Holiday Art Sale
What used to be called the Studio Benefit Sale at the Honolulu Museum of Art School is now called the Holiday Art Sale. In spite of the name change, proceeds from the sale will still support the programs at the museum's school at Linekona. This is the finest craft sale of the year in Hawai'i and features work from teachers and students in jewelry, weaving, fusion glass and ceramics. I have more than 100 pots that are ready for the sale. I can have up to 50 in inventory at any given time, so I'll start out with 50 pieces and add more pots as they're sold. That means it's worth returning to the sale every few days since the inventory is constantly changing as artists add new things. The sale starts this coming Tuesday, November 25, with an opening reception from 5-8pm. Free appetizers will be available and you can buy sake and the sake cup for only $5 (if I remember correctly). The sale is at the main gallery at the Honolulu Museum of Art School, Linekona, will run through Sunday, December 7, and is open daily from 10am-6pm. See you at the sale!
Form From Fire: A Glass Exhibit
Recently the Honolulu Museum of Art exhibited a selection of glass from the collection of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser. I keep an eye on what other artists are doing, especially sculptors, architects, glassworkers, woodworkers, metalworkers, and basket makers. Their forms and textures have had a huge impact on me. Much of what they do with their materials can be done with clay, and much of what they do cannot. After looking at this exhibit I'm thinking about new forms, new ways of carving clay, new ways of opening up the inside of pieces and new ways of using nerikomi .
Earth 2 Water: An Exhibit
Earth 2 Water is a small exhibit at the Koa Art Gallery at Kapi'olani Community College. One of the five artists in the exhibit is an artist at the Hawaii Potters Guild: Yoko Haar. Yoko calls these two assemblages Ripples I and II. Here's how she describes them: "This new series of work encompasses the theme of this show 'Water.' Until now, I have been emphasizing texture for my work, and have reduced this aspect to go along with this theme. The irregular spaces which formed between the linear portions of each tile reminded me of the way rings of ripples form around droplets of water. When these ripples congregate, like a downpour on still water, it shows a noisy and busy scene which continues to widen, as they continue to affect neighboring spaces."
Earth 2 Water runs from October 22 to November 13. The Koa Art Gallery is open from 10 to 4, Monday to Friday, and 9 to 3 on Saturday.
Clay: A Ceramics Exhibit
Today I visited Clay, a new ceramics exhibit at Windward Community College. This is the most impressive exhibit of local ceramics that I've ever seen in Hawaii. Many of the best ceramic artists in the State have been asked to submit work and it's of consistently high quality, some of the best pieces I've seen from these artists. I enjoyed taking pictures of each piece and I hope you enjoy looking at them. Clay runs from October 24 to November 23 at Gallery 'Iolani and is open from 1 to 5pm, Monday through Friday and Sunday. It's closed on Saturdays.
Natural Unnatural Supernatural
An exhibit just closed at the Honolulu Museum of Art called Natural Unnatural Supernatural. Here's the museum's description of the exhibit: "Natural Unnatural Supernatural focuses on themes of nature (landscape, seascape, animals, birds, insects, flowers, etc.) as artists have depicted them, ranging from "naturalistic" representations to images that are unnatural in terms of color or activity to others that are surreal in the way appearances and expectations are altered." The exhibit drew mostly from the museum's collection and included a few loans. Some of the pieces changed over the course of the exhibit which kept me coming back. Below are images I took of the ceramics in the exhibit.
Keeping a Notebook
One of the most important things we can do as potters is keeping a notebook. My first teacher, Supin, demanded that we keep a notebook and I'm glad that she did. I remember when she took us into the glazing area and began telling us about different glazes and glaze combinations. After awhile she stopped, looked around at all of us and said, "You should be writing this down. There's no way you'll remember all of this. You need to get a notebook," or something to that effect. So I did. I started out with a small moleskine which was convenient but after filling it up I felt I needed something larger for sketching and keeping notes. At Ben Franklin I found a great hardcover notebook made by Art Alternatives. It's not cheap, about $20, but the paper is good, the pages are sewn in and the binding is rock solid. I've used it every day for the last 18 months and I've filled up only half of it.
What do I do with my notebook? First, I sketch every pot I make. Well, I sketch every pot after trimming it. I've goofed up so many pots while trimming them that I decided only to put them in the notebook when I'd successfully trimmed them. After sketching the pot, I list next to it what clay I used. This is extremely important, especially if you're using several different types of clay. It's amazing how similar a recycled dark clay or a red clay or a black clay can look after they come out of the bisque kiln. And if you have pots that are made of B-Mix, you may mistake them for porcelain when they're standing next to a bunch of pots made of Black Mountain. Or was that Jamaica? Or Amador? Glaze decisions are based on the type of clay the pot is made of, but if you can't remember what clay you used, you can't make an informed decision about what glaze to use.
I also use the notebook to sketch ideas for pots or ceramic sculpture. I record carving ideas, glaze ideas, anything that comes to mind that might be useful. I keep my notebook close to me during the day because I never know when inspiration's going to strike. My muse has no sense of timing; maybe yours doesn't either. I also carry slips of paper in my pocket so I can jot down notes that I'll put in the notebook later. I've found through hard experience that even the most vivid design ideas can't be recalled unless they're written down immediately. About a year ago I was walking past a store when an undulating design under the front window caught my eye. I stopped, pulled out a slip of paper and sketched something quickly. Took only about 15 or 20 seconds and I was on my way. Later I put it in my notebook and it inspired an important design motif for me.
Next I describe what I did to alter the piece. That may include what tools and techniques I used, especially if I tried something different or someone showed me a technique I didn't know before. Maybe I noticed that while pushing out the bottom of a large bowl with a rib on the inside I needed to steady the rim by holding a rib at the top on the outside. Stuff like that.
As often as I can, I write down different ideas for how to glaze each piece. This may change, but it gets me thinking about how to glaze a pot before it's even bisqued. Potters often have large collections of bisqued ware they haven't glazed in months, sometimes years. Julia Galloway calls these people "bisque potters." I'm surprised at how many people get nervous about glazing, how they can't decide what glazes to use or how to apply them. Rather than standing next to buckets of glaze with a pot in my hand, I sit with a notebook and imagine what that pot might look like with one glaze or another. Some people might feel more confident glazing their pots if they spent time with their notebook mentally rehearsing different glaze ideas. After awhile they might find there aren't enough pots to try all their glaze ideas on.
After glazing the pot, I write down the glazes or slips or ash or whatever I used and then place the piece on the shelf to be fired in the glost kiln. I can't emphasize enough how important it is to record what glazes you actually use on a piece. Whenever I see a gorgeous piece come out of the kiln, I ask the potter what glaze they used. Quite often the response I get is something like this: "I can't remember. Maybe it was this or that, but I'm not sure." Or they can't remember the way they applied it. Did they spray it on thinly? Did they dip it thickly? Factors like these make a difference in the final result. All of us are spending quite a bit of time, effort, and money to become better potters. Let's be ready to learn both from our mistakes and our successes. If we aren't, we'll lose something important from our experience.
When the pots are done, I record the results. Sometimes these are positive entries but quite often they aren't. I try to learn from every piece I fire, especially from those I'm going to discard or donate. Why did that bowl slump? Why did the Tenmoku run on to the kiln shelf (again)? Why did that accent glaze I splashed on completely disappear? Why did the celadon turn out tan instead of green? I want to know so I ask potters more experienced than me, I go back to my books, I try to put the pieces together to understand what happened so I can learn from it.
The final thing I do is to record when the pot came out of the glost kiln, and I put a big "X" over the piece if I decide to donate it or throw it away. I throw very few pots away now, but I still donate quite a few, at least 50%. This is a way to help out the Hawaii Potters Guild. HPG conducts a few sales a year in which they sell donated pots. These sales help to raise funds we need to buy new kiln shelves, hydrometers, or slab rollers. Right now we're raising funds because we need a new roof and a new kiln in the near future. Adequately supporting community ceramics groups like HPG is essential in Hawaii since land is extremely expensive and very few of us own enough of it to set up our own studios.
One other step I should mention is that I take photos of all the pieces I make, even those that don't make it through the bisque firing successfully. To these images I add similar notes about what kind of clay I used, what techniques, what glazes, slips, etc. This visual record is important and one that I often refer back to. I always learn the most from my own pots. Sure, I learn a great deal from the pots that people at HPG and Linekona are making, I learn a great deal from the pots I see in books and galleries and museums, but I know my own pots most intimately. By reflecting on my own work, I learn how to do better work and in turn I learn how to reflect on it better. We might call this a "virtuous circle" or something like that.
You are your own best teacher. Always have been; always will be. That doesn't mean other people can't play a significant role in helping you to learn, but all they can do is help. They can't learn for you. Only you can do that.
I hope this blog will be encouraging to potters, especially beginning potters, and a source of helpful information and comment.