Sunday, September 30, 2007
Ari stopped by during the urban woodfire experiment. He raised the idea of fixing up Patricia (the Edina Art Center woodkiln). I said that before we expend any more energy on that kiln, we should both get some experience firing a woodkiln or two with some people who know what they are doing. Ari was around all summer. We played several rounds of disc golf and went on a "cerami-bender". He told me he wants to go to med school, so I tried to get Adam and him together. I was hoping Adam could share some insights into what it takes to get into med school and what it's like once your in. I believe that if you decide you want to do something you should talk to people who have already done it.
So Ari went back to Colorado College and I contacted Martin. He is a friend of mine who fired Patricia with us probably 4 or 5 times. He has been renting studio space from Chuck Solberg, a local clay artist. Chuck and a small group of clay enthusiasts built an anagama about an hour or two West of the cities. I asked Martin if I could get in on the next firing. He talked to Chuck and they needed a little more help stoking the kiln. The arrangement was made that I could put about 20 pots in if I would work a 6 hour shift and pay a little money (I ended up paying $75).
We got the midnight to 6am shift Sunday morning. The kiln was started with propane on Wednesday night. It had been stoked continuously since. It was pretty much at temperature when we arrived. We were mostly just keeping it there, soaking it, allowing more ash to build up on the surface of the pots. It was a great night, very relaxing. We listened to a late night airing of "American Routes" on NPR. The dj was focusing on the music and life story of Johnny Cash. The wood was precut and stacked, four foot lengths of slab wood, off-cuts from a lumber mill up North. We took alternating 45 minute shifts feeding it into the firebox. We talked about books and jobs, drank some coffee.
The kiln was unloaded about a week later. I wasn't there for the loading or unloading, something I regret. My schedule just didn't allow it. I would have liked to be there for both, to see how the pots are loaded, and to see what results different areas of the kiln produce. From what I have been told and have experienced first hand, all kilns fired with a flame (wood or gas) have different zones in them where slightly different temperatures occur. Amounts of ash (or salt/soda if added) can very too, along with levels of reduction. The results were ok, a bit darker then I would have liked, but the pots are growing on me. I used the same yellow underglaze I used on the face vase. You can see that it burned out, went to a creamish brown color. I often joke with Martin, calling a wood kiln a brownification chamber. You know going in that things will be various shades of brown, that is what they tend to do. A student of mine, John E., described the woodfired look as a pot that looks like you buried it in the ground and dug it up a thousand years later. I like that way of describing it. I hope to get to fire the kiln again, and will try to make pieces specifically for the kiln. I was not intending to wood fire these pieces when I made them.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
The last time I fired the kiln at the Edina Art Center, we were joined by a guy named Brandon. That firing may have been the last, if you want to know the reasons why, you can read this post. Brandon contacted me last Spring and asked if I wanted to try another sort of wood fire. He saw an article in the February issue of Ceramics Monthly in which Bruce Bowers describes converting an old electric kiln into a gas fired kiln in which wood is added at the end to create some ash deposits on the pottery. The idea is to achieve wood fired results with less work in an urban setting. If you are thinking this is too good to be true, well maybe. We got an old kilin, stripped out the wiring, filled in all the coil pockets with a mixture of clay and saw dust and set it up in my back yard. We fired it with propane using a weed burner we got from Continental Clay. The article suggests using a Venturi Burner (sp?), something that costs about $200. We opted for the $60 weed burner. Needless to say, we didn't get to temp. We probably maxed out at about cone 7 after 12 hours. Weed burners are typically used to fire similar little homemade and converted kilns for raku. That is a much lower temperature, something around cone 04. We had never tried using one for reaching cone 10 and if anyone out there is considering it, I would advise against it. They just don't put out the necessary BTUs. One thing that was nice to learn is that there are plenty of junker kilns out there that people are willing to give away or sell for under $100. We got ours for free and had leads on several others. Craigs list is a good place to look if you are interested. Brandon took the kiln over to his moms house and is considering building a new burner. He thinks he should be able to build a venturi burner for quite a bit less than $200. If that happens he may try it again and has promised to give me a call.
Monday, September 03, 2007
The eye project is up.
I received a grant from the Edina Ed Fund to create a piece of public art for Edina High School. It is currently being displayed along the hall of the new fine arts wing. It is a series of nine large photographs of eyes. The eyes belong to Edina High School students. Ten students were selected to be the subjects. Each was selected by a different teacher. The teachers worked together to capture a broad cross section of students. The eyes are all displayed along with two pieces of writing. One was written by the student depicted in the photograph. They were asked to write a brief description of what daily life is like for them at the school. The second piece of writing is by an older relative of that particular student. This relative was asked to write a description of what life was like for them when they were high school age. Photographer Matt Blum was hired to do the photography. One of the students didn't complete the writing so we ended up with nine. The project will remain on the walls at least through the end of January. It is my hope to fill the frames they now occupy with some art made by our students.
The mural is up. Students in ceramics levels 2-4 proposed designs last Fall for this. We went through several rounds of voting and this design was victorious. The artist is Henry C.. It is me riding a pink hippo who is eating a rainbow that is coming from a pot of gold. It appears that the pot of gold is being defended by a sword wielding leprechaun. I have a spear and a turtle on my side. The turtle is named Turdis (I am not sure how it is spelled) and he has some sort of sound gun on his back that is in the process of being fired. It took us a long time to get it done, but its up. My friend Adam came in over the summer and helped me put it up. There is still plenty of open wall for another one!
Friday, August 31, 2007
You will create a blog to document your creative work and process. Hopefully you will enjoy it and be proud of it. THIS BLOG WILL BE FOR:
- DOCUMENTING YOUR PROCESS (planning and developing your ideas, documenting your progress).
- Reflecting on your creations.
- Showcasing finished work.
- Giving eachother feedback/ sharing ideas
It will be 5% of your grade for the semester. I will check the blog five times:
- Initial set up (I will give you one week to get it up)
- Mid 1st Quarter
- End of Quarter 1
- Mid 2nd Quarter
- End of the semester
I will also put a link to your individual blogs from this blog, so please do not put your full name anywhere in your site, just use your first name.
You need to include the following:
An initial artist statement (graded one week after the semester begins) where you describe:
- Artists and artistic ideas you are interested in and you would like to be influenced by.
- Where you are at artistically, the type of work you have made thus far.
- The type of work you are planning on making during the semester.
For each of the 4 1/2 week working periods, you will need:
1) A specific plan or objective for the upcoming working period. (I will bring this to the critiques when we look at your work.)
2) At least 1 post made while you are in the middle of the working period in which you describe and show what you have been working on, reflect on how it has been going and modifications or adjustments you are making. This needs to include photos of your incomplete work.
3) Images of the finished work and a reflection on it.
You are not required to leave comments for eachother. I will likely leave you some, and I hope you will give eachother a few. Just remember, conduct yourselves online the way you should at school. This is a public place, and I expect you to be appropriate and respectful of eachother.
Friday, July 27, 2007
Here are a couple pieces I did during the 2007 school year. I am becoming more interested in color, maybe a response to the dark earthy colors I was getting with the wood firing. I am also becoming interested in making fewer pieces, spending more time on each, investing more in them individually. I had a couple interesting conversations with some students last year about art as pollution. Here we are making all of these physical objects, assuming they have enough value to deserve the space they occupy, to deserve the resources required to make them. We talked about how if you are going to bother making physical objects, sending them out into the world, they better be good!
Hopefully these two deserve to exist (this line of thought is a bit tongue in cheek, but I think it is worth considering). They have scraffito designs that are pretty light hearted. The face is one I have been using relatively frequently. It is just a face, meant to be a little child like. I enjoy the bike as a symbol of health and active living, an adventurous spirit. I was going for the the classic 70's-80's ten speed. The hand is taken from those prehistoric cave paintings where people would put their hand on the wall and then spray ink over it, casting an ink shadow, a record of their presence. To me that is a symbol that says, "Here I am, I am alive. I exist and I am conscious of that fact." I think that gets to the root of why we make art. We exist and we are conscious of that fact. We know we are alive and are able to reflect on our own existence, therefor we make art. It is something that separates us from other animals.
Monday, July 16, 2007
This image contains all of my students.
The light bulb was there to represent the ideas that do and will come from these people as a whole. I think that all of our thoughts are interconnected. Our thoughts and ideas are a byproduct of the thoughts that are around us, that we are exposed to and taught. Combining this attention to idea generation with the youth of the subject also leads to thoughts of the future, and the potential these students have.
As I started putting them together in PhotoShop, the images did not line up the way I had hoped. The light bulb pasted to the door behind them didn't look very good either so I decided to cut out their heads one at a time. I then photographed a light bulb and edited it in.
I also noticed that the person that was emerging was neither female nor male. I hadn't been thinking about gender in anyway, but started to realize that it was unavoidable. So I decided to make two more images, one with just the male students and one with just the females.
This image is all of my female students.
This image is all of my male students.
A few years back I emailed a variety of friends, family, and students asking them if they would share with me where they think ideas come from, or how they think they come up with ideas. I collected and organized their responses and posted them here.
Two influences on my ideas for these projects were Do-Ho Suh and Don Celender. Do-Ho Suh was featured in the Art 21 series and has made some art about identity and the individual versus the collective. He did one where he layered all the students in his high school class year book to create a class portrait. Don Celender was a professor at Macalester who died recently. He was well known in the art world for his conceptual mail/ survey art projects. He would mail people (usually famous artists) questions or assignments and present their responses as his art.