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!
I’ve been sharing this video individually to people whom I’m trying to explain what my upcoming show is all about and why I’ve become fascinated with plankton beyond their beautiful skeletal structures. The video has gotten quite a few.. ‘huh’s and ‘I did not know that’s and ‘wow’s… so I thought I’d just share it with all of you. It’s quick, entertaining and educational… what more could you ask for?!?
And if you get really inspired, there are more videos about specific types of plankton with beautiful imagery here at the Plankton Chronicles. Enjoy!
If you missed seeing this show in person, here’s your chance to check out the exhibit with a full gallery tour of This is the Anthropocene, which included works by Cynthia Siegel, Shannon Sullivan, Jenni Ward, Susan Whitmore & Wesley Wright. If you want to learn more about each of the artists work and the curator’s vision for the show, see below…
The Anthropocene is defined as the current geological age during which human activity has been the dominant influence on the climate and the environment. Curators Cynthia Siegel and Jenni Ward chose to bring together a diverse group of artists whose work has not been grouped together before to explore this concept. The five artists are responding within the themes of Animal, Agriculture, Landscape, Water and Atmosphere, from multiple viewpoints. Using their current bodies of work, the artists have challenged themselves to deepen their consideration of these relevant topics.
While diverse in style and approach, the artists find commonality in the medium of ceramics, with each artist’s inspiration from nature, and with their desire to use their work to bring awareness to the planet’s current state of peril.
For tens of thousands of years, humans have used the abundant earth resource, clay, to increase their chances of survival. From primitive vessels to applications within the high tech industry, clay has paralleled human development and advancement. This shared history makes ceramics a uniquely relevant medium of expression for this exhibition. Each artist uses this humble medium to reveal a unique point of view regarding the impact of the Anthropocene.
As a parallel to the human struggle for survival, Cynthia Siegel is drawn to the tenacity of the bristlecone pine trees that have endured for thousands of years, both because of and despite their fragile environment. With textured surfaces that reflect the intersection of time, weather, growth, and decay, Siegel’s sculptures convey the inseparability of man and nature.
Using aerial and microscopic imagery as a point of interpretive departure, Shannon Sullivan explores human intervention in the landscape. Patterns found in agricultural landscapes, shifting geologic boundaries, and migrating oceanic phenomena intermingle in her work.
Through her abstract umbel flower installations, Jenni Ward’s work speaks about the disconnection that we have with nature, the unsustainability of monoculture farming, as well as the global issue of food insecurity.
Aspects of attraction and repulsion influence much of the work of Susan Whitmore, who regards light variations and magnifications, varied textures and colors, and the creatures that inhabit the depths, as inspirational and sometimes frightening. Whitmore explores how changing our actions will enable the planet to provide a hospitable existence for all species.
The ornate surfaces of Wesley Wright’s contemplative and noble animals respond to mass extinctions and recent losses of terrestrial and aquatic habitats, yet they also portray species interconnectedness and the hope for continued survival. Some of Wright’s sculptures hold an environment within a glass dome on its body, creating an alternate world of protection and safety.
Each of the artists included in This Is The Anthropocene has a keen interest in understanding and interpreting the inner workings and the wonder they find in their everyday life as a part of the natural world. Driven by personal experience, they have created works for contemplation and discussion, empowering the viewer to consider and even question their own relationship with nature and our changing planet.
Cynthia Siegel & Jenni Ward
My third art catalog ‘inspiration through exploration’ has just arrived!
It will be available at Open Studios this October and in the online shop soon!
When you go visit the Price Sculpture Forest and start to explore the trails and sculptures, you’ll also want to log on to their wifi. Normally you’d think about your time in the forest being a tech-free space but here, each piece of art has a QR code on the sign for the artwork. If you scan the code with your phone, it will launch you to a webpage about the artist, their work and a video of them sharing their work in their own words- it’s kind of like getting a personal virtual tour by each artist as you make your way from piece to piece. It is such a great way to get more out of your visit and to explore the meaning, methods and concepts behind each of the sculptures. Below is my video….enjoy!
I ~think~ I have enough parts for my site specific Spore Patterns installation at the Price Sculpture Forest on Whidbey Island in Washington. I’ve lost the official count of parts but there’s definitely more than 300 pieces here, some are still raw clay, some glazed but not fired and most are finished. Next steps are to start working on the steel rods that will support the ceramic pieces to get them floating off the ground. Getting excited!
Just a quick behind the scenes video showing just how strong these very thin pieces of porcelain actually are. When I put them in the kiln, I just pile them up, but because of the vitreousness of the clay, they stick together just a little, kinda like porcelain nachos. Then they need to be popped apart so I can use these pieces in other projects. Enjoy!
If you’ve followed along over the past year while I attempted to make some extra large Rock Candy pieces, you’ll know that it was a challenge, but eventually I succeeded. I was able to make a selection of pieces that had no cracks or flaws, but there was a whole pile of pieces that didn’t make the cut. They’ve hung around the studio for long enough now, so it was time to get rid of them. So what do I do with all the unsuccessful pieces?
I hate garbage, I am always looking for a way to reuse, upcycle, repurpose or recycle everything and fired clay is no exception. While it could just go into the general landfill, I discovered that many refuse sites will accept ceramics in a separate pile where you would also put toilets, sinks and tiles. They grind up all the ceramics material and use it as an aggregate for compacting roads around the site or elsewhere. So if you have a bunch of broken ceramics from your studio be sure to check out if your local refuse center will separate it for use and you’ll give your not-so-great experiments another life.
I met Nikolina when I was an artist in residence in Stöðvarfjörður, Iceland. We spent a month there being simply wowed by the natural beauty of eastern Iceland. Nika created an amazing series of monochromatic paintings on aluminum panels in lighting speed all inspired by the landscape, waterfalls and bits of nature she found while hiking. She even attempted to learn a little Icelandic, while I was happy to be able to pronounce the name of our town correctly. You can see her works from Iceland here.
We stayed in touch over the years and I watched her paint her way through a South American backpacking trip with adorable alpacas and vast landscapes. She then launched into her current series of work, Utopian Reefs after becoming a certified scuba diver. She uses her art as a vehicle to educate and inspire others to protect the planet. I love following along with her travels, her art and her contagious optimism on life, so I had to share with you all.
Nika’s work stems from an interest in humanity’s psychological connection with Nature and strives to expose the consequences our everyday actions have on the environment. Her subjects range from global warming, deforestation and coral bleaching, to processing and interpreting visual landscape and cultural associations.
Learn more about her process and concepts for her latest series Utopian Reefs:
To add her work to your collection visit: www.nikolinakovalenko.com or follow her on IG at @nikolinakovalenko
Artists Sharing Artists: is a series of posts where I share some of my favorite artists who are also inspired by nature and use their art to protect what they love. More artists coming soon…
I’ve shared how I make my own kiln stilts before but I decided to put together a little step-by-step video for the Ceramic Arts Networks Clayflicks series and also share it with you here. If you make ceramic art and you glaze your pieces entirely, making your own stilts is an easy and cheap way to support them in the kiln. I purchase my stilt pins and all the nichrome wire I use from National Art Craft (direct links are below)
Remember! Be sure to test your clay first and don’t use any other type of wire to make these!
Direct link to purchase nichrome wire stilt pins:
To view videos from the Ceramic Arts Network visit:
Enjoy and comment below if you still have questions!