Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Quick Trip to DC

A couple of weeks ago, we went to Washington D.C. A quick trip, only four days, more's the pity. Each year that we go, I have my list of museums to visit. I like to go alone, take my time, make notes to myself and to think.

The Corcoran has a small bistro on one side of the main lobby that offered wonderful lunches. I usually plan to arrive sometime during the lunchtime window. And ditto for the mezzanine service at the Museum for Women in the Arts.

I always go to the Renwick. There's always a good show there, to say nothing of their per
manent collection upstairs. (Which, this year, the upstairs display was very limited. The Catlins are all off the walls and the Grand Salon is undergoing a major renovation. Wonder what they have done with those two massive vases that always anchored
two sides of the massive room?)

The Corcoran Gallery usually has the student's show plus some large, multi-room display. I'll never forget the Topkapi one a few years ago.

I always make it to the Museum of Women in the Arts. Their shows are always good. This year, it was gowns and jewelry from the designer, Mary McFadden. I was a little unsure of--

1. Whether a clothes designer could pull off an art display equal to some I had already seen at the museum. and 2. If I would really care.

I was wowed. McFadden bases her designs on classic and ethnic references and her sense of color is unparalleled. The collection included some of her personal jewelry and pieces she has collected from all over the world as reference pieces. Her clothing is the height of textile skill. The clothes were cut and put together beautifully. I wished I could have seen how they were constructed on the inside. The decoration, usually in beading, was superb.

Unfortunately, the annual Art of the Book is no longer available on the library level of the museum. They have closed the great art reference library permanently. I'm sorry they had to do that. The exhibit was also one of the highlights of the museum.

Everywhere I visited, cutbacks in expenses were very evident. The lunches were pared down to minimalist offerings. The service staff was nearly gone. At the Corcoran, only one sole woman was receiving people, taking orders, cashiering the pre-pay and putting the food on a 6-foot table for pick-up. No more elegant lunches there. The Museum for Women in the Arts was the same thing--two servers and edited menus.

When I was at the Renwick, a great show about the architect brothers Green and Green of California was set up. Examples of joinery, hardware, floor plans, lamps, pieces of furniture, stained glass, etc. were displayed. A wonderful film of homes designed for their owners was being presented in one room. When it was over, I went to the museum shop to see if I could get a CD of it. It wasn't available. I asked if there was a catalog of the show. No, the volunteer said. Was there at least a poster? Nope.

All the shops in the museums were sparse. The Corcoran has divided the gift shop space in half and is selling off stock at discounted prices. The selection available is mostly print matter--books and postcards. The Renwick still has individual artist's pieces on display, but they have cut their stock radically. The same goes for W. in the A. They is discounting nearly everything.

It's sad to see the arts take such a hit.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Writer's Work Habits

Writers are a solitary sort. They establish their own Rules of Discipline and Goals, be it a certain number of hours, pages, or words. Most strictly control their work space and routine. Kipling did it, Woodhouse did it and King does it.

It's the same with a lot of artists. Control your surroundings and set work parameters, then creativity can run wild within it.

They also allow themselves an equal share of dream-time and downtime Most walk. A lot.* It seems a good balance. Mind and body; equal time allowed. One flows into the other and feeds the missing half. A lot of good ideas come when you're driving or in the shower or just before you either go to sleep or are just waking up. Going into the Alpha brain wave state.

I usually have a pen and page of paper at the bedside to jot down ideas, dreams, or thoughts before they get away. One of those recorder/writing pens might be a good idea. The pens do come with earphones. But to put the earphones in and write with the pen attached to the other end of the cord? I don't think so. That would make a good Mr. Bean episode.

So I'm thinking about using these writer's work strategy to improve and to streamline the process of making art.

Another thing: King doesn't talk about the work while he's writing. He feels talking about it dilutes the inspiration. He doesn't let anyone read it (not even himself) until he has let the manuscript 'mature' in a desk drawer for 6-8 weeks. He then looks at it afresh and does the first edit.

I feel criticism during the making process has got to be your own. The very last thing you want is someone swanning in and suggesting changes while you're making something.

Things that you think are wonderful--that you totally fall in love with might not look so great down the stream of time as you progress in the work. You may look at it later on and wonder why you thought was so great.

Conversely, you could have made things that you thought were awful. When they came out of the kiln, they were not at all what you thought they should have been.

Resist the impulse to take the hammer to it! It's happened enough to me to temper my reactions now. I still regret the destruction of a very large majolica pitcher I judged too quickly. Let your verdict rest for a while. Put some distance between you and the time of the work. "In the fullness of time" you will know.

But---Bad work should not live. Faulty construction, unskilled results, artistic eyesores, dangerous glaze results, cracked or fatally flawed pieces should not be offered to the public. Ever. I once saw a piece made by a nationally known potter offered for sale. The foot had collapsed on one side, there was a crack in the base. I'm sure he would have been horribly chagrined to know that pot made it into the market.

You should keep work that can serve as a 3D reminder for repeat work or to explore the form further at a later date. I have a few of those in my studio. That would be the only justification I can see for sparing the hammer.

You are the first critic. There are plenty of others who will have as many opinions and there are leaves on the trees. And they will be more than happy to share those with you. Trust me. (Where's my irony emotocom.)

*Although for King, this almost proved to be fatal. In 1999, he was struck by a van and nearly killed. A long recovery ensued and he completed "On Writing" during the healing process.

Stephen King on Working

King writes that when he is working, he visualizes himself in a special setting:

"I'm in another place, a basement place where there are lots of bright lights and clear images. This is a place I've built for myself over the years. It's a far-seeing place. I know it's a little strange, a little bit of a contradiction, that a far-seeing place should be in a basement place, but that's how it is with me. If you construct you own far-seeing place, you might put it in a treetop or on the roof of the Empire State Building, or on the edge of the Grand Canyon. It's your little red wagon, as Robert McCammon says in one of his novels."

Now, there's a thought.

I'd never approached creative thinking that way. Oh, yes, I'm a master of the Slide-out-of-my-body, Appear-to-be-conscious-except-for-a-slight-glaze-of-the-eyes.

The Old Exit Trick.

Been doing that since the second grade when things got boring and I had to behave.

And when I take a workshop, walk into a museum, put myself into a place where there's a lot of mental buzz going on, it turns my mind into a turbine and all sorts of ideas fly. I used to fill my college notebooks with lecture notes and margin drawings. At work, I might be answering the phone and dealing with whatever was on the other end, but I was also exiting through my right hand via a pencil and a doodle pad. Serving two masters, so to speak.

Now this does happen: The minute I step over the threshold of my studio it is like going through one of the science fiction space portals where, on entering, your molecules get disintegrated and then re-assembled on the other side. Once through the door, I remember exactly where I was in the work, as if a mental bookmark had been left. I tune into the thoughts left floating in the air like an enticing aroma.

That's reacting to the surroundings; a response to creative stimulus.

But to actually invent a place to go to in your mind--a Receiving Station--that you conjure up and then go through the door and close it? Wow.

King's thinking plan is almost a sort of self-hypnosis. His physical surroundings may be an isolated desk somewhere in his home where he can go and shut the door, but his mental location is a special place where he puts on different clothes, gets out his spyglass, tunes his ears for dialog and feels the wind in his face.

Wow, again.

I'm finding this book really interesting.........

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

On Writing by Stephen King

I don't usually read Stephen King. No, I've Never read Stephen King, that is until now.

I've seen a some of his work made into movies, like "The Shining" , "The Green Mile", "Doloros Clayborne", "1480", and "Misery". But for the most part, his kind of stories just aren't my choice of fiction.

I picked up this book because I assumed it would be different than his usual efforts and I wanted to know what he had to say about writing.

The first part of the book is about his life, which is interesting enough, but he doesn't get "down to it' until page 95.

That chapter, entitled What Writing Is, begins with: "Telepathy, of course."

It just stopped me short.

And immediately my mind said, "Of Course!" But who would have just come right out and said it?

Although he goes on to say that he is writing this chapter in 1999 and the reader will read his words somewhere downstream in time, his thoughts will transmit over time, space and the ethers to the reader's mind. And therefore in it's own unique way, writing is a form of telepathy.

And so is art. Only instead of transmitting thoughts in words, art is making visual, emotional, tactile aesthetic statements that will be 'read' by another person somewhere later in time and space.

Something magic happens when you are in the state of creating. Call it telepathy, call it a visit from your muse, call it inspiration, ---anything you like. But I'm sure we can all agree that it just ain't the normal, everyday, humming right along. It IS magic. It is living totally in your mind and flying.

When you think about that, it's pretty amazing.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

This is a Test - It is Only a Test

Here's an interesting color perception test site:

Arrange the tiles in the correct progression in each band. 

At the end you can receive a score and you can take the test more than once. 

Note:  Some of the tiles appear to be darker in value than others. The tints are correct, but the variances in dark and light can throw you. Make sure your monitor is adjusted well and the viewing light is good for viewing.

Have fun!

Monday, May 4, 2009

So Ugly It's Cute

Yesterday, I went to an outdoor antique flea market. I love doing this. I usually look for old kitchen gadgets that are NOT plastic, but this time, I found a little gem.  

The whole thing is rather small. I have a suspicion it isn't American--it may be French. The dealer had several things from Europe and the shape of the cone, the handle, the spout, makes me think this. 

The reamer cone is taller and doesn't spread out at the bottom like American ones do. It just has a different shape. And the whole thing screams Deco.

I have been looking for a good reamer for a while. This little ugly fits all the requirements: Sharp edges on the cone, good-sized reservoir, very positive, focused pouring spout, a nice handle and an added bonus: A removable strainer. The slot the aluminum strainer slides into is amazingly fine and it will fit only one way. The tiny tabs that hold it securely in place. 

Attention to design and manufacture of such a mundane little thing shows a lot of care and skill went into designing and manufacturing it. Another reason why I think it is French. I mean, who else takes food and food preparation so seriously?
Usually I don't like orange Anything. 

(It's the a lasting trauma caused by having to live and function in a 1970's kitchen with dark cabinets, a confetti-linoleum floors and Bright Orange Formica Counter Top. Seemed like miles of it. 

Walking into that kitchen every morning was like getting hit with a blast of brass trumpets! 

But for some reason, this little thing well, it just seemed to be okay. 

The material is either an early plastic or a Bakelite. It is beautifully molded and light as a feather; only about 1/8th of an inch thick.  There are no trademarks anywhere on it.

Here's a great example of function interpreted very gracefully and beautifully.  I will enjoy and appreciate it every time I use it.

Friday, May 1, 2009

She bought a new MacBook and we never heard from her again.........

Well, it isn't exactly that bad. But nearly.

There is lots to explore and I'm still on the learning curve heading north.

More later. But in the meantime, since this IS a blog about pots, here are more shots of wonderful teapots on display at NCECA, Phoenix.