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:
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!