Graffiti Pots

One of my favorite aspects of the work of Foxy-Wolff is the way that the large project can contain so many splinters and still remain whole.  The intent, scope and heart of all the projects lead to the interior of the next project and are connected back to projects that are many years past, even before the beginning of our collaboration. The graffiti pots are especially one of these projects.  Gabe and I began working together rather later in our artistic lives.  For myself, I was focused on ceramic entirely.  Especially working as a studio potter and sometime sculptor for almost 20 years prior to Foxy-Wolff.  For Gabe about the same number of years have been given to the study of drawing and painting.  Within those time spans we each developed interests.  For me, the history of human culture through clay sculpture and pottery, for Gabe, Graffiti and street art have been important influences.  For this group of vases we unite those years of experience and differing interests into a unified group of pots that are setting the tone for the work we intend to make for the next year at least.IMG_4614I threw the pots off the hump with the clay that we made this winter.  The influence for the form comes from the arts and crafts movement.  Not that these pots are intended to copy work from the period, but their forms and handle attachments reflect fashionable conventions from the time.   This period has had the strongest influence over my sense of beauty in thrown forms and they are shapes I make often.

once the pots were trimmed, handled and bisqued, they were ready for surface treatment and their first firing.  The first step in this process is to spray paint the surface of the work.  We use a lead free industrial grade aerosol primer for this.

After the paint dries the pots are glazed.  The paint acts as a resist and an uneven glaze surface over the paint is encouraged.IMG_4593

IMG_4592Following the glaze application the pots are ready for firing

While I was focused on design and execution of the pots, Gabe was working on the tags for the decals.  Concerning the work Gabe said “I want the work to look as if it was taken from the unknown origins collection in a Museum and used like a wall is used by a graffiti artist”.    Here is a group of photos that reveal his process in designing1324Once a design is ready on paper it can be moved to the computer for extensive preparation in photoshop for becoming a decal.  These were printed by the sheet and then cut out.  Gabe chose a repeating order for all the pots.  Even though some of the small pieces could only hold 3 of the tags, the order was held throughout the decaling process to prevent overuse of an image56Once the pots were fired, they were ready to receive their decals

IMG_47798Decaled, they were ready for their third firing to set the decals into the glaze.910The completed pots exceeded our expectations and have set the tone for future work.  These are for sale through the studio, reach us through our “About” page.cropped-graffiti-pots1-copy-21.jpg

Building a Bear Party

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Today was an incredibly productive day in the studio.  After a reworking of the timeline on the film project and a remade list of things needed to be ready to shoot, it was time to get cracking.  The first goal in terms of time and delivery for the piece is my midterm critique in March.  For this critique I am planning to have all the figurines finished and the mini films that are internal to the world of the film.

Part of the reassessment of last week was to abandon the live action portions of the film.  The logistics were nearly impossible and we were unsure if we could blend these two styles seamlessly, so it was decided the magic box films for the interior of each apartment would be filmed with ceramic.  This meant that I needed several bears in a hurry, not only to have them made by the deadline, but early enough that their films could be made.  I went back to techniques developed for teaching children to create a bear quickly and convincingly in a short amount of time.  They also needed to stay within the style restraints of the rest of the figurines.  The guiding principle here has been the doll house theme, so everything needs to be cute and a bit toy like.

while I built bears, Gabe has been focused on the audio portion of the project.  He spent a good part of the day composing the theme for the Stone Woman.  Part of this was to review the other existing parts of the sound track and ensure that when finished it will sound like a cohesive piece of music.

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In addition to the soundtrack, he worked on the sound for the announcer bear’s voice and layering in the song for the bear party with that voice.  A process that requires several different approaches to the original reading and then hours of listening and making slight adjustments.

Once this sound was acceptable we threw together a little bear party on the dirty table and made some quick proof of concept videos with the iPhones.  Though neither the bears or the sound is finished, I am posting a couple of clips here.  While the work is very rough and there is plenty of offensive language, it is worth sharing these because they are such a good look at our early process for video production.

We need about five of these mini films for the overall film, and production will begin as soon as squids and glazed and bears are painted.

Script and Squids

Once the body of the doll house was finished,  we needed a story.  Initially I wanted this film to center around gender identity issues, and the first characters were chosen as a vehicle for this idea.  The story of course has evolved beyond the first basic idea but Ted and Jeff, the couple up stairs, and Bob the unicorn made it through the editing process to the actual making.  I don’t want to say too much about the story because i want the film to speak for itself, but each of the characters is struggling with a desire that cannot be fulfilled.  This could have been done with a couple of any biological make up certainly, but leaving this a gay couple allows us to avoid a conversation about traditional gender rolls of men and women in relationship, which is outside the scope of this project.  More than that, and more intimate to the experience of life for me now, I wanted to include queerness as an integral part of this film.  Not simply as a concept of sexuality, because I’m pretty asexual these days, but as an attitude and baseline concept.  To me queerness points the way, it will let the viewer know to pay attention and that the subjects of the film will not be understood by a quick read.  We are communicating a feeling with this film.  To me, that feeling is the most important thing in the world.  For the characters of the film it is cloaked in sadness, but it is still true and redemptive and all creatures are granted its grace.  Especially dysfunctional squids.photo-8

From an emotional perspective then decisions were made easily and though the script was certainly not easy to write, one sentence led to the next and though I could not have imagined where it led before I got there, its end is complete and very satisfying (at least from the storytellers perspective).  Once the script was finished then, how to make a film, with such complex concepts from rigid ceramic figurines became the central issue.  When the idea was just an abstract floating around in my head, I though something like the play set for the previous video might work, with a single figurine to represent  each character.  As the script took shape, I realized that would be impossible.  All of the characters have a range of activities and motions.  In the end we needed four separate poses for each of the characters except one, and she is singular.

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Jeff and Ted began as drawings, First I drew squid, trying to understand basic anatomy and then to consider anthropomorphization of the animal.  These drawings here are the final draft and are drawn to scale.  This was a critical tool in keeping each of the various forms of the characters similar enough to carry the feeling that each represents a single identity.

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the first character I focused on was Ted.  Again Ted is the hero and the mover of the story.  Not that you see this in any way from the construction of the figurine.  Although the figures were made to stand up right and seem human after a fashion,  I really wanted them to remain ceramic figurines.  Their life is specific for two things, first is the video, and second is our intention to display the doll house and its “dolls” in the gallery when they are shown.  It seems such a mad idea to want to make films that star ceramic, but thats the idea, so we’ll have to go all out.  We will rely on the script and the voice acting to convey the emotion needed to tell the story.  After making Ted in his entirety twice, Gabe suggested that I make a single head and interchangeable legs for the chatting and stair climbing Ted.  It was also Gabe’s design for the stair climbing sled legs, which will allow for the ceramic to get up the steps on camera.  The head slots over the stem  of the legs and reduced the making time for each significantly.

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Jeff is far less active but had to be seen sitting on the couch alone.  Of course the script was not finished when I made the first pair on the couch and they are fused to it, so a second couch and Jeff had to be made.  Here is that squid, the arm is raised to that he can also sleep on the couch.

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Here they are on the first couch, the second pair built.

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The title of the film is “Magic Box” and the activities of all of the characters center around this TV like device that serves as a sort of electronic life coach.  The Magic Boxes will be iPhones and iPods.  I didn’t want to show anything but the screens so a sort of entertainment center for a phone had to be designed and built.  There will need to be a total of 5 of these for the entire apartment.  The build on these is complex as it requires shrinkage calculation.

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Here is a grouping of some of the objects for Ted and Jeff’s apartment after the first firing.  Glazing ideas are hatching slowly, but nothing will be attempted until all the figurines are ready for glazing as surface will help unite the four figures as one.