Thursday, April 16, 2009

Subtle Hues, Sugary Surfaces ~ Birdie Boone

Birdie Boone is one of those rare people that you come accross; Intelligent, witty and talented! Birdie received her BA in studio fine art from the College of William and Mary in Virginia in 1994 and her MFA in ceramics from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth in 2005. I was happy that she agreed to take part in SoCalPotters! Be sure to check out her website as well as the Archie Bray Foundation site, where Ms. Boone was the 2008 Lincoln Fellow.
Why clay?
Clay is a medium I was introduced to at an early age. I immediately understoodhow it worked and I guess it stuck. Conceptually, I think it’s important to note the inherent history of its (ceramics) domestic relevancy with regard to my choice to make pots, since my ultimate goal is to explore ‘domestic intimacy’. Plus, twice in my life, I have idolized a age 5, I wanted to be just like my best friend’s mom and at age 20, I wanted to be just like my college ceramics professor. What inspires you? Things that come to mind: life, familiar, family, food, home, personal identity, personality, soft, subtle, sweet, my environment, the natural world, plants, nature and nurture, geography, geology, infinity, similarity, nourishment, nutrition, the omnivore’s dilemma, sanity, good design, genealogy, growth, maturity, balance, the role of the pot in everyday life, celebration, perception, awareness, discovery, revelation, comprehension, curiosity, necessity, physical, emotional, metaphor, a truly good idea, the screenplays of P.T. Anderson, Wes Anderson, and Charlie Kaufman...
You have some amazing glazes, what are you firing to?
I currently work with a mid-range red clay from Canada to which I apply a white bisque slip (which brightens up the glazes). I glaze fire to cone 5 1/2 to 6 1/4 in an electric kiln. It has taken a number of under-fired and over-fired kilns to find the ideal firing cycle for my work (and it continues...)! My current favorite glazes are a Val Cushing base and one of those ‘20g x 5’ base recipes. I have been working with the Cushing glaze for about 4 years now and have just begun to work with the other. Both are lithium dominant bases, so they have lovely color reactions and sugary surfaces. I tend to use small amounts of manganese carbonate and nickel carbonate to tone down oxides and stains. Most of my glaze colors contain 2 oxides, but I am starting to layer glazes, so I am getting results from 3 or 4 colorants in combination that way. Mostly, this tends to result in an even more subtle hue, but sometimes there are unexpected, lovely interactions that occur. My favorite oxides are (in no particular order) red iron, neodymium, erbium, and nickel. I tend to stay away from cobalt, but if I had a scale that measured in tenths or hundredths of a gram, I would probably use it.
I have to admit that I am one of those people who likes to look in a catalog and say “give me 25 lbs of that”. I am not interested in the process of formulating my own. What is it about glaze calculation that you like?
I was taught to give ‘glaze’ as much attention as I give to form. I don’t want to diminish the role of the actual form or shape (because it IS integral to my work), but I tend to think of my glazes as the reason for the form, rather than the other way round. Also, I get to be a chemist! I get to geek out over a grid and pretend to be someone who loves numbers (calculator a definite necessity! and even then, I have to double check). I am drawn to glaze formulation because the process reveals an infinite range of subtleties in color and surface texture. I can make conscious choices about what works best for me in terms of my conceptual ideas and also in order to present the user with a surface so luscious that he/she cannot help but be sensually engaged with the glazed object. I also think that understanding how different materials change with heat and time when combined with one another goes a long way toward giving the work integrity and complexity (even with pots as seemingly simple as mine).
What are your thoughts on the artist as activist?
I definitely consider myself an activist, albeit a fairly covert one. If an activist promotes social change, then my opinion is that most artists are activists, no matter how subtle or indirect the approach. The accountability aspect of being an artist/activist, however, is another conversation altogether. Watching and listening to my parents has almost always managed to fulfill any need for activism I might have. Also, I went to high school with a bunch of young conservatives, who kind of put a wet blanket over my regard for politics. I have to be careful when discussing ‘political art’ because I don’t want to offend anyone, but I definitely have opinions. Let’s just say that in most (note that I have not used the word ‘all’) cases, I would rather listen to ‘The Capitol Steps’.
Who are your favorite artists and why?
I don’t know much about anything other than ceramics, but here we go...Painter Janet Fish for her astounding perception of light and color, as well as for her ‘unglamorous’ subject matter, her still-life compilations of mundane objects in bizarre relationships with one another. Ceramic Designer Eva Zeisel for her amazing life and her comprehension of nurture/nourish as it is revealed through her tableware. Architect/Designer Frank Lloyd Wright for his integrity (!) toward finely crafted domiciles/domestic objects who’s forms do indeed follow function...and celebrate it in the subtlest of ways, as well as for his ability to build ‘with’ nature. Jeweler Cynthia Toops for her ability to use Sculpey like no other! And here is a short list of some of my favorite ceramic artists: Akio Takamori (US), Takeshi Yasuda (China, England) , Janet DeBoos (Australia), Ayumi Horie (US), Edmund de Waal (England), Ron Meyers (US).
What would your advice be to someone just starting with clay?
1. Don’t pay attention to the name-droppers. They think they know it all and all they really know is nothing much.
2. Don’t let the rules hold you back; this applies to the ‘rules’ of thumb that are the general guidelines usually followed when working with clay, as well as physical ‘rules’ such as the rule of gravity. Of course, timing is important for this one.
3. Probably the best advice one can give or receive: make, make, make, make, make, make, make, and then make; this is how the work gets better (and it can almost always be better!).
What’s your favorite cuss word?
‘Shitbucket’ is my favorite ‘secret swear word’, meaning I think it, rather than speak it. I cuss pretty openly to myself while working in the studio, especially as I tend to do a lot of stupid little things that deserve a good cussing out! I am, however, working on cleaning up my ‘public’ vocabulary because, well, because it’s just time to grow up, damn it!
What is your favorite color?
Green, and I say this without hesitation. In fact, my top faves are all greens: new growth green, chartreuse, sea foam, kelly, mint, but I should stop. Although green is at the top of my color hierarchy, I also love almost all colors, especially fleshy hues. It might be easier to mention the colors/glazes that I hate: cobalt blue (sorry), copper red (sorry, again), and purple (on the rarest of occasions, I can handle purple if it’s toned way, way down). I have to admit that I am a glaze color revolutionist and don’t have much regard for the traditional standbys, but that is not to say that I won’t appreciate them if they’re used well.
If you could be anywhere in the world, where would you be?
There are tons of places where I would ideally love to live, but I have recently realized that it’s most important to just ‘be’ wherever you actually are.
What’s your favorite quote?
“All good pots are shaped like a boob.” -Julia Galloway
“Aren’t you a little short for a stormtrooper?” -Princess Leia
Though not a famous quote, it is my favorite: “It doesn’t matter what you can do, it matters what you do do.” -Buckey Boone (my dad)and finally...
"Are we there yet, Papa Smurf?” -Smurfette

I love this glaze! I may have mentioned before that I have a collection of cups and mugs that I use everyday for my coffee and thoroughly enjoy choosing my cup in the morning. I think I need to get one of these!

Thank you Birdie!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Natural Connections & Ceramica de la Tierra

Went out to Pomona last night for the opening of Natural Connections at the Armstrong Gallery. Around the corner in the American Museum of Ceramic Art is "Ceramica de la Tierra" with pre-columbian pottery as well as contemporary work by Luis Bermudez and Francisco “Pancho” Jiménez. I finally got to meet Shane as well as another artist I admire who was interviewed here, Ricky Maldonado.
Francisco “Pancho” Jiménez
Luis Bermudez
Shane Keena
Shane Keena
Susan Clusener
Susan Clusener

Both locations offer incredible exposure to varied forms of ceramics, both functional and sculptural. If you don't live in the area make sure that a stop in the Pomona Arts Colony is on your agenda when you visit Southern California.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Natural Connections ~ Shane Keena

Last year one of the featured artists here on SoCalPotters was Shane Keena. Shane is part of a group show that opens next saturday April 11 at the Armstrong Gallery in Pomona CA. The show is called Natural Connections, if you are in the area, check it out! The American Museum of Ceramic Art is right around the corner, so make an evening of it!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Deep Inside My Soul ~ Elizabeth Dychter

When i first approached Elizabeth about doing an interview here I had no idea of her family history, I was simply drawn to the work for the pure emotion it conveys. Elizabeth is from Argentina and when I recieved the questions back I can honestly say I was shocked and felt bad for the questions asked. From looking at her work you wouldnt expect her to be the happy person that she is. Thank you Elizabeth for allowing the clay to convey your family history.
Why clay?
I think clay is the most noble and tricky material at the same time, but yet realistic, and the fact that it is closer to the every day needs, makes it more interesting. When you think that in the very beginning of the humanity mud was there, I cannot think of another material to express myself. The sensation of being in contact with nature, melting your hands with the softness of the clay, it´s something beyond any explanation. Even mistakes can be wonderful with clay. It allows us to create and recreate all the while you are working. It combines every essential element, earth, water, air and fire...
What inspires you?
In 2006 I was in a workshop and one of the artists, the Japanese Kyoko Tokumaru said that she first listens to what clay has to say. She said that the clay talks to her and tells her where to start or where to continue. And I think that´s true. I don´t have a preconceived idea of what am I going to do. I let my hands explore the clay and let the material guide me. Obviously my sculptures come from my family history, and it´s deep inside of my soul.
In your sculpture you seem to be dealing with condemnation and solitude, the pieces convey emotion well. What were you trying to say with them?
My father is a survivor of the Holocaust, and I think of myself as a survivor too.
My first pieces of this series, had bandages over their eyes. I was trying to say that people was condemn just because, and nobody wanted to see what was happening. But in this last few years, the bandages fell down, and they turned into faces with no expression going one besides or behind the other, with a kind of resignation, as sheep's to slaughter, and yet no one helps. The lack of interest in human kind...
It´s a dramatic view of humanity, I know,but I still have hopes.
What are your thoughts on the artist as activist?
As you can see I try to make a statement with my art, but I don´t think that is always necessary making a point. Art has to awake your emotions, make you think, but essentially has to touch your soul.
What are your favorites artists and why?
I admire a lot of ceramist of my country; my teacher Alejandra Jones, Vilma Villaverde, Miguel Angel Bonino, as few examples. Their work is consistent with their way of living ceramics.
In the international field I like the Japanese ceramics,the pure and simple, kind of ethereal forms. But I must confess that, the book "The Agony and The Ecstasy", about Michelangelo , changed my life and I knew since then, that I wanted to become an artist.
What would your advice be to someone just starting with clay?
Be patient,learn as much as you can, listen, go to museums, galleries,think of yourself as an alchemist and experiment a lot!
What´s your favorite cuss word?
I curse a lot in Spanish. But sometimes , when I open the kiln the first word that comes to my mouth is in English....shit, shit, shit...
What´s your favorite quote?
The one I have on my Facebook profile
~Groucho Marx

Thank you Elizabeth, hearing of your family history adds another level to the meaning of your work and helps gain an understanding. Thank you for sharing and being a part of SoCalPotters.