Category Archives: Pottery

Foxy-Wolff and The Relics of Beautiful Grotesque

These pots are the remnants of the Myownian culture which left  no discernible written language. They were discovered in an old shipwreck site and comprise the only known relics of this lost culture. We are unsure as to the purpose of these jars, one theory holds that they are for fertility purposes but the disembodied babies also suggest that they may have been for funerary purposes. There was little else recoverable at the site.

The dark heavily textured portion of the vessels describe where they were exposed to the ravages of the sea, the barnacles and erosion have compromised the surface here and the viewer will notice a graduation of damage to the vessels that likely describes the shifting topography of the body of water in which they rested.

Foxy-Wolff has had exclusive rights to the site and is thrilled to present them to viewers for the first time in history. Each object has been painstakingly cleaned and cataloged and is available for viewing in the White Gallery  at the Sangre de Christo Arts Center in Pueblo Colorado through mid January. Don’t miss this historic exhibition.

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Myownian Ship Wreck; object #519. Hidden Watcher 6”

Myownian Ship Wreck; object #195. Twins Jar 10”

Myownian Ship Wreck; object #036. Baby Butterfly Jar 8.5”

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Myownian Ship Wreck; object #415. Baby Ring Jar 8.5”

Myownian Ship Wreck; object #382. Pony Ride Jar 9.5”

Myownian Ship Wreck; object #816. Horned Baby Jar 8.75”

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Myownian Ship Wreck; object #078. Window Baby Jar 8”

Myownian Ship Wreck; object #593. Baby Coat of Arms Jar 13.5”

Myownian Ship Wreck; object #667 Lobster Champion Jar 9.75”

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Myownian Ship Wreck; object #709. One Arm Jar 8”

Myownian Ship Wreck; object #948. Sun Baby Jar 13.5”

Myownian Ship Wreck; object #228. Bug Lord Jar 7”

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Myownian Ship Wreck; object #314. Bug Baby Jar 6”

Myownian Ship Wreck; object #682. Dragon Princess Jar

Myownian Ship Wreck; object #113. Running Unicorns Jar 6″

Featured Image:

Myownian Ship Wreck; object #065. Lg 100 Face Jar 9.5”

Myownian Ship Wreck; object #446. Baby King Jar 15”

Myownian Ship Wreck; object # 714 Sm 100 face Jar 7.5”

 

 

Pots for Beautiful Grotesque

We’ve been back in the studio again after a long absence for the breeding season on the farm and are starting right back in with work for an upcoming show.  We have been invited to the upcoming Beautiful Grotesque show at the Sangre de Cristo arts center in Pueblo. The show opens in October and runs through mid January. Stay tuned for information about the opening and sales.

For this body of work we chose to start with a functional form, since we worked with vases for the graffiti show covered jars seemed like the logical choice.  The jars allow for another layer of narrative to work with the content we are working with in this series. The jars are collage, using molds from several of our previous projects and from salvaged doll molds.  These images are reconfigured to suggest meanings that might relate to an ancient cultures fertility rituals.  Many of the pieces were then textured to reference deep sea salvage, creating a false timeline for the objects. They will be finished to reflect the layers of ideas.

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We used a combination of techniques for decorating the pieces, including sprigging, slip casting, buttoning, incising and sculpting.

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Though not recommended by clay makers or professionals, we are using two different bodies on pieces that incorporate slip casting.  The throwing/spriging body used is Laguna’s White Stone and the casting slip is Cashmere from New Mexico Clay. These fit together remarkably well and gave us almost no problems with attachments during shrinkage to bone-dry.

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The work as usual was very collaborative, some pieces we both touched while others were one or the other, and will be decorated as a team as well. We deliver to the gallery in late September, watch for finished pieces soon.

Ai Weiwei and The Art of Destruction

ai-weiwei-installation-012The pottery of Neolithic and Bronze era China have inspired many artists over the centuries since it was first created, but none to such a controversial degree as the work of Ai Weiwei.  Ai Weiwei is a Chinese artist who has risen to the apex of the international art scene with his thought-provoking social commentaries.  The majority of these are protests aimed at the communist government of China.  The artists work in ceramic is no exception.

The bones of the work are historical vessels from the early history of China, including Gansu Jars and pieces from the Han period.  These objects are then changed, and sometimes destroyed to make Ai’s controversial work.  The photo above shows two of the works.  The first, the photographs, are a piece titled Dropping A Han Dynasty Urn and are exactly as the title and photo indicate, The artist is seen in three frames dropping an urn from the Han dynasty period, a piece that has remained intact since it was made any where from 206 bce to 220 ce.  The other vessels  depicted are from a piece called Colored Vases and are Chinese jars from various early periods that have been dipped in paint.artwork_images_93_621026_-aiweiweiAnother work titled Dust to Dust are the remains of 30 Neolithic vessels that have been ground to dust, and displayed in glass jars in orderly rows.ai weiweiPots are not the only objects that have been altered from their original state as antiques.  These stools are from the Ming Dynasty and represent a large body of works based on altered antique furniture.

Ai sites his greatest influence as Marcel Duchamp, and indeed in these works we see Fountain and Bicycle Wheel reborn in a new context, but rather than a pure examination of art and object, the objects the artist has chosen to alter are loaded with political statement as well as artistic.  When challenged regarding the destruction of the furniture, he countered with the official Chinese government position of destroying objects from the Ming and other dynasties.

This leads to the sticky question of the nature of Ai’s works with objects of antiquity.  Is this destruction or transformation?  First it must be noted that there is a good deal of speculation that the works are convincing fakes.  We must acknowledge that the artist loves the concept of the Fake, giving that the name of his architectural firm.  It is not unreasonable to consider the entire project an elaborate joke.  But for the sake of argument, we must consider that these are the genuine article, irreplaceable objects of tremendous importance for the history of all of humanity.  Are they truly destroyed?

In the case of the pieces from Dust to Dust, there can be no doubt that the vessels that fill these jars have been utterly destroyed.  The remaining ceramic is contained in its own funerary urn, placed on a beautifully crafted shelves, clean ordered and evenly spaced.  Yes the jars are destroyed, but they are still being treated with reverence and respect.

The Han Urn too is destroyed, or at least broken, like most of the works from its time.  A skilled restorer could have the piece back to museum quality in a few days, so what truly is lost?  certainly the rare quality of having never been broken, which is remarkable and wonderful to me personally as a person in love with art and antiquity, yet what might have been gained from the sacrifice, for that is what I believe these acts constitute.

We consider the great history of China unbroken, yet I believe Ai is pointing to another possibility, that it has been broken, that the current government of China has broken completely with history and humanity.  The ritualized sacrifice of treasures has brought a great deal of attention to the artist and so then his cause for the freedom of the people of China.  Reading comments to certain blog articles about this work it is clear that many believe that  Ai should be imprisoned for this desecration.  Actually he is imprisoned, being  on house arrest for years because of acts like these.  Is it because of the breaking and damage to historical objects? No, it is because the Chinese government sees this artists statements on a global scale as a threat to their continued power.  This is what sanctifies the destruction of these objects and why this work is so compelling and thought-provoking.

Last year an artist broke one of the vessels from an exhibition in Miami.  He claims to have done it to protest the galleries emphasis on international artists rather than on the local scene.  I believe he has missed the importance of the statement made by Ai and used his fame to artificially propel his career, I have no doubt that if the protestor was himself showing internationally he would have no problem with an international gallery, nor would he refuse the opportunity to exhibit abroad in solidarity with local artists.

As for the painted pots, Greek sculpture demonstrates that painted surfaces usually don’t survive time the way that objects can.  These pieces belong to history and humanity.  This is but a brief moment in their existence.  It is possible that the new status conferred to these objects as highly valued pieces of contemporary art will have a protective effect on them, but in any case, The culture of contemporary art and these political and aesthetic concerns will crumble to dust before all of these pots are lost.

http://artasiapacific.com/Magazine/70/AiWeiweiDroppingTheUrnCeramicWorks5000BCE2010CE

http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/jonathanjonesblog/2014/feb/18/ai-weiwei-han-urn-smash-miami-art

Gansu Jars of Neolithic China

Neolithic culture is a period that begins worldwide about 8000 bce and is defined by humanities move from hunter-gather culture to settled agriculture centered around small villages.  Important innovations and technology of the time were stone tools and the regular manufacture and use of pottery.  It is in fact through pots and fired ceramic objects that we have learned about many of these early cultures, because the ceramic is able to survive the decay of long years in a way that other crafts that were practiced by these early ancestors cannot.Neolithic chinaThis illustration is a recreation of a neolithic community in Jiangzhai Village, Lintong China.  The image was taken from this website below, where a discussion of the layout and functions of the buildings is discussed.  Most interesting to this article is the area near the river, which was the locations of the potteries and kilns.  This would have been a very important industry for the village and so was located within the walls of the town.

http://hua.umf.maine.edu/China/Xian/Shaanxi_History/pages/031_History_Museum.html

The area of this site, while outside of the Gansu province was from the neighboring province of Shaanxi and was a part of the Yangshoo culture which give us the Gansu Jars.Neolithic2 jarThis jar was found in the Jiangzhai Village and has many of the distinctive characteristics of the Banshan Yangshoo or Gansu Jars.  Bulbous shape, small handles and free flowing dynamic brushwork are all characteristics of this work.  In addition, these pots were light and well made, which is one of the reasons for the large number of these that have survived the many years since their creation (from the 4th to the 3rd millennium BCE)  These were thought to have been built quickly with an eye for function.  The majority of those that survive were used as burial jars.gansu 3These beautiful forms were made by coiling and then paddling to refine the form, they were then scraped and burnished and painted with colored slips and fired in small updraft kilns.

“The forms of Chinese are are…in the widest and deepest sense harmonious…we can appreciate them because we too feel their rhythms all around us in nature, and instinctively respond to them”     -Michael Sullivan 1967gansu 1I dont dispute this quote, but I would go further, in that all art springs from that which came before, either in celebration or protest.  Chinese culture is rare in that it traces its beginning, unbroken, to the Neolothic.  There are many villages in China that still employ techniques for making pottery that were used during this early period and many of the forms produced clearly owe their origins to this formative period.  Not only are these forms still relevant in China, but the pottery of China has been traded and treasured all over the world since the opening of the silk road.  We respond to these forms and these designs because they are fundamental to the culture of the entire world, nearly every artistic tradition owes a debt to the pioneering potteries of Neolithic China.

Sources:

Speight, Charlotte F., and John Toki. Hands in Clay. 5th ed. Mountain View, Calif.: Mayfield, 2004. Print.

Wood, Nigel. Chinese Glazes: Their Origins, Chemistry, and Recreation. London: & C Black ;, 1999. Print.

MLA formatting by BibMe.org.

 

 

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angzhai Village, Lintong

Film Festival Trophies

Every year we make the awards for the Pueblo 24 hour film festival in our home town Pueblo CO.  This year we made a video to accompany the process.  Rather than write about this one, I’ll let you watch.

The screening was this weekend and the entire event was very successful, with 25 entries and 18 films for judging.  The big winners of the night were the makers of a film called “The Brighter Side”, Gabe and I were lucky to catch up with the winning team, Lyonman productions at the event to offer congratulations.FullSizeRender

You can view the film here:

The festival is in its 7th year and is growing steadily, If you are interested in learning more or possibly entering a film next year, their website will fill you in of the details:

http://pueblo24hourfilmfestival.com

You can also watch the films from previous years at this address.

Coil Pots

maria martinez

This coiled vessel was made by the late potter, Maria Martinez. Maria worked in the tradition of her families village, the San Ildefanso Pueblo.  The work of Maria is notable in many ways, the first and most obvious is the elegance and mastery of the work, but possibly more significant is the way the these pots draw from a long tradition of forms and making techniques, but push those conventions into contemporary art pieces that engage a modern audience.  Innovation and tradition are hallmarks of the contemporary coil pot.  This video documents Maria’s making process, from digging clay to firing pots and is well work the time to watch.

jomon

The history of coiling vessels from clay is nearly as old as fired clay in the archeological record.  Some of the oldest coil pots in the world come from the Jomon culture of Japan.  The earliest of these pots were made around 15,000 years ago.  The oldest are simple cooking pots, but as the culture continued the work became increasingly ornate.

This link is a nice discussion of the history and techniques of Jomon pottery with many good photo illustrations.

http://heritageofjapan.wordpress.com/just-what-was-so-amazing-about-jomon-japan/ways-of-the-jomon-world-2/jomon-crafts-and-what-they-were-for/ways-of-the-jomon-world/types-of-pottery-and-how-to-make-a-jomon-pot/

Teresa Brooks Coil case

Contemporary ceramists use coils to create a variety of forms that include both sculpture and vessels.  Many artists, such as Teresa Brooks, who made the vase pictured above , combine sculptural principals with more traditional pot forms to create dynamic art pieces that shake up the conventions that are often associated with coil made work.

http://teresabrookspottery.com/coil-pots.html

Pinch Pots

pinch pots

These pinch pots, by Kate Tremel, capture exactly what I love about pinched forms.  Delicately crafted, the rims become landscape and describes perfectly the action of the fingers in making.  Simple glazing accentuates the directness of form.  The only addition to these wonderful bowls, is subtraction in the form of pierced openings in the clay wall which allows the element of light to play in the object in a way that is difficult to achieve in clay.

Simple is truly the defining characteristic of pinch pots, while it is true that making a pinch pot is relatively easy, that makes it all the more challenging to make work that displays innovation and integrity.  One artist who does that perfectly is Priscilla Mouritzen, South African born and living in Denmark, Priscilla’s wood fired pinched forms are some of the finest pots I have ever seen.  The quiet simplicity of form coupled with her rhythmic decorations and the touch of the wood kiln, make each bowl feel like a precious individual.

http://design-mind.blogspot.com/2012/05/priscilla-mouritzen-ceramics.html

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Especially for my students, here’s a nice video done by Ceramic Arts Daily that gives a good beginning on the basic technique and suggests a direction to expand.