Monday, May 31, 2010

Not Clay, but Nice Form

This wonderful hammered silver teapot with the coral lid knob was sitting in a case in the permanent collection section of the Renwick.

It's almost more a piece of jewelry than a utilitarian vessel.

Maybe jewelry for your table?

The body is produced by skillfully hammering a flat, round disc into a three dimensional piece. And, the statement here is that it is all hand-made, which is an admirable work of skill. The only thing I find stops the eye is the slight irregularity of the hand wrought handle.

Everything works here. The rough textured body, the graceful arch of the handle which lands on two toes above the spout, the tripod legs.

The whole thing just seems to have flown in and lightly landed on the table.

And look how the spout joins and blends so well with the shape of the body. This is a spout that means business......

"Theme and Variation", a mantra my modern art professor used to say. The variation is the audacity of the coral, I think.

This photo goes into my "Teapots" file for future reference. It would look nice interpreted in clay. A bit of a challenge, but worth trying.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Torso - Wall Hanging

This wall piece is a raku sculpture with a touch of glaze. It sold through a gallery where had been hanging for several months.

I had decided it was time to bring the torso home when I exchanged some new work for some old work at the gallery.

I hadn't had it more than a week when I got a call from the owner. One of the sales people wanted her to ask me if I still had the torso. I said, " yes" and the owner said, "One of the sales people wants to buy it."

So it is now on her wall. And I'm so pleased she likes it and will have it.

It's funny how you can, in your mind, 'own' something and only feel it's loss when it is not there anymore.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Master Bath Shower Pad

I made and installed this mosaic when we put the addition on for the master bedroom.

Before the shower enclosure was tiled and finished, this was the beginning of the fish motif idea. The design thought here is as if you are looking down into a fish pool.

The fish are shown from a top view. milling around. A few round sea urchins are thrown in. The tile photographs with is variation in the color, but in real life, the range of color is less than it appears here. Even though these pieces are the same clay, the same glaze and fired in the same kiln, the subtle variations are very pleasing.

I didn't want anything that would overshadow the future floor (We installed carpet in the bath as a stop-gap. Bad Mistake.)

I wanted something that would have enough texture to not become slick with water.

When we did select the tile for the floor, both the grey-ish border and the cream field tile went well with the variations in the handmade tile.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Phillips Collection, D.C.

While in Washington D.C., I made the trek past Dupont Circle to the Phillips Collection. It's a little hard to find since it's located a bit off Massachusetts Ave. I made a special effort to go there this time, since I just have not visited this museum before, usually making the rounds of the Renwick, Freer and any one of the other Smithsonian museums. After that visit, the Phillips will go to the top of my list. What a great place to spend the day.

The collection is unique.
There is a nice mix of early and later modern work and a range of European and American pieces. I discovered a couple of artists I had never seen before and who have done intriguing work. I plan to research more on both when I get home. There's a nice mix of European impressionist paintings--some w
ell known works by Renoir, Monet, Picasso, and of course, my favorite, Gauguin. I'm always amazed at how his colors just glow--something you can't see in a book. The jewel of the collection must be Renoir's "Luncheon of the Boating Party" which is huge and takes up one entire wall of an exhibit room.

**Scale is something you never get in books. The Mona Lisa is surprisingly small. The Night Watch by Rembrandt is nearly life size.**
The collection is not arranged according to say, European impressionism, the pictures are hung in each room as they relate to each other.

For example, I walked into one room and realized immediately that it was all about negative space. I was totally intrigued by it and returned to look again before leaving. This work by Francis Bacon (Not my favorite painter until I saw this) was massive. A photo just cannot do it justice. One square foot of this painting is just as interesting as the whole. It has very subtle brushstrokes and beautiful overlay of pigment. It is so mysterious, I could live with it and study it daily.

The other great thing about the Phillips is you can actually walk up and get close to a painting--up to two feet, they request--to enjoy a really close look at the work. Photos without flash are also permitted in the permanent collection. Unfortunately, my camera battery gave up the ghost. And I did not trust my cell phone's camera to suppress the flash.

I was lucky enough to walk into the main living room of the house (The Phillips is a museum building joined to a Greek Revival residence which has been turned into display spaces and offices) while a concert rehearsal was going on. The singer had a beautiful operatic voice and was accompanied by a string quartet. A folding chair on the side of the room was empty and I immediately jumped into it to sit behind the first violin and be with about 15 feet of the singer. What a rare treat! The music was a selection I'm guessing from a Spanish composition and during a break for discussion of some fragment or other, the musicians were talking to each other in Spanish (singer and 2 violins) and either a Scandinavian or Russian dialect between the viola and cello players. They were preparing for a concert that evening. I love rehearsals almost as much as performances because you can hear them taking apart and analyzing some phrase of the music. I happily stayed glued to my seat until they finally broke to rest before the performance.

The Phillips has a nice small cafe. The food is a selection of cold sandwiches, salads and pastries. The room has been decorated by a wall treatment called "Flurries", a cream-colored wallpaper with transparent apricot colored glassy half-bubbles or spheres placed in interesting patters over the surface and extending over the glass windows and doors. A video showing the process of installing the wall treatment, along with two other videos of installations in the museum are shown in a continuous loop for you to watch while you enjoy the food. The Flurries video:

Other work: The Migration Series - wonderful abstractly executed narrative series by Jacob Lawrence.

And this little jewel by Christenberry.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


I'm always interested in talking to people who do not make art as to their perception of people who do make art.

A lot of times, it is a completely romanticized idea of this free-spirit, floating (rather dippy) existence just filled with delight.

We who do it know that's bogus. The only time I get a floating feeling is when something that I've struggled for actually Works.

"Look, it's my misery that I have to paint this kind of painting, it's your misery that you have to love it, and the price of the misery is thirteen hundred and fifty dollars. "

- Mark Rothko, In Art/Painting

Oh, I wish!

The Phillips Collection in Washington D.C. has a room full of Rothkos.

They nearly hum on the walls. They're like chords of music, notes transformed to pigment.

If you rejoice in color, you will love just sitting in the lowered light in the center of the room, letting your eyes travel along the borders and pools of pure, delicious color.

The next time I glaze, I'm going to think of Rothko.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Museums- Renwick

While in Washington D.C. this last week, I made the trek to visit the Renwick.

It's always first on my list. My timing isn't the greatest, though. Half the bottom floor is walled off in prep for the next exhibit which will be all wood craftsmanship. I'm sorry to miss that one.

The other half was a collection of works made by Japanese Americans who were sent to internment camps during the Second World War. The pieces were both beautiful and sad. Even in the desolation of their surroundings, the spirit of Art still whispered in their ears and things of beauty were made of the humblest of materials: Beautifully carved wood pins, tiny chests and implements, sewn garments and constructed utensils, inkstones and an amazing teapot chiseled out of common slate. A slide show of the exhibit can be found at and scroll down to The Art of Gaman: Arts and Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps, 1942-1946

I'm sure there are many families who own and treasure such items of that time and this was but a small representation. I came away feeling sad for them and shaking my head at the injustice.

The second floor of the Renwick had old friends on display plus a few new things from the permanent collection.

One of my favorites is Ghost Clock, an actual sized wood sculpture of a long case clock that appears to be covered by a white cloth, tied in the middle. On close inspection, the cloth, which is astoundingly real looking is not fabric at all, but wood. I wonder how many times the alarm goes off daily from people just having to touch it to be sure it is not a sheet. Wendell Castle is a master.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Making your own trim batts

I like to make my own trimming batts.

The other day, I went to a fabrics and craft supply store to get high density foam and found a 17 x 14 x 2 inch piece. Usually, I scrounge most of the foam I use, but this time, I didn't have any squirreled away.

I had measured my wheel and pan prior to shopping for the foam, so I knew the maximum outside diameter measurement to shop for.

I marked out the circumference of the batt onto the foam using a marking pen, then cut it into a circle using large sewing scissors. I don't really care if the foam is neatly cut--that doesn't matter, just as long as it clears the catch-pan of the wheel.

I put a batt on the foam to serve as a base, centered it, then glued it on. This is done with the foam side down and a hefty weight put on the batt. As my Dad used to say, "Glueing without pressure is a waste of time."

After I let the glue set for 24 hours, I used a long bamboo skewer threaded through the batt pin holes and pierced through to the top on the reverse side.

I marked with a permanent pen where the skewer came out on the top. This way, with the foam side up, I can easily locate where the batt pin holes and center the trim wheel easily.

I marked around the skewer with a permanent marker

I put the new batt on the wheel and marked true center. I measured out from the center in one-inch increments and, holding the marker on each dot, rotated the wheel to create concentric circles.

I like the foam because it grips the clay. it's easy to center the piece using the guidelines, the foam doesn't alter the lips or rims of a form. You only need to steady the piece lightly with your fingers to keep it in place while trimming.

The foam catches the trims for easy brush off.

Monday, May 3, 2010

More About Work and ADD

I'm still a bit ADD even as an adult. I manage the problem better now than when I was younger.
Understanding ADD and the long-range view of maturity helps.

Although I can be distracted easily and have many things going on at one time, the other side of ADD is the ability to focus intently when interested in something.

Take this plus a creative "mandate" and you've got someone who goes into a bubble where time, hunger, sleep become irrelevant until it burns itself out. I still do go off on tangents.

I can also multi-task like crazy.
But this can have a bad side too. I can accumulate so many things on my plate, things can become muddled or overpowering. The Coulda', Shoulda', Woulda' rolls up behind me and sticks like Velcro until I become paralyzed. That's when I just have to take a deep breath and either sort it out or go do something else for a while.

One strategy is making long lists, writing things down before they evaporate. That and a good calendar with lots of space for notes is a good way to get a handle on things.

My notebooks, of which there are legion, are just a jumble of everything from measurements of rooms, sizes of frames for images to matt, ideas, sketches, projects, floor plans, grocery lists, interesting recipes, passing thoughts and observations, books to buy, remembrances, to-do lists: A regular brain-trust I can't do without. I finally transferred and alphabetized my books-to-look-for list onto my iPhone so that when I happen to be near a used book store (one of my fav haunts) or the library (another) I'll at least make a better stab at what to look for.

For me, it still has to be on paper. I don't trust electronic storage because too many things can hamper getting to it. Paper. Pencil/Pen. Handy. Simple.