I’ll be taking the final weeks of the year off from writing blog posts as I let this year settle and start exciting plans for 2023 but I wanted to take the time to do a quick look back at all that has happened this year.
I participated in 6 exhibitions including one solo show and one show I co-created and co-curated. I created a large public art piece and have another in the works. I made ~literally~ thousands of porcelain pieces inspired by plankton and I still have a million ideas for more. And on a personal note, I swam dozens of miles this year in the open ocean, and hiked more miles than I could keep track of. Working hard, playing hard. I can’t wait to see what next year brings.
As a reminder, the online shop is always open so take a peek to find something special for yourself or your art loving friends and family. And once again, thank you for your support, it takes a village to raise an artist and I’m grateful that you are my village. Happy Happy, Merry Merry.
If feel as though I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole the past week, busily making what feels like a million parts for my upcoming exhibit, Bodies of Water this September at the Eloise Pickard Smith Gallery at UCSC. Working with gallery director Tauna Coulson, we’ve been choosing paint colors to turn the gallery into an ocean, creating templates for a nearly 2000 part site specific installation, selecting work, organizing pedestals, designing the layout and of course making parts.
I hit a point where it seemed daunting, but now I’m rounding the corner and can visualize it all coming together and I’m getting really excited about it. I also l.o.v.e. the color blue we chose for the gallery walls, can’t wait for you to see it!
Making all the art is one part of the job but installing them is a whole other task. I’ve started getting things boxed up to bring them up to the gallery in the coming weeks and start the process. Luckily I’ve got a long lead time since the gallery is technically closed for summer, so I can use that to my advantage and not have to rush installation. Phew! Hope to see you all at the opening September 24th 5-8pm where all these parts will magically transform into a plankton filled ocean gallery!
Bodies of Water | Eloise Pickard Smith Gallery UCSC | Sept 20th – Dec 3rd | Opening reception Sept 24th 5-8pm
If you come by my studio this year for Open Studios, you’ll get to see this piece in person, but I thought it’d be fun to share a bit of the process making it. I actually wish I took more photos in process, but hopefully this very quick video gives an idea of it’s evolution.
The composition is mimicking the rings of a droplet into water and it’s composed of around 700+ porcelain pieces that are inspired by the bone structure of radiolarians (single cell planktons). Some of the pieces are mounted directly on the wall and some are attached to metal stems so that they can float off the wall, creating depth and casting shadows. If you watch the video closely or repeatedly you’ll notice that some pieces were removed and more space was given between the ripples, sometimes these are things that you can’t predict before you’re actually installing the work. I still need to clean the chalk lines off the wall but the more I live with this piece the more I love it. Hope you all get to come see it in person!
I try to keep as ‘green’ of a studio as possible, all the while knowing that I’m working with a material that has been mined from the earth and shipped across hundreds to thousands of miles. So, it’s a bit of a quandary for me but I try to offset that heavy carbon footprint in other ways.
I’ve written posts before about recycling my fired ceramics into the tile/toilet pile at our local landfill, they grind it up and use it as aggregate for other products. Which is a great way to get rid of all my mistakes, broken bits and abandoned ideas. I also recycle all of my wet clay so that every scrap will be used even if it’s dried out on me. And I try to reuse all the packing materials that come into my studio, in addition to a regular recycling of metal, plastics and papers.
Recently I started thinking about my energy usage in the studio in regards to my kiln firings. I started playing with the idea of once firing my work, which for those that aren’t familiar with the process of working with clay means that instead of doing a slow initial firing called the bisque, followed by a second glaze firing, I’m instead going from dry clay to finished ceramic in one firing. With the cost and use of energy to get my kilns up to 2000 degrees, saving one firing seemed to be the way to go.
From a technical standpoint it doesn’t always work depending on your clay, glazes, process of building and a million other clay techy things that can go wrong. But for my porcelain pieces that don’t even get glaze put on them, I thought I could make it work. The first few times I tried, the clay seemed slightly pinker in color rather than the true white it should be, so in my last firing, I added a bit more time to the kilns firing program at it’s mature temperature, letting it soak at it’s maturity point and that worked! I’m really exciting that I can get all of these pieces done in one firing now and waste less energy all at the same time!
Any one have other ideas on how to keep a greener clay studio?
Remember all those parts I’ve been making? Well, they’ve started to find their way onto the studio walls…
This installation is far from finished but a few hundred pieces are up on the wall. It’s been fun to play with how far off the wall the parts are and the subsequent shadows become a part of the piece. The overall form is inspired by a water droplet and the outward waves of ripples.
I’ve also got my own jellyfish aquarium going here with a whole new batch of Medusas swimming through the studio. These guys are so fun to hang out with in the studio all day!
I almost thought that there wasn’t a reason to even write a blog post this week about what was happening in the studio because for me it’s like Groundhog Day in here. Making hundreds of parts is tedious and monotonous and that’s about all that I’ve been up to. But then I scrolled through my phone photos are realized that I do have a few things to share. So here ya go…
These are the latest batch of Medusas to make their way out of the kiln and I’m pretty happy with them. I love the variety of their wire tendrils and how they add movement to the pieces. Right now these are resting on a towel in the studio but eventually I’ll get them all hung up so that they appear to be drifting through the studio.
I’ve also been experimenting with embedding my porcelain planktons into ice. The trick is making clear ice so that you can see the pieces, which I’m kind of getting the hang of. This is a small block, but I’m hoping to work towards getting a big ol iceberg going. If anyone has any tips or ice related info to share, I’m all ears… who knew freezing ice could be so tricky!?!
And yeah, remember all those parts, still working on that. The piles are getting bigger though!
Just a quick, fun video of each of the steps of making my radiolarian (single cell planktons) inspired porcelain parts. Starting with a thin slab of porcelain clay, I roll it even thinner with a rolling pin, then cut out the forms and scrape the edges even thinner with a metal rib tool so they are translucent when they are fired. Next I perforate the circles with even more circles using an x-acto knife, smooth each of the holes with a bit of water on both sides and then set them aside to dry and eventually be fired in the kiln. Hundreds and hundreds of parts later they will be used to create a large scale wall installation, but for now I’m just going to be over here making parts… lots of parts. Enjoy!
It can be embarrassing to look back at work you’ve made in the past, like really embarrassing sometimes…but it’s also a sign that your work has grown and evolved. These images are from my first solo exhibit in 2006 at a gallery that doesn’t even exist anymore, it was a space that had a lot of challenges – mainly ‘how do I put sculptures on a wall?’ since that was the only space available to place work in and I was building very three dimensionally at that time.
But, that challenge led me to designing floating pedestals that my husband made and I still use to this day. It also led me to working with high temperature wire not only as a design element but also as a structural element to attach the pieces to the wall, allowing me to go big (and secure) on the wall. Lots of things were learned in the process of putting this show together.
I still have a few of the vines in my studio and get to visit a number of the other pieces at friends and families homes, I still think about what I could do better or different with all of these works, but overall I’m still pretty pleased with these pieces and really not too embarrassed.
Just a quick video to share what’s going on in the studio these days….
There are literally hundreds of porcelain parts in this video piled up on the studio shelves, and I need sooooo many more for upcoming projects. They are all hand cut with an an xacto knife, smoothed with water and some have spiky appendages added on, some of them are drying and some are fully fired, eventually they will be piled up on all the shelves I’ve got. The good thing is that it’s pretty repetitive and meditative to make them, so while I’m working, I can be listening to a book or podcast and be able to pay attention to both things. Stay tuned to see what I end up using all of these for!
The studio has been taken over with the process of prepping three 26″x72″ panels for the public art piece that will be placed in a new health care building here in Santa Cruz. I have literally been watching paint dry for days on end, building up the layers to get a beautiful blue surface to place my porcelain pieces on. I’ve finally been able to start on the layout of the pieces and get a nice flow between all the panels that mimics the Santa Cruz County coastline.
Once I’m happy with the layout, every piece will get adhered to the panels. Some of pieces lay flat but some have rods attached to the backs so they will be drilled into the panel and float off the surface creating areas of depth in the piece. Excited to see these finished and send them off to the framers for protective plexi boxes and their mounting hardware.