Summer Pots

Ahh summertime. The livin’ really is easy:

Wake up, yoga, studio, sleep, repeat.

After freeing myself from the semester birdcage, and stretching my wings, I feel like whole new kind of poultry.

Summer has been good to me: I’m back to being a potter, which is not only what I am really passionate about, but it’s also what I feel most authentic doing. I’ve been doing a lot of throwing and altering on the wheel, aiming for  soft, feminine forms. Here are some of my recent pieces, still in the greenware state:

Now for the fun part… glazing. Any suggestions? I’m thinking cone 10 oxidation, reduction and soda. I just made 80 test tiles, and my respirator is waiting to make a red outline on my cheeks.


Brad Schwieger at Arrowmont!

I recently had my first experience with a summer session at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts.  My expectation was a wilderness retreat with expanses of mountains and landscape, and simultaneously becoming one with nature and my art work. The reality was bustling, nauseatingly touristy Gatlinburg, TN. Right at the base of the Smokey Mts, it’s the place for places like Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum and Hillbilly Mini Golf. As someone who grew up between South Beach, Miami, and International Drive, Orlando, this was not my idea of an exotic local.

Arrowmont was in Gatlinburg well before it became Gatlinburg, which makes the juxtaposition so awkward. The sign for Cooter’s Place (a Dukes of Hazzard store and museum, of course) is literally right above the Arrowmont entrance…

Arrowmont itself is an charming place. You would never know it was there if you were a Gatlinburg tourist: it’s nestled up a short driveway behind a tiny sign (dwarfed even more thanks to Cooter’s.) As a student at Arrowmont, you are in a warm cocoon of friendly people, delicious food, and all the studio space you could ever need. You never really need to leave the property, and I don’t recommend that you do, unless you are taking a drive up into the mountains to watch your crazy friends jump into the icy swimming hole waters.

I did a one week workshop with Brad Schwieger, Prof at Ohio University. Taken completely out of my comfort zone, we were asked to throw really thick pieces on the wheel, and use the cutting wire to facet designs on the surface of the pieces. This was a karmic punch in the nose: here I was ready to show up at Arrowmont and show them what a badass thrower I am, and Brad asks us to throw thick. I laughed at myself, and then got to work. Here are some photos from his demos:

I have tremendous respect for his work and technique. Brad takes massive amounts of clay, elegantly throws a basic shape, and then cuts deeply into them with the wire tool, removing a lot of clay, but never cutting through the piece. He also uses a lot of nichrome wire to create negative spaces and line details. Here are what his finished pieces look like:

In the interest of making things I could fit into my suit case, I decided to make perfume bottles in Brad’s style:

Amazingly, during a five day workshop we were able to make, bisque, and soda fire our work. It was rushed, but a good experience. Here we are spraying soda into the kiln at cone 10:

And here are our results:

Overall this was a great experience. I met wonderful people, was inspired and learned a lot. Thanks Arrowmont! I’ll be back!

Aha! Moments, and I’m not writing another artist statement anytime soon.

So, yeah…. This is my rant/cleanse/self-zen-slap…

I’ve realized a lot of things:

I wish I had done some things differently, but it’s too late for that now: I wish I had taken more art in high school, instead of being on the school newspaper, I wish I had double majored in Art and Spanish in college, so that my Spanish would be muy bueno instead of ehh. I wish I had taken a good five years off before pursuing grad school, rather than just one: time for residencies, making connections, and getting my work into shows. (I wish that I had realized that when I received 9 rejection letters last year.) I wish I wasn’t afraid to not be brilliant, and just followed my heart and made functional pottery from the beginning of the year instead of things like this:

I can’t change the past, I can only look to the future, and continue to learn and grow. I’ll enter into my second year of grad school with a clean slate, and charge ahead making only what I love to make.

And another thing, I’m a potter: and I don’t need some crazy conceptual artist statement that I end up obsessing about, pigeon-holing me into a specific idea, and stifling my intuitive creative energies. Screw that! I’m going to make pots- damn good ones, too. So there.





New Artist Statement

The finch, the lava rock, the lichen, the anemone, the cactus, the Homo sapiens: we are all made up of the same basic elements, the same universal matter, constantly exchanging and transferring currents of energy like the tides of the ocean, or the steady breath of a hibernating marsupial.

This non-duality, or monoistic philosophical approach to pondering the position of the human and her responsibility toward protecting and preserving the planet she shares with billions of sentient beings is at the root of this work. Virtues, like benevolence and compassion, and vices, like greed and arrogance, interconnect social and environmental spheres, and become themes of the work. This research on environmental virtue ethics (Eve) is infused into the work, and takes the viewer on an emotional journey, inciting self reflection and questioning of one’s own virtues and vices when interacting with and regarding the Earth. Every molecule of this work is infused Eve’s presence, rationality, and balance. Viewers become sensitive to this presence and they become aware of Eve’s existence within themselves.

Porcelain and red stoneware clay bodies, as well as crocheted and knitted fibers are utilized in the actualization of this work. The juxtaposition of these materials alludes to the incredible diversity of life on Earth. Clay is a substance mined directly from the earth and created by the planet’s natural weathering processes. Eve’s energy flows through this system as well, eroding minerals through weathering by the elements.

(Critiques, comments, feedback? Please and Thank you!)

First Semester of Grad School: musings, lessons learned, attempts at words of wisdom

I’m not going to lament the whole not posting in a long time thing this time… it is what it is, and I’ll just use my new favorite excuse… “I’m in grad school.”

This has been a whirlwind semester. The kind that leaves you with the confusing ambivalence of feeling that you’ve accomplished a lot, and nothing at the same time. Working a 20 hour assistantship, dealing with classes, and trying to find time to be “brilliant” in the studio was a lot to handle, not to mention all the external factors, which include ownership of three rambunctious puppies, instructing yoga classes, and living at home with my parents (this last one could be an entirely different blog on its own.)

Despite all of this, I’m not writing to vent or complain, (or kvetch, for that matter.) I am, overall, endlessly grateful for this experience. I’ve never been so challenged, engaged, and inspired.

When the program began, back in August, I had the notion that everything I made had to be purposeful, genius, serious ART. This was a lot of pressure, and the result was stifled, awkward work that I desperately tried to cram meaning into, sacrificing my own aesthetic for my concept. I didn’t enjoy the process of making them, and that should have been a red flag from the beginning.

Then, the mid-semester breakdown happened. After a weepy critique with Bonnie, where I confessed to her that I hated everything I was making, she told me that I should just make whatever I wanted to make, and the concept would develop later. (Most academics do not agree with this method, but this was her way of giving me a “you’re-in-your-first-semester-get-out-of-jail-free-card.”)

I came to the realization that I’m still me, just a few months later… the new “grad” label was after all, just that: a label. I thought back to those whimsical teapots I used to make, and how my artist statement was all about the joy of creating and gathering and enjoying nourishment. What was it about making those pieces that brought me so much pleasure?

And then it hit me.

Movement! Energy! Those teapots were dancing characters that took on personalities. I remember very clearly, giggling by myself, in my garage studio after completing some of those pieces. They were my imaginary friends, my pots with ‘tude. Thinking about giving them names like Calliope, Aurelia and Ernest brings back all the warm fuzzies even now!

I couldn’t believe that I had forgotten all about the importance of incorporating movement into my work. With new wind under my sails, I created this massive piece.

And then, just to keep my ego in check, the kiln gods decided to claim this labor of love as a “burnt offering.” An electric kiln malfunctioned during the bisque firing, and here is the result:

There was a second piece, that I did not have the good sense to photograph, that was a porcelain teapot sitting in a red stoneware basket with elaborate handles. You’ll just have to take my word for it.

When this happened, I didn’t have time to mourn the loss, take the day off and go galavanting on the beach, or at a park: there were only two weeks left in the semester, and I had a final critique coming up. Instead, I quarantined myself in my studio, cranked up my Fiona Apple, and produced. Here is the result:

So I know I’ve been avoiding talking about my concept. That is because (and I use my favorite excuse again) I am a confused grad student. I embrace this confusion, and I allow it to spur my research and my devotion to finding myself in my work.

I will share this: my research has lead me to a melding of the fields of philosophy and environmentalism. Environmental virtue ethics is the general topic of my research. How that manifests itself in my work remains to be seen.

With this comes the struggle of remaining with, or bidding adieu to the element of making functional work. Functionality is where I’m comfortable: it’s what I originally fell in love with. I love pots, and I always will. But, is function a hinderance to the most optimal expression of my concept? Do I leave function behind because my concept is not easily tied to it? Can I make both functional and non-functional work? How important to me is it to make functional work? In trying to be true to myself, I find myself with the frustration of not knowing what that truth is. (The theme of this semester has been “internal struggle.”)

I’ve been fantasizing lately (again) about making immersive environmental installations (read back to the post about the tree.) I would like to reintroduce fiber into my pieces, and I am incredibly inspired by the work of Mandy Greer. So, I will be embarking on a journey into the wide world of installation art.

As always, I appreciate comments, suggestions, zen slaps, links, questions, ideas, and ego boosts. There will be a less self-centered post about the events of this past semester soon. 🙂

Summer updates, MFA beginnings

Well, this is embarrassing. It’s been about five months since my last post, when I promised a review of NCECA in Philadelphia and the workshop of our visiting artist, Mackenzie Smith. Since I delivered on neither, and feel that it’s too late to remember the intricate details of these events, here is the reader’s digest version of both. (Plus, I’m excited to get to the more recent and relevant events of the present!)

First, NCECA. It was my first time to Philadelphia, and my first NCECA (National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts.)

Philly is a bustling urban jungle, with just enough charm, culture, and great cuisine to keep me interested. We stayed at the convention center, just a block away from China Town, which naturally became the place most of our incredible meals were found. Late one night we ducked into a tiny noodle shop for giant five dollar steaming bowls of noodles and dumplings. On our last day we treated ourselves to fantastic authentic dim sum (I’m still dreaming about those salt and pepper prawns.) Other great eats included a visit to the Reading Terminal Market, and a Belgium pub called Monk’s Cafe, where we had amazing scallops and mussels. (For more food-related writings, visit me on Yelp)

All around the city, when we weren’t eating, we were running in and out of NCECA affiliated galleries, ogling the ceramic works of all the greats. After hearing Isaiah Zagar (a very eccentric and very delightful character) speak about his massive mosaic project which turned one of Philly’s worst neighborhoods into a flourishing part of town, we decided to have a look for ourselves at Philly’s Magic Gardens. It was a perfect example of turning found objects and “junk” into beautiful art . Here are some pictures:

Philadelphia's Magic Gardens

Philadelphia's Magic Gardens

At the conference itself the most memorable speaker was ceramic artist Chris Staley. He spoke beautifully about making and using handmade pots. Keynote speaker, Terri Gross of NPR’s accounts of past interviews were also very entertaining. I also really enjoyed seeing La Mesa by Santa Fe Clay. A long table covered in wares by talented ceramists with varied styles. Here are some of my favorites:

La Mesa

Overall, NCECA was an incredible experience. It was amazingly energizing, motivating, and inspirational to see so many excellent pieces, and be around so many people who share my passion for ceramics.

Now, onto the Spring 2010 visiting artist at FAU, Mackenzie Smith. He is a jovial, traditional atmospheric potter, with Japanese-inspired brush work and glaze styles. He taught us how to make brushes out of bamboo and tails of squirrels and deer (yikes!) We did a very successful soda firing, and I discovered how beautiful bauer’s slip looks on porcelain in the soda kiln. (Images not ready yet!)

Most of the Spring semester was spent actualizing an idea I had for a large sculpture. My original idea was inspired by the jungle-like installation “Risk” by Colombian conceptual artist Federico Uribe at Art Palm Beach in January. Witnessing adults and children engaging and exploring the installation with wonder and enthusiasm and becoming completely immersed in the environment that the installation created was awe inspiring. I decided that I would create an environment of a fantasy forrest for people to explore, and evoke feelings of wonderment and appreciation for the depiction of a nature-like world. The “first” piece was going to be a “tree” that looked ambiguously part animal (complete with a tail and tentacles.) I wanted all of my pieces to incorporate functional elements, and this tree contains bowls resting in “nests.” The idea was simple: everything you need can be found in nature, and functional items can be found in my fantasy organisms. This tree took the entire semester. Defying gravity with clay proved much harder than I thought, and it turns out that there is a little more epoxy and other materials on the finished product than I would have liked. After four months of hard work, here is the finished product:

Standing about 4.5 feet tall, this was my first (and possibly last) large scale sculpture. I’m glad I have had the experience, but I also realize that working this large is not for me.

I just started my MFA at FAU two weeks ago, and so far so good. Here is my concept for my current work:

This semester, I will focus on exploring the relationship between humans and the natural world. As human society has evolved and made technological advancements, we have managed to distance and separate ourselves from nature. This is a false assumption, however. People will always be dependent on the Earth’s natural resources, habitats, organisms and magnetic polarity. We will always be a part of nature, and by denying this fact, and being unappreciative of all that our world has provided us, we have begun to damage and destroy many of the intricate cycles that keep our Earth a healthy place for all its inhabitants. Only in recent decades have we become aware of this daunting truth, and have since begun the arduous process of righting our many wrongs. High costs, economic effects, and political struggles have all been blockades to making our world “greener.”

My pieces will reflect this dichotomy. Clay will be used to represent human kind, and the Earth, because we, as humans, are just as natural as birds, mountains, and soil. Porcelain, which is reminiscent of refined china and industrially produced ware, will be utilized to represent today’s humans, who are, by and large, disconnected from nature, even though they are a part of it. Red stoneware, which has an earthy quality, will represent the natural world.

Each piece will consist of a functional porcelain piece resting in a red stoneware “cradle” or “nest.” Sometimes, the pieces will be at odds with their cradle, seeming to be crushing or ripping into it. This signifies the moments when humans are unconcerned with and unconnected to nature. In other pieces, the object and its nest will harmoniously fit perfectly together, representing humans working with nature for mutual benefit. In either case, the functional piece will not be able to stand on its own, without its cradle: mother Earth cradles us and allows us to sustain life on this planet.

These works aim to bring awareness to the human-made environmental catastrophes that have been destroying our planet over the past century, and the implications of these issues on the Earth and all of its inhabitants. In addition, these works aim to shed light upon the “oneness” and unity that must be reinstated in the human psyche in order to fully appreciate the gravity of human kind’s actions and their impact on the world.

Thanks for reading!

Allie 🙂

An Abundance of Updates!

It truly has been too long since I’ve bestowed another installment of my life in the wonderful world of ceramics. In recent months, much has happened and it is my pleasure to “unload” all of this new information.

Back in February, three of my pieces were selected for the ART 2010 juried exhibit at the Nathan D. Rosen Gallery. It was a beautiful, mixed media show, and I was honored to partake! These are the pieces that were selected:

Also in the month of February, a piece of mine was selected for the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, a juried show at the Armory Center for the Arts. A Mad Hatter’s Luncheon was held, where the pieces were auctioned off, and my piece, Eileen, was bought by the Kamm Teapot Foundation. This foundation was started by Sonny and Gloria Kamm, a couple from California who started with a few teapots, and now own over 10,000, many from renowned glass and ceramic artists. Plans for a museum to house this incredible collection seem to still be in the works. You can read more about it here. This is the piece that is now part of their collection:

Last month I donated my piece, Adele, to the Lowe Art Museum at the Universiy of Miami for their Spring Into Art silent auction fundraiser for the Christine Federighi Art Education Fund/ Department of Art and Art History; Lowe Art Museum, and Francien and Lee Ruwitch Educational Endowment. Here is the piece:

My final bit of news… I have decided to attend Florida Atlantic University for my Master’s of Fine Art degree beginning this fall! I’m very excited to continue working with my amazing professor, Bonnie Seeman over the next three years. Her work is truly inspiring and she is an incredibly knowledgeable, caring and helpful professor.

Stay tuned for my review of my first-ever NCECA, and our visiting artist, Mackenzie Smith.