I wish I could say I thought this out from the beginning.
One of the classes I enjoy teaching most at Wheaton is a two week summer ceramics class at Honeyrock in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. The class began 7 years ago, and has been something I look forward to in May ever since. In the first year a small group of students, the incomparable Mark Epler and myself built a wood-fired kiln from scratch. (We also made work, glazed, and fired the kiln all in two weeks, but that's another story.)
For the past two years, however, there hasn't been enough students to "make" the class. So this year I decided to invite some ceramics alumni to fill out the ranks. I had only about 6 weeks to give people notice, so I wasn't expecting much of a turnout. I figured there might be one or two people who were both interested and had the opportunity to come. I was pleasantly surprised by the response, and in the end five alumni were able to join the class, which meant the class was evenly divided between alumni and current undergrads. It was my hope that the alumni and undergrads would get along well together, and that the alumni might act in a kind of "mentoring" role with the current students.
It went better than expected. The relationship between the alumni and the undergrads was more symbiotic than mentor/mentee: while the undergrads benefitted from the experience of the alums, the alums benefitted from the enthusiasm and energy of the undergrads. (In hindsight I should have seen this coming, as I benefit from that same energy all the time.) As a teacher I was thrilled to have the alumni with enough experience to help me with some aspects of class preparation and to have the chance to talk about some more professional development aspects of becoming an artist. Beyond the teaching, it was just great to be able to reconnect with former students and catch up with their lives post-Wheaton. They are amazing individuals at the beginning of great adventures!
With the added energy of the class had I added an assignment I've been wanting to try for years. We scouted the grounds for clay deposits and tested them as a coating (slip) on some of our pots. These fluted cups are coated in a rich chocolate brown clay we found and processed, making these pieces uniquely original to Honeyrock.
This year I was one of four American ceramic artists invited to participate. Keaton Wynn, who helps coordinate the program and who I met last year, as well as Matthew Courtney and Steve Driver. I am grateful to be able to work, travel, and exhibit with such great artists and individuals. The work we made during the residency as well as work made by many faculty and advanced students were part of the final exhibition. While you can find the work I made documented on the "Projects" page, here are a few more pictures from the exhibition.
I hope you will be able to join Joel and I for this exhibition of paintings and sculpture about the journey of watching and waiting.
We dedicate this exhibition to the memory of our friends and colleagues Brett Foster and Roger Lundin.
After our reception at 7:30 there will be a faculty recital by Shawn Okpebholo. The recital features work done in memory of Brett and Roger.
A selection of new work is on display (and, of course, for sale) for the month of October at Cafe K'Tizo in Wheaton. Mark your calendars for the reception on October 13th from 7-9pm. I will have various pots there but the focus is drinking and pouring vessels: pots to infuse a little beauty into ordinary times.
Last month I met with my friends Ken Steinbach and Cam Anderson as Ken and I set up for our exhibition Oversight. My installation "Borderline" is making its Midwest debut in this space, and I have a few other pieces and even some pots there as well. Ken Steinbach's Memoria Animus series is also there and not to be missed! The two bodies of work compliment each other beautifully, suggesting questions about our relationship to the environment, our personal and collective memories, and ways our past shapes our understanding of the present.
More information about the opening can be found on the CIVA website here.
Silk Road Construction
ceramic, found objects (bicycle cart, reproduction Tang dynasty camel, sand)
approximately 9 feet tall
installed at Lanzhou City University
This is by far the most ambitious, and as I like to say the "dumbest" ceramic construction I've ever made. It's "dumb" in that it is a technical nightmare; there are a thousand ways this piece could have gone wrong and any one of them would have caused collapse. So you have to not think about that when your making it. I am really excited about the scale of this piece and how it turned out. The layered glazes are much richer than I hoped for!
The ceramic and sculpture assistants were a huge help in construction, firing, and installation of this piece, as well as Sam Hendley, my "roomie" in Lanzhou who helped me load the beast into the kiln (no small task!). My thanks to all of them!
Pictured are Siu Hi Lin, Qi Zi, and Xie Zhe, not pictured are Zhao Yan and Sam Hendley)
Badminton Garden (Mao Pao Tong)
ceramic and found objects
installed at Lanzhou City University
This piece was inspired by the flower bud of the Mao Pao Tong Tree. When we arrived in Lanzhou the buds had just fallen from the trees and were scattered everywhere. They were quite lovely and delicate.
With the aid of several students and faculty at the university we created over 200 ceramic Mao Pao Tong Buds and installed them in a full sized Badminton court recreated in the gallery. Badminton is a very popular sport in China and courts are ubiquitous.
The installation is intended as a kind of meditation garden. As you move through the space you have to be very aware of your body and the ceramic flower buds. It raises questions about one's relationship to nature.
An enormous thank you to all the people who helped me make this piece a reality. I couldn't have done it without their help! Here are a few of the people who helped, pictured below:
Su Hi Lin
Su Yan Chi
Su Fian Ching
Monkey with Nimbus
ceramic and found objects (doors, cable spool)
approx. 9' tall
This piece is inspired in part by the magnificent work at the Mogao Caves in Dunhuang, and in part by all the images I saw of Julius, the Paul Frank Monkey. Julius is extremely popular in China, a symbol of the West which is also reminiscent of Sun WuKong, the monkey king.
Mugs with creamy "SB" glaze. Cone 6 Oxidation. Lanzhou clay has remarkable depth of color- especially for an electric kiln!
I plan to begin posting images of works from the Dunhuang Ceramic Residency I just completed this summer. Hopefully one a day. Here's the first one:
Construction with Shou Xing Number 3.
Ceramic. Approximately 18" tall.
This and all of the work I made during the residency was made of local Lanzhou clay. The glazes are also predominantly made of the same clay.
the studio chair
A place for me to ramble on when I need to take a break.