Sunday, March 29, 2009

Accumulating Skills And Techniques ~ Marcello Massoni

I came accross Marcello Massoni of Gaya Fusion Ceramic and Design on the pages of FaceBook. I love architectural ceramic installations and that was what caught my eye. But all of his work is beautiful. Marcello is an Italian man living with his family and creating in the tropical paradise of Bali, Indonesia.
Why clay?
I love concrete moods, and the relation of this word with the real is solid. This tangible solidity of clay grounds the uncertain situations and surprise, the mystery and the alchemy, of the ceramic process.
My every-day life is a fusion of sure and unsure circumstances, an infinite world of technical precision and mistakes, hard work and delusions, simplicity and happiness. For me, nothing is more lovely.
You live in a beautiful place, how much is your creativity influenced by environment?
I’m based in Bali, a wonderful tropical island ... we are naturally influenced by the beauty of the tropics. But I’m also product designer, expert in finding creative, tailored solutions for all interior decoration needs, so often I need to follow our client's request and mood. In this particular case I have to study and experiment with shapes, textures and colors, sometimes creatively far from the environment in where I live and work and far from my own idea of ceramic beauty and aesthetic. But I don’t feel frustrated, these custom made creations force me to do a lot of research and it challenges me to find the right balance between the client idea and my personal ceramic approach.
Do you listen to music when you work?
Not a lot …
What inspires you?
I find inspiration from studying and experimenting; trying to translate the stimuli around me, large and small, into objects that uncover the shapes, colours and expressions from within the world. I try to do this honestly and without discrimination.
I am fascinated by large architectural ceramic installations and how they transform a space and dictate how the space communicates. How do you come up with an idea for a particular installation?
I read the space, especially the inner and outer architectural volume. After defining the general concept of the installation (lighting, sculpture, wallpaper etc) I research images and basic ideas as brainwave, creating mood boards. When the mood boards are created (like in fashion) comes out naturally to pick up a specific curve of a shape or mix different profiles in order to generate a brand new object … when the gross idea is made, I try with computer rendering and with Photoshop to graphically mount the installation in the space.
This helps me to have the vision of the final result before having the installation installed. In doing so I avoid mistakes and I can better understand proportions and technical issues
Who are your favorite artists and why?
Considering art in general I love Pablo Picasso for the incredible constancy in his work and for his variations in aesthetics. As ceramic artist I like Takeshi Yasuda and Betty Woodman. … Both have an unbelievable freshness in approaching clay …
What would you say to someone just getting started in ceramics who asks you for advice?
I suggest accumulating skills … the world of ceramics is full of techniques, and technical know-how is the only key to decode the idea into an object … If you have a plan but you don’t have the expertise you are totally stuck and frustrated.
Also I suggest that you don’t feel affection for to the created ceramic objects but to just love the creative process …I recommend being flexible in experimenting shapes, color, textures and techniques … even far from your own aesthetic research and personal idea of how ceramic should be … It is the only way to learn new approaches and to discover the unexpected.
What’s your favorite cuss word?
I use bad language quite often … but I curse in Italian … better don’t say …
What do you do to relax?
To relax, I need to clean my mind, so, sometimes I throw small bowls … a lot … same shape, same throwing rhythm … sometimes I do sports … sometimes I just watch a movie or read a book.
What’s your favorite quote?
I have 2
“Creativity takes courage” Henry Matisse
“If you can dream it you can do it” Walt DisneyWow! Both great quotes, I will have to remember them. Thank you Marcello!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Ink & Clay 35

Last night I went to the opening reception of "Ink & Clay 35" at the Kellogg Art Gallery at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Ink & Clay is an annual competition, established in 1971, of prints and drawings; ceramic ware and clay sculpture sponsored by the W. Keith and Janet Kellogg University Art Gallery of California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. The primary underwriting is through the generosity of Col. Jim Jones and the office of the University President, Michael Ortiz. Ink and Clay is an exhibition open to all of the Western States including Alaska and Hawaii.

Here are a few of the clay pieces that caught my eye, not the best pictures (taken with my phone) but you get the idea.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Inspired To Make Beautiful Objects ~ Kristen Kieffer

Sometimes you see something that is so precious and beautiful that you aren't sure if you should use it. Kristen Kieffer's work is just that, beautiful objects to be treasured as well as a part of your daily life. I am in awe of the delicate detail and patience it represents. Be sure to check out her Etsy page for great gift items, or a little indulgence for yourself.
Why clay?
If I had walked into the metalsmithing room first, it might not have been. Clay can be touched and manipulated directly; many (most?) materials cannot (glass, wood, metal, fabric). That appeals to me. It can be any color, precise or gestural, emulate anything including itself and it’s cheap.
If not for clay what would you be doing?
I have nooo idea. I walked into the clay studio at the community college I was attending for a summer class in 1991, and never left. I would tend to think I might have done something else creative. I didn’t know about the field of design when I was nineteen. Sociology intrigues me. I have wanted to be everything from a hairdresser to an interior designer. It’s easier to say what I wouldn’t be doing, and sitting at a desk in a cubicle would be among them.
Do you listen to music when you work?
I’m kind of an NPR addict. I stream a Boston station, which has different segments about the news, culture and everything else but music. It’s important to me to know what’s going on in the world, but I don’t make time to read a paper or check the news online. Too, I think there is something about news radio that takes away the isolation that can come from working by myself everyday; someone is talking to me (and sometimes I talk back) and virtually hanging out with me all day. When I do listen to music, it tends to be…well, loud. I like the Beastie Boys, Rage Against the Machine, Tom Waits, Les Claypool, etc. which some see as a contradiction to my work.
What motivates, inspires you?
Paying the bills is a big motivator. I think being a self-employed anything requires a certain kind of personality, an inner drive. I strive to continue to be a studio artist, so how to do that is an on-going motivation. Many things inspire what I make; artistically, I am inspired to make objects that appeal to my sense of enjoyment aesthetically and technically.
Who are your favorite artists and why?
Wayne Thiebaud (painter) for his use of color, content and exaggeration. Martin Puryear (sculptor) for his forms, minimalism and craftsmanship. Martin Johnson Heade (painter) for his use of romanticism, atmosphere and textures. John Galliano (designer, Haute Couture) for his use of eccentricity, femininity and textures. Tord Boontje (industrial designer) for his use of materials and again for textures and romanticism. *I’m realizing these are all men…hmmm.* Alphonse Mucha (decorative artist) for his use of line, allure and text. Claus Oldenburg (sculptor) for his humor and subject matter. Chuck Close (painter) for his tenacity, creativity and insight.
I love texture. The more the merrier. You work has some incredible textures and patterns. I love the quilted effect that you get, where do you go for inspiration for new surface textures?
Happily, that continues to evolve. I love animals, so began making stamps with birds and bunnies a couple years ago derived from interest in Nouveau. I enjoy words, odd phrases and fonts so began to incorporate those in different ways by looking at old fruit crate ads. The ideas tend to be way ahead of the actual, but begin through research based on what makes me happy. I am drawn to Art Nouveau patterning, Couture clothing textures and vintage signs, for example, so will pour over books and websites about those, do some drawings or jot down ideas and go from there. More people mention the surfaces on my pots, but the forms tend to come first in conception.
I read on your blog that you are going to be making an instructional dvd, when is that going to be available?
Since it is the first, it is hard to know the timing. We will shoot at the beginning of May and imagine it will take at least 6-8 weeks for editing and all the behind the scenes polishing. I’m hoping for August.
What would you say to someone just getting started in ceramics who asks you for advice?
I tend to avoid this question. It has become a kind of moral dilemma for me. I think art is one of the subjects in higher education that does not teach how to make a living. There are several paths for a ceramic artist to pursue, so I would inquire about the newbie’s goal. My advice is always to talk to as many people as possible, and work hard. It’s not an easy way to make a living. And teaching is just as competitive as making; it would be naïve to consider it a fall back.
What is your feeling on the artist as activist, Artivism? and the “handmade” movement?
I appreciate that there are artists who voice their beliefs or call attention to issues with their artwork. It has a long tradition, and I think is an important role the artist can play in the world. (I don’t believe it should include destruction of property, however.) I’m not sure what to make of the handmade/diy movement. If it can call attention back to the importance of the handmade object, and gain community support for working artists and craftspeople, great. If it spirals into the premise that anyone can be a maker and seller of art and craft thereby diminishing our role, then I think it missed its goal.
What’s your favorite cuss word?
I have never been asked this, and am not sure I should answer. I think my husband would say mine is a long-voweled “f—k”.
What’s your favorite quote?
I am a quote accumulator. If I hear something I like, I jot it down on the closest piece of paper or in my sketchbook. I don’t have one, I enjoy many. Here are two from my last sketchbook that seem appropriate:
“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” –Anaïs Nin
“The pessimist complains about the wind;
the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” –William Arthur Ward, educator (1921-94)

Thank you Kristen, Good luck with your DVD!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Glorious Diversity & Beauty ~ Dora De Larios

Last year I went to a show at the Folk Tree in Pasadena California and saw a tile with an image of a fish that grabbed my attention. Earlier this year a friend and potter told me of a friend of hers whom I should interview here, that friend is Dora De Larios and after looking at her website I realized that she was the artist who created the fish tile that I was drawn to. That fish as she explained was to be part of a large mural. Ms. DeLarios is an internationally known artist with large scale architectural installations all over the world. She is busy working on her upcoming show at the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles; "Myths, Legends & Visions" and will feature a new series of sculptures called "Goddess" as well as a retrospective of her work. I am very honored that she agreed to an interview here on SoCalPotters, here are her answers to my questions.
Why clay?
The first time I touched clay in high school I felt an affinity with the material.
If not clay, what?
I have worked in other materials. Wood, cement, brass, copper, aluminum, drywall and plaster. I have also taken classes in jewelry making and gold leaf application. Don Olstad my best male friend was at my studio one day and I was having a hard time getting excited about clay. He suggested wood as a new area of exploration. We went to a wood tool supply house in mar vista and he bargained with the owned to purchase two bandsaw's for a really good price. He taught me how to use the bandsaw and I proceeded to create wood toys that were brightly painted. We also took a wood routing class. It was to scary for me. Don always said never use a power tool that you are afraid of. I have learned so much from all the craftsmen I have worked with over the years.
What inspires you? Life, people, travel, reading, studying, music, everything and anything that takes me out of my way of thinking and introduces me to other possibilities of looking at life from a different perspective.
Who are your favorite artists and why? Rembrandt, for his ability to capture the soul of the person. Magritte, for his freedom of expression not limited by conventional interpretation of space and forms. Munakata, for his freedom of wood cut expression. Man Ray for his brilliance in using ordinary objects in a new expression. It is impossible to list all the artists. There are also the anonymous artists in every culture who provide beauty in utensils. Pottery, woven materials etc.
What would you say to someone just getting started in ceramics who asks you for advice?
To love your work. To believe in yourself. I have known since the age of eight that I was to become an artist. I believe that God gave me a gift and all I needed to do is show up and do the work. I began my studio in 1957 and I am still here 52 years later. I have been true to the gift that I was born to express. Financially,It has been a chicken or feathers existence that has not been easy. In spite of everything I go to my studio every day and work. It is not easy to live by art. I have been very lucky in that I have had many people in my life that have supported my efforts by being loyal friends and customers. I realized prior to graduating from U.S.C. that the art world was fickle. One minute an artist would be in and the next moment out. I decided to create my own following and built on that over a long period of time. It worked out and I am grateful beyond words. I was also very blessed by having the opportunity of working with various art reps who were responsible for obtaining me commissioned work with site specific requirements. That lead in time to exploration of other materials such as cement, dry wall, brass etc.
I first saw your work last year at The Folk Tree. I love and am fascinated by tile and was immediately drawn to your work. How did “Life Force” come about?
What you saw was a Maquette for a proposal for a mural in Laguna Beach. Evalyn Daniel was responsible for the commission of a 8' X 40' porcelain mural with fish in relief of 3"-6". You can view the mural on my web site at The Mural "Life Force" took 15 months to complete with the help of 7 employee's. My daughter Sabrina Judge ran the job and could not have been completed without the help of the superb team of workers. The vision was mine and the work to accomplish the task was a team effort. It is a masterful work of art.
I took a workshop a couple years ago with Peter King, do you have any plans for workshops covering your architectural techniques? I have no plans to give a workshop covering the subject.
Tell me about your upcoming show “Myths, Legends & Visions” at the Craft & Folk Art Museum. I am very grateful to C.F.A.M. for this splendid opportunity and in particular to Maryna Hrushetska the Director of the Museum. Elaine Levin is the curator of the exhibition which will open September 26, 2009 to January 10th, 2010. It is a retrospective and will include new works. The new works are seven new sculptures that are 8'-12' high. The two largest represent the great oceans. Passing through these oceans the viewer will come upon five sculptures representing the Goddesses of Earth, Air, Fire,Water and Ether that portray the elements and the creatures that are part of those individuall realms. Together they stand as fountainheads of creativity. I believe that the environmentally destructive choices have been perpetrated by male dominated cultures, governmental and corporate entities. Earth, has been compromised over and over again by money. My hope is to create a body of work that reflects life in all it's glorious diversity and beauty. We live on a wondrous planet; regardless of where we live on the planet, we are one humanity.
What do you think of the handmade movement and the artist as activist, or art activism. I believe in it.
Whats your favorite cuss word? F---.
Whats your favorite quote?
"It is better to have imagination than education" Albert Einstein
Of course I believe it's better to have both in abundance.
You can bet I will be going to see her show when it opens and will post about it here. If you are going to be in the Los Angeles area later this year then make the Craft and Folk Art Museum one of your stops.

Again my sincerest thanks to you Dora!


Sunday, March 1, 2009

Jeff Campana ~ Serial Killer of Pots

The forms are beautiful, almost graceful with what appear to be carved lines that allow the glaze to settle nicely. Then I learned that they aren't carved lines, they are cuts. After throwing and trimming his work Jeff Campana then goes at them, box cutter in hand he cuts them up with the knife skills of a chef. Then with surgical precision the form is scored, slipped and put back together. Made stronger with his special joining slip mix. Beautiful work by an interesting young man. Go to his Etsy Shop and get one of his pieces soon, while they are still affordable!
Why clay?
I found clay in high school. We had an incredible studio complete with a gas kiln and a gallery. I was mixing glaze tests and loading kilns before I even got my driver's license. Our teacher would include us in his wood firings and salt firings. It was just perfect. I knew since the age of 16 that this was it. Clay was my entry into art.
If not for clay what would you be doing?
It completely defines me at this point. I can't even imagine what else I would be doing. I tried to be a business major once, but quickly came to my senses. I know with certainty that I would sooner die than give it up.
Do you listen to music when you work?
Always. All genres except pop, classical, and talk radio. I'm a fan of neo-psychadelic rock and underground hiphop, and listen to the rest to mix it up. Everything from bluegrass to electronica.
What motivates, inspires and brings you pleasure?
This may seem strange, but I look to my artwork to inspire me artistically. A constant feedback loop. New pots are based largely on what I would change if I could make some pot of mine over again. Guess what? I CAN make that pot over again. That's all I do.
Motivation comes from my dream of someday becoming a real professional artist/professor. That day is rapidly approaching. I do make my entire living off of those things, but it's all rusty broken down cars, Ramen noodles, and shirts with holes in them at this point.
Pleasure is derived from simple things; eating, sleeping, drinking, laughing, and well-earned lazy mornings, I get 5 of those per week!
Who are your favorite artists and why?
Hero of Ceramics: Robert Arneson, because he was just plain incredible. Enormously influential to the ceramics world. I see his influence in almost all contemporary ceramists in some way or another.
Hero of Pottery: Julia Galloway. Many people like her pots, they are quite nice, but I am most excited by her installations. There is a wonderful depth to her work when she makes them for solo shows. The fragmented narratives piece together to form something much grander than the sum of its parts. Brilliant and virtuosic.
Many people are reluctant to work in porcelain. I personally love throwing with it and find that the experience of sitting down with some porcelain to be magical in a way that stoneware isn’t. You have taken your work to another level by cutting the piece up then reassembling, with what appears to be surgical precision. How did this process come about?
I have always been a porcelain head. It is very seductive. I throw it, trim it, and then dissect it methodically, and immediately score and slip it right back together. A critic told me that he found my work disturbing, that there was a destructiveness to it, impending danger. During the decoration process I look like a serial killer of pots. Ice-truck killer scenes from Dexter come to mind. Once they are back together, they are more complete to me though. I came up with this process only a little over a year ago. The final push to get my MFA thesis show together. I was cutting pots in order to alter the shape, but then just stopped altering the shape. I found out that I really just liked the seams. All of those lines are free-handed with a box cutter with the snap-off retractable blade. It is very much like surgery. Maybe I should get a scalpel...
What would you say to someone just getting started in ceramics who asks you for advice?
That happens on a daily basis. I am a ceramic art teacher. I was prepared for this one!
I say: it is a lot harder than you think. Just to maintain a studio while supporting yourself with a job is hard enough, let alone making a living from it. Know that the odds are stacked against you. Perseverance is more important than talent. Never get distracted by what you think you're supposed to do. Only ever do what you experience the need to do.
What is your feeling on the artist as activist, Artivism? and the “handmade” movement?
I have no interest in Artivism. To me, art is a search for inner personal truth. Social issues are not truth, they are constructs, distractions, and they are ugly. Art is about beauty, purity. I think far too many artists mistake agenda for meaning. Not that I'm opposed to activism. I participate in that, but the studio is a refuge. In my studio there is no such thing as politics, economy, war, strife, injustice, etc. There is only porcelain, glaze, and me. That's it.
My home is my office. There, I am an avid participant and advocate for the handmade movement. I am obsessed with Etsy, and will talk longer than I should about our culture finally choosing products based on value and meaningfulness. I give only handmade gifts, either that I made, traded for, or purchased. I have great optimism for the future of craft in our culture.
What’s your favorite cuss word?
I have always liked the term "shitfaced" meaning getting so drunk you can't control or feel your own face.
What’s your favorite quote?
"Skill is the unified force of experience, intellect, and passion in their operation."
-John Ruskin

Thanks Jeff!