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  1. I recently did my first experimental pit firing, most of my piece survived, but they are super smelly. I used a paste wax to buff and varnish the surface, but the smell is still intoxicatingly strong. Is there something that I can use or do to reduce the scent when they go into the gallery?
  2. Chilly posted a question in the Question of the Week pool that was rather simple, but I have had to think really hard about it: The "accidental" perfect pot. Should have been this tall/wide, ended up different and was a success. About 12 years ago, I had been throwing some large 20# pots that were covered jars. One of these I had pulled the walls up, and was doing pretty well with the shaping, when I found an air bubble in the shoulder area caused a fault line. This I scratched out patched a bit, and then finished the shoulder/neck area I do most of my shaping with dry fingers, or ribs especially when the form is tall or wide. This particular jar though did not respond well in the area where the patch was, it had a noticeable scar. after some thought, and looking at the curved line of the scar, I decided to do something drastic. I started cutting leaf shaped lines through the surface beginning with the scar. I left areas attached so that I could reach inside and expand the leaf edges outward. Then some of the leaves I cut the points and lifted them, and others I cut almost completely out and overlapped over the body of the pot. . . controlling this area in a border around the pot. The effect was not functional, as nothing could really be stored well, but it was sculptural. I then finished the lid of the pot with a hand molded branch, old apple and the head of a snake poking out the end of the branch. . . Called the pot "Remnants of the Garden" . . . that Summer it took an honorable mention in our local Arts festival show. Worked out well. Pictures in early post on my blog site. best, Pres
  3. Actually what she said was;"Your mugs are TOO BIG.'She said it about three times. She said;"You can't even see the bottom of them." I ignored her. The mugs were walking off the shelves. People requested a bigger size mug. They are one pound. A regular size, not too huge. Why do people come into my studio and feel that it is O.K. to complain, to criticize, to find fault? Why didn't she say;"Your eyes are too blue? Or your hair is too wavy?" I am not going to change my work for her. Why say anything if you can't be positive? Do you have a sales experience where the person felt it was O.K to find fault? Let's here your stories. Try to err on the positive side if possible. TJR.
  4. I wrote this a few years ago for fun, in light of Wyndham's thread, I thought it was worth sharing. The ideas expressed are those of real people, however not necessarily my own. “Excuse me,†said Peggy as she tapped the shawled shoulder of a woman with long, dangling, folk art earrings ahead of her. “Were you the girl who gave that lovely speech about the importance of art in a person’s life?†The woman turned around to see a petite lady of at least eighty wearing thick bifocals, an overcoat, and scarf smiling back at her. “Yes, that was me who gave the speech,†she answered. “You liked it?†“I liked it quite a bit, actually. You were very articulate and had such remarkable passion for your craft. Besides, it’s rare to see someone as young as yourself with such broad experience and learning. You certainly know more about art than I did at your age and more than I know now, even.†“Aw, well thank you.†She was surprised and flattered at the old lady’s praise, but still it was hollow. She would have preferred it come from a fellow artist or at least someone who could know about art. “What brought you to the show?†“My granddaughter Mackenna,†Peggy replied. “She’s an art teacher at one of the high schools benefited by tonight’s show. If you’ve had a chance to look at any of the kids’ exhibits, her class made the mind maps.†“I haven’t had a chance to look at the students’ exhibits, yet,†she lied. The truth was that she didn’t care to see them. “What was the idea behind the mind maps?†“I didn’t catch all of what Mackenna told me about them, but from what I can remember it was a sort of structured collage. She had them collect images and small objects representing objects of thought in their everyday lives. When they had those together, she got them to arrange what they had collected into either a picture or sculpture depicting how they thought.†“Oh,†the woman said with some disappointment. “So most of the thinking was done for them.†“Yes, I suppose that’s true,†Peggy conceded. “All the same, each one was very original and there were very few images or things in duplicate among their work. I have to confess, though, that I was a little concerned by how many mind maps were mostly empty space.†The woman smiled at Peggy’s comment; she liked the old lady’s wit. “I’m sorry, I don’t believe I caught your name.†“It’s Peggy,†she replied and offered her hand to shake. After a long, awkward pause the woman finally took Peggy’s hand. “And if my program here is right, your name’s Jenna. It’s nice to meet you and I feel rather fortunate to have found you.†“Oh, why is that?†“I had a question for you about your speech. It might be nothing—I’m getting old and my hearing is certainly not what it used to be but I couldn’t help but wonder about something. Would you forgive me if I ask you something silly?†“Certainly,†Jenna said. She thought it was sweet that Peggy wanted to know more. Maybe she could improve her life a bit by helping her understand art. “There’s no shame in wanting to know.†“What a nice thought,†Peggy said and smiled. “My question,†she continued, “is how do you know when you’ve created art?†“How do I know when I’ve created art?†Jenna repeated in bafflement. “What do you mean?†“In your speech, you drew a great deal from your own experience talking about the rewards art has given you as an artist throughout your life, specifically by creating art, did I hear that correctly?†“Yes, you did.†Jenna answered. “I assumed you kept this fairly general, not mentioning your own preferred media because you didn’t want to make them seem more legitimate than others, is that right?†“That’s exactly it,†Jenna said, impressed with Peggy’s perception. “Tonight’s supposed to benefit all the arts programs at the schools; music, visual art, and drama.†“This is where I became confused,†Peggy began. “When I thought of all the different creative media together as simply art, I could follow your sentiment that creating art helped to expand and improve someone’s mind, but when I took any individual medium and thought about it, I could think of instances when that medium wasn’t artistic.†“How’s that?†Jenna asked. She thought Peggy sounded more than a little confused. “Hm, well, take the art that’s on the wall, here.†Peggy gestured towards the walls of the room while speaking. “If these were technical illustrations on how to repair a car or a telephone, no one would come and see them.†“Well, not usually,†Jenna corrected. “Technical drawings are quite often very well composed and so it’s not unheard of for the best technical artists to gain gallery recognition for their work.†“My goodness! The things you learn.†Peggy exclaimed. “Let me see if I can make my point another way, including your example too. To be honest, I’m not sure I’ve got the firmest grasp on this, so let me try and explain.†“Okay, do your best.†Jenna condescended. Really, she was curious to see what mixed up idea the old lady was getting at. “ WelI what I think I’m trying to say is that there is a difference between art and a simple drawing. I was trying to make the distinction based on the content, thinking that because one drawing showed, say, an exploded view of a car engine and the other more moving stuff than that. “But you seem to be saying that I should base my distinction on something else, hinting at how we treat the works themselves and value them, right?†“That’s it exactly,†Jenna agreed. “Presumably you’d say that this is because both drawings have content to them and valuing that content and the particular way its expressed is subjective. Anything could be art but it’s how we treat it that makes it so?†“Precisely,†Jenna assented. “I believe it was Valéry who said that ordinary language is like a coin we pass around among ourselves in place of something else, whereas poetic language is like gold itself. Or was it Gadamer who said that?†“Well, whoever it was, it’s certainly fitting,†Peggy said warmly and patted Jenna on the forearm. “I suppose I should change my question to something more like ‘when you set out to create art how do you know when you’ve made gold or just paper money?†Jenna’s eyes darted back and forth rapidly betraying her deep contemplation as she stared off to digest Peggy’s question. After a few thoughtful moments, she began, “now, I’m not going to speak in generalities anymore. To answer your question I’m going to have to speak about my own artistic medium of drama.†“Oh, you’re an actress!†Peggy blurted out. “Here I was thinking you had something in the show. You must think me a complete and utter dunce for asking you about drawings and assuming you had one in the show.†“No, it’s okay,†assured Jenna forgiving even Peggy’s dated language. “You were right to believe I have something in the show, but it’s not a drawing but an abstract performance art piece. I’m the director, though, not an actor and as a director I get a unique take on the artistic process. To me, the act of taking words off a page and turning them into a play must be artistic, through the interpretation process itself. So that’s how I know when I create art.†“So it is the act of interpretation that makes a work art?†“Yes, I believe so. The actors interpret their parts from the script, as do all the rest of the cast and stage crew and I try to take all of that and harmonize it with my own.†“So in a way, your interpretation is more important than theirs.†“Well, of course, since my interpretation is the one that makes it to stage.†“That’s a very good answer, Jenna and also very humble.†“What do you mean?†Jenna asked. “Well, you’ve made the audience the most important and their interpretation the most artistic—they’re the artists according to what you said.†“What? That can’t be right.†“You said that interpretation is what makes art, right?†“Yes, I did say that.†“You also said that your interpretation is the most important of the creative side because it’s what makes it to the stage, right?†“I said that too.†“So if you were directing a film about how to repair an engine, your interpretation and your cast’s interpretation would be artistic but because the film is treated as plain film rather than an art by the audience when they interpret it, the film would not be art?†“No, I guess not.†“So you really don’t know when you make art, do you?†Peggy asked. Jenna’s jaw dropped at the observation. “Well, what we’ve talked about doesn’t show the whole picture,†Jenna said trying to regain her appearance of authority. “Then I suggest you reconsider your account. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s late and I’m sure my friend Dorothy is waiting to drive me home.†With that Peggy scuttled off into the crowd.
  5. I rediscovered this passage today in "Hamada: Potter" by Leach and I thought I'd share, given all of the talk of hakeme lately. It's also a little relevant to Chris Campbell's post on Image Envy, I think. Pages 112, 113, from the 1975 edition (first edition). I like hakeme. I have tried my hand many times and I always feel defeated and give up, although I know it is not a matter of winning or losing. It is strange that every time I visit Korea and view the buildings in the countryside and the people flocking to the markets on special days and then return to Japan, I notice that my hakeme becomes much easier, although my stay in Korea had nothing to do with hakeme. The Koreans did it because the slip flaked off when they dipped the pot in white slip. They pressed the slip into the clay with a brush--they never talked about hakeme, the did not have such a work; all they did was to make sure the white slip was sticking onto the clay. The preferred the whiter colour to the dark clay body. But the Japanese then took it up as a self-conscious technique and gave it a name. They began to make use of it as a pattern, and this is where they went wrong. They even went so far in their efforts for achievement as to take the pot to a Zen master in a monastery, thinking he had no greed or self-consciousness. They had the brushstrokes put on by the Zen master and then sold the bowl for a higher price. This was indeed a disease and a mistake from the very beginning, but this is the direction in which many Japanese go. For instance, in the early pots there would be some impurities in the clay as well as small pebbles. In the firing, the surface of the pot would burst open like a raisin in a bun, leaving a big hole around the pebble. This also became appreciated by the Japanese, but instead of letting it happen naturally, when they received an order from a patron they put some pebbles into their clay. The pot would then have higher value. This is a sort of illness--they purposefully put pebbles into highly refined clay. I'd love to hear what you guys think about this passage. Reading through it again, it leapt out at me.
  6. I was in the studio yesterday unpacking the last of my pots. Day after Christmas. My son looked at a plate and said;"Dad, you really "effed it up on this brushwork!" It was a bird on a dinner plate. The brush had skipped along the bottom line. My other son called me aside and said in a low, conspiratorial voice; "Dad, I want you to REALLY try your best on this next batch of work." I said I would try. I thought I was trying my best. They are both teenagers. They mean well and are genuinely thinking that they are helping me.Maybe I need to try harder and do better work in 2014. TJR
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