Saturday, October 25, 2008

A True Craftsman ~ Otto Heino

On a recent trip to Ojai for the Ojai Studio Artists Tour I had the chance to meet one of the most celebrated potters of our time, Otto Heino. "The Pottery" as it is known is located just outside of town and up the hill, overlooking a beautifull garden. It is such a beautiful setting I'm not sure I could get much work done! The Pottery is open Tuesday through Sunday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., if you have a chance stop by and say hello. Be sure to ask Otto about his yellow glaze! Since Otto fires to cone 12 or 13 the fact that he achieves such a beautiful yellow glaze is remarkable. That glaze has been the crux of his marketing, creating the mystique around this ancient asian glaze that he was able to recreate. And the recipe is not written down, Otto has it commited to memory!
If you are in the area do stop by. Otto is allways there ready to answer questions, the fact that he is still producing, still throwing everyday makes him an inspiration to us all. I am honored to have his answers to a couple questions to post here. And I want to send a special thank you to his niece Helen Heino. Since Otto doesnt do email, my correspondence was with her. Thank you Helen! By the way, all images here as well as what you will find on Otto's Pottery website were taken by Helen Heino, good work!
Why clay?
Clay is the only live material an artist works with and the artist must also have a good eye for shape. Having been born on a farm... I have worked with clay all of my life.
What inspires you?
Designs from nature inspire me.
Who is your favorite artist?
Peter Volkous is one of my favorite artists.
What is your favorite quote?
One of my favorite quotes is:
"Live, Laugh and Learn... and I cannot be negative!" Thats a good philosophy for us all to live by, Thank you Otto! And Thank you Helen!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Help Get Out The Vote, Support Art At The Obamaware Sale

Now this is something I am really glad to see. Artists banding together, combining art and activism or "Artivism" and becoming politically active. Ceramic Artist Ayumi Horie has brought together a group of potters and has set up shop on Ebay to sell thier work and raise money for the Obama/Biden Campaign. Some of the artists who are participating are; Dan Anderson, Andy Brayman, John Byrd, Victoria Christen, Steven Colby, Michael Corney, Josh DeWeese, Diana Fayt, Donna Flanery, Julia Galloway, Ayumi Horie, Janice Jakielski, Garth Johnson, Kathy King, Michael Kline, Beth Lo, Kirk Mangus, Alleghany Meadows, Jeffry Mitchell, Peter Morgan, Jill Oberman, Jess Parker, Ron Philbeck, Elizabeth Robinson, Justin Rothshank, Shoko Teruyama, Jason Walker, Sarah Archer Essay.
Through out history artists have come together, stood up and raised thier voices to call out for action. The time is now for us all to do our part. Go to a calling party, talk to people about voting, anything, just do SOMETHING for HOPE and PROGRESS!

Be sure to check out the Obamaware website and if you can, buy a piece!

Obamaware will now be up for auction on Ebay starting: Sunday night, October 19th, at 8 pm EST and will be up for 3days.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Force Is Strong In This One ~ Jeff Martin

I came accross Jeff Martins blog one afternoon and was impressed with his work and intrigued by him. His blog is his diary where he shares his daily life and work, his loves and interests. Be sre to follow the link and read his blog. To check out his website with all of his work go to Jeff Martin Ceramics. And if you would like to purchase any of his ceramics or cards and illustrations be sure to visit Jeff Martin Designs, his Etsy page.
Why clay?.... been working with clay for about four years. Never really taken a day off since i started. Just feels right in so many ways. Like I have been working with it all my life, or past lives!
If not for clay what would you be doing?
..... probably some high-end criminal activity, or waiting tables..
What gets you in the mood?
...I am always in the mood, i just forget every now and then, when the mundane stress bullshit from living in too much fear creeps in, I love my work and my main issue is finding balance...I often have to drag myself out of the studio and do such things as sleep, and interact with the rest of the world. So far, the ideas have just been building and i feel like i am just a baby in this medium..the force is strong in this one...
Do you listen to music when you work?,,, npr this tastes are all over the often is a mood-catalyst for me, when i am feeling a bit flat, or a mood enhancer when i am feeling right on. love music.
Thanks for the tip, just got some groovesalad! What motivates, inspires and brings you pleasure?
...inspiration comes from all kinds of sources...i try and let the flow me there is no separation for the inspired..i find the same energy available in many different areas..for example riding my bike is just as connected to my art as raising my daughter, learning how to listen, or working on throwing a new form..
Who are your favorite artists and why?
....diggin' all kinds of folks, really too many too narrow down..they range from gustav klimt to henry lewis..from fine art to outsider art...and of course the claysters...duckworth, soldner, ohr, bringle,..on and of my favorite pastimes is reading through back issues of studio potter, cm, and claytimes..
What?s your favorite cuss word?
... dang-it-all
What would you say to someone just getting started in ceramics who asks you for advice?
.... love it or leave, really i would say enjoy yourself and let they clay talk to you..the medium is so diverse in how it allows one to voice their spirit..
What is your feeling on the artist as activist, Artivism? and the handmade movement?
eh....handmade is alright i guess, but dang-it-all, walmart has everything i need!, artivism? no idea...i'll go with gandhi on this one and"be the change you wish to see"...yeah, that's the ticket..
When I first saw your work it I thought of art class in junior high where we took a special board (cant remember the name) painted it with india ink then scratched out designs. I guess that was a type of scraffito and I remember that I loved doing that! Tell me about your work and your process.
maybe scratch board?? yes, i practice the sgraffito method of deco most regularly, in which i throw/handbuild a piece, allow it to set up just past the leather-hard stage. i then coat the piece with 2-3 layers of commercial underglaze, and carve. i do the design work free-hand, and add underglaze colors after the design is done. i then bisque and glaze fire, ising don-davis clear over the piece.most of my work is fired electric to cone six..but i hope to broaden my firing processes in the work is very unique.
What's your favorite quote?
..... "fall down seven get up eight"..or.."a small pot is soon hot"....or "do not walk barefoot if ye sow brambles".
Thanks Jeff!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Shards Of Broken Vessels ~ Miri Fleisher

Miri Fleisher is an artist and teacher living in Israel. I came across her work recently on FaceBook and was so moved that I wrote to her and asked if she would participate in SoCalPotters. I was elated when she said yes! Her ceramic work is bold and thought provoking. Miri also works in handmade paper. The images of these pieces are striking. Obviously delicate to the touch but of such bold imagery that everyone can relate to on some level, I am honored to share her words with you.
Why clay?
Well porcelain is my favorite material although in my subjects I do use also other materials such as; handmade papers, photographs, digital painting and whatever comes along. For me porcelain is a representative of clay, and clay is my preferred material out of ideology and pure love.
Why porcelain?
Porcelain seems to have very human like characteristics; its sensitivity and unexpected behavior, it has "memory" of every touch it gets, vulnerable as glass, strong as a rock ...well you can add more and more and never finish but the last one would be its nobility. This characteristic I wish would influence me …
Nobility is a character we could all employ more of. If not clay, what?
I use more materials to emphasize my subjects but porcelain will be always (until now :) ) my favorite, my center, as my mother...
What get’s you in the mood, what inspires you?
Poetry and literature (sometimes I start a subject from a poetic sentence and it stays as the name, Nature around me and in my garden, science fiction, holidays and free time from teaching...
Who is your favorite artist/artists and why?
My favorite artists would be all the known female artists, authors and philosophers I have ever learned about, read or met at museums.
I would not start naming them. All my spiritual mothers…
What’s your favorite cuss word?
It will be in Hebrew "laazazel" but I don't use it, because I usually blame myself...
What is your favorite pleasure?
Family and creating
What would you say to someone just getting started in ceramics who asks you for advice?
I would say: Ceramics is a wonderful material to express yourself, besides trying to earn money and please the public.
It has always been so, because the direct way of working with clay. Sometimes its commercial function influences its quality. It should not be so. Ceramic works must first of all be "good" and if they even succeed in being functional it will be "very good". If not, the criteria must always be as in "fine" art. Usually it is about proportions, balance, clear expression and all the terminology of the History of Art
Can you tell me about your process, when you go into the studio do you have a set idea or do you just go with the flow, let the universe guide you?
I usually work 3-4 hours a day, not including my teaching. I don't create a lot of products, and try to create each work as unique as I can. Sometimes I throw away what I don't like in order to be pleased with all of my work, but I do wait before throwing a piece that I don’t like. Sometimes that work will become important to the continuation.
I always work from ideas and try to stick to them. It does not mean that the works will be the same as the first (origina)l idea. On the contrary, I use some more materials and "attack" the idea with all the ways of working - figurative, abstract and pottery-like (pottery is for me a way of expression of culture as well as human body) All this research in porcelain and other materials create installations . In the last 10 years I started exhibiting in the form of installations. I have 35 years in ceramics, most of the time as a teacher and at times have taken part in group exhibitions. The last 10 years there have changes in my personal life and my ambition to show my art, burst forth...
As you can see in the following names my installations are autobiographical. But as the say in the theory of feminism - the personal is communal.
2001-This is my blood, this is my body
2002-My mother was an angel
2003-Angels blood
2003-Train Lane 15, Haifa (the address of my childhood)
2005-Deady (father and child)
2008-To embryo and back Thank You Miri!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Balancing The Craziness ~ Tara Robertson

The sculpture pictured above is part of a series called "Offspring" and demonstrates the nurturing qualities of Tara Robertson. Literally dependant on each other, the two pieces of these sculptures require the other for balance, to be whole. For me, and what I have learned of Ms. Robertson they represent her in the delicate balance of rearing her daughter while cultivating her creative side through exploration of form in clay. It is that fine line that drives this stay at home mom, wife, teacher and artist, squeezing every second out of the day to get her fingers back in the mud.

Why clay?
Because I'm still just a kid at heart that loves to play in the mud. I have always been into art and tried my hand at acrylics, watercolors, oils, pastels, pencils, and even carving plaster. None of those things "squished" the way clay does. I just love the feeling of squishy mud in my fingers, under my fingernails, and (usually) all over my clothes. There's also something about the process that just brings out the creativity in me. I love all the physical labor, the wedging, pinching, scraping, cleaning, measuring, and such that comes along with working in clay. So much of what I make is a long series of repetitive motions and yet each piece has a life of its own.
If not clay, what?
This question is much harder than it should be. I'm sitting here reviewing my week. A typical day is: Wake up, jog, get daughter ready for preschool, clay, pick-up daughter, eat, put kid down for nap, clay, play with daughter, teach a clay class, make and eat dinner, put daughter to bed, watch a show or two, go to sleep. That's about it. I think someday my life will consist of more than clay and kid (and of course, the occasional House episode), but for now I'm just bouncing between the two. By the time I'm worn out from my kid, a clay break sounds heavenly, and by the time I've come to a point where I need to stop picking at a pot, playing silly games with a 3-year-old just hits the spot.
What gets you in the mood, what inspires you?
When my daughter was very little and I was struggling to get back into clay and handle all my domestic responsibilites on top of no sleep, another stay-at-home potter/parent offered me a wonderful piece of advice. "When your child goes down for a nap, drop everything and run to the studio." This has become my way of getting work done. All I need to be "in the mood" or inspired is for my daughter to be sleeping. She's asleep? Watch out clay--here I come! Because I know that if I wait and fold some laundry or browse the internet or anything, I'll miss my minutes of precious time alone in the lab getting my hands dirty.
Do you listen to music in the studio?
Always and forever. If not music, books on tape. I especially like to listen to really long classics that I would never take the time to sit and read.
Who is your favorite artist/artists and why?
I love women vocalists/songwriters who don't stick to the pop song formula (cliche lyrics with generic beats). Some of my recent favorites are Yael Naim, Feist, and Ingrid Michaelson
Whats your favorite quote?
"Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep." from Scott Adams (The author of the Dilbert cartoons)
What is your favorite pleasure?
Gourmet hot chocolate. If I'm really going for guilty pleasure, I'll make it with whole milk and pile on the whipped cream. It's like chocolate soup. This has become an especially guilty pleasure in the last year because I've become lactose intolerant. It tastes so good, but then my stomach pays for it later.
What would you say to someone just getting started in ceramics who asks you for advice?
Keep at it. Also, strive first for technical skills. My first college professor was all about aesthetics, so I didn't learn how to throw or pinch with consistent thickness and always had problems achieving the forms I wanted because things would collapse or came out lumpy. My second professor (at a different school) had us reach some strict technical benchmarks during the first semester, and then let us be free to experiment. My work became worlds better with the second professor.
What do you think of the handmade movement and the artist as activist, or artivism?
I'm just trying to do what I love while balancing the craziness of parenting and career. I'll leave politics to people more intelligent and on top of things.
Can you tell me about your process, when you go into the studio do you have a set idea or do you just go with the flow, let the universe guide you?
I start with a pretty specific idea of what I want to make and how I want to make it. Although I know what I want, the process of making seems to open me to variations and spontaneous discoveries. I'll tweak this and change that if it looks better to me. I most enjoy "letting the universe guide" when doing surface decoration. I'll start with an abstract line or two, or a leaf placed in a certain spot, and then just fill in the space around it with whatever looks right to me at the moment.
Thank you Tara!