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Jason Hess – Plinth Gallery Artist Interview

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

Jason Hess is an “avid wood firer”. For over 15 years his research has focused on the alchemy of the process—how the clay color, wood type, kiln design, and ash dispersion work together to “render a surface that is unattainable in other ways” at high temperature. His work is either utilitarian or refers to utility in form while the presentation is more like characters relating to one another.  A desire to have objects that fulfill specific purposes inspires him to make functional pots. The infinite and elusive variety of texture and color attainable through the various making and firing processes has generated an interest in the notion of presentation. Some of his work is presented so that a viewer might notice and appreciate subtle diversities in form and surface. By grouping similar forms of differing size and color the compositions create a visually dynamic display, which invites the viewer to enjoy the tactile nature of each individual piece and how they relate to one another. -  Jonathan Kaplan, Plinth Gallery

For more information please visit Plinth Gallery.

For more information on Jason and his work visit The Nevica Project.

Jason will be giving a one day workshop April 7. 9 AM to 4 PM; he will demonstrate his methods for creating wheel thrown tall bottle forms and teapots, including construction of his press molded spouts. He will also present information on wood-firing techniques and his many years of involvement with the process. In this workshop their will be plenty of opportunity for discussion. All levels are welcome. Registration fee is $75 and full catered lunch provided by Fuel Cafe is included.  For more information call Plinth Gallery @ 303 295-0717.

Tell us about yourself.

I am an Associate Professor of Art and Head of the Ceramics area at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff AZ. I have taught here for the past 12 years. Before that I taught for 2 ½ years at McNeeses State University in Lake Charles, LA. I have a Bachelors Degree from Beloit College, Beloit Wisc. And an MFA from Utah State University.


When and how did you discover the passion for ceramics?

It was in high school at St. Paul Academy in St.Paul, MN. We were required to take art classes starting in 7th grade and the art department at SPA was excellent. I took Printmaking, painting and ceramics. Very quickly I became enamored with ceramics. I chose a college (Beloit College) that seemed to have a good ceramics program though art was not my intended course of study. When I visited the College they were firing a wood burning kiln which I had never seen before. So, I ended up attending Beloit and over the course of 4 years decided that Ceramics was indeed what I would study and major in. We had a great time in the studio at Beloit and I knew that I wanted to pursue graduate study. I then went to Utah State University to get an MFA.


How would you describe yourself and your style?

I describe myself as a potter who makes work that is predominantly utilitarian or refers to utility. I am interested all aspects of ceramics, its history, traditions, processes and technologies. The vast majority of my work is fired in wood burning kilns. I enjoy the interaction between the flame/ash and clay surface. I am interested in clay color and surfaces that are largely unglazed except by the firing process.


One of the hardest things for artists to do is to stand apart from everyone else. How long did it take you to come up with your own style and signature look?

I think this is an ongoing process. I think it started for me in graduate school with the sets of bottles that I was making and still make.

What are you showing at Plinth Gallery this month? How did you come up with the title for the show?

I am showing new work at Plinth.  Tea Pots and Bottles, and Flower Bricks and Mugs, etc… They are all new ideas that have been made in the last 6 months, much of the show was fired in the past month. The work is almost all woodfired in a wood/soda kiln. It is also predominantly porcelain.


You are an avid wood firer, will you explain you fascination for wood firing.

I am interested in the wood fire process because of the variety of surfaces that are attainable. I have not found another way to generate surfaces that are similar or comparable. We also happen to have an extensive wood kiln facility where I teach, so I have a great many options and it is a big part of what I teach.

 

How would you explain your attraction for functional ceramics and does the wood ash play into your functional work?

I enjoy the connection between maker and user and the idea that I am making something for a specific use. I generally make things that are intended to be fired in specific areas of the kiln. So, I take into consideration what I make and have an idea of the kind of surface that I want to achieve (crusty, shiney, glassy etc..)

How do you maintain a healthy work and life balance?

I try not to work at the wheel for more that 3 – 5 hours at a time and to stand up often so that I maintain a decent posture. I also tend to work in spurts, so like maybe 3 – 4 weeks of making,  then a week of firing and then a break. My job and making art keeps me pretty busy, maybe 6 days per week to take care of everything. So, perhaps its not the healthiest work/ life cycle at the moment.

It is said that, in order to become renowned, an artist has to be a good self-promoter. Do you consider yourself one, and are there recipes for that?

I do not consider myself to be a good self promoter. I started by entering as many national competitions as possible in grad school and in the few years after. From this my work was published a number of times in Ceramics Monthly, Art and Perception and Ceramics Technical. I have also written for magazines, organized conferences/symposia and have been on panel discussions at the annual NCECA Conference. So I’ve just tried to be as active as I can in the field.

What do you love most about your studio?

That its at school and that I am an active part of our school/studio community.

What advice can you give aspiring artists struggling to find their own voice and look?

I tell them to look at as much work by as many people as possible. Take workshops, get as many perspectives as possible. Above all, make lots of work and fire it as well as stand back and think about what they are making and why. It mostly perseverance to succeed in ceramics.

 

Elizabeth Robinson – Plinth Gallery Artist Interview

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

ELIZABETH ROBINSON: “Gestating”

“Elizabeth Robinson’s work is a very personal statement embodied in accessible work that is meant to be used. Her pottery is an intimate statement about the importance of the handmade object and the role such objects have in our daily rituals. Her attention to detail in both form and decoration results in work that is a joy to experience.” - Jonathan Kaplan, Plinth Gallery

Please join Plinth Gallery in welcoming Elizabeth for her, opening reception,  March 2, 6-9 PM.

Exhibition on display March 2 – 24th. 

Second Saturday March 10, noon-9pm

For more information on Elisabeth Robinson please go to her website.  And if you are in the market for beautifully designed postcards visit Beth at Postcards for Artists.  And to see the upcoming exhibitions at Plinth Gallery make the jump to their website. 

Tell us a little about yourself!

I am the mom of two small boys and a self employed artist and designer. I live in a small, remote town in Northwestern Colorado, and by remote I mean one stoplight and 55 miles by small roads from the nearest other small town. I have an undergraduate degree in biology, a master’s degree in fine art and travelled the world as a child.

I know that you are a Pottery Mom, how do you divide your time between work, children and life?

There’s never enough of it to go around, but I focus on trying to keep my priorities straight. What works for me is to have a clear daily routine with the kids which prioritizes their physical and emotional needs while also building in little spaces of time at home to get work related things done like designing postcards, communicating with galleries and customers, bookkeeping etc. Often I am working on these things late at night or early in the morning since I don’t want what my kids remember the most to be Mom staring at a computer screen or telling them to be quiet because she’s on the phone. Most importantly, as far as studio time goes, is that I have a work schedule, and barring illness or family crises, I don’t deviate from it. The most challenging part of that is, I can’t stay late or go in early when I need to get more work done, I’ve got to get what I can done in the time I have.


How did you become an artist?

I think I’m one of those people who have always been an artist. I remember wandering around as a kid with my sketchbook and drawing pencils and books on how to draw birds, horses and kitties. I always loved to make stuff and had a particular fascination with useful things. For some reason I didn’t like the idea of majoring in art in undergraduate school, but I was always taking a studio class. By the time I graduated, I had decided I wanted to be a potter. I realized I wasn’t going to be very good if I didn’t give it my full attention, so, I went forward with that, travelling the country and working in lots of different studios before going to graduate school.


I know you live in a remote part of Colorado, how do you get your name and artwork out, and keep current?

Honestly, Facebook is probably my best tool in this case. It makes it so easy to keep in touch with old art friends, colleagues and teachers and share what we’re up to.  I also have a Facebook studio page, Elizabeth Robinson Studio: which helps to promote my work and inform the general public. I try to keep up with maintaining my website and sending out email newsletters, but with 2 boys under 5, my computer time is limited. Living in such a remote area is helpful in the sense that there are few distractions.  With small children at home, my studio time is limited, but my focus is there, so I get the work done, and keep sending it out.

How would you describe your style? One of the hardest things for artists to do is to stand apart from everyone else. How long did it take you to come up with your own style and signature look?

Years ago I came across a blogger who described my work as: “your grandmother’s china meets wabi sabi.” That sounds about right. I’m interested in the junction between mass and delicacy, refinement and physicality, loose and formal lines. I think my work comes off as sophisticated and awkward at the same time.

I can honestly say that I’ve put little thought into developing a ‘style.’ When it comes to making things, I’ve depended first on instinct, then an awareness of my interests, and followed it up with a healthy dose of analysis. That last part I learned in Grad School. In one sense, I have a fairly modernist point of view in that I think that many people can pursue an idea or work with a similar inspiration and the work will have a uniqueness to it that is reflective of that person’s individuality. Not that there aren’t good copyists out there, but I think you need to look at a person’s body of work over time to determine if that is the case.

To have a ‘style’ that is your own and recognizable depends on having a fair amount of consistency in the work over time, either in aesthetic, subject matter or concept. I would never recommend, however, that someone stay with a body of work just for the sake of developing a style. I think that if you dig deep and make the work that is most interesting to you that the rest will follow, then go ahead and market the hell out of it.

 

How has your work evolved over the years?

The body of work I have been pursuing for the last 10 years, which has become very focused on the surface of the pot, and imagery that creates ever shifting compositions based on perspective, started in graduate school with an interest in pattern, decorative motifs and a lot of printmaking. Before that I was primarily interested in form and firing methods that created complex surfaces through atmospheric effects, wood and soda firing mainly. Gradually I realized that I wanted to deal with the surfaces more intentionally through my own hand and the making process itself, this process of activating the surface has evolved from thick slip painted on in distinct areas of pattern and fired with an atmospherically sensitive glaze to the layers of color and imagery that is characteristic of my work right now.  This latest evolution became firmly established when I set up my studio in Rangely and for the first time only had access to one little electric kiln instead of a kiln yard full of wood, salt, soda and reduction kilns. The surface wasn’t going to be complex an interesting unless I put it there myself.  As this aspect of my work evolved the surfaces of the pots became smoother and the forms became simpler, mostly as a result of my concentration on what I was doing with the surface, but also because I was working with a mid range porcelain that’s pretty, but has a lot of limitations. My work is in a period of transition right now. After years of small and simple porcelain forms, mostly dinnerware, I’ve switched to a terra cotta clay and am excited to be exploring larger pieces and working with the earthy qualities of this material.

What will you be showing in your solo show at Plinth Gallery opening this week? How did you come up with the title for the show?

The show is titled ‘Gestating” and it’s going to be a bit of a mix. I am showing some of my favorite porcelain pieces that I’ve saved back over the past year as well as some brand new terra cotta pots.

A little over 5 years ago I became pregnant with my first son who was born in the summer of 2007, and my second son was born in the spring of 2010. During this time my work was present, vital, but going through a period of refinement, constancy. I’m done having babies but I feel my work is now in a process of developing into something new.  I have to admit I feel a bit like a pregnant woman who shows up at the pool in a bikini, not because she thinks she looks cute, but because it’s the only thing that fits, and she might as well own up to it.

What is your inspiration for your pieces?

My work is inspired by a mix of global folk traditions and modern industrial forms, including my mother’s childhood teacup collection, decorative motifs and modes of ornamentation, landscape and painting. I take what is familiar and comforting and mix it with a bit of the unexpected.


What keeps you motivated?

I have always been driven to make things so I’ve never needed a whole lot of motivation to get into the studio. I admit, however, that sometimes after a period of time away from the studio it’s hard to get going again. Also, at the end of a making cycle, or after a big deadline, I usually take a break, usually because I’ve gotten behind in other things and need to catch up. Our family’s budget depends on some income from my studio, so money is certainly a motivating factor, as are show deadlines. Also, given that I have 2 small children at home, and time is even scarcer than money, it’s imperative that I have a work schedule and stick to it, so in that sense, just having the opportunity to go to the studio is a motivating factor, whether I feel like it or not.


Please tell us about your other business.

I have a home based graphic design business called Postcards for Artists. I focus on doing custom layouts for postcards, business cards, brochures, etc. I have always been comfortable on the computer, and my goal is to make the process of creating promotional materials streamlined, affordable and easy for artists, individuals, small businesses or whoever. I can help people through the process of picking their images, choosing their text and offer multiple layout options, or I can just do exactly what they already know they want. I keep it casual and easy and cater especially to those who aren’t comfortable with this part of the process or who need to focus their energies elsewhere. I’m good at working with the last minute deadlines artist are often faced with, and I think I have a knack for looking at someone’s work, or talking to them, and knowing how to design the card to suit their style. I love it, I get to know so many great people and it’s a great source of extra income that I can fit into day to day life at home with the kids.


You, like most people enjoy the process of making and didn’t get into it for the sake of “business”. But eventually you found yourself having to make the transition from crafter to a businessperson. What have you learned so far and what advice can you give others in the same situation?

Oh man, I am still trying to figure that out! I know that the key is following through on your commitments, keeping good records, meeting deadlines and always putting your best work out there. Being easy to find, taking good pictures, and communicating quickly and well. Easier said than done!


What advice can you give aspiring artists struggling to find their own voice and look?

1. Make LOTS of work and keep working even when you don’t feel like it or when mistakes happen. If the work doesn’t turn out, do it again, keep at it until you have a real sense of completion to the idea. This, of course, is an excellent quote on that subject by Ira Glass.

Ira Glass

2. Seek honest critiques from people whose opinion you respect. Listen to their input, take what is useful to you and let go of what is not.

3. Follow your instincts.

4. Don’t be in a hurry to show or sell, take as much time as you can letting your work be just for you. Once you start thinking more about money and audience there are aspects of that which inevitably influence what you make. That’s not a bad thing, there is a lot that is relevant and important to consider when it comes to audience and finding a home for the things you make, but the uniqueness of your work will develop best if there is a good incubating period away from these things, and that’s much easier to get BEFORE you start showing and selling. JMHO.

Todd Shanafelt – Plinth Gallery Artist Interview

Thursday, February 9th, 2012



As It Happens by Todd Shanafelt

Todd Shanafeltʼs ceramic sculptures chronicle his process of the “deconstruction or devolution” of the vessel form. Using mixed media as well as clay, Shanafelt creates highly personal narratives that that question relationships, whether it be between the human component and the natural world or other. His pieces speak of his reaction to “the profound disconnect throughout the world”.  He adds that “our world has obviously become rapidly connected, which has its wonderful advantages”, he states, “however, we have also become less and less sensitive to the subtleties of our relationships and the reverence of them, this idea is very personal to me and I feel increasingly prompted to create work that somehow address this”. – Jonathan Kaplan

 Reception rescheduled to February 10.

Exhibiton Dates: February 3-27
 Plinth Gallery * 3520 Brighton Blvd. * Denver, Colorado

  Visit Plinth Gallery’s website for more information on Todd’s show. 

For more  information on Todd Shanafelt please visit his website. 

Why did you decide to become an artist and could you imagine doing anything else? If so, what?

I think a lot of artists have said this — but ‘it’ chose me I think. Like something stuck to the bottom of your shoe. It has never really not been there. I could imagine myself doing something in the natural environment far away from civilization — something like studying insects, sea life, plants, rocks, etc.

How did you become an artist?

Again, I think it has always been there. It didn’t take much nurturing I think. No big museum visits, no high dollar art schools, just a huge sense of curiosity to make things with my hands and then re-make them, then respond and re-make, etc. a never ending game.

How would you describe your style? One of the hardest things for artists to do is to stand apart from very one else. How long did it take you to come up with your own style and signature look?

The clay material seemed to have a peculiar voice and attitude on its own — so I think I learned after sometime that I didn’t need to control it completely…that instead, I could collaborate with it more. That was exciting to me in college — when I found this out through working, I thought, wow, every push I give it, it gives back something on its own — and usually, something better than something I came up with.

The ‘style’ I worked in for many years came from trying to imitate other materials with clay — such as metal. My ‘art museum’ was the family garage and the natural world found around me in Estes Park, CO where I was pretty darn fortunate to grow up. I think the harsh contrast between the greasy, cold garage and the magnificent flora and fauna surrounding me there in CO impacted me and continues to influence my work. I am intrigued with these juxtapositions of human made and nature made beauty — as well as questioning what beauty is…since my definition of beauty has evolved over the years as I continue to learn how to see.

What keeps you motivated?

Listening and observing the world around me — sound bits from world events — politically, socially, environmentally, etc. Thinking about what kind of society we are leaving to the next generation has now become paramount in what my work looks like…so for example, I’ve become more implicit and illustrative by using human and animal ceramic figurines in my work.

What or who inspires you?

Rafael Perez is a ceramic/sculptor artist friend of mine who works in Rioja, Spain near Bilbao — I met him at an exhibition we were both in together in Valencia, Spain about 9 years ago. His process is almost more inspiring to me that the outcome of his works — although they are breathtaking objects that hit a cord with me visually for some reason…again, I think they define beauty to me that relates to what I grew up with in the early years surrounded by mountains (which mountains are created out of sometimes violent events, leading to incredibly exciting peaks, valleys, etc.)..

Anish Kapoor is another art hero of mine. Again, not always his finished works, but his processes intrigue me most.

What are your secrets for managing your time wisely?

None — work when you can…but I tend to need real vigorous cardiovascular exercise before getting into the studio or else I feel stale and uninspired…in short, the ‘juices’ need to be flowing.

Who would you like to trade places with for one day? Why? If you could live anywhere in the world – all expenses paid – for one year, where would that be? Why?

Somewhere in northern Norway I think — where we could cross country ski day in/day out — and take everything in — including the incredible minimal light there during the winter months — isolation and seclusion in such a place is therapeutic to me — and my wife and kids would like that too…..I think! who’s paying??

You, like most people enjoy the process of making and crafting and didn’t get into it for the sake of “business”. But eventually you found yourself having to make the transition from crafter to a businessperson. What have you learned so far and what advice can you give others in the same situation?

Yes, my first thoughts like most were — OK, I’m going to be having a family and dependents…how am I going to do this???? I didn’t think much about it though until I began thinking about marrying someone — so you want to support them. I scrambled and realized that I could be a studio artist AND teach and earn a living at the same time. I definitely wanted to be maker first and foremost…and I am still learning how to teach — which has been exciting too — and that ‘process’ has taught me a lot about what I am making too…

What advice can you give aspiring artists struggling to find their own voice and look?

I’ve heard this before too — don’t pick up any art magazines or even the internet — or youtube — that practice can then begin to put blinders on you….however, i did just that in college starting out — I think it helped see the range of possibilities, but it did immediately set me in a ‘track’ — it is then important to be able to consciously get out of it and make new work…so there is a balance…I occasionally read something, but I try to look at a broad range of work — not just ceramic based…in retrospect, I think I’ve always been more interested in looking at non-ceramic objects and imagine the transition from that object into clay and then the possibilities come to mind…

Museums are a very good thing — but simply put — just be curious about the world around you and follow your instincts.

 

Artist Interview – Vasi Hîrdo, Editor of Ceramics Now

Monday, February 6th, 2012

I’m back with an Artist Interview; it’s been a few months since I’ve featured someone.  Today Vasi Hîrdo the Editor of Ceramics Now has graciously accepted my request for an interview!  Vasi and his team published the first edition of Ceramics Now in December.  It is an impressive first issue, with many prominent artists’ contributions, like Arthur Gonzalez, Roxanne Jackson, Carol Gouthro, they also interviewed many of the artists from the Denver Art Museum’s exhibition Overthrown: Clay without Limits, and many more.  If you’re not familiar with Ceramics Now make the jump to their website and subscribe now!  Their next issue will be launched in March! 

Over the last few months Vasi and I have frequently emailed each other and it has been a great pleasure getting to know him.  A few weeks ago I got the brilliant idea to feature the man behind the scenes of Ceramics Now and I was thrilled that he accepted.  Without further ado, here is Vasi Hîrdo’s interview! 

Vasi also writes a blog, where he writes about ceramics, contemporary art and music. www.vasihirdo.com

The first issue of Ceramics Now with Arthur Gonzalez on the cover.

Tell us a little about yourself!

 My name is Vasi Hîrdo and I am a young ceramics student from Cluj-Napoca, Romania. I have liked contemporary ceramics for about five years, but have only started to work and research in the field since two years ago. I am the founder and editor at Ceramics Now Magazine.

Memories, 2010, Terra-cotta, Wood

Please tell us a little about Ceramics Now!

Ceramics Now is the newest contemporary ceramic art publication in the world. We are featuring profiles, works and interviews with new and world-recognized ceramic artists, as well as reviewing exhibitions and projects. Our first issue was published in December 2011, and is introducing more than 40 interviews and articles with ceramic artists and creative minds.

Memories, 2010, Terra-cotta, Wood

Please tell us how you decided to start Ceramics Now?

I started the project about a year ago, but the idea of creating a magazine came up only after a couple of months. Initially, Ceramics Now was a website on which I featured a few ceramic artists I knew about, with the purpose to show their works to my colleagues and friends. It was easy to start it because I was always a fan of interesting websites and I knew how to maintain and promote a website like this.

The idea of creating a magazine came up after I saw that there was a real interest in Ceramics Now (the number of visitors and the emails I received kept rising), and after I searched the internet for similar websites – and found none. I sketched a little plan on paper and then I started doing interviews on a regular basis.

Paleo-Hebrew alphabet, 2011, Stoneware

I have read on your website ceramicsnow.org that the staff is a group of students. What is the average age of the Ceramics Now staff? Are all the students studying ceramics in college? How did you find a dedicated group?

As we speak, I am trying to gather more people to help develop Ceramics Now. We are all in college or high school, and I guess the average age here is around 21.

I have a lot of enthusiasm for this project, and I really hope to transfer little bits of it to my colleagues. It is hard finding a dedicated group; I’m still working on it.

Habitat, 2011, Terra-cotta with underglazes and slip

What has been the biggest challenge of starting Ceramics Now?

Tight schedules. In November I worked non-stop on organizing the articles for the first issue, then on proofreading and correcting everything. Radu Ariesan, Andrei Sincraian and I sometimes stayed up till 5 am just to finish everything in time.

In the meantime (I have no idea when that happened) I was also organizing the first edition of Ceramics Now Exhibition. And school was on the eleventh plan I think.

Other than that, I can’t recall another big challenge. I am a calm person :) .

Habitat, 2011, Terra-cotta with underglazes and slip

How did you become an artist?

I would love to become an artist. I still have plenty to learn, research and experiment, but hopefully someday I will be able to think of myself as an artist. And if not in practice, in my soul I will always be.

What was it that made you want to start creating? Did something specific trigger it?

My teacher, Gavril Zmicala, was the man who triggered the passion for ceramics in me. Before that, I knew nothing about ceramics or art. His infinite passion and steadiness made me appreciate contemporary ceramics and the people who are doing it! When I create a new piece, I am usually very patient.

Please tell us what you are currently making in clay.

I am currently working on my certificate (diploma). I am making a big (1.6 x 1.2 x 0.3 meters), heavy wall piece made out of 16 blocks of sponge drowned in clay slip. Inside the blocks there will be some ‘surprises’ which the viewers can only see if they throw things or destroy the blocks. The whole scene could transform into a performance…

What keeps you motivated?

The desire of making something great and noticed, I want to be one of those who have the power to change something in good (no matter how small), not the one who will be changed by others. The fact that Ceramics Now is getting more and more appreciations makes me feel like I am on the right path, and that the end of path is looking great. Also, the prospects of me living and working in Iceland are also very motivational.

What or who inspires you?

There are lots of things that inspire me, like good music, interesting documentaries, reading and seeing art works. I am also very passionate about Iceland and its culture. They are incredibly open-minded, calm people that seem to live peacefully in an amazing scenery. Almost anything I read about them is a constant source of inspiration for me.

I’m also passionate about contemporary art, magazines, design, architecture, cycling, equestrianism and lots more. There are also a number of amazing people who inspire me, like Dragos Bucurenci, Cristian Lupsa, or the staff at ColectivA.

From left to right: Vlad Rus, Radu Ariesan, Cora Pojaru, Vasi Hirdo

You have come such a long ways at such a young age, what is your next project and where do you see yourself in ten years?

 Ceramics Now is my next project. I am committed to it and I have very interesting plans for the next years. I want to see it grow and to be recognized as a fresh, innovative and contemporary publication. For the next issues we are working on special features on European, American and Japanese ceramics, and interviewing very interesting artists.

On a personal level, I see myself traveling a lot and discovering new boundaries of mine as a human being. I know it sounds hard to understand, but that would be my reason for traveling.

I’m also planning on studying at the Icelandic Academy of the Arts beginning this summer. This is the thing I am most excited about!

Vasi Hirdo in the summer of 2011. Background: Untitled work

What advice would you give to ceramic artists trying to get published?

 They should email us! We are a young and passionate team and surely they will find a good friend in us.

It is important for an artist to have his works seen by creative people, or by people who are looking for inspiration and motivation. That is why I encourage all the artists to first establish an internet presence, then to seek for publishers.

From the reception of Ceramics Now Exhibition.

Vasi Hirdo www.vasihirdo.com

Editor at Ceramics Now Magazine www.ceramicsnow.org

Jim Kraft – Plinth Gallery Artist Interview

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Jim Kraft’s work is compelling yet deceptive. Kraft builds large container forms by using small pieces of cut or torn clay which is constructed in such a way as to appear as a completely different material.  This manipulation of the clay creates a visual deception, of baskets constructed of wood, fiber or cork pieces when in reality, they are ceramic.  

Seattle-based Kraft has worked in ceramics for over 30 years, and likes the idea of being a part of the long history of people making things with their hands. He has described his own work as an evolution of ideas, often influenced by the natural world and native cultures. Kraft often works with the idea of smaller parts making up the whole, and this can be seen clearly in pieces such as “White Keep” or “Kala”.  These large vessels are made using coil and brick-like pieces, or cut and torn clay parts assembled to create a vessel which appears basket-like.  Kraft’s use of texture in the clay is exciting, and this exploitation of texture, combined with his use of natural colors for surface treatment, further trick the eye into seeing a different material. – Jonathan Kaplan, Plinth Gallery

Ceramic Constructions” opens at Plinth Gallery on First Friday, November 4th, from 6-9pm. This exhibition will be on display during Denver Art Week and through November 26th.

For infromation please go to Jim’s website and to see the upcoming exhibitions at Plinth make the jump to their website

HOW DID YOU BECOME AN ARTIST?
I think I became a creative person first, it wasn’t until later that I thought of myself as an artist. As a child I loved to draw and I had a strong connection w nature. I was inquisitive. As time went on and I took art classes in school I realized I liked to work with my hands, to make things. Plus I had an innate desire to express myself. I would say it was when I was an adult and I had a career in ceramics that I started to think of myself as an artist. Perhaps I could see that others thought me an artist and that made me an artist. I think of myself as a creative person and a maker of things.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR STYLE?
My style is what bubbles up from my interest in the vessel form, my interest in texture, my interest in nature and my interest in how previous cultures have distilled or combined these same elements. I want clay to look like clay. I meet it halfway, I don’t wish to over power it.

WHAT IS YOUR INSPIRATION FOR YOUR PIECES?
The vessel form in general and the things I mentioned in the previous answer; nature and other cultures. I’m generally inspired to be creative and to follow in the path of a long line of people who made objects with their hands… for ceremony or every day use.



WHAT KEEPS YOU MOTIVATED?

The need to be creative. To evolve ideas. I see the ideas in my head and go from there. I also take successful aspects of a series and build on those aspects in the next series.

ARE YOU A FULL TIME ARTIST?
Yes.

WHAT OR WHO INSPIRES YOU?
That’s a difficult question to answer as I don’t think I am directly inspired by anything. It’s a filtering and distilling of many things like travel, other visual art, nature, music, beauty, decay. If I had to say though I’d mention the cave painters, van Gogh, basket weavers,
Joni Mitchell, Cary Grant, Gandhi, John Merrick, Steve.

HOW DO YOU MAINTAIN A HEALTHY LIFE AND WORK BALANCE?
I’m a spin addict and I get enough sleep and I can sit around and do nothing for hours on end. And I travel.

ART BUSINESS?
Make peace w the fact that the Art World is a necessary evil. There is art and then there is the art world. Do your best to have integrity and don’t be seduced by the art world to become famous.

WHAT ADVICE CAN YOU GIVE ASPIRING ARTISTS STRUGGLING TO FIND THEIR OWN VOICE AND LOOK? 

Make what you want to make not what you think you should make. Let it come out, don’t think about it too much.  Art is another language, not one of words and ideas.

Kristen Kieffer – Plinth Gallery Artist Interview

Friday, October 7th, 2011

 

The graceful forms, elegant patterns and lively colors of Kristen Kieffer’ s  “Lovely Intangibles”, will be on display at Plinth Gallery during October.  This exhibition, featuring all new work from the Massachusetts-based ceramic artist, opens “First Friday” October 7th with an artist reception from 6-9pm.   

Kristen will also instruct a two-day workshop October 8-9 in the Plinth Gallery studio.  The workshop will focus on altering forms, and decoration techniques such as stamping, slip-trailing, sponging and resists. Cost is $250/person which includes lunch, and interested persons should email the Gallery for more information.  

Kristen’s website and blog KiefferCeramics.com 

 Tell us a little about yourself!

I am a full-time studio potter working from my home in north central Massachusetts. I teach 5-8 hands-on and demonstration workshops  around the U.S. each year, as well as adult community classes part-time at the Worcester Center for Crafts. I work alone in my studio, so do every aspect of the making and finishing of my pots solo, in addition to the marketing, networking, shipping and photography. I primarily sell my work directly from my studio in my online stores on Etsy (http://kiefferceramics.com/workshops) and Big Cartel (http://kristenkieffer.bigcartel.com/), at my spring and holiday studio sales, and during workshops. I also consign at a handful of select ceramic galleries and participate in juried and invitational exhibitions.



How did you become an artist?

My start was probably not too different from any other. Art was always my favorite class and hobby as a kid, and when I started college not knowing in which direction I’d head, I took a pottery class, and have been in one studio or another since that first one in 1991. Family support was essential and personal stubbornness and naïveté were probably crucial.

How would you describe your work? One of the hardest things for artists to do is to stand apart from everyone else. How long did it take you to come up with your own style?

My favorite compliment is, “I’ve never seen anything like this before.” I wrote a blog post in January 2010 called “Signature Style” (http://kiefferceramics.com/2010/01/05/signature-style//) that delves into this subject a bit, and remains the most commented-on post I’ve written. I also recently re-wrote my artist statement, which I think explains my perspective about my current pots fairly well:

Inspired by diverse cultures, materials and objects, I create contemporary pottery that embraces the sophistication and detail of past eras mixed with modern beauty and merriment.

In the making of these Victorian modern porcelain vessels, my influences range from 18th c. silver service pieces to Elizabethan and couture clothing and from Art Nouveau illustrations to cake fondant and vintage wallpaper. Such diversity combined with my own background and distinct studio processes culminate into a unique style.

Graceful forms, elegant patterns and lively colors convey a design that is robust as well as romantic and lavish.

(My full statement can be read here.) (http://kiefferceramics.com/bio/artist-statement/)

Graduate school is probably when my work took on a more distinctive look, but in the ten years since I graduated from Ohio University, my pots have continued to grow and evolve and, I hope, will continue to do so. The change is what keeps me interested.

What is the inspiration for your pieces?

Most of the blogging I do on my website is about my influences. The blog is obviously a marketing tool, but it’s also a place for me to communicate to my collectors, gather my thoughts by having to write them down, and catalog my inspiration. My influences are rarely ceramic and vary wildly (architecture to candy, industrial design to furniture, etc.), as I mention in my artist statement above. I’m now keeping track of influence images for future blog posts on Pinterest (http://pinterest.com/kiefferceramics/). And, starting with my post about the title for my exhibition (http://kiefferceramics.com/2011/09/12/lovely-intangibles/) at Plinth this month, there are dozens of blog posts on my site about my influences (http://kiefferceramics.com/category/influences/) and favorites (http://kiefferceramics.com/category/favorites// ): separate and sometimes overlapping categories for things that impact my work vs. things I admire. 

 How does your DVD on surface decoration relate to your workshops?

The DVD (http://kiefferceramics.com/dvd/ ) was a neat, independent project that is a great compliment to my teaching. The response has been tremendous and supportive. Since it came out last year, many folks who purchased it have been enticed to take a full workshop. And many more who took a workshop have purchased it as reminder of what they learned. The DVD has sold all over the world, and while I’d certainly be happy flying anywhere and everywhere to teach, this instructional video has allowed folks who can’t come for a workshop the opportunity to see some of the techniques I enjoy in a personal format.

What keeps you motivated?

I think being a self-employed anything requires a certain kind of personality, an inner drive. I strive to continue to be a studio potter, so how to do that (and pay the bills) is on-going motivation.

Kristen’s website and blog KiefferCeramics.com

 

Ayumi Horie – Artist Interview!

Monday, May 9th, 2011

                  Porcelain mugs rabbits

It is my great pleasure to interview Ayumi Horie.  I have admired her work for some time and I’m thrilled to feature her on my blog!  She is one of my most favorite artists.  Her work is stunning and unique.   She is a mastermind at organizing her sales and fundraisers on the internet.   Her ideas are fresh, innovative and enormous!  Ayumi has a unique way of “dry throwing” her pots using no water.  She is the first potter I’ve seen do this.  She complements this freshness of form in the decorating process by preserving drips and fingerprint marks made during glazing and slipping. Then she finishes them with her wonderful animal drawings.

For more information please stop by Ayumi’s website.

 Today’s the debut of Ayumi’s Match Striker Video! Enjoy!

 

Tell us a little about yourself!

First and foremost, I’m a studio potter. From this base and with a lot of help from the internet, I branch out to do a number of things. In the last few months, I co-founded Handmade For Japan, which has so far raised almost $90,000 for disaster relief in Japan and I’ve also just made a new video. I typically teach half a dozen workshops yearly, serve of the board of directors at the Archie Bray and get most of my work out into the world through selling online. The idea of advancing craft to a wider audience is key to a lot of what I do. I live in the Hudson Valley about two hours from New York City and adjacent to a 112 year old deconsecrated church where I host studio sales and craft shows.

How did you become an artist?

Art was always present but I committed to it slowly and after a long courtship. When I was fifteen my dream was to shoot for National Geographic, so after college, I started freelancing as a photographer for several papers in Seattle. When it became clear to me that clay was the right medium for me, I dropped photography for a long time but in the end, it’s served me well as a way to engage ceramics with the world. I have a new love of it.

This is a special picture of Michael Connelly taken by Ayumi while they were residents at Archie Bray.

I’ve noticed that you collaborate with other artists frequently; would you tell us how the collaboration process works for you?

It starts with an excited scheme to make something that hasn’t been done before on some level and then it just moves into problem solving. It’s a matter of finding the right fit with someone and then responding intuitively to what they do. It’s a bit like a road trip; it’s always more fun to share an experience with someone, finding all the unexpected and amazing things that pop up in two minds instead of one.

Andy Brayman putting decals down.

What are the similarities and differences between Obamaware and the Handmade For Japan fundraiser?

The most important parallel is that both began at a low point where I had a feeling of being ineffectual and powerless. When the “light bulb” moment came, the goals were at once clear and compelling to me. Leading up to the 2008 election there was a collective feeling among liberals that if Obama didn’t get elected, the country was done for. We all wanted to help and be a part of that change he was touting and so contributing as artists, by doing what we love and are good at, was really exciting. On the other hand, Handmade For Japan was born more out of concern than hope. The morning after the earthquake in Japan, I sat at the kitchen table emailing Japanese friends and family to make sure they were all ok. Like many people, I was really worried and had an intense desire to help. The understanding that something needed to be done, and done quickly, was such a certainty that the next step was all about action and rallying people. In both fundraisers, it was easy to find people who wanted to help.

The fundraisers were different in the sense that Obamaware was a “commissioned” and themed auction spanning five weeks from conception to auction end, whereas HFJ happened in two weeks because it consisted of work that was available in the moment and had a dedicated team of three (and we were all working a full 18 hour day for weeks plus had volunteer help). I was so lucky to have Ai Kanazawa Cheung and Kathryn Pombriant Manzella as colleagues in Handmade For Japan because with them, our ambitions, capabilities, outreach, and effectiveness increased exponentially. Obamaware made almost $11,000; Handmade For Japan made over $75,757 in the auction and almost $90,000 to date for disaster relief in Japan. We’re also grateful for the institutional support we received. eBay and MissionFish waived their fees because we were donating 100% in the auction and GlobalGiving, the charity we chose, publicized the auction and has continued to support us immensely. I think that both fundraisers are great examples of the power that artists have to affect positive change through the mobilizing force of the internet and through the good will of people who support the arts.

Handmade For Japan East Coast Headquaters

Handmade For Japan East Coast Headquaters

I’ve noticed that the pots in your postcards have always been in “action”? Was this the start of the pots in action idea?
When I first set up my website in 2001, one of my central ideas was to show pots outside the standard gray gradated background. While gray works well to focus attention on the pot itself and has its place, it somehow felt disingenuous to present pots in this singular way. From writings by Mingei artists, the ceramics community had already absorbed the idea of every day beauty and so it seemed like a natural progression to show pots as they really are. Like any other object, they live in the world we present, as well as in our mess. They live off in the corner and then circulate on to the table with some lovely morsel of food on them. Underscoring their place in our imperfect realities and showing how people really fall in love with them felt like a great way to champion pots.

The idea of “Pots in Action” started with postcards, moved on to the website where I asked people to send in pictures of my pots in use, then expanded into using Google maps to plot the pictures, and finally has been explored via the new match striker video. Combining a modern medium like video with a timeless phenomenon like fire makes us see ceramics differently. We all know in the ceramics community how amazing pots are, so the charge now is to turn on handmade pottery to the rest of the world.

Ayumi Horie Match striker postcard 2010

What advice can you give aspiring artists struggling to find their own voice and look?
Reflection is great, but good work doesn’t come from a lot of thought alone, so work every single day whether you want to or not. And don’t forget to turn off the cell phone, iphone, ipad, tv, computer, etc…and now if I could just listen to my own advice…

SONY DSC

For more information on Handemade For Japan, please go to the website. 

Visit Handmade for Japan’s Facebook page.

Become come a Friend of Ayumi Horie Pottery on Facebook.

Connie Norman – Plinth Gallery Artist Interview – Me!

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

 

I am really Talking to Myself! This week’s interview is mine!  I’ve had several people ask me to post my own interview.  Now I have FINALLY posted mine as part of the Plinth Gallery Series of interviews.  My show starts this First Friday, May 6, 6-9pm. Reception with Me!  Please come by and say, “Hello” if you’re in the area, it would be terrific to meet some of the people who read my blog!  I’m also teaching a workshop at Plinth on Saturday, May 7 from 9am to 5pm.  The cost is $85 which includes lunch from Fuel Café, which is unbelievably delicious.   If you are interested there is still room please contact Plinth Gallery by email or call 303-295-0717 for more information.

I’m posting my interview a little differently, Jonathan Kaplan was so kind to play guest interviewer and gave me some questions to answer.  His questions will be designated by –JK at the end of the question.  And just to be fair I answered my own questions that I have been asking artists for a year.  They are the second part of the interview.  I tried not to overlap answers, so if you read the entire interview you will have learned more than you would EVER want to know about me.

Here is what Jonathan wrote on Plinth’s website about my work.

“Connie Norman’s current work deals with inner dialogue, words, phrases, and “snippets of conversation” often inspired by stories from her life, memories, or things overheard, that are repeated again and again. She is fascinated by the rhythmic qualities created by color, texture, and patterns, and her application of text to her pieces enhance both the surface texture and the message itself.”

Plinth Gallery Curator Jonathan Kaplan describes Connie Norman’s ceramic work as, “Graphically bold in color and surface decoration. Her unique use of impressed words and phrases evokes our emotions as we ponder a connection to our individual experience. While her ceramics are a conversation with herself, we are invited into a dialog with the work and then really, with ourselves. Connie’s work has a message for many of us.” – Jonathan Kaplan

You have achieved quite a remarkable synthesis of form and surface. How do you decide which form merits which words? -JK

I think of my forms as a canvas to decorate.  But, as I’ve been making work for specific functions I try to think of words for specific forms.

Where do the words come from? Are they narratives in your head that result in being used on your work? What is the source of this dialog? – JK

The words on my pots are snippets of conversation.  Sometimes with myself, sometimes overheard, sometimes mantras I say to myself, they are all part of my life somehow.  In one of my pieces, I was thinking about my Father.  He was in the early stages of Alzheimer, as time went on I started to see how he was forgetting so much of his life.  I made a piece that said, “This is How Much I Remember.  This is How Much I Forgot.”  Since my Dad was just at the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s I put the line just off center.

Tell us something about your creative process. How did it evolve to its present structure? -JK

I also make mixed media sculptures.  The components of my sculptures are based on a fascination with the form and function of a common everyday object, the iron. I see my irons as shrines.  I use them as a vehicle to tell my stories, experiences and dreams.  Eventually these irons were covered in text.  Then one day my husband challenged me to make something beautiful.  I started a series of pots; I hadn’t made pots in years.  After making several pots, I noticed text jumped on to the surface.  It was a funny transition, at this point my clay irons were the size of true irons.   Then I started making very large vessels (21” to 23” inches tall) covered in text.

What is your cycle of work in your studio? I know you have a family and are a committed teacher. How do you balance your family obligations with your ceramic needs? -JK

I go full blast for months then I stop.  Then go back to full blast again.  But definitely I would not be able to what I do without my wonderful husband, Todd.  He supports me totally and completely.  Right now my schedule is I come home from work, spend time with my family and then I go to my studio around 8:30 PM and work until 1 or 2:00 AM, and then I get up at 6:00 AM for work.  I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without the help of my husband.  I know when I have a deadline this schedule is not the healthiest for me or anyone who comes within my a hundred yards of me.  When I don’t have a deadline looming, I try to go to bed earlier.  But I am a natural night owl.  And when I’m in my studio I’m always wide awake.  Sometimes I am thankful that I have regular job to keep me in the daylight or I might totally start living the graveyard shift.

For this show I started working months ago, and only made things dedicated for Plinth, to keep my cantankerous side at bay, by going to bed a little earlier.

Can you briefly describe how you lay out each piece and the process you work with? Your pieces have impressed lettering combined with graphic patterns. How do you begin your decoration process?-JK

My greatest satisfaction comes from thoroughly filling surfaces with color and finely detailed decoration.  My decorations start with the lettering since it is done while the piece is leather hard and the rest of the decoration is finished during glazing.  Decoration and the act of decorating are essential because it celebrates and enhances form and speaks purely of aesthetics.  I use pottery as a vehicle to explore decoration and other formal questions.  It allows me to investigate form, space and image.

I know you work with “hormonally challenged” kids, so to speak. How do you communicate the importance of a visual education when there are so many outside influences that perhaps seem to be more important in their minds? -JK

My role as an educator is to be an art cheerleader, I cheer to my students, adults, and colleagues alike. I teach as if this will be my student’s last and only year of art. I have to cover it all in such a short time. In this year, they will make art, write art, talk art; dream art and most of all appreciate art. Of course, I want my students to grow up and become rich and famous artists, but if they survive my “art boot camp” I know they will be lovers and appreciators of the arts.

What do you do to re-charge and re-in vigor your own creative energies? -JK

I love going to workshops!  When it was just the two of us, I would go to two week long workshops all over.  But now with a family I find it harder to get away for long period of time.  (Should say, I don’t want to go for as long.)  Now I look for shorter workshops.

The big thing I do now to re-charge my creative energies is write my blog.  I started the artist interviews, instead of running around the country taking workshops.  I still get to interact and learn from other artists.

You have been very successful in your ceramic career with exhibitions, publications, sales and commissions. What advice would you give upcoming ceramic artists to enhance their own careers in this highly competitive environment? -JK

I still feel like I have a lot to learn.  So I feel a little awkward giving advice, because I still go to workshops, and find artists to help me with my career.  I started out applying for national juried shows.  I would apply to ten and hope I got accepted to one.  At first it was really hard to read the rejection letters, they crushed me.  But eventually I was getting accepted into shows, and the rejection letters weren’t so devastating.  I apply for as much I can.  It is hard to balance making work and applying for opportunities.  I find I can’t do both at the same time.  I will do my administrative type work all at once, so I send out ten to twelve, and then go back to the studio.  And forget about them.

Now I am Talking to Myself, as usual!

Tell us a little about yourself!

I was born in Japan, and have been lucky enough study pottery in Tokoname for a summer.  My Mom is Japanese and has nine brothers and sisters.  I have a bigger family in Japan than I do here in the US!    Two and half years ago my husband and I adopted our son from Ethiopia.  Now I am so lucky to have two amazing kings of my heart.  I have a very international family.  My husband’s sisters are married to Brit and Australian. I teach junior high school students in a very large school, I am one of 5 art teachers.

How did you become an artist?

When I was in high school, my love with clay started.  It was my senior of high school and I was happy in my Home Ec. class, I asked the ceramics teacher if I could switch into her class.  From that point I have been on the same path, ceramics, art, clay.  My parents wanted me to go to college but they told me that I wouldn’t be one of those kids that switched majors every semester.  So I had to declare a major and stick to it.  I told them I wanted to be an art major and 20 plus years later, I still am.

Both my parents have always worked with their hands; my Dad was a gun smith always maintained a shop in very house we lived in.  My Mom always sewed our clothes, knitted, crocheted, made bread, and she was an avid Tole painter.  Although my parents weren’t what you would call artists, making things was a way of life for us.  I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t making something.

How would you describe your style? One of the hardest things for artists to do is to stand apart from everyone else. How long did it take you to come up with your own style and signature look?

It took me a long time to find a “style” and I feel like I am still learning and figuring out what is my artist voice.  But I guess I would describe my style as decorative.  When text first jumped onto my work, I was only making very large vessels.  (I still like to make them; I make a lot work now that masquerades as functional.)  As I made these vessels I thought about aesthetics and the act of decorating. As I moved into making objects that seem to have a function the idea of decorating was still the main focus of my work.  When I was in college I was a mixed media sculptor, and narrative was very important to me.  One as I was thinking of making some pots, the idea of narrative came to mind.  I have always love texture; the narrative became texture, with a glimpse of my private thoughts.

What keeps you motivated?

I’ve always love the quote from Tim Rollins, “It’s not passion, it’s a deadline.” I definitely work well under pressure.  Although I love my time in the studio, I have so many distractions that I can easily be pulled away.  So I make sure I always have something to work towards, to make sure I am in the studio at all hours of the night.  I try to make sure I am in my studio every day, some days I work for hours without even noticing how much time has passed, and sometimes I just go to my studio to look around, clean up, and gather my thoughts.

Are you a full-time artist? How do you come up with your creations? Can you walk us through your creative process when dreaming up new pieces?

No I am not a full-time studio artist to make my living.  But I do consider myself a full time artist, since I teach, breathe, dream, art.

All my work is slab construction.  Often times my process starts with an idea, but I have to dream up a way to make it.  So I will sketch out my idea, and then make patterns in paper to see how the form works.  Sometimes I think, I have this down, and I go to make a new shape without all the preplanning, then I usually have a really bad night in my studio.

What or who inspires you?

Thomas Hart Benton and Gustav Klimt.

How do you maintain a healthy work and life balance?

I definitely don’t have a balance. I am a full time art teacher at a public school, a three year old, and I’m trying to be a professional artist, I am definitely pulled from all directions.

I go full blast for months then I stop.  Then go back to full blast again.  But definitely I would not be able to what I do without my wonderful husband, Todd.  He supports me totally and completely.

You, like most people enjoy the process of making and didn’t get into it for the sake of “business”. But eventually you found yourself having to make the transition from artist to a businessperson. What have you learned so far and what advice can you give others in the same situation?

I have learned the business of art through trial and error.  And I still don’t really do the” business” part yet.  But I do keep my resume and portfolios updated and have a website, blog and Facebook page.  I’m not fond of doing the business end of being an artist.  I generally take time off from the studio, when I apply for solo shows, juried shows and fellowships; I try to get a bunch of applications and then do them all at once.

What advice can you give aspiring artists struggling to find their own voice and look?

Go to you studio and work and work and work!  Try 10 or 20 variations to an idea, keep pushing an idea.  Don’t just stop at making one, work in a series.  So often I hear people say, “This summer I’ll make art.”  When I retire, I’m make art.”  When my kids get older I’ll make art.”  If you want to make art, just do it.  I do miss TV, socializing, and shopping.  (and many other activities)  I have whittled down my life to what is important to me, (family, art, work.)  But unfortunately I still don’t have it down or balanced.  And I feel like I miss out on a lot, but I am doing what I love.  Thank you Todd for all that you do for me! You are the love of my life!  We have the most incredible family.

Artist Interview – Chad Blakely

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

Now for something a little different, today’s interview is my long time friend Chad Blakely.  He and I got our teaching degrees together and have taught across the hall from each other for ten years now, at Carey Jr. High.  He constantly draws and always entertains us at every faculty meeting with his drawing.  He has recently just published his first graphic novel, and we all of us at Carey wish him the best.  Now without further ado, here are excerpts from his graphic novel Kidnapping Kevin Smith, and some of his paintings.  

For more  information on Chad and his work go to his blog “Whacha lookin at?” and his “like” his Facebook page, Kidnapping Kevin Smith. 

 If you are interested in ordering a book,  contact Chad at blakely737@bresnan.net. Or order from your local comic shop this June!

 

Tell us a little about yourself!

Well, I am currently a full time junior art teacher in Cheyenne, Wyoming as well as a full time COMIC BOOK GEEK!  I have just self published my first graphic novel, Kidnapping Kevin Smith, under my own imprint, pathetic aesthetic comics.  The comic is the tale of two comic book store employees, with zero prospects and tons of vitriol.  They decide to kidnap indie filmmaker Kevin Smith and try to force him to write a screenplay for them.  It doesn’t work out too well for the kidnappers in the end, but Mr. Smith comes out on top!

How did you become an artist? 

When I was a little boy, about 3, I always had my mom draw me pictures of Popeye.  One day, she got tired of drawing Popeye and decided to teach me how.  After that, I just started drawing and drawing.  Recently, my folks moved and found a box of my old 3 and 4 year old drawings; there are drawings of KISS, Mr. Rogers, and Star Wars.  Guess I haven’t changed much as a person, I still like two out of those three subjects!

How would you describe your style? One of the hardest things for artists to do is to stand apart from everyone else. How long did it take you to come up with your own style and signature look?

I feel that my style is still evolving; every piece I create, every comic I draw, my style changes slightly.  I think the best way to describe my style, is cartoony realism.  Even when I try to alter my style and ape someone else’s, it still looks like my line.  I have recently fallen in love with doing gray toned, ink washes; a technique that is featured prominently in my comic book.  I am even experimenting with ink washing my watercolors before I add color; I am getting some interesting results!

What is your inspiration for your pieces?

For my non comic book pieces, I love to paint buildings around Cheyenne.  Edward Hopper is one of my favorite artists, so I feel that has a big influence on my work.  I enjoy painting images of around Cheyenne that depict that emptiness and desolation of our city.  In my paintings you will see buildings, and cars, but never people out walking around; people in Wyoming rarely walk anywhere (I blame the wind). So I try to chose buildings that are visually interesting and Cheyenne-centric and paint them with few signs of life. 

When it comes to my comic book work, I have no idea where my story ideas come from.  Sometimes it will be watching my kids play, other times it will be hearing a story about small town scandals of the past, just whatever sparks my interest or sounds like a good story.

What keeps you motivated?

This sounds cliché, but I am motivated by the wheelbarrows full of cash my art work provides me! Just kiddin.  To me there is nothing quite as satisfying as looking at a finished piece of art or holding a finished comic book in your hands.  The sense of “Hey…look what I made!  All those hours of hard work paid off!”.  That, and the droves of screaming and adoring fans!

Are you a full-time artist? How do you come up with your creations? Can you walk us through your creative process when dreaming up new pieces?

No, I am not a full time artist…but I am a full time dreamer!  The process of creating a comic book, especially as a one man team, is a long one.  First I do an outline, like you learned in elementary school, where I work out the main plot points of the story and how the story will go from point A to B to C.  Then based on that outline I do thumbnail sketches of the pages, working out “camera” angles and story pacing.  Then I collect reference photos, which can be anything from taking snapshots of my friends and family, to Googling specific locals and whatnot.  Then I draw the page in pencil, ink over it, then graytone it with inkwash.  Next, I write a script of all the dialog, scan the pages, and insert the dialog using Adobe. Then the work gets e-mailed to the printer and the next thing you know, after months of hard work, you have a comic book in hand! 

What was it that made you want to start creating? Did something specific trigger it?

I think all artists create art to communicate their personal world view to others; so, my trigger was wanting to tell people stories.  In college I did a series of paintings, showing everyday scenes from my life; waking up, shaving, reading a comic on the toilet, telling the story of me.  The paintings I do of around Cheyenne, tell the story of what it is like to live in Cheyenne and our own little culture here.  Graphic novels, again BIGTIME storytelling.  I love nothing more than having drinks with friends and family and sharing stories, my art is an extension of that.

What or who inspires you?

My narcissistic need to make others see the world as I see it!  Inspiration comes from everywhere.  As a kid the work of Todd McFarlane and Brian Bolland and John Buscema and Frank Miller inspired me to draw comic books.  As an adult I am still inspired by comic book creators; Mike Allred, Darwyn Cooke, Dave Stevens, these guys are illustrators that make me want to be a better artist and storyteller, they inspire me to try harder!

How do you manage being a Father and artist? 

Being a parent, and a teacher, and a husband, and an artist, can be a challenge!  Luckily I have a wife who is very supportive and doesn’t mind me being shackled to the drawing board.  My son and daughter love to draw and paint, so we have these little jam sessions where we all sit at the kitchen table and work on our art together, which is a fun bonding experience.  But it is a struggle of balance all things in life and still be productive.

What advice can you give aspiring artists struggling to find their own voice and look?

I look at art the way I look at music.  Most bands start out aping their favorite bands and over time they develop into their own band with their own style.  Nick Derington, a comic book artist and animator, once told me to stand on the shoulder of giants.  Meaning, look at the past and all of the great work that has come before; look to them for inspiration and use them as a foundation to build your own style upon.

This is the cover to Kidnapping Kevin Smith. Art by comic book legends Mike and Laura Allred.

If you are interested in ordering a book,  contact Chad at blakely737@bresnan.net. Or order from your local comic shop this June!

Yoko Sekino-Bove–Plinth Gallery Artist Interview

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

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  Plinth Gallery introduces the fine porcelain of Yoko Sekino-Bove in her exhibition, “Fragile Immortality”.  Yoko’s colorful drawings and delicate carvings illuminate the graceful porcelain forms that are somewhat reminiscent of historical Asian exports.  Yoko, originally from Osaka, Japan, entwines surface designs of plants and wildlife, with practical forms to create a story and an identity. –Jonathan Kaplan

 Yoko will be giving a workshop at Plinth Gallery on Saturday April 2, Yoko Sekino-Bove will demonstrate decoration techniques including sgraffito, carving, stamping, and a variety of glaze painting, as well as wet clay surface techniques such as mishima and slip painting.  Students who participate in this workshop will make a variety of clay stamps to use on their own work.  Cost for this workshop is $85 which includes lunch. Space is limited to 20 students and advance registration and payment will guarantee a space. Please contact Plinth Gallery (303) 295-0717 or gallery@plinthgallery.com for additional information and to register.

A portion of all Gallery sales made during Yoko Sekino-Bove’s exhibition will be donated to The Mashiko Potter’s Fund, to assist ceramic artists in the Mashiko region of Japan who have been impacted by the recent earthquake.  We extend our sincere appreciation to Plinth Gallery artists who have agreed to participate in this effort, and we thank everyone for your support.

Reception with the Artist –First Friday, April 1st, 6 – 9pm  also open Second Saturday, April 9, 2011  noon-9pm

For more information go to Plinth Gallery. 

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Tell us a little about yourself!

I came to the United States sixteen years ago, following a boy I was in love at that time. Though the love part didn’t work out, I found life in the States exciting and decided to stay here. Since then, it has been a great adventure with lots of ups and downs. I now live in a small town in Pennsylvania with my husband and a black cat (she is also a survivor), making ceramic pieces in my home studio. Life is full of surprises.

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How did you become an artist?

My first college degree was in graphic design and I took pride in being a graphic designer until computer technology hijacked the art and craft of graphic design. While being frustrated by the transition in the design industries, ceramic classes in a community college comforted and reminded me the joy of creating work with my own hands. It was a giant leap to apply to a graduate school for Ceramics, but ironically the money I saved up from the design job supported me and allowed me to survive the toughest years. After my graduation, I spent a year as an artist-in-residence at the Armory Art Center in Florida. I have been a full-time studio artist since then.

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How would you describe your style? One of the hardest things for artists to do is to stand apart from everyone else. How long did it take you to come up with your own style and signature look?

I believe it’s a great privilege to create functional work for people to use at their home. Because my work will be a part of their daily life and become a part of them in that way, I want to create something personal and honest for them. So each of my work has a story to tell, whether people can understand the story in the imagery or not. It is my hope that people can feel the whispers behind the pieces.

I use the sgraffito technique a great deal in my work. The sgraffito technique (applying black underglaze painting, then scratching the details off on the wet clay surface) was passed along to me by a friend in a ceramic class at a community college in Los Angeles about fifteen years ago. The technique offers endless possibilities, and a fond memory of wonderful friends in those classes.

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What is your inspiration for your pieces?

Stories about nature, myth, people, and everything else. Usually the inspiration comes from a snippet of conversation, stories, news, interviews and other media. The plant and animal motifs are used as a metaphor, mainly because I don’t feel ready to use human figures (saving fun for later), sometimes suggestions work better than actual descriptions.

Once I was listening to the book on CD “Fruit Hunter” by Adam Leith Gollner, and it was so inspiring I had to make a teapot out of his descriptions of tropical fruits before the book ended. His writing about the people’s passion for exotic, goosy, fragrant, rare and forbidden fruits were so vivid, it was a fun challenge for myself.

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What keeps you motivated?

There are so many interesting and exciting stories going around in this world, I have been having a hard time keeping up with them to create new work out of them. I want to share all the stories with people, in the form of ceramics.

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Are you a full-time artist? How do you come up with your creations? Can you walk us through your creative process when dreaming up new pieces?

I have a part-time teaching job, but spend most of my time in my studio.

My process usually starts with a snippet of word or sentence from somewhere, for example from a radio, book or conversation with friends. The word jumps into my brain and starts whirling until I decide to give it a shape. Then I start looking for a good function, size, motif, and all the other details. When all the elements are combined in my head, I can start testing the possibilities with clay to actualize it. Usually it takes a few months from the word to the finished piece. So even though many of my ceramic work are functional, a concept comes first.

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What or who inspires you?

My husband/metalsmith “Man-muse” Jim always provides inspirations.

Also in general, anything in my daily life can trigger my attentions as long as I keep my eyes and mind open. There are so many artists, scientists and scholars who have been challenging and expanding our horizon, successfully or not. At this point of my life, my interest goes to learning how they live/lived and what they make/made. I want to learn how their choices in their life altered or directed their work.

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How do you maintain a healthy work and life balance?

According to my husband and friends, I am completely neglecting them and failing to maintain the healthy balance. I am terribly sorry. Making artwork takes time and there are many tests to be done even before creating something.

After the great earthquake in Japan, I have been talking to my pottery friends in Japan and one potter said that the disaster made her realize how precious and valuable her daily life is and how important for her to spend it with her family and friends. I should remind it to myself everyday.

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You, like most people enjoy the process of making and crafting and didn’t get into it for the sake of “business”. But eventually you found yourself having to make the transition from crafter to a businessperson. What have you learned so far and what advice can you give others in the same situation?

I think a big part of craft business is in the transition, from indoor/outdoor art fairs and shows with physical connections to more digital transactions and virtual shopping. As the economy shrunk in the last few years and the good old time-tested craft business methods are no longer reliable, it became clear that no one knows what will be the most successful art business format for the next decade.

My personal and heavily biased suggestion, especially for younger artists, would be to have a plan B or some other skills to support our life. There are so many young artists who have never considered having any other skills or degrees than visual art, it may be a good idea not to keep all the eggs in one art nest if you still have some time to learn. Not just for the financial reasons, but a real working experience may give us a wider view about the world and inspirations as well as an opportunity to learn about business management. More appreciation of the actual studio time would be a bonus.

And about where to learn the art of business, I highly recommend taking Thomas Mann’s “Design for Survival” workshop. He has a long, outstanding career as a craft artist and a business owner and the workshop covers the ins and outs of craft business, from studio safety codes to pricing methods, portfolio package preparation and personal consultations. He always adds more information about the newer digital technology and current issues, so I keep taking his workshop when I have a chance.

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What advice can you give aspiring artists struggling to find their own voice and look?

It takes a long time to find our voices and I think it is important that we spend enough time to search and experiment. It’s frustrating, but the journey itself may be the answer. Many artists go through phases, and later on wonder why they made what they made. But at least to me, creating and completing the test pieces is a fun part and the best way to determine if the idea can survive in this world.

Having a good circle of friends and mentors helps artists greatly too. They don’t need to be an artist, but someone whose judgment you trust. They help you as a wall to bounce ideas off of, and as an evaluation board as well as cheerleaders and role models. Those friends are the first ones to see my new work and give me feedback, suggestions and honest critiques.

Also, sometimes I go back to an idea/method later, long after abandoning it initially. For that reason, I have a giant collection of sketchbooks from the last ten years, and go through them whenever I need a fresh idea. Not only sketches, but also comments, questions, print outs, a little bit of a diary, everything is packed in it like a time capsule. Good ideas tend to evaporate quickly; it’s better to write everything down for the future reference. You never know!

What I learned on the way was that setting your short-term and long-term goal is important to keep your emotions healthy. Comparing yourself with other artists and their successes are something that easily makes us vulnerable and scared, but it’s so hard to avoid, especially if you are still in your development stage and not sure about yourself, this could be really painful. When it happens to me, I just have to tell myself that I have my own goals to achieve; they are on the way, everything’s cool. Rejections will keep happening, but we can develop a way to accept it.

Artist statement for the Genuine Fake China Series

It has been sixteen years since I moved to the United States.

As I grow older and stopped caring all the small things I used to worry, translating one culture to other and uniting them within my limited vocabulary became my hobby.  Then I decided to take this approach to Ceramics. How can I create ceramic work that unite us, create a bridge, and serve us all? Can I create craftwork that offers hope to people? Hopefully and possibly in a subtle, personal way?

This series is my quiet resistant against the current political situation in our time, of isolation and confrontation. Seems like we can use more of those reminders about how similar we are now than ever by using small conversations instead of abstract fear and anger.

So my fake China teapots come with two sides: one in Chinese/Japanese proverb, another in English equivalent (or a saying that has the precisely same nuance). It is my attempt to construct a little shaky bridge over the gap and start conversations about so many profound ideas we share even in different languages and cultures. I hope this series of work will be a good reminder to everyone that no matter where the origin was, things that appeal to us will become universal eventually, if they have a good use. So please use my teapot to serve a cup of green tea, maybe from Starbucks.  

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Thanks Yoko, I’m really looking forward to meeting you and taking your workshop!!