50% to help keep the heavier tiles to the top smaller.

Gabe built a heavy oak frame from old hard wood flooring that both kept the build as precise as we could make it and to slow drying from the side of the tiles. The easel has two drywall layers, also to prevent too speedy a dry time. The bottom layer is a full sheet and the top cut into the exact size of each tile so they could be assembled on the tables and placed back into the frame exactly where needed.

Finally we were ready to begin. We chose the Fourth of July weekend for the build because we wanted it done with no large gaps in making process, we both work outside the studio. Aside from a Gabe having to do some small maintenance for the farm, we had four full days to get it done and we needed every minute of it, with very little time even for sleep while we were at it.

The actual tiles are deceptively simple. We assigned each color to a layer, where that color shows in the drawing the layering stops and that color shows through. Where white (the background color) shows, the tile is only one layer thick, where white for highlight shows, on the horns and the nose, the tile is 6 layers thick. Where a higher numbered color will show, all layers but be beneath to build the correct strata for the overall piece. As mentioned above we mapped this out by cutting each color from the parchment map on the tile, allowing only the areas where we would continue to build presence on the growing tiles.

Tile 4, by far the most complex as it held both the horns and the face took 8 hours to complete. The average time per tile was about 5 hours.

First tiles are cut out and assembled, then taken back apart and the slips added to the pieces where needed.

After some dry time we reassembled them with slip to bind them together and placed into the easel.

After completing all ten tiles we wrapped them heavily for a week so the attachments could solidify and the slips could set.

At the end of the week we opened it up and touched up color where we made mistakes and where the slips were not as crisp as we intended.

Now fully complete the bull will rest under plastic 6 to 8 weeks to dry slowly to prevent the tiles warping. Once dry, we will place the tiles on wasters and fired to 01 to fully develop the terra-cotta color that is the primary color of the finished bull.

Beginning A New Installation

The Magic Box was an enormous and all-consuming project that took up huge portions of our lives over the past three years. Its ben very difficult to nail down the next installation project for Foxy-Wolff. We have been kicking around several ideas since before completing the last, and while there were elements of each idea that we found compelling, not one of them really cried out for making.

Initially we played around with a few possible sequels to the Magic Box, focused on Bob the Unicorn’s childhood, but the rigid control of the rules of that world were too constraining. Also being able to complete an entire installation in a year or less seems an interesting challenge with the potential to dramatically impact its over-all outcome. We were hoping for a work that might be less text dependent, allowing its visceral, emotional content to come to the surface.

An entirely new work seemed in order, so then it was time to begin sifting through ideas.

As one might guess, actually getting to work in the studio brought the best of these to the surface. The last post outlined the evolution of the structure and aesthetics of the upcoming work.

Process and Inspiration

Over the weeks the clay shaped up Gabe and I were refining the overall direction and intent of the installation, with Gabe providing drawings to aid in the conversation.

The concept of the show engages our fascination with ancient funerary art, and religious practices directed toward the dead. Each individual element in the gallery represents a families remembrance and the living process of creation that is the natural product of such a process. We concern ourselves  with the boundaries between worlds, feeling that riding that edge is the place where creativity rises.

Funerary art is also some of the most readily available records of extinct cultures. The pseudo-historical potential of work like this allows construction of a narrative without having to outline a specific “story”. The show marks a significant transformation of both the project (Foxy-Wolff) and our personal lives and so thinking of burial to mark that transition makes a weird kind of sense.

Elemental transformation is also a key concept for this work. the geological transformation of the rock cycle referenced through the clay mirrors the transformations of life and death; family member to ancestor. The technological aspect of the show will emphasize these by allowing us to light the gallery with fire and water  without having to work with building rules and insurance policies.

With this show we are making an offering to those who come to experience the work. In turn we give those an opportunity to offer something back to the work. By giving sand to the images and objects in the gallery, the viewer brings soul from the earth and allows it to rise, much like the fire and water of the videos.

Weighting To Rise gives us an opportunity to share our passion for the strange and beautiful, to mine the great well of myth and belief that surround death and to invite the viewer to share in the process of making the space and the installation live via their participation through action. The finely rendered paintings, made from the same material as the rest of the work  are the center piece of the show and add precision and emotion to the elemental presentation.

 

Finishing The Great One

Completing the Kuan Yin of the Magic Box, or Great One as she is known in the videos, was a complex process that began as soon as the firing of all the components was complete. As noted in a previous post, the sculpture, made from Laguna’s white stone, had many of the problems that we experienced with the Empty Room house, primarily cracking. The first step then was to repair that damage. For this piece I used PC7, as its value is similar to the fired surface of the ceramic.

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After repairs, sanding and automotive primer finished off the surface.

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Initially my plan was to hide the repair marks entirely, but looking carefully at the surface we found we liked what was emerging and decided for a less is more approach. For fine-tuning the entire piece, it was necessary to assemble and disassemble several times, grinding the pieces to fit neatly then finished off the prep work for the wall hanging.

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Gabe cut the backing for the sculpture to mirror the door ways in The Black Church then ripped the board in half so that the sculpture could be moved in two sections. After finishing the backing prep, a Durock silhouette cut out and mounted to the backing in preparation for the ceramic.

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The Durock was then masked off and a heavily textured deck paint applied to the plywood to add dimension to the background. Once this was dry, layers of spray paint added as preliminary surfacing.

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This dried for 24 hours, then an application of thin set on the concrete board and the ceramic pieces set into this adhesive.

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After another drying period, masked off the backing and the epoxy/mortar mixed with iron oxide and applied to the cracks and edges of the entire piece.

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The surface was then refined again and the piece was ready for the acrylic layers that would add the final touches to the sculpture.

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The last step was the framing that hides the screws that mount it to the wall.  Gabe designed this frame from 2 x 2’s, biting a section from the boards that allow it to wrap the edge of the plywood.

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The last element to place was the television and DVD player that complete the piece.IMG_1242

Find the first half of the process of this piece here:

Kuan Yin of The Magic Box

 

Kuan Yin of The Magic Box

The last two months has seen a flurry of studio activity as we close in on the date to install the Magic Box show in the Moss-Thorns Gallery at Fort Hays State University.  The last major piece to be built for the show is a large-scale copy of the Kuan Yin that is featured in the fourth video, The Black Church. This piece will accompany the entire edited video in the last space in the installation and in many ways is the anchor for the show. I see it as an opportunity to flip the scale of the viewer in the gallery and reinforce the image of the viewer themselves within the context of the space, especially as it relates to the cell phone interaction that will be integral to the experience of the show. for this reason as well as my real and abiding love of the work it is based on we have been determined to do a good job on this piece.IMG_9701

The first step was to build the easel. Gabe accomplished this using an old solid core door, a 4×4 and some canvas we has in the studio from the Art Center days. The tech is really costing quite a bit for this show so keeping costs down in other areas has been important over the last year. The easel was heavy and difficult to move which was a good thing considering the amount of clay that would need to be stacked on it.

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The next step was for Gabe to use his observational super powers to scale up the figurine on the canvas so we would have a frame-work for stacking the clay.

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While Gabe worked on that, I prepped the clay for stacking. To build the piece I used a highbred technique of the brick sculpture I used to do with Jarrett Pottery and the large solid sculpture techniques learned during the Beth Cavener workshop in January of 2015. (see post here) The piece required about 550 lbs of clay, which I shaped roughly into bricks straight from the extruded blocks from the clay factory.  I used talc between the bricks to prevent sticking, which turned out to be mistake in a way as I changed my ideas for taking the piece apart to more reflect Cavener’s technique rather than the brick sculpture I had done in the past. The best choice would have been to work for solid attachment of the units to each other as I built the wall.  It would have saved valuable time in the disassembly and hollowing stage. For clay I chose the cost saving measure again. We were still sitting on about half a ton of Laguna’s Whitestone, which is really the last clay I would have chosen given the problems we’ve had in the past with it, but it’s what we had and the dates are approaching quickly so we went with it. Because of this choice we anticipate a good deal of epoxy after firing, with that in mind we will be using a fired and cold approach to the surface.

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Gabe, in the mean time, worked on a second outline, on paper this time, that could lay over the stacked clay and allow us to map in the essential elements.  After that it was a matter of stacking the clay, brick by brick.

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On this last image you can see the outline that was traced onto the clay using the second, paper drawing. The clay was very wet here and carving for detail was not possible, so for the first week or so only crude shaping and removal was possible.

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At this point the form was basically mapped and fine detail could be added. While the piece was based on the figurine, the scale shift required a greater attention to detail that the small piece could not support.  These changes are most apparent in the folds of the fabric.IMG_9774 IMG_9785

You can see in the above image that the clay was really pulling apart, which made finishing imperative. The last section to be tackled was the head.

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I did return later and add material to a few places, the knee and the nose, brow and chin most notably. This is the face before the additions.

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The additions to the face were made after the piece was cut away from the larger whole. In this image the “brick” separations are clearly visible. The first step in the deconstruction phase was to attach the bricks together.  Once this was complete and the attachments had time to set, the entire section was flipped on the foam and carved out from the back to make firing possible as the density of this clay will not allow solid firing as brick does.

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Once the pieces were attached and hollowed out they were sculpted and finished. The remaining sections stayed on the easel as I worked.  After a while the pieces became so dry on the canvas backing of the easel that the whole thing had to come down and be more thoroughly wrapped so they would last while I worked. It took about a month the finish the disassembly.

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After hollowing and attaching, part of the finishing process involved placing each section on a waster slab and then resurfacing with steel wool to remove the making texture from the forms.

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The last step was to wash the sections with a red iron oxide wash that will be sanded back a bit before these pieces are loaded into the kiln in a couple of weeks. Reassembly and cold finishing to follow.

Making Characters for The Empty Room

Not even a weekend passed between finishing the house and starting the furniture and characters for the film.  I began with the furniture because its size would dictate the moveable space within the rooms and so the size of the animals inside.  The Cafe was the most important space as this is where the bulk of the film takes place.  I laid out and built the objects in place and was much more flexible with shrinkage size for this project, just setting a maximum size and working below that.IMG_7017I did have one piece that required precise shrinkage for a screen, but there I only fussed with the opening.  Being less absolute with measurement cut the build time on the furniture by weeks,  it was such a great compromise.  Here you can see that the opening is slightly too big.  There is a formula that I use that allows pretty precise measurement of clay body shrinkage after firing.  For some things this is essential.IMG_7044After the furniture was complete, I moved on to characters.  I have a pretty tried and true method for devising a build for an animal that I have never tried.  First I search google images for poses and colors that I am interested in, then I draw those images.  This allows me to get careful about certain details that are important to quickly identifying the type of animal.IMG_7041As I move to the sculpting process, I use techniques I developed teaching children, this keeps the figurines looking like toys.  This relies in shedding non-essential detail, but holding on to the things that are most important, usually ear and snout shape and limb attachment.  I also usually make multiples of a each character so we can show a range of movement in the film.  The first piece gets to be an exploration, but the second must follow the size and detail rules of the first.IMG_7121I sculpted the figurines by group so that I could develop some speed with a form.  I started with squirrels and then moved to squid, rabbits, fish and bears.IMG_7071 IMG_7113 IMG_7134

James the lizard was the last of the figurines that was made.  He was built at my home since there was just not enough time in a day to get them all done.  He was built for a very specific scene in a very particular space in the cafe, which I did not have with me.  The consequence of this was significant post firing revision to get him to work in the space.  I hope not to repeat this mistake as I had to mutilate the ceramic to get him to sit.

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All the figures and furniture were fired together, though they were finished in various ways.

While I worked on the clay bits, Gabe was focused on the special effects portion.  One of the greatest things about collaboration is watching an idea expand as it meets other ideas.  This film features several flashbacks, all of which needed additional building to pull off convincingly.  Gabe took one of these flashback scenes and built a fantastic set, based on the first house, but expanded and edited to allow the scene to convey the emotion that we wanted to communicate.  In the scene we wanted to convey the  horror of greed and grasping,  The project became incredibly detailed because Gabe was so committed to pulling off the illusion to carry off that emotional impact.  He also made the character for that scene.  He chose an ape, to further illustrate the concept of the clip.

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Finishing began after firing. The furniture followed the rules of the first film, and any character that was coming from a previous film had to be finished in their style.  After that, we could be creative about finish.  Most pieces were glaze fired, but a few were painted with acrylic.  For us, that process always begins with spray paint.

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When they were complete, filming began immediately.  The characters always look best in place

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Jun Kaneko and the Multi-Discipline Approach

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For the final article of the Ceramic Art and Perception assignment for this semester, I’ve chosen an article by Nancy M. Servis featuring a moment in Jun Kaneko’s career in which he was exhibiting at the Rena Bransten Gallery in San Fransisco and had also designed set, costumes and props for a production of Mozart’s Magic Flute for the San Fransisco Opera that was to run concurrent with the show.

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The Gallery show features painting, drawing, sculpture and ceramics and points to one of the most remarkable things about Kaneko as an artist, his ability to pursue a wide range of media and still hold together a cohesive vision for his work and produce quality in each media.  It is this relentless searching and experimentation that equips him for the challenges of designing for the opera.

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The curatorial challenge of staging a show to compliment an opera would be a daunting task indeed if it were not for the consistency of aesthetic in Kaneko’s work.  All the various media are united through streaming color and pattern, while the art objects are further unified by surface treatment and mark making.  His work is also distinguished by his commitment to the space between works, which he calls ma.

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This multidimensional way of working is exciting to see.  the potential of the large Dango pieces grows exponentially when the forms are used to costume a character on a stage and the theater calls back to the gallery as those same large forms take on the presence of actors on a stage.  This ability to think in the round is the new requirement for artists.  Simply making objects is rarely enough, as our culture is too fragmented focus on one thing in one place.  Kaneko proves an artist can be everywhere and still deliver a solid, compelling body of work.

https://renabranstengallery.com/exhibitions/jun-kaneko

Wall-Paper: An Installation by Aurora Hughes Villa

Wall-paper has a pretty bad reputation among contemporary house proud decorators, yet it has so much appeal for artists.  Being passé and completely decorative is just one of the reason to use it for inspiration.  Another wonderful feature is that its broken symmetry and patterning work so well in backgrounds.  Additionally,  wall-paper is loaded with symbolism, both within its own images and culturally as metaphor for the times it has been popular.

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The installation “Wall-Paper” by Aurora Hughes Villa that was displayed in conjunction with the 2012 NCECA in Seattle WA and reviewed in issue 92 of Ceramics Art and Perception, picks up on all these universal themes,  but manages to be a work that is intimate and personal. Part of its ease of communication is in the meticulous craftsmanship of each of the pieces.  They are created using a mixture of new tech and reliable technique.  The vintage wall-paper designs are scanned into Photoshop, where they are manipulated, and then turned into screens for silkscreen, which is applied using colored slips and underglazes.  The surface of the clay is formed using a combination of carving, stencils and free painting.  The medallions are then fired several times.  Each medallion is unique and features cameo images of women, medical drawings of body parts and architectural drawings of Victorian houses.

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The overall effect of these well placed, well-organized images is controlled and possibly a bit predictable, as  is expected of wall-paper, until considering the strong shadows cast on the wall by the heavily top lit medallions onto the dark painted wall.  Those shadows blur the edges of the entire piece and break up the uniformity and control.  The metaphor for shadow in a calm and ordered environment brings this work out of the Victorian, where the ideals of domesticity created a prison for women, into the contemporary mind, and suddenly the colors are reminiscent of a Martha Stewart Living magazine, also proclaiming the joys of quiet and controlled domestic living.   On the opposite wall from the medallions are two strips of wall-paper, tacked up, with the edges loose and bulges by the tacks.  These pieces of paper stand in stark contrast to the well placed order on the other side of the room.

Hughes Villa is a wife and a mother, and I do not believe she is making a statement that rejects either of those occupations, but rather acknowledges what all wives and mothers sometimes feel in the quest to create well-organized lives.

Her Website:

http://aurorahughesvilla.com/Artist.asp?ArtistID=28980&Akey=MND4MRXE

Limited Liability Insurance Company Play Set Videos

These videos were also produced last year and are reposted here to consolidate hosting to the blog page.  This art piece and group of videos were made for proof of concept for the ceramic as featured element in video idea that has become central to our work.  There is much info on the production of these videos and this ceramic piece in earlier posts.