Film Festival Trophies

Every year we make the awards for the Pueblo 24 hour film festival in our home town Pueblo CO.  This year we made a video to accompany the process.  Rather than write about this one, I’ll let you watch.

The screening was this weekend and the entire event was very successful, with 25 entries and 18 films for judging.  The big winners of the night were the makers of a film called “The Brighter Side”, Gabe and I were lucky to catch up with the winning team, Lyonman productions at the event to offer congratulations.FullSizeRender

You can view the film here:

The festival is in its 7th year and is growing steadily, If you are interested in learning more or possibly entering a film next year, their website will fill you in of the details:

http://pueblo24hourfilmfestival.com

You can also watch the films from previous years at this address.

Clay Mixing

clay mixing 6

As we began preparing for classes one of our top priorities was to get clay.  We are pretty young as a studio and so many of the things basic to a studio need to be acquired.  We’re also as a pretty young business and we don’t have a lot of capital, so getting what we needed on the cheap was another priority.  Fortunately we had two resources to pull from.  From my former business we had about 400 lb. of a clay body called 200.  This clay is a brick body from the local manufacturer that my ex-husband and I would screen and mix into a workable throwing body.  We also had about 400 lb. of soldate 60 scraps left over from previous sculpture projects.  The soldate is a Laguna Clay body with a 60 grit sand, it is a fantastic hand building body.  On the surface this is a simple solution to our needs, but the condition of all that clay was nowhere near usable.

The 200 had been bagged in 30 lb. lumps that dried out completely, The body is very open because of the brick grog and so has a much shorter storage life than other clay bodies.  So that is where Gabe began,  taking those large heavy blocks of clay and breaking them apart and then crushing the bits to be slaked down in water.

photo 1-6 clay mixing

The clay was allowed to soak in the water for a few days so that it could be totally saturated. Gabe then put together a drying frame to prepare the clay for mixing.  The frame was 2×2’s and a large piece of canvas.  This size was needed so we could get it through the door, the wet clay should not be allowed to freeze as it pulls the moisture inside to the surface, making the clay a slimy mess.  We filled the drying frame with the slaked clay in batches of about 200lb.

photo 3-4 clay mixing photo 4-3 clay mixing photo-6 claymixing

But of course the project took place at the end of December and the beginning of January so freezing was a part of this project.  The ice crystals cutting through the super wet clay was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.  Of course it did need to be remixed a bit, but because it was so wet, this was not too much of a problemclay mixing 5

Once the 200 was bagged and waiting, it was time for the soldate.  Gabe’s job here was not as tough as the soldate was in slightly better shape.  Some did have to be slaked down, but much of it could be mixed straight from the scrap bags.  It did all need to be weighed as the plan for the new clay body was a straight 50/50 mixture.

clay mixing 4

One the soldate was prepped and bagged we were ready to begin mixing.  The pug mill was loaded with about 150 lb. at a time, 75 of 200 and 75 of soldate.  An even mixture was a priority so the clay was run in 4 batches and then bagged again at 25 lb.  He then re ran them through again, one bag from each batch.clay mixing 2

As the batches ran, it was my job to weigh, wedge and bag the clay.

clay mixing 3

Once the mixing was finished it needed to age, though we were forced to use it for classes right away.  After waiting a couple of weeks I sat down at the wheel to give it a try.  This is a 10 lb. pot,  the clay is still young, but aging into a great clay body.photo-7

and here are some small vases for the same project, more words on this to come.

photo 3-5

Pottery Class with Foxy-Wolff

photo 4-2

I began teaching in 1998, a few months after the completion of my bachelors degree.  It was an opportunity that was set up by my former professor and mentor Vicky Hansen.  That first gig was for the a local senior center here in Pueblo.  It was poorly paid and I had to buy supplies from my meager checks, but it was a fantastic place to begin accumulating a solid portfolio of projects for teaching, and the skills to communicate them effectively. I stayed with that job for two years, and it was during that time that I began to understand the fundamental connection between teaching and knowledge.  From the perspective of a student this connection is simple and obvious but for the teacher is more subtle.  It was through teaching hand building to elderly beginners that my personal identity as a sculptor was born.  Learning to observe and identify a students difficulty and then offer a clear route to success, taught me to see my own work more completely, and the excitement and raw creativity of new students has kept my energy and commitment pure.

A few years after the SRDA I was offered the position of resident artist at the local arts center.  I stayed in that position for eleven years.  My years of teaching at the art center continued the learning began at the senior center and refined other skills.  From class room management for large groups of kids to the subtle push and pull of helping an artist aim for higher goals, I truly became a teacher of ceramic art.  In fact I often feel that I am a better at teaching than anything else I do.

After so many years, I was ready for a break.  The endless rotation of students in an institution like an art center became exhausting.  It was possible for me to teach preschoolers, at risk high schoolers, learning disabled students and artists in the same day, and of the over one thousand students that I might teach in an average year the vast majority would only come once for a single project, meaning that studio rules and basic processes had to be repeated endlessly.  Don’t get me wrong, It was a well paid job that I loved, but the enormous energy requirements to deliver effective lessons under those conditions for multiple years was just something that I could no longer sustain.

So when I said goodbye to my students and studio at the art center in December, I figured it would be a good long time until I picked up that hat again.  Obviously I was wrong.  Almost immediately after leaving I started being approached by parents seeking lessons for their kids.  i would give out my number, promise that eventually I would resume teaching and forget the encounter.  Enough of these piled up, with follow up calls that I felt I had to set a schedule and start up again.

photo 2-7

The first thing we had to do to begin was to rethink the studio (again).  Teaching ceramics requires some room, which is at a premium in the old barn.  Of course there were areas that were not maximized for efficiency, so that is where we began.  We have four electric wheels that we set in a tight group and a long table very close by for the hand builders to work.  The proximity allows me to teach two lessons at once without missing that critical moment before a work fails.  This was set up in the area that we had set aside for my step dad to park his car.  Fortunatly he’s made other arrangements for the car.  Other things had to shift as well, because we wanted the place to be accommodating for students and parents that might not be familiar with the clutter and dust common to pottery studios.

I structure the classes in beginner and advanced sections, these groups rotate from table to wheels on the hour in a two hour lesson.  The class is full at 11 students, from age 4 to 15.  A student needs to 10 years old to start the wheel so younger students concentrate on hand building and the older tend to gravitate to the wheel.  For our first lesson the beginner hand builders made votive holders from pinch pots.  The lesson is the same for a wheel student until centering and the cylinder are understood.

photo 2-6

I’m not surprised to be teaching again, its what I do and I’ll always do it in one way or another, I am surprised that it has given the studio and my art life a feeling of life and completion that I was unaware that it lacked.  Apparently I am a part of the lives of my students, and they are undoubtedly a deep part of mine.  The new class structure and the flexibility of owning the school gives us options for classes that I’ve never considered before.  the four week formula will allow us to take on more complex single subjects and really explore them.  Possible ideas include mold making, clay making and pit firing, and large scale sculpture.  Honestly were a bit fired up.  One thing is sure, teaching has the potential to be as new and exciting as the rest of our art life, and through teaching we empower other artists to begin their own lifetime of growth and discovery.

Up next?  We’re hoping to add adult classes for a later Saturday session.  TBA