Friday, November 1, 2013

Red-handed retrospect

I last wrote on the blog after being in residence at NCC in mid July.  Since then, works from the participating artists have arrived from all corners of the country; works have been curated and the exhibition has been hung.  In addition, certain pieces from the exhibition were photographed and posted online for sale.  This gave me the opportunity to see outcomes of many of the collaborations for the first time.  

Although one can only get so much information from an image, I enjoyed seeing how the work was transformed be each artist.  I found myself trying to decode each piece—who made it and then who glazed it—before confirming if I had guessed correctly by clicking on the thumbnail image. I imagine a similar process took place in the physical gallery space as well.  But, I think that seeing the exhibition in person would have allowed the viewer to make connections more fluidly given that all the works were in the same intimate space. 

I can see how this experience has changed me and how I view my work.  I had taken the unadorned surface of my work as a given; but I was challenged to reconsider this assumption when I saw how others had approached decorating my forms. Seeing my work in a new light challenged me to started incorporating some subtle patterning on the surface of some of my functional pieces, something that I don’t think I would have considered before being part of this collaboration.

I feel that the most rewarding part of this experience came from the relationships that were made with the participating artists and the NCC staff.  I truly enjoyed the conversations that came about throughout the process, both in person during the residency and via email.  Topics ranged from how to price work to issues of glaze chemistry; from questions of artistic license to conceptual concerns regarding pottery.

Exquisite Pots 2  rekindled my inner artistic dialog while connecting me to other artists.  I feel very fortunate that NCC offered me the chance to be supported while I took risks, learned, failed, and picked myself up to try again. It has been a wonderful experience and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Dots, stripes, squiggles and checkerboards

Red-Handed pieces in process

Polka dots, stripes, and squiggles. That is dots, big and small, and...LOTS OF COLOR! That's my approach to my own work and for the most part, my fellow collaborators. I was able to try some new things with all the bisque ware but I mostly kept to ideas I know well and even resurrected one of my favorites that I haven't used in a while; the checkerboard.

Ewer by Pete Scherzer ready for firing
I'm lucky because when it came to decorating the work for Red-Handed, I generally decorate in a way that almost goes against the form. I try to draw the viewers eye around the piece using asymmetry. It was OK if my decoration didn't really follow the lines of the piece because that's kind of what I go for in the first place.

That doesn't mean finishing the work for Exquisite Pots was easy. It was challenging in a way I had not experienced before. Picking up where the other artists left off had me procrastinating for a long time.

When I finally started, it was works by Pete and Ursula that proved to be somewhat effortless. Their surfaces seemed familiar to me even though the shapes were obviously different than mine. One interesting thing that occurred to me is that Pete and Ursula are the only artists that I have met in person. I don't know if this contributed to the familiarity.

The most difficult work to finish turned out to be Lisa and Holly's. Their organic surfaces and rounded, bumpy-lumpy shapes were often not conducive to my masking tape method of decoration. But reflecting on the finished pieces, these turned out to be some of the best.
Red-Handed pieces in process
I'm envious of the artists that got to collaborate in person at NCC. It would have been great to connect with them on a personal level other than just the window into their artwork. I often found myself questioning what each person must be like while I was considering and completing their works. Strong, whimsical, delicate, serious, funny, demure, determined, patient...I'm sure I'll cross paths with everyone at some point. Until then at least I have this experience to remember.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Questions and Answers - Liz Quackenbush on exploring ideas through collaboration

Q1: Are you exploring ideas in this work that you haven't had the time or motivation or freedom to explore in your own studio practice?

I would say yes!  I will be glazing the pots white with only spots of copper carbonate and then addressing them with lusters after that.  The lusters will be followed with fired on glass enamels when needed. When applying the maiolica glaze I normally use it took much longer because I found I really had to think through these unfamiliar forms and ask what each demanded.  The familiarity I have with my own work was gone and this unfamiliar work presented unfamiliar challenges.  I will be discovering attitudes and preferences, unlike my own, all along the way and will, somehow, have to make bed fellows with all of them to pull this off!

Liz Quackenbush

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The calm after the storm....

I thought I would share some reflections on my recent whirlwind residency at NCC. Over the course of my five days, I was able to work closely with Ursula and Jason in a variety of ways.  As Jason has already documented, he and I decided to step outside the standard format and create a series of five dishes that will be displayed on the wall as one piece.  He screen-printed his imagery onto wet clay slabs that I then draped over my bisque molds to create the form.

When I pulled the first piece off the mold, I was surprised by the extent to which his vibrant imagery had dominated my simple form.  Although I knew this was likely going to happen, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that there was an initial shock to my minimalist sensibility (Jason being a “more is more” kind of guy and me being a “less is more” kind of guy).  But, his surface began to grow on me as I further refined the form and distressed the edges.  It also helped when Jason went back into the form with stamps and line work that further softened the imagery.  Later, glaze and washes will further soften the image. 

The experience of having my simple dish “colonized” by Jason’s strong imagery prompted some great discussion between the artists in residence. What was the ideal balance between form and surface? How would two different artistic voices find balance within a single form?  Would the collaboration be a 50\50, 60\40 or even a 70\30 split?  Although we did not necessarily resolve these issues, our conversation was very productive and thought provoking. Throughout this process, we have tried to be respectful of the work that was being exchanged.  This was a heavy responsibility because I sincerely wanted my surface treatment (or lack thereof) to do justice to the other artist’s work.

However, this sensitivity to the other artist cuts both ways. I know that it has lead me to play it safe out of a fear that I would screw up their form.  This feeling I had was exacerbated by some glaze incompatibilities that had ruined several cups prior to coming to NCC.  Although this doubt and fear lingered in my mind, I didn’t want it to hold me back.  I wanted to be free to take risks and make bold choices, even if some of those choices might result in work that wasn’t necessarily exhibition worthy.

During my residency, I also consulted my wife, who is a printmaker that has participated in several collaborations such as this.  She challenged me to push my collaborations further; to take better advantage of the fact that the three of us were all in the same room and therefore had the advantage of working on each other’s wetwork.  Jason and I had already done so with the dishes and pitcher but I was unsure how Ursula and I would since our ways of working are so very different.  She and I brainstormed about how we could do this and ultimately we decided that we would need to add another element into the mix.

We came up with the idea that we would both create the same form that ultimately would be displayed together. We settled on one of Ursula’s signature forms-- the footed bowl; I, on the other hand, had not made this form before.  In keeping with the way I work, I chose to pare down her elegant form to the most basic design elements and leave the surface rough (see photo below).  Then, the forms would be exchanged so that they could be decorated\glazed by the other artist. Although my footed bowl is still in progress, I am pleased with how it compliments Ursula’s while drawing a sharp contrast. 

It has been a great learning experience to collaborate with other artists; this experience has definitely forced me to work outside my comfort zone. I would be remiss if I did not thank NC bringing me in to take part in this opportunity.  A big thanks also goes out to all the wonderful NCC staff that made my stay in Minneapolis such as a treat.  I can’t wait to see how all this work comes together for the exhibition.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Meanwhile, at NCC...

Lots of planning and many discussions among Hargens, Pintz and Burnett.
Above Jason is gathering his thoughts for Joe's work.

Friday, July 19th was filled with discussion among the three artists here.
One big topic was how much work really changes under someone else's surface decorations.
Typically Joe has no decoration and just a simple glaze on his work and
pictured above are Joe's server, mug and bowl with Jason's whimsical surfaces.

Jason Bige Burnett working his paper resist methods on Ursula's Hargen's platter.
Although there's not much break away from floral surfaces on Ursula's forms Jason plans to expand floral decor
through multiple surface styles.

Joe Pintz and Jason Burnett are working on an series of printed large dishes.
Holly Walker decorated Jason's cup and dinner plate, and now Jason has decided to
continue the collaboration be adding decals to their pieces.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Holly Walker: Red-Handed Ponderings

Pete Scherzer form, work in progress
Joe Pintz form,
work in progress
The thought I have kept in my head while working on the Red-Handed project is, “How can this be more than branding - my brand on your brand?” I pulled out all of my own test tiles with glazes over white slip, which is what I’m receiving - forms covered in white slip.  I’m used to a much richer palette of working over multi-colored slips.  Though it looks like a lot of test tile colors, I’m missing some of my basic hues.  Maybe this is good to be more limited.  The unfamiliar forms are requiring much more scrutinizing than I imagined. 

I have felt completely at home with Joe’s forms- strong, simply articulated, a sense of massiveness despite their actual size and weight.  They are the entry point into this new territory of glazing other’s pots as they feel like kin.  Then there is what I am calling Pete’s bobble tray.  It immediately called out for some chartreuse as I unwrapped it.  

Ursula Hargens form, works in progress
Ursula’s cups are so beautifully articulated that I’m almost afraid to cover them.  Gem-like is what I decided.  It will be interesting to compare how differently her sense of floral intricacy and vivaciousness will contrast with my sense of unabashed color wash. How to keep a light hand to not cover her sensitive form decisions is my challenge.

A number of potters make petal-like plates, myself included.  Jason’s cut petal edge plate has a handsome crispness with texture remaining on the bare edge.  I’ve been thinking that something Islamic-like is called for, maybe masked in areas, hiding the patterning in places.

Jason Bige Burnett form, work in progress
Did I mention how hard this is?  Maybe my next adventure will be with just black and white glazes.

- Holly Walker


I will always love... Test Tiles!

Pete Scherzer's test tiles getting a face lift courtesy of Dolly.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Glaze Testing and Question and Answer

Joe Pintz:

Q2: If you’ve had other collaborative experiences, how does this experience differ so far? If not, what were some preconceptions you had and how have they held up? I have not done anything remotely like this before. In fact, this whole project scares the heck out of me… that’s why I signed up to do it! I, too, have been staring at everyone’s bisqueware wondering what to do. Double checking how my glazes turn out on everyone’s test tiles is the first step. This part of it has been collaborating from a distance. I am very much looking forward to the face-to-face collaboration that will happen in July at the Northern Clay Center. Personally, I will have a much easier time reacting to wet clay while having the other artists there in the studio alongside me. Stay tuned.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Exquisite Pots II: Red-Handed - Questions and Answers

Every few weeks we will be sending out questions to the participating artists of Exquisite Pots II: Red-Handed to poke and prod them about their collaborative experience. Read, respond, and spur them with your own questions. Enjoy!

Holly Walker:

Q2:  If you've had other collaborative experiences, how does this experience differ so far? If not, what were some preconceptions you had and how have they held up?  My collaborative experiences in the past have mostly happened in shared time with wet work- my collaborators and I have been working in the same room, having conversations as we respond to what has just been built and handed over for exploration.  Responding to a bisqued surprise form which I had no input on is a totally different challenge.  As I have gathered the arriving work, I've been surprised with the delicacy and weightlessness of many of the pots.  I'm so accustomed to the solidity and weight of my own pinched coil work.  I wonder- are everyone else's fingers thinner, more tapered, less muscular than mine?  In two days, I will set all the work before me and try to envision each piece.

Pete Sherzer:

Q1:  It is early in the collaborative process, but what technical challenges have you encountered working with another makers forms/clays/glazes?  I haven't had any significant technical challenges yet. At this point, I have received most of the work from the other artists and fired tests to make sure my glazes will work on the different clay bodies. I have also spent a lot of time staring at the pots, trying to figure out what to do with them. I make my work with specific glazes in mind. The shapes, edges and textures on a piece all change the way a glaze behaves. The challenge with this work is to finish it successfully without being involved in the process up until now.

Q2:  If you've had other collaborative experiences, how does this experience differ so far? If not, what were some preconceptions you had and how have they held up?  I've never intentionally collaborated with other artists, but ceramics has a collaborative element. Wood kilns can't, or at least shouldn't, be done by one person. Studios are almost always shared, and large projects are often executed with assistants or employees. This project is interesting because its so clearly defined. In some ways it feels like a solo project, I have to figure out how to glaze specific pieces provided by other artists.

*Note: a video of Pete working in his studio can be seen at

Jason Bige Burnett:

Q2:  If you've had other collaborative experiences, how does this experience differ so far? If not, what were some preconceptions you had and how have they held up?  I collaborated with the illustrator/printmaker Eleanor Annand back in 2011 while we were Core Fellowship students at Penland School of Crafts. It was helpful that we lived together and worked in such close proximity. We shared interests in nautical themes and played off of that.  The highlight was that we were in a place that financially we could afford to make work that was true to its price and we could split the artist percentage of sales. See some of the work we created together below:

Collaborating with the artists of Exquisite Pots II: Red-Handed I'm very intimidated on so many levels (however very excited). These are artists I used to write papers on while I was an undergraduate student. It's surreal. This experience has been enriching on many levels. First, making the work without decorating it has allowed me to focus more on form and understand the construction process more. My work forces me to work slowly because of the decoration process that primarily happens at leather hard and my attention draws primarily to the surface treatments. Now, I'm starting to think more about form and creating vessels that push these surfaces and the techniques.

Second, I'm not only working with one artist who I communicate with on a daily basis, but instead with artists who have busy lives as studio artists and professors, are in different time zones, and more. Communication through e-mails and phone calls has been good, but it’s important to know exactly what to communicate while having them on the phone. For example being able to express concerns of glaze fit and more. In fact I'm running several different bisque temp firings for the artists because I want to lessen any chances of fit issues. Finally, having the opportunity to work with these artists I feel is the most honest opportunity to have an education in being a studio artist. I'm looking forward to hearing from them ways my work could improve, and how their decisions and choices can better influence or educate my own. Plus, by decorating their surfaces it challenges my visual vocabulary and decoration methods simply by taking me out of my own comfort zone.

When working with Eleanor we were friends, roommates, and made work over shared and similar backgrounds. Now, I'm working with seven artists; three that I've met it small increments of time, and four that I'd never met before in my life until talking to them on the phone.

I won't be able to do a lot of screen print transfers and that's been somewhat of a downer, but to have the work arrive glazed and live with it in my studio, looking at it, and analyzing how to decorate it has been extremely rewarding. Personally its neat to think that the work they have sent is complete, but the understanding that it's not finished excites me. The challenge here is how do I decorate it while keeping its original integrity. Essentially, how do I compliment what they've already done? It's exactly what we're doing by decorating the bisque work; I just have different information provided in front of me.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Printing Plates

Blank dinner plates drying for bisque.

For the past week I've been very busy in the studio making dinner plates for Exquisite Pots II.
Above are all the plates that will be shipped out to each participating artist. 
Of course lets not forget the extras that were made because of all of my fears.
The fear that something will go wrong (and it will go wrong.... the very last minute.) 
Glazes crazing, popping off, kiln malfunctions, cracking n' crazing, pots lost in shipment, slipping out of hands, cats knocking them off tables, unexpected family emergencies, and moving to new studios...
the list goes on. 
So I'm trying to work hard and quickly to send out my wares to each artist. I'll have opportunities for Joe, Lisa and Ursula to decorate my plates at Northern Clay Center, but I'd rather use that time to decorate their surfaces and focus on their work during that time.

When I finished making their plates I started on two series of my own. I'll select a large dinner plate from both series and ship them out to NCC for the exhibit. 

Quick sketches for the Doodle Plates (First Series).The first stage is complete for the Doodle Plates.  
The second series (below) consist of image transfer dinner plates.
Patterns are screen printed onto newsprint paper with Amaco underglazes and transferred with mason stained slips.

Transfer Process finished and ready for hump molds.Rims trimmed and prepped for additional decoration. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Creative Challenges

For those of you who are not familiar with my surface decoration process mostly everything I do happens at the leather hard stage. Unfortunately that doesn't work well when some work is very ornate and/or would be shipped in freezing climates. Traveling far distances from Hawaii and California wasn't helpful either.  So what to do!?   

I considered each person's pots and surfaces as an opportunity for creative challenges. The first question was "How the hell am I going to decorate work when I can't decorate it at leather hard?" Fortunately, my processes include decals and luster. So instead of decorating everyone's work from the wet or bisque state it worked out to respond to the glazed pot and how to still create a unique and cohesive voice from both myself and the the artist. 

Over the phone or via e-mail I was able to touch base with each potter and discuss what the best plan would be. From Marc, Pete, Holly and Liz I'll be decaling all their work where as from Joe, Ursula and Lisa I'll have an opportunity at NCC this summer to work with each artist.

Pictured above is a sampling of work that has arrived (Walker, Scherzer, and Pintz). It's a real treat to live among these pieces in my studio and to consider how each piece will be decorated and executed. Notes, sketches, and pieces of masking tape to add spontaneous ideas have been very helpful. Thank goodness for test tiles because decorating these artists pots is very intimidating!  

Giddyup Cups

Screen-printed Images ready for transfer.Mint Julep Trophy Cups in progress.Cups complete and ready for bisque firing.

A few studio snapshots of the cups in progress. I'm really eager to see how the other artists approach these same forms.