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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

2014 Vase Post

This year I've made a lot of vases, large and small, beginning with the form used to do so many of my lidded boxes. They're similar in proportion, turned on end given a neck and a lip. Sometimes they're rectilinear, sometimes curve sided.

The fun is endless variety coaxed from what seems like only a few variables, pattern, execution, choice of clay, glaze, application, and firing.

A few variables, but the possibilities become infinite. The orange-peel effect if reduced a little more, might have had glaze crawling off the pot and onto the shelf. A bit heavier reduction and the result could have been all black, a slight change to the glaze and the effect could have been glossy.

So with all these inputs what makes one's work personal? I mean where does the unity of one's work come from?

The discovery that Shino can turn black without having a pot that falls apart in the hands was like a light going off somewhere in my dim mental universe. From orange to black and back! What a journey. It felt galactic somehow both towards, and away from starlight.

I'll post more to this file as I get pots photographed. My 2014 Vase post. One for the year so I don't bore my readers silly. Most of these are on Etsy. Here's a link.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

"The Music Lovers"

"What keeps time without making sense
  Reminds our life, of the present tense,
  Distracts the mind from flows of fear,
  From deep inside, our eyes may tear."

Music of course! Why did I name this box 'Music Lovers'?

I noticed everyone's standing around with Austrian hats on, and this guy in the center of an end panel is holding something like a violin.

Why do we do what we do? You tell me.

This box is on Etsy

"Clown, Chief, Cowboys and Cowgirls"

"A Cowboy, Chief, a Clown and their pals,
  Rode to Laredo to pick up some gals.
  When they got there Laredo was closed,
  A war had started, and no one had clothes."

I honestly think that as I do this, I'm taking elements of stories read to me as a kid, and corrupting them with that coming of age curiosity about things that are adult.

Maybe my father had a smirk on his face as he read Dr. Seuss and Mom told him to shut up. 

Doesn't matter. If life doesn't hold fantasy it isn't worth putting anything into.

This box is on Etsy.

"Water Lovers"

"Drops that fall are driven by sun,
 Watery thoughts may merge into one."

I think this couple loves the water. She's ready to go in, he isn't

For her the water is real. For him it is imagined. It's a symbolic idea.

They look at it. Water, real or imagined, is always a mystery. It holds as thoughts the things we aren't ready to say.

This pot is listed on Etsy.

"Girls Hang Together"

"If the gals in the room liked the guys we'll assume,
 Why bunch up in packs with men to their backs?"

I must have been thinking about how at a lot of parties women hang together in a bunch. That makes the men hang together in a bunch of their own. 

Both sides cast glances at each other. Sometimes this happens before a pairing off of the obvious match ups. At other times the drones of each group do everything in their power to prevent that.

This usually happens when there's someone really attractive to one bunch or the other. A kind of jealous clotting effect occurs. The room configures to latch onto the desirable parties and prevent them from doing their thing. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

"Let Me Show You"

"One fine gentleman demonstrated,
 To his lady friends, before all went native."

Another box on Etsy.

This one has a trio of three figures on front. The fellow is showing something to the two ladies, right and left. 

What? I have no idea. 

It's all hand movement informed by the inner psyche of yours truly. But by your inner psyche as well. For whatever we think is most ours is actually the firm property of the collective unconscious. None of us invents anything. We're nerve endings to a vast organism, called planet Earth, which is heavily invested right now in one species. Man.

We all struggle with the infinite connections that make us do what we do, think what we think, and hope what we hope. But we're far less autonomous than we imagine. 

The ego of that species is starting to cause Earth serious problems. Worry not, the planet has made transfers from one type of life form to another very easily in the past. The problem for the ecosystem right now, is us. Yours and mine truly. As a 'problem' species, Homo sapiens is just preparing the planet for another quantum leap forward. We'll be succeeded by another life form.

Our ego driven kind is actually already solving a planetary emergency. We bring carbon up to the surface of the earth where the plants, much older than us, can use it. We're reversing billions of year of carbon fixing by plants and plankton. We're a great problem solver, like the funghi, who arrived to break carbon down so that it could be recycled by photosynthesizing plants.

It is thus likely that we'll have a more modest, somewhat hidden role, on the planetary surface in the billions of years that lie ahead. We'll watch other newbie species garner all the attention of the Sun. We'll watch them like the flashes in the pan that we ourselves are right now.

We always thought plants and funghi were dumb, but may have to revise that way of thinking. They're welcoming us already to their old boy's club, where I imagine, we'll sit around and tell tales.

"Genji-san's Diary"

"If I see my King down in the town, 
  And set off to make my plea.
  Then if Queen puts her drawbridge down,
  I'll hang if she taunts me."

Sometimes the royal scene gets into the subject matter of one's work. I haven't such a good relation with royals, viewing them as most Americans used to, as sycophants, living free off everyone else.

Nevertheless there are great works of literature about royals. One of them is "Tale of Genji".

I reference Genji here because of the very worn feeling to this box, an old Japanese artifact. The carbon trapping seems to add a millennium-old patina to the work, like faded fabric.

"Gathering of Souls"

  "You’ll visit the palace and greet all their souls,
   You’ll give love to the lovers, and top up their bowls."

Carbon trapping if done at the right moment in the firing, can affect the most ordinary Shinos as well as Shino mixtures intended to carbon trap heavily. 

This is a piece where the edges are tinged with grey carbon trap. This is as much to do with packing of the kiln (boxes close to one another) as it is to do with timing though. It makes a nice frame for the drawing.

One never knows how this sudden in-blast of carbon into the kiln when heavy reduction starts to smoke up the interior, exactly how the drawings will fare.

"Birdman and Ladies"

"I want to go a-birding
  I’ll bird for the Great Toucan
  In Mexico I’ll be calling,
  Through the Jungles of Yucatan."

Another Etsy box. This is one of the ones with a bold cobalt based wash over a white shino.

Lightly reduced to Cone 10.

What else to say? Breaks just like any pot!

"How did you Get Here?"

  "Les gens pensent, 'Ils sont mieux!
    On veut danser avec les deux!"

Another Etsy box. This year I've made quite a number of these, and now that they're starting to crowd us out I realize it's time to share them with others.

The drawings are a way of spelling out some kind of subconscious script. I'm still learning about what it all means. The title, "How did you get here?" is what I imagine myself, and the other people standing on the front of the box, asking the two women who are kneeling on the ground. 


But there's also a chance that I'm asking myself how I got here, how did I end up making so many boxes and painting on them with a brush.

There is a history to all this, and I'll relate it as efficiently as I can.

My father was an art teacher, landscape and portrait painter. He also made quite a few boxes, out of wood, utilizing old desk drawers and packing crates, which he installed with bits of sculpture and objects he collected. He was a great admirer of Joseph Cornell. 

When he attended meetings at the school where he taught, he was typically very bored. So he used to sit and doodle until all the faculty were dismissed. We called these drawings his meeting drawings. 

Dad's meeting drawings became a record of his subconscious content. I could always see the difference between the freedom of his meeting drawings and the straight classical rigors of his portraits.

His boxes escaped the problem by not involving drawing or figurative form. Dad even ripped off some of my sculptures and put them into his boxes so that he wouldn't have to deal with the 'I'm making a figure" strain on the ego. I"m doodling in just the same manner as my old man, letting the psyche breath, letting the soul expand, letting it grow and take on nourishment. 

I soon realized after starting ceramics that if you want do do brushwork on porous clay you have to be totally free. You cannot think. You have to just let it pour out. So I make the problem different by transforming it. I'm not about designing anything. I'm only trying to draw and not really be conscious of what I'm drawing.

We'll see where it goes.

"Temple of Love"

"Some say love's an emotion,
 Others say love's in the head.
 Some complain love’s a commotion,
 And maintain we should keep it in bed."

This is one of my recent boxes, other views visible on Etsy.  After a while all this drawing becomes like writing. Making bodies becomes like script. At some point the scene that's in the head begins to dictate what actually gets written.

High-fired Shino, lightly carbon-trapped at around Cone 09.

This box has ghostly remnants of some imagined architecture. Hence I'm calling it a temple. "Temple of Love." Yea baby!

"The Arab Buddhist"

  "If Arabian faithful meditated,
   Would Palestine get liberated?

Another of three boxes listed on Etsy with a Buddhist theme.

This followed a period when I was mentally noting the features of different hats from around the world. I drew this kid sitting in meditation then put an Arab headdress on him . . . then I wondered, what a wonderful addition to Islam, to Christianity and Judaism would be the practice of mediation!

A young boy sits on the ground, shielded from the sun by his keffiyeh. He sits between two panels illustrating distractions, one a scene of debauchery, the other of death and destruction.

A fairly standard white Shino, fired to Cone 10, light reduction.

"Iranian Buddhist"

"A Buddhist from Iran who followed the Koran,
  Said "Violence! I'm sitting cross legged!"

One of my ceramic boxes listed on Etsy. Been making quite a number of these lately. For me the adrenaline rush comes from drawing with a brush of oxide wash and painting rapidly on the white porous unfired Shino glaze. It's like drawing with India ink. No goofs allowed.

For you potters out there this is a Fergusen-McKenzie shino lightly reduced starting at around Cone 08 fired to finish at cone 10.

This is one of three such boxes with a Buddhist theme.

"Buddhist Primer"

"A Boddhisatva sat in lotus,
 At his altar Zen he showed us."

This is a detail of a box listed on Etsy. I wanted to paint something with a meditating figure, this was the first one of several on this theme. I just thought about the scene and the figures appeared. The ape-like qualities of the figures in front were not intentional, they just happened that way. The meditating figure is larger and has no face . . .hmmm. . . so I thought, this has to be a lesson in Zen mediation.

Later boxes from this series show the meditating figure with a distinctly Arabic or Palestinian hat, which led me to wonder, suppose the Palestinians in Gaza took up Buddhism, while at the same time remaining Muslim? I wondered, briefly, before fighting broke out again, what would happen if a meditative religious practice were grafted onto today's instincts for jihad.

Would mediation by either side, help lead to peace? One thing may be said about both sides in the conflict, neither religion has a tradition of meditation for clearing of the mind. Neither does Christianity. The monotheistic religions suffer from their own motivational myths, jihad, conquering, subjugation, being chosen. The religions of the word are ego inflating by definition. Nowhere in the core of these practices is a process of emptying the trash of the mind. If anything, they conflagrate mental debris by accentuating and emphasizing the power of the word which gets taken straight to the ego, and from there to anger.

That's it! The word has taken over! We need to clear our minds, forget our language, at least for a few minutes every day!

"Beauties of the Continent"

"Three beauties of that continent,
  made moody by our sentiments."

Another Etsy box . . . Ferg-McKenzie Shino, light reduction.

I wanted the idea of people crowding around beautiful women, which they do, particularly in Europe. Hats, hats hats. People on the continent wear more hats than here in the US. All types, men and women both.

Enough banter . . . have to list another.

"The Shaman, Cook and Clown"

"A Shaman a Cook and a Clown
  Looked for women in a faraway town.
  Lacking the knack they took none to the sack,
  And went home after getting turned down."

Another recent box, listed on Etsy. This one's a straight white Shino, with light reduction started at Cone 09 or thereabouts. 

I've been practicing a kind of automatic drawing. I don't think at all about where I'm moving my hand, at least not once I get going. I only try to think generally about what I'm drawing, and try to keep those thoughts as general as possible. So I'll imagine characters and hats, and types of uniform, or types of women's figures, or men, or types of postures. Or I'll imagine situations. If I can get my head distracted enough by these upper level thoughts, then my hands will take care of the drawing. It's hard and it ruins a lot of what I do! But sometimes they turn out, and I'm always overjoyed to see the way in which my story hangs together.

This box is called "The Shaman, the Cook, and the Clown" after an idea I had for a film about three male characters who live on the fringes of society, and journey forth into the big city.

The box form gives me the most density of drawing surfaces that I can pack into my kiln. A box of this design has in theory 11 surfaces that can be glazed and drawn upon. Of course with each drawing that is added so does the chance of a goof in posture, or too much oxide loaded onto the brush. The loss rate is huge due to oxide runs, stuck lids, bad drawings, glaze faults, etc. etc. but I'm slowly winning over these problems.

"Murky Goings On"

   "It's never quite dark enough to make love in a parking lot!"

This is one of my recent boxes which I've put on Etsy. I've decided to do a short blog entry for each one here as some of you following my blog are potters, and like me have no money, but you're still interested in craft.

I've also hit on the idea of naming my boxes, since they are all different, and having some kind of rhyming couplet or ditty to go with each one. That helps keep the rhyming spirit alive. One can't be too serious about one's work.

This box is called "Murky Goings On".

For pottery cognoscenti this is a modified Ferguson Mckenzie shino, heavily carbon trapped. I started reducing at cone 012. The brush drawings were done with a cobalt/iron/manganese wash.

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