Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Motive & Excuse

It's rather simple...
The dream is to challenge mastery and purpose by finding a way to make a meaningful contribution.

Motive & Excuse

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Ok Ok Ok

This is another argument for collaboration... 
Once it was handed over to to my partner, this piece completely went a different direction from what I had in mind. At one point I was so frustrated with my total lack of control as I watched things smudge and smear their way away from any vision I had, I literally wanted to smash it...
No joke.

Now that the finished work is sitting in front of me, I see the smudging as a vehicle to pull in the eye and communicate the vagueness of a feeling, a dream, an idea. The unspecific can be a  much more potent tool than a simply rendered telling. 

It let's the viewer find and read their own stories in the surface and wonder.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

"Darkness Between The Fireflies"

"Darkness Between The Fireflies"
Music by
Mason Jennings

I woke up before you in the total darkness
Early morning
I could hear the wind in the trees
I was looking for the light to bring you out
From the shadows
Redefine you now for only me
And honey i'm sure
That you've been in love before
Plenty of men have held high places in your eyes
And jealousy has got no use for me
The past is beautiful
Like the darkness between the fireflies
I was driving faster through the appalachians
I could see the world go out below me in the sun
You should know by now
That someone's always been there
Long before you
You're never going to be the only one
And honey i'm sure
That you've been in love before
Plenty of men have held high places in your eyes
But jealousy has got no use for me
The past is beautiful
Like the darkness between the fireflies
Beautiful like the darkness between the fireflies

Friday, July 19, 2013

Forever a Bridesmaid

Strictly Functional 2013
"There were 1522 images submitted from 322 ceramists who applied this year.  Jim Connell chose 114 pieces from 107 different artists.
Regretfully, the work you entered was not accepted for this year's exhibition..."

Doh... we throw our best on the pile. Sometimes it floats, sometimes it doesn't.

Closed necked vase produced in collaboration with Jessica Fong

This years juror's statement provided by Jim Connell.

“I get tired of DJ’s, why is it always what he plays?”  Joe Jackson.

Wow, this year I get to be the DJ. Playing the hits I want to hear. How cool is that? First off, I must acknowledge I have never had this kind of power before. I’ve juried a couple of small inconsequential show but nothing on the scale and importance of this exhibition. So if I piss a few people off...

I’ve heard people say that jurying a show like this can be a challenge. I’ve read the dire warnings of the time involved and all the agonizing choices to be made. I prepared myself by cutting out a week of my summer studio time to devote to this project. I even gave myself a specific deadline to meet (I was headed to the beach). As I sat down and started to review the slides all of a sudden, boom, it hit me; this isn’t hard, it’s fun. It turns out that looking at 1500+ functional pottery images is a very enjoyable thing. Who knew? 

Yes, picking the show was enjoyable and relatively easy; I just picked the pieces based on three things I find important for a successful piece of pottery: color (or surface), form and creativity.  Of course there are two other very important measurements to consider: craftsmanship and function but these are simply impossible to judge from a 2-­‐dimensional image. I definitely tried to picked pieces that looked well-­‐crafted and were fully functional but only a “hands-­‐on” approach will reveal their true nature.  

The true craftsmanship and functionality judgments will have to wait until I meet my picks before the show opens. At that time the best crafted and the most useful pieces will get the awards. 

So here are my criteria: Color, Form and Creativity. I love color and surface treatment. Without it the best forms suffer. I absolutely adore rich vibrant colors; colors with a surface depth you can dive into. Second; I am a nut for dynamic classy forms. Give me flowing lines, well placed appendages, lids that conform to the body and forms that have the potential to deliver their function. For my third criterion, creativity, I looked for a concept, some sort of communication the piece was trying to express. Was it speaking the language of function? Did it cry out to be held, even caressed?

Looking over the choices I made, I think almost all of them deliver on these three fronts; dynamic use of color (surface), great attention to form and contained some creative zeal. And, if a few pieces don’t measure up to all three of my standards…well, as Meatloaf sang: “Two out of three aint bad”. 

I did not do any statistical analysis of the entries or of the accepted pieces. No counting of teapots or mugs or firing method was tabulated. There were just too many pieces to count. I picked the best pieces regardless of their purpose, type of clay or temperature. I have no idea if the exhibition is balanced. I didn’t go back and rearranging or changing my choices based on numbers or size. I just picked the best pieces.

When I began looking at the slides I was half expecting to see a number of copper reds glazes (only a couple of entries), some sandblasted surfaces (only one person) and a fair amount of carved, faceted pots (two or three tops) since that is the type of work I make. I remembered Linda Christianson telling me she faced a truckload of wood-­‐fired images when she juried SFPN and Malcolm Davis told me he looked at a lot of shino pieces. Last year’s juror, Jack Troy, stated that 28% of the entries he juried were wood-­‐fired. All three jurors strongly suggested they were attracting their own element. Well Linda, Malcolm and Jack, based on this year’s entries, I can tell you that isn’t the case. It’s not you, in particular, as I too faced a large amount of wood fired and/or shino glazed pots. Apparently, there are a lot of potters out there firing with wood and just as many using shino/carbon trap glazes. But didn’t we already know this?

Some quick thoughts about the process:
1)   My first look at the images took over an hour, running through the 1500+ images pretty fast (click, click, click). The next day I sat down for my first serious look. Halfway through the list I had already picked out 90 pieces with 40 maybes. I liked a lot of what I saw. Over the next three days I proceeded to whittle down and shove aside many, many nice pieces. When I thought I was finished I came back two more times making sufficient changes before I was satisfied. Then I mailed the accepted choices off and immediately began to question a few of my last decisions.
2)   I only recognized a half dozen people’s work. There were a lot of first time entries (one
third of the total number). Consequentially, I had no pressure taking care of friends and relatives.
3)   Unfortunately, many artists really need to concentrate on taking better slide images.
What a difference it makes! Out of focus, poorly lit and poorly framed images were abundant and hurt any chance of being juried in.
4)   In my humble opinion taking a shot of your piece with a squirrel (a la Ayumi Horie) or some other prop is great for a postcard or a web site but not altogether appropriate for a juried show.
5)   Use a clean, professional paper background. No scratches, no cloth, no tree trunks. Ugh!
6)   Invest in a good camera and an even better lens. A macro lens is preferred.
7)   Providing a second, detail shot is very helpful and highly recommended.
8)   Try not to be so derivative. If you must look at other pots try to go back to the source
(historical precedent) for good form and decoration ideas.
9)   I was tickled by some of the imaginative titles for mugs and jars. Titles like “Lunch Set”, “Guardian Jar with Fragments” and my favorite “Shot and a Beer” gave me big smiles. How clever! This coming from an artist that limits his titles to a dead description, i.e. “Green Carved Teapot”.
10) I was also surprised that many artists were very specific when dating each piece. Many had the exact date the piece was made, i.e. 5/22/2013. Wow, I always thought giving just the year was all that was needed.
11) Sadly, some very fine pieces had to be nixed to make the final cut. To the 10 or 15 artists who were oh so close I feel bad for you. You will never know how close you came or
how much I admired your work. To all; keep working, keep experimenting and keep trying.

Well here are my choices. I hope you enjoy this year’s exhibition.
“May your hands always be busy” Bob Dylan

Post script: I want to thank Jean Lehman for asking me to jury the 21st Strictly Functional Pottery National exhibition. One of the last duties Jean performed before she retired this past year, before turning over her SFPN baby to Amy Burk and Kevin Lehman, was to ask me to be this year’s juror. I have gotten to know Jean over the years and have a deep respect for the dedicated work she has performed directing the SFPN exhibition. I entered the first SFPN twenty years ago and have entered every year since. I loved the concept of the show and the recognition it brought to functional pottery. For the last 10-­‐12 years Jean and I have had a nice little chat at each NCECA conference about whether or not I was juried into that year’s SFPN exhibition. I have had the honor and luck of being accepted into every SFPN exhibition except one and I suspect Jean might have felt a bit obligated to ask me to be this year’s juror. Either that or she just wants me to stop applying! Whatever the reason, I want to thank her from the bottom of my heart for this honor and I wish to acknowledge her for all the hard work she has done to make this show possible and successful for all these many years. Jean, you’ve done a great job. I applaud you.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Big-Picture Forecasts for Gemini 2013

If you haven't found Free Will Astrology, DO IT!
Weather you believe in such truck isn't the point. Stopping to get an outside view into our own lives is very much the point.
Think of it like a mega fortune cookie, like majic, you bring your own meaning to the words.
Special note...
Everyone should pay attention to PART 5!
Gemini, here are some different angles on your long-term destiny: forecasts for you in 2013.

In the year 1900, few people believed that human beings would ever fly through the sky in machines. Most scientists thought that such a feat was impossible. For years, the Wright Brothers had a hard time convincing anyone to believe their flights were actually taking place, even though they had photos and witness reports as documentation. Although the leap you'll be capable of in 2013 isn't quite as monumental as the Wright Brothers', it could be pretty important in the history of your own life. You may also have to deal with skepticism akin to what they had to face. Be true to your vision, Gemini!


Here are some of the experiences I hope to help you harvest in 2013: growing pains that are interesting and invigorating rather than stressful; future shock that feels like a fun joyride rather than a bumpy rumble; two totally new and original ways to get excited; a good reason to have faith in a dream that has previously been improbable; a fresh supply of Innocent Crazy-Wise Love Truth; and access to all the borogoves, mome raths, and slithy toves you could ever want.

"People wish to learn to swim and at the same time to keep one foot on the ground," said French novelist Marcel Proust. An attitude like that is always a barrier to growth, of course, but in 2013 it would be especially ill-advised for you Geminis. In order to win full possession of the many blessings that will be offering themselves to you, you will have to give up your solid footing and dive into the depths over and over again. That may sometimes be a bit nerve-racking. But it should also generate the most fun you've had in years.


Will archaeologists find definitive evidence of the magical lost continent of Atlantis in 2013? Probably not. How about Shambhala, the mythical kingdom in Central Asia where the planet's greatest spiritual masters are said to live? Any chance it will be discovered by Indiana Jones-style fortune hunters? Again, not likely. But I do think there's a decent chance that sometime in the next seven months, many of you Geminis will discover places, situations, and circumstances that will be, for all intents and purposes, magical and mythical.


Part 5
Pablo Casals was one of the greatest cello players who ever lived. Among his early inspirations was the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. Casals discovered Bach's six cello suites when he was 13 years old, and played them every day for the next 13 years. Have you ever done something similar, Gemini? Devoted yourself to a pleasurable discipline on a regular basis for a long time? I invite you to try it. The coming months will be an excellent time to seek mastery through a diligent attention to the details.


Part 6
The Italian artist Duccio di Buoninsegna painted his Madonna and Child sometime around the year 1300. It's a compact piece of art -- just eleven inches high and eight inches wide. Nevertheless, New York's Metropolitan Museum paid $45 million for the pleasure of owning it. I propose that we choose this diminutive treasure as your lucky symbol for the next eight to ten months, Gemini. May it inspire you as you work hard to create a small thing of great value.