The sun of summer sets before the work is done. I've lived by the notion of there not being enough hours in the day the past month. Ware shelves are filling up in preparation for the second firing our our anagama as well as the annual firing of Randy Edmonson's massive (and beautifully crafted) anagama in Farmville, VA. Aside from being one of the founders of Cub Creek, Randy is a professor of fine art at Longwood University in Farmville and a working artist. I've been lucky enough to earn space in his kiln by helping chop wood for the 5 day firing later this fall.
Spending time at his property has also left me with plenty of time to page through his extensive library of clay and other art related books. Somebody once told me of the dangers of looking at too much work by artists you admire. One seems to... appropriate certain aesthetics. At the same time I think it's very valuable to create work which fits into the context of one's time and surroundings.
Surely the realm of ceramics is no exception. My focus on the infinite permutations of the vessel have led me in numerous directions. Quite troublesome for writing artist statements, but good for working out many ideas at once.
I'm quite happy with the production work I've been doing. This arose out of a desire to discipline my throwing skills and work on a body which would be more likely to sell than conceptual wood fired wares. This body of work is made from a local red clay body in which I left many of the silica stones as a way to let the qualities of the natural clay speak freely. I created a slip out of the native white and applied it to the leather hard pots. Following this I have been doing brush work inspired by hakeme (stiff brush) work using brushes created from dried grasses from the field behind the studio. I really enjoy the process of this body and find that it really speaks of my location.
native red, native white slip, clear glaze
My wood fired works are divided into functional work and abstract vessels. The functional work is moving along nicely as I continue to get used to the qualities of the rough clay. Most of this body consists of cups (I'll be applying to quite a few cup exhibitions this fall,) plates and vases.
I'm very excited about the non functional bodies of wood fired work I'm currently working on. Cylindrical vases provide for a simple form upon which the fire will impart many of its unique qualities. I've also been trying to work on coil built jars. However, the native clays are not very plastic and therefore difficult to hand build. I have had a few survivors:
I've been fascinated by an abstraction of form I'm working through. These vessels are inspired the undulations in the lips of tea bowls and other loosely thrown forms as well as the drawings I've been doing of such forms. Drawings limit the way viewers perceive the form due to their 2-dimensionality. When one looks at a drawing of a bowl or vase they only perceive the contour. For all they know the round shape could be squashed. I've taken this idea and created some vessels which approach this quality of undulation.
I'm also fascinated by the way they contain both the physical space and the viewers eye in a way which prevents either from easily escaping – almost like a cave whose volume expands past the entrance. The space enters these forms and encounters turbulence due to the curled lip. In the same way the eye is drawn into these forms but isnt able to easily escape with any sort of natural flow or gesture.
A fascinating concept – a mysterious space which you can be aware of, but not fully interpret.
All of my work currently revolves around the idea of using ceramics as a means of understanding the effect of natural phenomena on man made objects. However, One can never truly 'study' these effects when certain aesthetic demands are put on each piece. The notion of form, surface, volume, and function take priority in most forms and overpower the way the object interacts with the fire.
With this in mind I've created some forms based on the concept of the brick or the block. These forms are created without any intentions of giving them a voice. Most have been made by pressing clay mixed with sawdust into or against molds. These forms speak of no gesture and contain no mark making like most of my work. I'm hoping that this 'blank slate' will best allow for the objects to be transcended by the fire and ash. I'm excited to see how they turn out.
My interest in collage continues to work its way into my schedule. I've been creating some small and large scale pieces with found materials. These are always a great way to reaffirm my ideas about letting material dictate form and surface. They offer a good break from working in clay and demand a little bit more of an eye for geometry and composition.
Aside from my own work, Cub Creek has been busy since my last update. Residents Tim Ayers and Ron Shaw have departed. Lane Kaufmann and his wife Mandi arrived earlier this month along with Mandy Stigant who recently graduated from USU with her MFA. It's been such a pleasure having them around. Both are great individuals with good heads and hearts. Lane's experience as an assistant to Dick Lehman has opened doors for many conversations about his work and ideas.
I am now the proud owner of www.mitchiburg.com. Please check it out for photos and any other updates.