It's about time for blooms to start popping out in North Florida. The dogwoods wont be out for awhile but I'm hopeful. I even saw a lake of pollen in a puddle after a downpour the other day. I updated my website with recent work, events, and more links to people whose work I appreciate. You can also now find links to my FaceBook fan page, my twitter account and this blog at the bottom of every page. Follow along if you'd like.
In this intensive summer course students studied pottery from around the world by making reproductions and interpretations. I did a similar assignment in my grad seminar and found it to be very helpful. I think Julia is doing a week long workshop at Haystack this summer that is a variation on this theme. Check it out if you can.
Julia Galloway's Statement about the class. For more information Click Here.
Some years ago I had a dream about walking through the history of ceramics. I wanted to stand in a room and see how pottery changes over the years, through different countries, and see the influences of trade and natural resources. I wanted to see whole in front of me what I understood in bits and pieces. Hence, the "Making History" course was born. I decided to teach a class where students would make historical pottery; they would research the building techniques, clays and glazes of iconographic pottery from all over the world. They would make these objects to understand, to learn how to see, and to learn how to make. I wanted the students to work on something outside of themselves; work not based on their own self-expression or ego, but based simply on learning through making and through researching, and on the sheer pleasure of re-discovering things that have come before. This study would culminate in a large-scale exhibition of all of these objects, arranged within a timeline and within geographical relationships.
I am in no way an historian. I am easily seduced by what something looks like, and have a modest understanding of the culture behind all of these pots. To teach a class like this, I needed a co-pilot who had taught ceramic history and who also had tremendous facility with clay and a broad knowledge of ceramics. Luckily, Margaret Bohls was willing to undertake this adventure and joined me in Halifax in early July 2008. Her knowledge of ceramic history is superb and her studio ceramics knowledge is extensive. The success of the course comes from her experience and good nature. Throughout the course, Margaret gave a series of 1-2 hour slide lectures moving across the geography and chronology of ceramics. She grounded all of the wild making of pottery within a context.
We selected objects that represent important cultural developments, specific time periods, or that are simply really beautiful pots. At first we divided up the objects that the students would make by technique: unglazed earthenware, tin-glazed ware, stoneware, blue-and-white ware and porcelains. This allowed students to work in groups and share technical and cultural information.
About a month ago we had Kathryn Finnerty for a workshop. She gave a great workshop and lecture on her work and methods. Surprisingly, my favorite part was watching her methods of forming. I have been a huge fan of her decoration for along time but I had never paid close attention to how she builds. All her forms were built from manipulated slabs, or extruded parts. She had the most common sense approach to building. Multiple times throughout the workshop I thought " Damn why didnt I think of that." One especially simple method was to use cardboard tubes wrapped in fabric to support slabs as she built. After the slabs were slipped and scored to make an oval she would place two cardboard tubes on the inside of each end. She would then put her hands in the tubes and apply outward pressure. It allowed her to move 12-18 in slabs without damaging the raised decorative surface.
I also enjoyed seeing her approach to gallery seats and feet. She had a handheld extruder that she made dies for. She would cut metal ribs into the shapes she needed. This allowed her to add the gallery seat after the body of the pot was formed.
She offered suggestions to help solved some of the problems I have been having with glazes and cracks in large platter feet. For years I had blistering problems with my clear glazes. She thought I was over firing them and that I could probably fire a few cones lower. I have since switched glazes but over firing was not something I had thought about. It makes sense. High Frit glazes have tight firing ranges. If you overfire they boil on the surface of the pot. Their viscosity at this highly fluid state determines if the bubbles smooth back over. I haven't tested this but it sounds reasonable.
For the platters she suggested making a shrink slab that the piece will rest on throughout the forming and firing process. This insures that any surface tension is held within the slab and not the pot.
I had a great time talking to Kathryn and watching her work. If you ever get a chance you should take advantage of her practical skills and aesthetic prowess.
I have accepted a position at the Pottery Workshop in Shanghai China. I will be moving there around the middle of May to help with operations. I will be there just in time for the World Expo. This should be an amazing event. I have never been to a World's Fair but it looks wonderful.
I am very excited to work overseas and to have the oppurtunity to do so in a country that boasts such a long ceramic tradition. I plan to blog about my travels so I will keep every posted when I see great pots.
Let me paint a familiar picture. My favorite appliance/gadget that I have had since I was 10 finally kicks the bucket and I am charged with the task of replacing it. My search leads me to Target where I find an assortment of spaceship looking objects that are the love child of a young Bill Gates and Rosie, the maid from the Jetsons. This contraption can simultaneously brush my teeth, wake me up in the morning, and tell me what to wear based on the weather. The only glitch to this all-in-one cure to my appliance needs is that the instruction manual is 107 pages long and reads like a PHD engineering disertation. In the end I decide I wont buy anything until I go home to do more research on which is the best one to get (i.e. I wont buy anything).
Every time this happens I find myself uttering the lament of my grandparents generation- "They don't make things like they used to". The real question is WHY don't they make things like they used to. How do products that work well get replaced by ones that don't?Could it be that Ad agencies found the perfect formula to tap into our consumer desire to purchase objects that craft personal identity regardless of their ability to function? Is it that media outlets have created the mirage that our economy is solely dependent on consumer spending? (They do cover every single earnings statement from department stores and highlight consumer confidence reports at every oppurtunity)
I think it comes from the fact that most people relate more to buying objects than making them or fixing them. In the last 100 years the accumulated social knowledge of crafting/repairing objects has slowly dwindled. My grandmother had an amazing assortment of screw, bolts, and parts that she would use to fix everything. This didn't keep porely functioning objects in use forever, but it did increase the understanding of how things work. This led to innovation on a personal level. Products that worked well enough were tinkered with to make them work just right. At some point in our social history (Post WW2 and Late 80's-90's economic boom) technology and prosperity created an atmosphere that encouraged people to throw objects away instead of fixing them. The appliance repair man's fees were more than the cost of buying a new one so the old won went to the landfill. Planned obsolescence became the norm. The bells and whistles emerged as the distinguishing factor in market place not the fitness of the product. This cycle of innovation has accelerated to a frenzied pace and the consumer is left scrambling to keep up.
I'm not taking an anti-innovation or anti-technology stance. I cant separate myself from my chronological place in this technology chain. Most of my childhood coincided with the first wave of the computer age. I embrace technology with my Ipod and laptop. My experience has informed my chosen role as a maker to provide the counterpoint to frivolous innovation. I use the pottery platform to make objects that function well and communicate my understanding of our culture. I will never be able to produce faster than machines set up for mass production. I can make objects that connect on a more subtle level with their users. This subtlety is loss when you take that human out of the production cycle. The more hand work, the more infinite variation you have in surface and form. I find human interaction with the material to be the thing that attracts me most to art objects.
Here is the article that got me thinking about this. For the full article click here.
Excerpt from NY Times article, When more is decidedly less By ALICE RAWSTHORN Published: January 24, 2010
You’ve probably been cursed too. Inoperable cellphones. Impenetrable Web sites. Neurotically overstyled objects. Too much packaging. Digital versions of this, that and the other. Things with esoteric functions that we’re unlikely to ever be able to pronounce correctly, let alone to want to use. We’ve all tussled with them from time to time.
There’s nothing new in this. Ever since the Industrial Revolution, designers have striven to make things that offer more than their predecessors. More speed. More power. More functions. More whatever. If the “more” is well chosen and executed, it can lead to progress; but if not, it could have the opposite effect. Who has
enough time to go online to find out how to turn off a tap?
The problem is that we’re at a particular stage of the design cycle when so many “innovations” are spurious, that the risk of them over-complicating our lives is scarily high. There’s no excuse for this, not least because qualities like “clarity” and “simplicity” loom large in almost every design doctrine.
My vote for the worst offender goes to Casa Bugatti’s ridiculously overwrought diVa. The silly name says it all, and the over-complicated spelling makes it worse.
I will be teaching a workshop at Gulf Coast Community College on February 12th. Come on out if your in the Panama City/ North Florida area. The workshop will focus on surface design and building methods. Hope to see you there.
I was recently profiled in China Ceramic Artist Magazine. The editor Bai Ming published a group of my work from 2006-2009. The images show my transition from soda fired porcelain to earthenware. In March of last year, Bai Ming came to lecture at UF. He demonstrated his china paint techniques, as well as his subtractive methods for porcelain sculpture. It was great to see him work with a brush. His brush work was quick and decisive. He completed a beautiful triptich that we fired and donated to the Harn Museum of Art.
After studio visits he collected images and later published work from Kelley Eggert, TJ Erdahl, Stephanie Steufer (MFA 2009), myself, Patrick Coughlin (MFA 2010) and our professor Nan Smith.
I think potters take Potluckin to the next level. Its an opportunity to show off our new designs and hopefully our culinary expertise. My last potluck got me thinking about how this custom came into common practice. First, a recipe that I brought for our last potluck
Spicy Waldorf Chicken Salad- Best served on Garlic Bagel Chips
Makes about 8 servings
Two large cans (8oz) Valley Fresh Canned Chicken
2 tbsp light mayo
1/4 cup raisons
1 large finely chopped Fuji Apple
2 Stalks finely chopped Celery
1 teaspoon Tony Chachere's seasoning or Red pepper flakes if less sodium is desired
The term "potluck" has two meanings; both practices are related and have ancient roots:
1. Taking one's chances with what is being served (in the cooking pot)
---Travelers and other unexpected guests took their chances (luck!) with whatever was being served that night.
2. Community meal composed of food contributions.
---Early societies often pooled food resources for special occasions (weddings, funerals, etc.)
The Oxford English Dictionary traces the term "potluck" in print to the 16th century:
"Potluck. One's luck or chance as to what may be in the pot, i.e. cooked for a meal: used in reference to a person accepting another's hospitality at a meal without any special preparation having been made for him; chiefly in phr. to take pot-luck. 1592 Nash Four Lett. Confut. Ded., "That that pure sanguine complexion of yours may never be famisht with pot luck."
"Take potluck. To take what is offered to you...Unannounced guests who show up at a friend's home at dinnertime are likely to be invited to stay for dinner by are reminded that they will have to take potluck, i.e., to eat whatever the family is eating. This notion of the luck of the pot goes back to Elizabethan times [as evidenced by OED definition above], then an unnanounced guest was invited to share potluck, i.e., the contents of the large cast-iron pot on the hearth, with the rest of the family...This take -your-chances-notion of potluck has developed in modern times into a more general meaning of to take potluck, i.e., to take whatever comes your way-whatever is available at that particular time and place...The surprise-me aspect of potluck has increased with the invention of the potluck supper (late 19th century), to which each invitee is expected to bring a "dish to pass" or a "dish to share"...Such meals are popular at churches, schools, and fund-raisers because they capitalize on individual specialties and minimize individual costs. In some parts of the country a potluck supper is called a covered-dish supper."
---Food: A Dictionary of Literal and Nonliteral Terms, Robert A. Palmatier [Greenwood Press:Westport] 2000 (p. 357)
"Group meals often involve the contribution of food by the guests themselves: the banqueters are in these cases both hosts and guests. The phrase "pot luck" was originally used when inviting someone to a very informal family dinner, on the spur of the moment. The visitor was to expect nothing specially prepared, but only what the family would have eaten in any case that day. The guest's "luck" lay in what day he or she happened to arrive, and what meal had been prepared for the family. The phrase changed ints meaning with the increasing popualrity of meals or parties where the guests come with contributions of food: the "luck" now lies in the uncertaintly about what everyone will bring. The host can suggest what might be needed, but cannot control the quality of the offering. "Pot luck" dinners in this sense have an ancient history, and exist in some form in most societies on earth. They usually celebrate the intimacy of the guests, or at least the hope that they have a great deal in comon. The host's authority is considerably reduced by means of the arrangement, but the fact remains that the party has to be held somewhere, and the host or hosts remain responsible for the venue, the guest list, even for the possibility of gate-crashers. The success or failure of the party still depends mostly on the "givers" of it. Being expected both to sustain loss of authority, and to retain responsibility, is a peculiarly modern predicament. But the informality gained is so important to su that we are prepared to pay the price; and enough honour still attaches to having the premises, being able to pay for a party (even if the guests haelp and must accept the blame for the food provided), and to knowing the "right" people to ask, that hosts continue to shoulder the burden and risk of inviting people for "pot luck."
---The Rituals of Dinner: The Origins, Evolution, Eccentricities and Meaning of Table Manners, Margaret Visser [Penguin Books:New York] 1991 (p. 84-5)
"Potluck. A meal composed of whatever is available or a meal (also called a "carry in" or "covered dish meal") whreby different people bring different dishes to a social gathering. In the West "potluck" meant food brought by a cowboy guest to put in the communal pot."
---The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, John F. Mariani [Lebhar-Friedman:New York] 1999 (p. 254)
"Potluck. A word used by the cowman and other frontiersmen, for food contributed by a guest. To bring potluck means to bring food with one."
---Western Words: A Dictionary of the American West, Ramon F. Adams, New edition, revised and enlarged [University of Oklahoma Press:Norman] 1968 (p. 234)
"Potluck meal. Also potluck (dinner), potluck supper, and var. combinations [By ext from potluck the luck of the draw, whatever food is being served] widespread, but less frequently in the South, Central Atlantic, New York. Of covered-dish meal, pitch-in dinner, tureen. A meal to which people bring food to share, usu. without assignment of particular dishes; the food at such a gathering; also adj potluck in the form of such a meal. 1929: AmSp 4.420 [College English] Pot luck-Food contributed by the guest. To take pot luck is to bring food with one to a party. This is a Western usage, unknown in New York and New Jersey." [NOTE: This source contains much many more definitions in different American regions through time. If you are interested in tracing this word, your librarian can help you find a copy.]
---The Dictionary of American Regional English, Joan Houston Hall, ed., Volume IV P-Sk [Belknap Press:Cambridge MA] 2000 (p. 311)
The earliest references to "pot luck" published in the New York Times infer the term was understood to mean taking one's chances at another's table: General Sam Houston "...dined and taken 'pot luck' with his old enemies, Col. Morgan and Dr. Ashbel Smith'." ["Texas," New York Daily Times, June 8, 1854 (p. 2)]. "Surely it is very pleasant to have so well-furnished a house that it will never be necessary to darken the parlor windows whoever calls, and to set such a table as that we shall not be ashamed to have any visitor suddenly drop in to try pot-luck." ["Save a Little Something," New York Daily Times, April 18, 1855 (p. 4)].
In the last quarter of the 19th century, the contemporary American definition of "pot luck" emerges: participating guests proferring dishes at a common table. The meal described below qualifies as a 'society' event. Of course, more common (less newsworthy) meals most likely were enjoyed as well. In churches, community centers, schools, political gatherings, &c.
"The Pot-Luck Picnic...An Impromptu and Enjoyable Dinner--A Display of Culinary Skill. Last evening, at the Free Trade Club, a dinner was given by Hon. Robert R. Roosevelt to a large number of his friends. Though invitations had been issued for a week previous, the feast was decidedly of an impromptu character as far the viands went. The origin of the dinner was something of this kind: The host having met several; ladies and gentlemen who declared that they were learned in the art of de la gueule, Mr. Roosevelt challenged them to make a display of their culinary ability. The wager was taken up at once, and hence the the dinner. Cards of invitation of an amusing character were isued, onw hich the menu was indicated, with the names of the improvised cooks who were to concoct gumbo, lobster cutlets, plumb pudding, various salads, and coffee. About 50 guests were present...Course followed course in a tumultuous way. Culinary inspriations and cookery nocturnes of all flavors and tastes crowded one another. Anything like system was discarded, and this was thought likely to destry the artistic effects of this pot-luck picnic. Hungry guests were perfectly satisfied with whatever particular dish they happened to find before them...Appetites seemed whetted with the novelty of the banquet...Eating and drinking, laughter and gayety held their sway for a couple of hours...On the propostion of Mrs. Croly, the great success of the Pot-Luck Picnic having been firmly established, the lady insisted that such talent ought not to be forever lost, but that a club shoudl be formed, when similar dinners should be given...This propostiion was accepted by acclamation...Fortune and merit decided that the following ladies and gentlemen should become the high dignitaries of the Potluck Picnic Club..." [New York Times, March 26, 1879, (p. 5)].
One variation is the safari supper, where a group of neighbors physically move between different houses for each part of the meal. Typically, this involves the preparation of one course only (a starter, main course or dessert, etc), and visiting different neighbors for the other courses. Although it is a little difficult to explain, and does require careful and complex planning, the idea is relatively straightforward: for example, Neighbor A makes a starter, and is visited by Neighbors B and C. After this, Neighbor A moves to a different house, Neighbor D, and is joined by Neighbor E. Neighbors B and C go on to different houses also, but not the same one. Finally, a similar pattern for dessert: Neighbor A moves to Neighbor F's house, joined by Neighbor G. This style of eating has recently become popular as a charity fund raiser in rural Britain, and is seen as a good way of meeting different neighbors in the community by virtue of each participant having 6 separate guests.
Another variation on the potluck dinner is the rota meal. Participants take turns providing food for the entire group, rather than each participant bringing a dish. For regular meals with a fairly consistent set of participants, this dramatically reduces the amount of preparation effort required.
Slideluck Potshow (SLPS) is a non-profit organization devoted to building and strengthening community around food and art. Founded by advertising and editorial photographer, Casey Kelbaugh, in 2000, the New York City-based organization’s events now take place in about forty cities around the world. Slideluck Potshow sponsors exhibitions of artistic works, produced in slideshow format, designed to showcase works created by both novice and established artists. At each Slideluck Potshow event, the slideshow exhibition is preceded by a potluck-style dinner during which networking and mingling among attendees is encouraged. All guests are asked to contribute as the event is entirely dependent on participation.