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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Winter up north

Aurora and me in front of the Green Lake Ice House and 'Prince" the draft hourse

It has been nice lately to be able to get out a bit and spend some time in a bit of actual winter lately. Last weekend the family went over to see the annual Tully Ice Harvest that happens here each winter. Tully has a number of these kettle lakes that were formed when the glaciers receded and left potholes in the landscape and the lakes are fairly deep and are spring fed, keeping them colder in the summer. The Ice Harvest is a practice that has happened since I think the late 1700's/ early 1800's and was a way that ice houses and "refrigerators" were stocked with ice to keep food cold. The ice was cut from Green Lake, loaded onto horse drawn sleds, and carted to an ice house that would stockpile the ice. That ice was then transported across New York to various towns and people.

Ice Being Loaded onto the horse drown sleds, after being cut from the lake.

Being and enthusiast of all things old, I really enjoyed the fact that they were using all period original tools, saws, and ways of getting the ice out. Never thought I would end up living in the country, but I am more and more glad that I do. These are things that hopefully will never be forgotten.

Today was a snow day for me. They're calling for a foot plus of snow and some freezing rain mixed in and my back-roads 20 mile commute wasn't going to be the easiest going in those conditions. I've already totaled one car on that commute and really wasn't looking forward to doing it again. So I will be spending my time on Job packets and studio research which will probably consist of trying to finish putting epoxy on the guides of a fiberglass fly-rod that I have been working on for the past eight months. I never seem to have enough time to finish these things from start to finish. April first is the opening of trout season and this little number will be perfect for around here. We'll see, but nap time is coming up shortly and may afford me a couple of hours. I'll add some photos of the glass rod as I get some finish on it. I really enjoy the process and hope to start another one soon.

My studio tasks have been leading me to work towards developing some new surfaces for my work. I have found a slip recipe for a mid range vitrified slip which I hope will give me a bit more sheen than my terra sig gives me at low temp, but want to find some mid range sculpture glazes that are dry and textured. If anyone out there has some recipes tested or not please post them and I'll let you know what I come up with. I've been fighting for a while now about the issues that low fired surfaces bring to functional objects. I am really drawn to the dryish textured surfaces that allude to age and weathering, yet those surfaces don't really provide a surface that speaks "use me". Maybe this can provide something new to the work as well. Bring on the test kiln!

Friday, February 19, 2010

My sentiments exactly. Jasper doesn't know what he has coming...Don't know about another dog though, but I could always buy more banjos!

The Meaning of Making

Jeremy Randall "Red and Green Oval Plate" 2009
The Meaning of Making

This is an article written by Bruce Metcalf on the ideas of making and the address of the art/craft debate. I feel this debate at times is overly discussed, but I feel like a lot of his comments are right on the mark. I am thinking of this this morning after having a critique and subsequent talk with an pottery focused student about the inherent concepts involved in making things. It is interesting that in this day and age we still choose to "craft" things by hand, and I feel that it is an incredibly potent political act. Even ones choice to use handmade objects goes against the mass produced mindset found throughout current contemporary culture, and addresses subtle ideas about the importance of personal connections between object and maker. Good things to contemplate at the start of the day as I sit with my coffee with my daughter reeking havoc on the house.

I am about to go into the studio to do surface, slip and glaze testing and hopefully extract a few new surface options to begin to introduce to my work. I have been wondering what a shift to Cone six might do for some of the technical issues that I have been having lately. I also have been getting tired of burnishing multiple colors of Terra Sigilatta on each piece. I have used some vitrified slips in the past and also thought about what that would do for the durability of the work. I dread the testing process, however I am really exited about the opportunity to be able to start a new dialog with the work and potentially some new color information.

I just finished repairing and retrofitting a small electric enameling kiln with a kiln sitter to be able to do some small test loads. It will be nice to be able to have that option and not have to do full loads of work in the large kiln to be able to get out a few tests. I also have the task of kiln repair on the large electric to do before I can fire again, which always seems to happen in the middle of the winter when standing out in the freezing temperatures is my last desire. It's nice that I have access at two schools to be able to fire in the meantime, so it takes a bit of the pressure off. Our home kilns are situated outside but under a large kiln shed roof beside the barn studio, but even though they're undercover I think the components corrode faster than normal. I have to change leads on the switches fairly regularly and is usually a spring overhaul/maintenance activity, but is a pretty easy task. Well, during the last bisque firing everything was cruising along and I went out to see if the sitter had tripped before going to bed, and noticed that the sitter box was black and smelled like electrical fire. Not good, but it got to temperature and wasn't actively on fire so I figured I would deal with it when I woke up in the morning. I took the box off to take a peek, and the hot lead to the sitter switch had looked as though it had arced out and the wire was burnt completely through. Looked like some corrosion had built up from previous firings and I'm sure the resistance was high, but thanks to circuit breakers the juice was cut off and no big time damage happened. Electricity is one of the things I don't like to mess with unless I have to and 220/240 volts is big enough to make me nervous. There has been talk recently about the opportunity to rebuild the studio, increase the square footage as well as having more storage and barn space available. It would be great to be able to enclose a kiln pad and rebuild the soda kiln in a space that was a bit more protected. I could look forward to swinging a hammer this summer for the sake of building a new barn. Hmmmm...

Time to start the day. Happy Friday.

Jeremy Randall "Green and Yellow Tank" 2009

Monday, February 15, 2010

Glaze Mixing Service?

I came across this site not too long ago and was wondering about it a little more lately as I have a number of glazes that need to be mixed/tested. I know for many including myself, that the space to have glaze materials handy for glaze mixing is not really a reality, not to mention the cost of said materials. I also have many colorants and materials that are pretty toxic and housing them makes me a little itchy even though I do have them on hand. But after perusing this site to see what it offered was pretty intrigued by the premise. Basically they are offering to mix you glaze by recipe specs that you as the artist provide, and for a $12.95 per 25lbs. flat rate they will ship your dry batch, mixed and ready to wet down and use. I would probably test before using as I don't even trust my own mixing habits sometimes, but it seems like an interesting idea for me at least. It also looks as though you would pay current going rate on materials, so the markup is slight and I'm sure that the flat rate would include labor, but this could be the solution to limited space and a glaze materials storage space. If anyone out there has any experience with this or another company let me know as my curiousity has been stimulated. Cheers.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Buying art in philadelphia

Casualty of Snowpocalypse 2010, Philadelphia, PA.

So this post comes as a return back to the comforts of home as we just returned from the Buyers Market in Philadelphia where we were scouting out new work for the gallery in Skaneateles. For those of you that don't know, my wife and I opened a retail craft gallery space in Skaneateles NY, called "Imagine That..." back in July as an extension of her Father's shop, Imagine, also in Skaneateles. The store has developed over the past months and we have begun to understand the direction and vision of the gallery as well as the scope and type of work necessary to make the space sucessful. We will be joining forces with Imagine come March as building renovations will require them to move out of their space, and the shop should really be nicely filled with work that will span the range of medium and price.
Philadelphia was in the midst of cleaning up TONS of snow and it was interesting to see a city who is not used to snow have to cope with it. People do not know how to drive in the snow, although there was an incredible amount of snow piled up in mountains at the sides of the street. The weather didn't keep many of the artists away although many were late in setting up, but it didn't seem to hurt their success. The show is huge, which is actually an understatement, and the booths of artists filled the cavernous convention center. I was pleased to see a lot of nice new work and was doubly pleased to see the amount of young ceramic artists with work that was really attractive. We did pick up a couple of new potters, and look forward to the addition to the shop.
The other nice thing was that the Reading Terminal is right across the street from the convention center and lunchtime tended to find us there with wonderful food choices. I always have said that Philly would be a great city to live in, and one of the reasons is the collective presence of the Reading Terminal Market.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Little Ones

I came across this photo today and thought I'd put it up because I think it's awesome. Jasper is moving into his fourth week at the moment and Big Sister Aurora loves every bit of him. I'm glad that they are two years apart and hope that her interest in him continues on as they get older. Aurora's birthday was on the 29th of January and I wanted to build her something that she could grow with. My father's influence as a wood worker has definitely rubbed off on me and have enjoyed coming to understand the process. I have also been interested in Shaker handcraft and Shaker objects for some time and they have influenced my pots greatly over the last ten years, so I bought a Shaker toddlers chair from Shaker Workshop to put together for her birthday. Basically they are still fabricating furniture in the process, materials and style of shaker furniture from the 1900's and you can purchase the furniture finished, or in my case buy the parts unassembled and put the piece together myself. This was nice because now I have had a hand in finishing the chair that Aurora hopefully can give to her kids.

So the chair is Hard Maple with three coats of a light oil based stain with just a touch of cherry stain in it to give a hint of color. It actually came out quite nice as it almost looks old and well loved already. I then knocked down the grain with super fine steel wool and applied the first coat of a traditional linseed oil finish. I applied three coats of that, wiping everything down after about ten minuets of staying on the surface, until a nice soft satin surface began to develop. Then two layers of hand rubbed paste wax was applied to give a nice hard but non plastic surface that would withstand all of the various food that it would come in contact with. The seat is a traditional Shaker woven seat in a blue and white herringbone pattern. This took a bit of trial and error to get right, but it's tight as a drum and comfy for Aurora to sit on. She loves it and it makes me happy to know that she will have it for years. Now I just need six or eight adult Shaker chairs for the dining room to match and we'll be all set.

Morning Cup of Coffee

Suze Lindsay Mug, a morning favorite for over ten years.

As I sit here this morning getting ready to start the day I am taking part in my normal morning ritual of a cup or two of coffee. It's nice this semester because I teach in the afternoon/evenings so after getting up between six or seven I am able to start the day with the family and contemplate the actions of the day. Today I am reading an essay by Suzanne Ramljak, called Intimate Matters: Objects and Subjectivity. Here is an exerpt that I was particularly fond of:

Returning again to the cultural role of intimate objects, we can see that their effectiveness derives from a number of converging features. In general, we need objects for our physical development and to keep us focused and anchored in the world. Etymology stresses this stabilizing function of objects. The word "object" stems from obicere, meaning "to throw in the way of or hinder"; as a verb the word "object" means "to oppose or resist." Without the grounding force of objects, we would be adrift in a void without measure or weight. Objects provide us with a tangible source of comfort, something to hold on to in a shifting world.

The overall importance of objects in our lives, coupled with the rewards of personal involvement, lends the intimate object an increased value. Our interactions with such objects become even more precious in light of the digital revolution now under way. In many respects, digital technology is the antithesis of intimacy; it removes us from direct contact with experience, with each other, and even with ourselves. The price we pay for such technological advance was captured in 1928 by E. M. Forster's disquieting story "The Machine Stops." In this futuristic, but not improbable, tale of life ruled by machines, people have become horrified by direct contact and have entirely ceased to touch one another. An epiphany at the story's end leads the characters to realize that the machine "has robbed us of the sense of space and of the sense of touch, it has blurred every human relation and narrowed down love to a carnal act, it has paralyzed our bodies and our wills."18 Although Forster's story is fictional, this impoverishment of our relations due to computers and other machines cannot be overstated. In spite of current efforts to make computer technology more human, it will always lack the "imponderable bloom" that is the essence of personal inter-course.

As I sit in front of the computer I have to chuckle at the irony of this excerpt. I am personally taking part in this digital revolution by writing in this virtual space, and in many respects I feel that at this day in age it is impossible not to be involved in the intangible spaces of the virtual world. This form of communication is so accessible, but within this I feel that a grounding is absolutely necessary. My "objects" are the handmade objects, and my interaction is both through use and making. These are the things that help to put things back into perspective for me and it seems as though anyone out there reading this who's a maker of pots/objects can relate. The personal touch puts us back into direct contact with someone else, and the conversation can continue on a very intimate level. The importance of touch and the importance of time can be found in these objects, and it is here that the idea of intimate object resounds so strongly with me. Enjoy your cup of coffee and hopefully it is from a handmade mug. Cheers.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

AccessCeramics, Contemporary Ceramics Archive

Thomas Orr, Pomona. 2008. From

This archive site came across my attention recently and it is a great visual contemporary ceramic resource. A project of Faculty and Staff at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, AccessCeramics is a database of nearly 3000 images of contemporary ceramics. A quote from the Lewis and Clark website states "In the short time since its inception, accessCeramics has grown tremendously and has caught the attention of artists, scholars, and experts in instructional media services. The originality of the project and its educational mission have earned it grant support from prominent foundations such as the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)." A wonderful resource for teachers, students and artists, AccessCeramics is a wealth of visual information on contemporary ceramics that is worth spending some time getting to know.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

More form that I came across. I saw one of these ford vans in an undisclosed movie that I happened to watch recently and thought that there was something special going on. I have always admired the VW bus, and this was something just a little bit different. Frankly, the van was the best part of the aforementioned movie...go figure.

interesting form

Just some interesting examples of form that I came across this morning. They really don't make things the way that they used too.

Morning Cup of Coffee

Sitting here this morning with my morning cup of coffee while watching my daughter play with blocks I realize that I am watching our innate nature to create. What is it that causes us to make things, and imagine such large things from the creation of those objects. I am also thinking about what causes some of us to hang on to this child like imagination as we grow into adults that still desire to make things. I am driven to make things, both art and music. I want those things to go out into the world and infect the people that encounter them not to mention have those object integrate into a personal landscape somewhere that is not my own and not familiar to me. If these desires are genetic or physiological than I am exited for my daughter because she is showing that interest with reckless abandon. Everyday I see new developments and interests in her that blow my mind. The ultimate in creativity.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Red Lodge Clay Center Featured Artist Exhibition
Check out my show that is up at Red Lodge Clay Center in Montana. The Show will be up for the month of February. Let me know what you think.

Still Cold...

Well, I'm going to give this a try and hopefully people will let me know what they think. It's quite cold here in Upstate NY, and it will be for quite some time. The Fly Tying bench is calling and so is the water, but the wood stove keeps the home cozy and my mind off not being able to fish. The studio occupies a lot time not to mention two little ones. I'll keep you posted so stay tuned...