Thursday, January 17, 2013

Memory Lane

While sorting through some boxes in the studio last year, I came across a number of old pots that had been packed away. In one box I found two different sets of five mugs that I made very early on in my ceramics career - I was probably no more than 18 when I threw them. While they are pretty decent, the sizes are not matched and the handles leave much to be desired, and of course I've long fallen out of love with using the electric kiln and low temp glazes. It seemed fitting, though, to find those at a time when I was starting to teach others to throw - in a way, it felt like coming full circle, since I am finally reaching that level of competence that I so desired when I was getting started. It's also been nice to have those mugs back in my kitchen lately, as a daily reminder that I don't have to be an expert to accomplish something useful.

I also had a chance to look at some pieces that I have not had side by side for some time - many permutations of a form that eventually turned out quite well... but I have not revisited it for years. At the time (in college) I must have made 5 or more similar to this. I still enjoy this shape, and I can see why I was drawn to it, but I think I have explored the idea as fully as I needed to. I've moved on to new forms and experiences now - for a few years, I have not been able to get the Emerge idea out of my head. It's nice, still, to look back to my roots and think a bit of where (and who) I used to be.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Avant-garde Tattoos

Art by Amanda Wachob
I found this beautiful tattoo by Amanda Wachob online quite some time ago, but at the time, I couldn't find any information about the artist. Later, while researching a paper about tattooing (for a folklore class, of course), I rediscovered her work, found her name and her online portfolio, and was blown away. I would definitely suggest that you read this interview with her, and check out her website (particularly the abstract and modern tattoos!) to see more of her creations.

"Avant-garde" isn't popular terminology that I see from people writing about tattoos, but it seems appropriate. I'm seeing some styles that definitely seem to be breaking the mold and going beyond the conventional heavy-black-outline styles influenced by Japanese tattooing and old sailor tattoos.  One term I am seeing a lot is "Art Brut," meaning raw art or rough art, and often called "Outsider Art" in English. Though I don't like his style as well (it is much darker and "dirtier" looking than I prefer), Ran Maclukin gives a great explanation of his work in relation to art brut. And I am kind of partial to these butterflies and these flowers that he has done.

Artist Unknown
My other suggestions in the art brut tattoo world? Check out Noon's website, or these tattoos of a landscape and birds and a tiny colorful bird by Lionel Fahy. Yann Black does some fantastic work, and I particularly like this woodpecker, this back piece, and this simple flower. As for impressive websites, Belly Button's is my favorite - very sleek! And bonus, Belly's tattoos are also awesome.

In a different vein, though still incredibly impressive, Anil Gupta has created some incredibly lovely, very detailed, and sometimes very colorful images on skin. See, for example: Van Gogh, Monet, phoenix, and orchids.

Locally, there are a number of very talented tattoo artists, but I have not seen anyone in Indiana working in new or innovative styles. Granted, most of the artists I mentioned above seem to be drawn to metropolitan areas such as New York City, so perhaps Indiana is just too conservative and rural to support art such as this. I'd be very curious to know, however, if anyone has come across any unusual tattoo art in the midwest!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Finding My Path

For awhile now, I have really been struggling with all of the possible careers I could pursue. My undergraduate degrees  - Japanese and Ceramics - never seemed to indicate a clear path in life. In fact, while I was in school, I felt pretty consistently torn between focusing on Japanese and working in some kind of international education type of job, or focusing on becoming an artist (I won't even get into the fact that I started out as a graphic design major - there were even more options in the mix when I was still considering that possibility!).

So, over the years since finishing school, I have been an artist, but I've also held a number of different jobs, in retail, in student services... At the moment when I embarked on each of those new adventures, I thought perhaps I finally had a job that could lead to a satisfying career. However, in every new position I've held, I have eventually gotten to the point of being distinctly certain I have no passion for the life ahead of me, were the job to become a career. And now, after two years in my current position, I have reached the end of my desire to pursue this particular path, as well.

It is time for a change. *drumroll, please* I am leaving my job.

About a year and a half ago, I decided it was high time to pursue an M.A., and I was fortunate to find that the Folklore program at I.U. is an incredibly good fit for my interests. My plan, at the time, was to simply be a part-time student. I could not possibly give up a comfortable full-time job, right? So I took a class here and there when I could fit it in, and more and more I found I was struggling to continue to care about that full-time job while school was so interesting. Don't misunderstand - I work with some very nice people, and I love what this office does for students. But administrative-type office work is not my calling.

On the side, I have kept up my work as a potter all these years because I will never be able to give that up. What I have discovered, though, is that I really want to immerse myself into this world, I want to live, breathe, exist amongst potters and pottery without feeling guilty that I am neglecting some other path in life. And I can do this as a folklorist.

Finally, I had to acknowledge that I could either take the long path to my dreams and continue taking just one or two classes at a time, or I could accept that change entails challenge, and try to speed up the process despite the difficulties it might involve. Being an AI or GA in the Folklore department would allow me to be a full-time student, and it would provide some funding - being offered a position was a dream come true. So, starting this fall, I'll be an Associate Instructor in the Folklore department, and I'll be a Folklore student working on a thesis about Indiana pottery, and I'll be a potter. For the first time in my life, I feel like everything fits together, and the career path ahead of me is no longer quite so full of compromises.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Potter's Art

Seizing upon the immanent artfulness of pottery, the potter can withdraw into isolation and ascend along the arc that ends in a transcendence of consciousness. Or, through the earthiness of technique and the compound significance inherent in the committed rearranging of the world, the potter can join the millions remaining on earth whose daily work brings them, roughly, directly, into awareness of their positions in the cosmos.
The Potter's Art by Henry Glassie

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Wise Words

“In the spirit of raku, there is a necessity to embrace the element of surprise. There can be no fear of losing what was once planned and there must be an urge to grow along with discovery of the unknown. In the spirit of raku: make no demands. Expect nothing. Follow no absolute plan. Be secure in change. Learn to accept another solution. Prefer to gamble on your intuition."
~Paul Soldner, "Raku, As I Know It"
NCECA, 1968

I, too, have felt the urge to be swept along by the tides of discovery in this art form, and I would like to study, on a larger scale, how raku has influenced the trajectory of the pottery tradition. Raku is a popular technique; but does it also embody a new philosophy in the ceramic arts of America?

In a very personal sense, though, I connect with this idea of embracing surprise and gambling on intution. Not only in my art, but also in the way I face the future. Though I appreciate the benefits of stability and predictability, I also find a great deal of comfort in knowing where I am, without always needing to know where I am going. I am comfortable building each new sculpture, feeling confident in my skills and in the form I create, and then leaving my work to the mercy of the fire and knowing I cannot control the results. In the same way, I choose to be comfortable with who I am and how I live my life in the present, knowing I have done my best to lay the groundwork for the uncertainties of the future. Make no demands, expect nothing, and learn to accept another solution when it arises... wise words, indeed.