This week officially marks the halfway point of my residency – which is just crazy!
I worked with my students on their last wet clay project, we are making a group project of a tree with leaves made by all the students. They collected leaves from their local plants and we pressed them into the clay and cut them out. We’re working on ideas of how they will be assembled into a sculpture for their school.
I also made some progress on my own sculptures, going larger that ever before with a fairly high success rate. I’ve learned a lot about building these fragile pieces and even more about my own impatience to finish them. Sometimes, I really should be letting them set up more or just work more slowly but I push through to finish and that’s generally when it all starts to fall apart. It’s a hard lesson, but I’m starting to get it.
I also took off on a local hike last weekend and found this large temple built into the mountainside. Funny part was when I was hiking over to it, I heard singing echoing over the canyon and I thought it was possibly part of a ceremony. But as I actually approached the temple I realized it was a couple of guys in the parking garage doing karaoke. Religious experience? Maybe?? Despite the karaoke, it was a beautiful view of the valley that I’ve been living in for the past six weeks.
This week gave me a much needed break from the studio when my parents popped into town for a visit. They had been traveling throughout Australia and New Zealand and spent their final week on the road with me in Taiwan before heading back to the States. Dad & Mom hadn’t been to Taiwan in 25 and 50 years respectively, so a lot had changed! We roamed Taipei taking in the sights and the food. They also got to meet my studio mates, see where I’m living and working, and see my work in progress.
After my parents left, I spent the final days of this week contemplating the things that I’ve pulled out of the kiln – this was my second bisque firing since I’ve been here – and I’m pretty happy with the progress I’ve made. I’ve discovered a better way to build these forms and I’m getting a higher success rate with less cracking overall. I just keep trying different ways of working with these very thin pieces of porcelain and see how far I can push the forms. Once they are fired again, I’ll start the experiments of embedding them into resin. I’m hoping that will lead to some interesting results for future projects.
I also had the opportunity to assist my fellow artist-in-residence Ruth Li install her solo exhibit at the museum. Her gorgeous work of abstracted flower arrangements in cold white porcelain are delicate and graceful against the deep blue walls. Helping her build the ephemeral arrangements that will slowly dissolve under dripping water during the exhibit was a treat. Looking forward to the opening reception this weekend.
This week brought new adventures and a little bit of relaxing too!
My studio area might look a little messy, but that means I’ve got a million projects up in the air at once! I did unload the first kiln with some successes and a few failures that ended up in the shard bin – all in all, not bad for a first firing. The best thing about a residency is having the time for all those failures without the pressure of an exhibition or deadline, it is truly time to experiment and push the limits of your creative ideas, even if that means that you work all day with nothing (physical) to show for it.
My fourth grade class worked on a classic Earth Art Studio project this week, the big eyed fish, and they loved it. It’s a lesson in abstraction vs realism and they really took off with abstract ideas on their sculptures. So much fun to work with these guys!
Since I teach up in the mountains on Friday mornings in an area that is known for its hot springs and hiking, I thought I’d plan to stay for the weekend and it worked out great. My fellow artist in residence Ruth Li came with me and we tried all the amazing traditional mountain foods including rice served in bamboo and deep fried river shrimp plus an assortment of veggies that I’d never seen before. The art teacher at the school where I’m working met up with us and showed us around town including the natural hot spring pools right next to the river with beautiful mountain views. We took a long hike to explore the area and saw a Macaque monkey along the way. Adventures for the rest of the week were spent gallery hopping in Taipei and eating really good food!
This week was chock full, with a clay class up in the mountains last Friday – the kids loved making pinch pots – and an art sale at the museum over the weekend. I brought a few small items with me to display for the art sale and was able to snag some stones from the gardens, a few planks of wood from the wood kiln stock pile and a table cloth from a fellow vendor to make up my table. I was unsure how it would go and unfortunately it didn’t go well for me, I had my labels translated for patrons to read and most people speak a little English, but most were too shy to try to use it and talk with me, so it was a little hard to connect and hence make sales. Plus my prices were based on what I sell my work for in the states, so a little pricy for this market, but it was an interesting learning experience for sure. After a busy weekend, the rest of this past week was spent with long days in studio. I got some pieces into the kiln for the first time with some good, some not so good results… again more learning experiences.
With the help of the studio staff, we tested embedding one of my flat Bone Series shaped pieces into resin. This is something I’ve been thinking and sketching ideas about for over a year and its exciting to get into the first stages of trying it out. Once I pull more pieces from the kiln, I’m going to attempt to go larger with this idea and I ~hope~ that this will launch me into a whole new avenue with this series. Stay tuned on this one!
Other experiments this week included trying chicken heart and butt (yes. butt.) for the first time along with some plain ol’ fried chicken – and honestly, it was all pretty good. The last photo above is a few of my favorite sculptures that are in the Ceramic Park at the museum, feel lucky that I get to walk past these each day to and from the studio.
Tomorrow, I head up into the mountains again to work with the kids and I’ve got plans to stay there through the weekend which I’m very excited about. Hot springs, mountain hikes and waterfalls await this weekend!
This past week has been busy with concentrated studio time and lots of fun adventures too. I’m working on my very thin Bone Series pieces which I honestly haven’t worked with in a year since being in Iceland, so there was a bit of a learning curve to get back into these guys. I’ve definitely had my share of failures with them too, learning what this new clay will or won’t do and dealing with the heat drying the pieces too quickly is always tricky, but I’ve started to have a few successes. I’m hoping that I’ll get better at making them and be able to go larger and more varied in shape as I continue. The last photo above shows some dried flower heads of a ginger plant with the seeds about to burst that I found while hiking, I couldn’t help but see the similarities to my own work.
I’ve been taking a few mini adventures as well, finding some great hiking trails just outside of town, visiting the Tao or Buddhist temples that are scattered all over the area , visiting nearby towns and taking in the scene at the night markets where you can eat everything from duck tongue to fried squid on a stick – it’s definitely a feast for the eyes and mouth! Visiting the National Palace Museum was impressive with its collection of Chinese art known especially for its carved jadeite green cabbage sculpture. Tomorrow I head back up in the mountains for my first official clay class with 4th grade students and this weekend I’ll be participating in a little Art Market sale at the museum – should be fun!
I arrived in Taiwan, jet lagged but excited to be here! I landed in the evening and was taken to my apartment where I got the quick run down of everything and then crashed out for the night. The next morning I was given a tour of the extremely impressive Yingge Ceramics Museum and the ceramic park which has lawns, a water park and lots of ceramic sculptures interspersed throughout the space. The residency studios are towards the back of the park area and are in a stylized brick building with a sweeping roof structure arcing over the structures. The studios are open for the public to come in as watch as the residents work and ask questions, so our posters greet visitors at the door. I started to set up my space with the tools that I brought and also decided on which porcelain clay to work with for the duration of my time here. Jet lag caught up with me early on this first day but I managed to stay awake until about 8pm and then crashed.
I woke early my second day because I needed to meet a car and translators who would take me up into the mountains to a remote area called the Wulai District. It was a beautiful ride out of the city and up into the cooler mountain areas where they are known for waterfalls, hot springs and the indigenous people who live here. I gave a slide show talk about my art to a classroom of 4th graders who were excited to try working with clay. Despite living only about an hour from one of the ceramic capitals of the world, they had hardly any clay experience. They were especially excited to find out that I would be coming back to their classroom 6 more times to do projects with them as part of the educational out reach programs the museum is developing.
I’ve spent the rest of my time, getting my bearings walking the city, going grocery shopping, figuring out how to order food without English menus, and all the other funny things that make traveling to a foreign place so adventurous! Now, it’s really time to get into a routine (hopefully getting me on the time zone!) and get some long hours going in the studio!
In just a few days I’ll be flying over the Pacific Ocean on a very, very long flight arriving in Taipei to start my three month residency at the Yingge Ceramics Museum. I’m so excited and thrilled for this opportunity, although it will be a long time away from my studio and life in California, I’m sure that it will all be worth it! I’ll be posting photos on my Instagram and Facebook feed and also creating updates here on ‘the dirt’ so you can join me on this art adventure!