Monday, August 11, 2008

Poise & Grace While Hurling ~ Greg Vineyard

Greg Vineyard is a friend of mine and also a member at the Xiem Clay Center in Pasadena California. I just learned this past week that he has decided to make a big change in his life and soon will be moving to Asheville North Carolina. Greg is one of my favorite people at the studio and I will miss him, but I am happy for him on the eve of his new adventure. Please follow the link to visit his website, Vineyard Creative. Greg is a conceptual/random association artist working mostly in clay to convey personal, communication/relationship, societal and political concepts, and promotes the idea that any item special to an individual can serve as a conduit for meditation, reflection and blue-sky thinking on the journey toward balance, peace, light, love and spiritual centeredness. Additional pursuits include tile design, illustration and mixed-media assemblage.
Why Clay?
Having concentrated in graphic design and art direction, and with my personal artwork hardly ever leaving the 2-dimensional realm, a medium like clay was the furthest thing from my mind! In 1999, I took a trip to Catalina Island and as I was looking at the tiles it hit me that my linear style of drawing and art direction sketching might look great on tiles -- and when I got home there was a catalog for Glendale College in the mailbox, and classes were starting in two weeks and I miraculously got in on the waiting list. As you all know, Glendale is one of the best places to learn ceramics, and I was pretty instantly addicted.
If not clay, what?
Illustration in all media, collage and assemblage, design.
What get's you in the mood, what inspires you? Both solitary and communal activities inspire me - being alone in nature, enjoying favorite music (70's, 80's) and "listening" to the planet really center me, but I also enjoy adventures with friends, and a day in the studio with lots of people coming and going, with all sorts of interesting work in progress and finished work on the shelves, and people sharing ideas and discussing glazes, etc. I also enjoy that in-between sortof state, carving tiles at home while watching tv or a movie, where I'm alone but with "noise". I'm also learning to trust those times where I just don't feel like creating anything - a friend recently reminded me that those down times aren't "nothing", they have value, too.

Who is your favorite artist and why?My high school art teacher, Pat Abbott, an amazing potter and watercolorist and all-around artist. She fueled her students' creativity like a rocket booster, and always told us to go do and be what we wanted. I also really like Joseph Cornell, Marcel DuChamp, Modigliani amongst many others, as well as any conceptual artist using any medium.
What is your favorite cussword? Don't know if I have a favorite, but with this question in mind I observed myself closely this past week, and as things flew off the wheel during trimming the word that came up the most has an "S" and a "T" in it - and I don't mean "soldate"! But I actually try not to swear in public.
What is your favorite pleasure? I'm lucky in that it could be anything! Moments that stand out in my mind: Reading Tarzan novels during summer break as a kid; Sitting at home carving one of my first tiles for class at Glendale College - favorite music on shuffle, light breeze coming in off the patio, watching my design come to fruition before my eyes!; Having my first Reese's Peanut Butter Cup after being off sugar for one year; Looking at art in person that I had only previously seen in art history classes and being amazed at the actual sizes of things; Trimming and getting a bowl pushed out-of-round just right without destroying it (see the "flew off the wheel" comment above); I never know what the next "favorite moment" will be, but I trust they'll keep happening as long as I show up.
In your work you talk a lot about meditation and reflection, can you explain your thoughts on how your creations can be used in that process? I believe we can use focal points in our lives in order to find balance, stay grounded, be inspired. My work is both colorful and tactile -- whether through glaze surface or actual ridges and bumps or being out-of-round -- and I think this can provide an opportunity for people to connect with the pieces and perhaps assign them significant uses. One person might hold a bowl while another might prefer to look at it on a shelf. Another might prefer to have oatmeal and blueberries in it, and yet another might put it on his or her desk in the office and fill it with paperclips. An item small enough for a pocket can be used as a reminder to remember something, do something, not fear something anymore, or perform a kind act. A special bowl for change might be a reminder to save more. A carved tile might be soothing to touch during a rough day at the office. Still others might have these same experiences with non-handmade objects. I do all of the above. Handmade or not, an item I like has much greater potential to be part of my positive daily actions and thoughts as I move forward and grow in life. People have used my bowls specifically for meditation exercises, such as each person placing an intention in a bowl during group exercises, others have used them for candles, and another woman I know takes them to church to her prayer circle and each person chooses a bowl to hold during the process. I think the possibilities are endless.
I also feel that my conceptual work can be used for connectivity. For example, a pair of animal figurines with various word tiles relating to concepts of communication, relationships, spirituality, psychological issues and social politics provides a conduit for thought and discussion, an outlet to work out communication scenarios, and an ever-changing example of how each person interacts with a concept differently. A bowl holding its own trimming shards says something to me about holding onto the stuff that we have been trying to shed. A tray with tiles that only say "Yes" is a positive statement about anything the viewer wants it to be. Arranging figurines on a tile is zen-like for me, and I get a momentary sense of being in-the-moment. Giving a ceramic item to a friend also has its merits as a connecting force in the universe as we all move towards good.
What would you say to someone just getting started in ceramics who asks you for advice? Three things: 1) Don't Wait. If you have an interest in ceramics or any other art form (or anything for that matter), go ahead and sign up somewhere - there's a huge boost to the self-esteem to actually be DOING vs wishing, and you don't actually have to set up your own studio to get started; 2) Do Your Own Thing. Learning about clay's properties, physics, limits and how to create functional work is vital to the learning process, but beyond that don't get too attached to feedback about your ideas and creative expression; 3) Unpredictability Is A Gift. Just like life, not every ceramic piece goes according to plan, but the item you don't care for might be someone else's favorite. Or it might be good as shards for mosaics.

OK, four more things: Share space, clean up after yourself, don't be afraid to ask questions and respect the kiln operator. :-)

Thank you Greg, Good luck in the produce isles in Asheville!


judy said...

Great article. Wish Greg the best.

Josh said...

Good Luck Greg! Asheville is the cradle of craft in the southern highlands. All ways has been and hopefully will continue.

excited ceramics art beginner

perry Hoffman said...

Dear Chris,
I searched your website for an email address... couldn't find one :-) Also wanted to send something to you via snail mail and couldn't find a physical address either. Please email me at your convenience, Best, Perry PS Have another mosaic workshop coming up :-) and Open Studio announcement for the desert. Thanks again, Perry