Tag Archives: ceramic art

Building the Black Church

The design of the last set piece of the Magic Box project was immensely important to the look and feel of the entire project.  This element and accompanying video is the culmination of our learning and focus on a project over two years in the making.  While the piece must work well with all those that came before, It must also reflect the inevitable learning that accompanies work of so much duration and focus.

As with the building for “The Empty Room”,  “The Black Church” was based on a building in our home town Pueblo, Colorado, the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. While we considered many church designs for the project, we went with the cathedral because of its classical anatomy and ties to art history, which is an important element of the last video.

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We began by photographing the building.  The main challenge in “sampling” a building like this is discovering how much of the original to stay true to and how much to simplify and modify. To help make these determinations I did an extensive series of drawings, to both see the building fully and to determine the essential elements. In the initial planning stage, before the drawings, I imagined holding a large amount of the detail, feeling that was an essential part of the beauty of the building.

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The slow and deliberate process of drawing the church again and again over a period of weeks helped me to understand the soul of the building, the essential nature of the proportion and what that communicates to those on the sidewalk or inside the structure. By the end of the drawing process I was stripping away the detail and focused on the classical structure.

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From the drawing step, our building was designed, rather than the lengthy process of constructing plaster molds for each section, a heavy watercolor paper was used. This step cut at least 4 weeks from the build which allowed the full project to be completed within the semester.

For the build I broke the structure into four sections, the front section, or Facade and narthex, was built first. This allowed the rules for construction to be set on a relatively small and simple piece and to test the scale of the building against the existing works in the series and to ensure continuity of the installation. Rather than the Laguna’s whitestone that we built the empty room house with, we returned to Laguna’s soldate, a body that we have used for years with success. This decision completely solved the major mid slab cracking issues that had been such a problem with so much of the early construction. Another modification of the build  was to  let the slabs set up several days before assembly. This let the individual units do most of their drying and shrinking before they came together which reduced the amount of stress placed on each piece.

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The second section built was the naive, this section was modified from its proportion in the original building so that we could focus the filming in this section.  Because of the size modification, the roof became problematic, columns were set into the mid center of the hall to hold a sort of half ceiling. This would serve the dual purpose of holding a multi media roof that would be constructed post firing and hide the lighting system for the enclosed structure. The decision to go without decoration or windows on the building affirmed itself as the structure grew.  The exterior and the interior were beginning to be understood as separate realms.  the exterior was to exude imposing darkness and mystery in addition to be immediately recognizable as a holy or sacred place. The interior was to evoke a cave, a hidden space not easily accessible from the outside.

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The third piece was the transept. For the long roof section of this unit a sort of joist was constructed from the side wall panel pieces.

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The last piece was the choir. This was the both the smallest and most complex of the sections.

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Once all the sections were complete, they could be placed together to make decisions about the placement and shape of the passage that would span the whole interior.

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Once the interior was opened it was coated in whitestone slip, to tie it to the earlier buildings and to enhance the cave feeling for the interior shots for filming. During construction of each section a waster slab was placed beneath to limit drying and firing stress. The building was then covered and allowed to dry over several weeks.

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Once the units were dried and fired to cone 06 they were again assembled to assess the warping that took place through the long process of clay to ceramic. While we did have markedly better results with this building, each section did move throughout this time, a solution was then sought to fill the gaps between the sections that would allow light to penetrate into the building. Several solutions were considered for this but in the end we decided on vinyl  joint compound, this substance starts very soft and plastic like clay and would dry very hard to allow the building to be handled as it moves from show to show.  The first step for this was to shrink-wrap the first and third sections so that the compound would only go on  section two and four, minimizing both handling stress and cleanup. Each section was then masked for spray paint.

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The process of application and sanding back the material had to be done through several  times before we were satisfied with the fit. The visible sides were then textured to match the ceramic.

Painting was two coats of semi-gloss black spray paint with an additional two coats of a matte clear finish, this had to be tuned up several times through the finishing as the joint compound was very messy when it had to be manipulated. The interior was largely left alone, but some of the ground bisque clay used on the interior was mixed with acrylic to cover epoxy fill and to allow the heavy texture to be picked up by the camera during filming.

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Once the surface was finished, it was then time to install the lights. small battery-powered LED’s were used, hot glued into position in the roof sections using the joint compound to hide the cord running through the walls and down through the joints into a pedestal built to house them. Initially my intent was to light the interior with fire, but having ruled this impractical from a build and display standpoint,  we opted for half flashing lights.  Though labeled as the same light, we found the flashing lights had a very different temperature from the non blinkers so I applied an acrylic wash to warm up the cooler toned lights.

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Following the placement of the lights, the god tiles were epoxyed into place since their shape and the texture of the walls would not allow them to be simply placed and stay where they needed to be.

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Gabe supplied the finishing touches to the piece, first the multi media roof was constructed of similar materials as the additions to the ceramic. His intent for the addition was that it not draw attention to itself yet compliment the overall feeling of the exterior of the building.

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All these elements unite to form what we believe is an incredibly strong piece that will anchor the gallery presence of the entire installation. The last element added was subtle decoration to the exterior of the church. Gabe executed to scale, tags in black marker around the back and sides of the building. These additions tie the piece into the overall intent and work of the studio and also reward the careful viewer looking for the details that are present throughout the installation.church tag 2church tags 1

Detail and subtlety become the focus of this object, the only one in the group with no magic boxes and aside from lights no dependence on technology. This piece becomes a resting place in the work to contemplate the various layers of meaning in the Magic Box installation and video series.

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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.

Magic Box Collectables

An important idea for us right now in Foxy-Wolff is to develop an income steam to support the video production and installation, which can be very expensive when considering the tech involved.  We have worked with a variety of ideas over the last couple years and continue to search for something compelling that ties to into the heart of the videos.  With this latest idea, I think we may have figured it out.

These came from a series of small drawings Gabe made as we were on our way home from Kansas after the semester critique last December.  While I did like the tiles, I felt they were missing something, and a reoccurring comment we heard during the critique was that everyone wanted to play with the house and the figurines.  combining these two necessities, Gabe developed these wall hanging pieces:IMG_8040As soon as we got home I began with their construction.  For most of these, the molds already exist from the construction of the houses and so the details on the build could be thought through very quickly.

The first was from “The Empty Room” house, which is a challenging piece even at a small-scale.  I chose a window and two brick walls for this, finishing with all the trim.  Part of the challenge was building solo, the piece being too small for both of us to put up the walls.  Once the construction was finished it was dried, then spray painted and fired.  Following that acrylic paint and more spray paint were applied. I wanted to make these close to the original, but art pieces in their own right so there is some deviation from the surfacing of the original.IMG_0661“Ted in the Empty Room” 8.5″ x 9.25′ x 5″ Ceramic and Paint

The second piece was also from “The Empty Room” and is more of a display shelf for figurines than a house.  Again, using molds from the original build, a plan was made.  This house does not include porches and so decisions had to be made concerning that new aspect.  Construction and surfacing followed the procedures listed above and this piece finished well.IMG_0654“Terry and Virgil After Breakfast” 8.75″ x 9.75″ x 6 Ceramic and Paint

The third piece comes from “The Magic Box” and was perhaps the most difficult build of the group.  The reason for this being the molds from which the original house was made.  They are early on in our pursuit of mold making and are imprecise and difficult to use.  That being said, the compact design of this house and the attachment style it uses are very sturdy and make a lovely little piece.  This was glaze finished like the house it is made after.IMG_0646“The Stone Woman at Home” 8.5″ x  8″ x 8″ Stoneware and Glaze

The figurines were made following the construction of the houses and were somewhat different from the originals, the stone woman for example is slip cast for these, where she was carved from solid clay in the original piece.  In this we were seeking a way to differentiate the collectables from the gallery originals.IMG_0665IMG_0650These pieces will hang in a variety of ways, the large free-standing pieces will be placed on a custom shelf, while the piece that includes its own shelf will hang on a French cleat.

This series does exactly what we were hoping for, It reunites the concept of the films with toys and action figures and  gives us an interesting opportunity to return to the “commercial”.  I love the idea of promoting the “Collect all five!” marketing strategy for ceramic art, its fantastically absurd.

 

Making Characters for The Empty Room

Not even a weekend passed between finishing the house and starting the furniture and characters for the film.  I began with the furniture because its size would dictate the moveable space within the rooms and so the size of the animals inside.  The Cafe was the most important space as this is where the bulk of the film takes place.  I laid out and built the objects in place and was much more flexible with shrinkage size for this project, just setting a maximum size and working below that.IMG_7017I did have one piece that required precise shrinkage for a screen, but there I only fussed with the opening.  Being less absolute with measurement cut the build time on the furniture by weeks,  it was such a great compromise.  Here you can see that the opening is slightly too big.  There is a formula that I use that allows pretty precise measurement of clay body shrinkage after firing.  For some things this is essential.IMG_7044After the furniture was complete, I moved on to characters.  I have a pretty tried and true method for devising a build for an animal that I have never tried.  First I search google images for poses and colors that I am interested in, then I draw those images.  This allows me to get careful about certain details that are important to quickly identifying the type of animal.IMG_7041As I move to the sculpting process, I use techniques I developed teaching children, this keeps the figurines looking like toys.  This relies in shedding non-essential detail, but holding on to the things that are most important, usually ear and snout shape and limb attachment.  I also usually make multiples of a each character so we can show a range of movement in the film.  The first piece gets to be an exploration, but the second must follow the size and detail rules of the first.IMG_7121I sculpted the figurines by group so that I could develop some speed with a form.  I started with squirrels and then moved to squid, rabbits, fish and bears.IMG_7071 IMG_7113 IMG_7134

James the lizard was the last of the figurines that was made.  He was built at my home since there was just not enough time in a day to get them all done.  He was built for a very specific scene in a very particular space in the cafe, which I did not have with me.  The consequence of this was significant post firing revision to get him to work in the space.  I hope not to repeat this mistake as I had to mutilate the ceramic to get him to sit.

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All the figures and furniture were fired together, though they were finished in various ways.

While I worked on the clay bits, Gabe was focused on the special effects portion.  One of the greatest things about collaboration is watching an idea expand as it meets other ideas.  This film features several flashbacks, all of which needed additional building to pull off convincingly.  Gabe took one of these flashback scenes and built a fantastic set, based on the first house, but expanded and edited to allow the scene to convey the emotion that we wanted to communicate.  In the scene we wanted to convey the  horror of greed and grasping,  The project became incredibly detailed because Gabe was so committed to pulling off the illusion to carry off that emotional impact.  He also made the character for that scene.  He chose an ape, to further illustrate the concept of the clip.

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Finishing began after firing. The furniture followed the rules of the first film, and any character that was coming from a previous film had to be finished in their style.  After that, we could be creative about finish.  Most pieces were glaze fired, but a few were painted with acrylic.  For us, that process always begins with spray paint.

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When they were complete, filming began immediately.  The characters always look best in place

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Judy Onofrio

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This piece titled “Flux” by Judy Onofrio is featured in a review of her work in Ceramics Art and Perception issue 92.  The work is composed of ceramic forms and found objects, primarily bone, that the artist collects and cleans for this purpose.  The assemblages are then unified by paint surfaces that accentuate the feeling that the sculptures are a living thing.

Bone are very particular objects.  They are not made, by hands nor geologic process.  They are grown, but unlike most living things, they survive death.  They are the structure of animals and carry a memory of them, yet taken as objects they evoke another kind of architecture.  They can evoke a sense of the undying principles of life, it is this I believe that is behind a cultural obsession with the human skull.

This work then, which combines found objects grown from natural process and artist rendered shapes made from earth and transformed by fire come together to give new meaning to both.  The delicate hue of the assemblages pulse with life and point to a notion that the cycles of life and death are part of the creating process, a part of every life.Judyonofrio2twist Judyonofrio1

Inventing the Modern World

inventing4Rozenburg Haagsche Plateelbakkerij, The Netherlands (The Hague), 1883-1914. Milk Jug, 1900. Glazed porcelain with enamel. 108 x 40.6 x 33.7 cm. Designmuseum, Danmark, Copenhagen, 793.

 

One of the best things about the Ceramics Art and Perception assignment this semester is catching up on events in the ceramic community that I missed.  One of these that I most enjoyed was the review if the show “Reinventing the Modern World” that was staged by the Nelson Atkins museum in Kansas City in 2012. The show has toured some and so there are other museums that have sites dedicated to the show, but here is the original:

http://www.nelson-atkins.org/art/exhibitions/WorldsFairs/

The intent of these shows when they were first conceived was to showcase national manufacturing and design in a cooperative environment that allowed the spread of ideas globally.  There was also a fair amount for showing off, so the bet artists and craftspeople of a country were invited to participate, making it some of the best of the best work that a period had to offer.  The show focus’ on a period in which some ceramic was beginning to be designed for exhibition rather than domestic use, so these works have a very contemporary art piece feel.

inventing2Miyagawa Kozan, Japanese, 1842-1916. Vase, ca. 1904. Glazed porcelain. 35.6 x 31.2 cm. The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Acquired by Henry Walters, 1904, 49.1912 Walters.

Much like the worlds fairs themselves, the show featured many different arts and crafts objects, such as furniture, glass and metal, but there was also a range of styles and approaches to the ceramic work.  This vase seems influenced by Paul Gauguin’s experiments with ceramic.  Its form and surface have an incredibly contemporary feel.

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Pierre Adrien Dalpayrat, French, 1844-1910. Vase, La Mer, 1898-1900. Glazed stoneware. 40.6 x 36.8 x 40.6 cm. Saint Louis Museum of Art, Richard Brumbaugh Trust in memory of Richard Irving Brumbaugh and Grace Lischer Brumbaugh and funds given by Jason Jacques, 7:2010.

The focus of this show is largely a historical one, what was the world like at the time and how were these Worlds Fairs influential in the making of culture, but I see a deeper significance in restating historical shows.  Disparate objects become a single work of art through the process of good curation.  How interesting then to consider this historical work restaged in a contemporary setting. Bringing these works together again has the power influence a new generation of artists and thinkers in a way that photos in a book or a single example in a museum just can’t do. At the very least, it reminds us working in the field today of our roots and provides inspiration for new ideas.

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Algot Erikson, decorator, Swedish, 1868-1937. Rörstrand Porslins Fabriker, manufacturer, Sweden
(Stockholm), 1726-1964. Vase, 1904. Porcelain. 42.3 x 18.4 cm. Cincinnati Art Museum, Museum Purchase with funds provided by Mr. and Mrs. William O. DeWitt, Jr.

Images for this post were taken from this site:

http://arttattler.com/designworldsfairsmodernworld.html

Wall-Paper: An Installation by Aurora Hughes Villa

Wall-paper has a pretty bad reputation among contemporary house proud decorators, yet it has so much appeal for artists.  Being passé and completely decorative is just one of the reason to use it for inspiration.  Another wonderful feature is that its broken symmetry and patterning work so well in backgrounds.  Additionally,  wall-paper is loaded with symbolism, both within its own images and culturally as metaphor for the times it has been popular.

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The installation “Wall-Paper” by Aurora Hughes Villa that was displayed in conjunction with the 2012 NCECA in Seattle WA and reviewed in issue 92 of Ceramics Art and Perception, picks up on all these universal themes,  but manages to be a work that is intimate and personal. Part of its ease of communication is in the meticulous craftsmanship of each of the pieces.  They are created using a mixture of new tech and reliable technique.  The vintage wall-paper designs are scanned into Photoshop, where they are manipulated, and then turned into screens for silkscreen, which is applied using colored slips and underglazes.  The surface of the clay is formed using a combination of carving, stencils and free painting.  The medallions are then fired several times.  Each medallion is unique and features cameo images of women, medical drawings of body parts and architectural drawings of Victorian houses.

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The overall effect of these well placed, well-organized images is controlled and possibly a bit predictable, as  is expected of wall-paper, until considering the strong shadows cast on the wall by the heavily top lit medallions onto the dark painted wall.  Those shadows blur the edges of the entire piece and break up the uniformity and control.  The metaphor for shadow in a calm and ordered environment brings this work out of the Victorian, where the ideals of domesticity created a prison for women, into the contemporary mind, and suddenly the colors are reminiscent of a Martha Stewart Living magazine, also proclaiming the joys of quiet and controlled domestic living.   On the opposite wall from the medallions are two strips of wall-paper, tacked up, with the edges loose and bulges by the tacks.  These pieces of paper stand in stark contrast to the well placed order on the other side of the room.

Hughes Villa is a wife and a mother, and I do not believe she is making a statement that rejects either of those occupations, but rather acknowledges what all wives and mothers sometimes feel in the quest to create well-organized lives.

Her Website:

http://aurorahughesvilla.com/Artist.asp?ArtistID=28980&Akey=MND4MRXE