A few months ago I began thinking about having my first solo pottery sale. I wanted to have it at my house but it's on Oahu Ave. which doesn't have any street parking. One of my friends heard I was looking for a venue for my sale and offered to have it at his house. So, I'll be having a sale of my pottery on Saturday, December 10th, from 9am to 2pm. My friend's house is located at 2123 Hunnewell St. in Manoa. If you're in Australia this may be a bit of a drive, but if you're on Oahu I hope to see you at the sale. I've been busy making lots of pots. Many of them are the larger pieces that I usually make, but over the last few months I've been making small bowls and cups and other functional pieces. I'm trying out different designs and glazes, so you can let me know what especially appeals to you. The cups are between $20 and $25 and the bowls are between $25 and $30. Hopefully you can find something to use at home or give as gifts to family and friends. I'm trying to make the sort of bowl or cup that you always look for when you open the cupboard. Below is a link to photos of some pieces I'll have at the sale. I'm also thinking about offering prints of some of my photos so we may have a table for that as well. When you purchase something you can pay either with cash or with a credit card. If you have any questions, please let me know. Hope to see you on December 10th! https://1drv.ms/a/s!AitkLRyx794Wk0N3MPzonpAS9wql
On Tuesday, October 25, Hawai'i Craftsmen opened its 49th Statewide Juried Exhibition. There were almost 300 submissions from five islands in a variety of media such as wood, jewelry, metalwork, fiber, and glass, but ceramics was the most popular medium, an indication of the large and growing clay community in Hawai'i. The juror this year was Cindi Strauss, Sara and Bill Morgan Curator of Decorative Arts, Craft, and Design and Assistant Director, Programing, at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. In her Juror Statement she mentioned that jurying a show this broad is "simultaneously exhausting and exhilarating" and that exhibitions such as this one "demonstrate that the craft field is alive and well in all parts of America." Jurying this show is especially challenging since the juror must travel from island to island to see the work of the artists living there and pick out pieces for the exhibition. She also gave a public lecture at each stop and you can imagine how tired she might have been when her lecture began at 5 in the afternoon but it felt like 10 back in Houston. We appreciate her perseverance and having such a great attitude during the whole process. To show you how much pressure she was under, during the final jurying in Honolulu she evaluated about 200 pieces in 3 hours. Mahalo nui loa to Cindi for hanging in there and putting together such a great exhibition!
The exhibition was well designed and we owe kudos to Dr. Barbara Thompson (Vice President of Hawai'i Craftsmen and an experienced curator), Jackie Mild Lau and Chris Edwards. As in the past, the selection of ceramics was especially strong. Daven Hee, one of my teachers and one of the best ceramicists in the state, was an invited artist this year. His exhibition of four clay toys included a truck, a car, a spaceship, and a toy box. As of this writing, two of the pieces have sold, one to the Honolulu Museum of Art. I have three pieces in the show, including one that won the Merit Award in Ceramics Arts so I feel pretty lucky. I suppose I should feel proud about the award but opening night I felt more sheepish than anything since I couldn't help comparing my piece to others and wondering how I won.
Amber Aguirre won the highest award in the show, the Award of Excellence in Honor of Charles E. Higa, for her ceramic sculpture entitled Disabled. I saw her at the reception and noticed she had a medical boot on her left leg and was walking with a cane. Both of her pieces in the show dealt with themes about illness and she told me she'd been in and out of the hospital because of complications with surgery on her leg and was still doing physical therapy twice a day. Her struggles with illness and pain were reflected in her art. My conversation with her made me think about how many artists use their art to work out personal issues. I took a course with Joey Chiarello this past spring and he told me he used his clay work to literally work out his demons or at least start some type of rapprochement. Every demon he makes is a self portrait, something I hadn't noticed until he pointed it out to me. Maybe I like my designs to be more controlled because so many parts of my life feel like they're out of my control!
Below you'll find photos of all the ceramics in the exhibition. If you're in the Honolulu area, I hope you'll stop by the gallery at the Honolulu Museum of Art School at Linekona. It will be up until November 13. It's closed on Mondays but is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 to 4:30 and Sunday from 1:00 to 5:00.
I just completed my first pit firing at home. Before this I'd always pit fired with my friends at Steve Martin's place in Kaneohe. I want to continue firing with them, but the firings are so infrequent that I needed to set things up to fire at home. I just moved from Kailua to Manoa so I'm officially a "townie" now. I miss the Windward Side of Oahu because I lived there for 24 years, but I like where we're at now. There's about an eight foot wall on one side of the house with a twelve foot wide alley covered in gravel, perfect for setting up a fire pit. At least that's what I thought until I lit the fire and smoke started billowing into the sky. Every time I heard a truck pass by I thought it was a fire truck with a police cruiser just behind it. I kept thinking about what I'd say while the police officer was writing out the citation. As it turned out, no one called the fire department, not this time anyway.
To prepare for pit firing at home, I'd ordered a Behrens 17 gallon round steel tub from Amazon which seemed about the right size for my needs. Maybe I'll get a larger one later or pick up a 55 gallon drum that's been cut in half, but I can fire at least two large pots in it or three medium size ones. I could get more in if I decided to stack pots, something I plan on doing sometime soon. I found a reliable source for Kiawe wood at Hardware Hawaii in Kailua and spent about $12 on this firing. The pieces of wood were too large so I used my machete to split them into smaller pieces. That's something I've learned after several pit firings: the wood needs to be cut pretty small for the fire to really get hot. I had to use large pieces of wood for almost every pit firing up to now and it took forever to get the fire going, it never got hot enough to give all of the pots really good color, and I breathed in too many noxious fumes leaning over the pit with my blow torch. I also thought it would be good to use small pieces of wood after watching a video about wood firing in Onda Japan. They use very thin pieces of wood when they want the temperature of the fire to go up quickly. I'm not afraid of making the fire go up quickly in the pit since I'm using clay bodies (B-Mix with Grog or Nash White) which have proven their ability to withstand thermal shock doing raku.
The wood shavings I use at the bottom of the pit are intended for horse bedding so fairly coarse. I've seen people use fine wood shavings that were almost like sawdust but the results have never been very good. The shavings are so dense that it's hard for air to get into them so they don't burn all the way to the bottom. By the way, try using the metal basket of an old washing machine for pit firing. Steve Martin uses one and it always gets great results for small to medium size pieces. The basket has perforations all the way around that are small enough to keep the wood shavings in but large enough to allow air to circulate through on every side from top to bottom.
I laid my two pots on the wood shavings and then laid around them the usual things I use to make marks on the pots: salt, copper carbonate, red iron oxide, banana peels, coffee grounds, and seaweed. I pulled apart both fine and coarse steel wool and laid that lightly on top of both pots. Next I put on layers of newspaper, then a layer of drift wood, and finally kiawe wood. I used a blow torch to start the fire rather than using lighter fluid. I think next time I'll use lighter fluid since this time I got the torch too close to one of the pots for too long which may have caused the terra sig to peel in that area. The fire got going much more quickly than it usually does because everything was dry and smaller in size. I also fanned the flames fairly often during the first hour to really get the temperature up. I hadn't been satisfied with the results I'd been getting the last several times and grew more convinced it had to do with temperature. I'm not sure how hot the fire became, but it was much hotter than usual. Because the fire burned hotter, it consumed all of the fuel more quickly which meant it cooled down more quickly. Rather than the usual six or seven hours, this firing took only four hours from set up to pulling the pots out with oven mitts. There are several things I noticed about the results from this pit firing. Probably the most important is that higher temperatures seem to have a profound effect on the surface decoration of the pots. More color gets on the pots and the colors are deeper, more saturated. Color also seems to be driven farther into the pot so you get a layered look, almost three dimensional. If you look at the closeups below I think you can see what I mean. Instead of the color sitting on the surface, both the colors and the spots seem to be at different levels. All of these marks and color also seem softer at the edges and often will bleed into each other. You see more interesting shapes, and shapes within shapes as your eye moves across the pot. And I like having large areas that are lighter in color. I think it provides a more dramatic contrast than if everything is covered in peaches and burgundies. In short, everything seems more complex and I think that's a good thing.
Update on 9/28/16 I just completed my second firing at home. This time I used smaller pieces of kiawe that I bought at Safeway, a local grocery store, in order to get the fire started more quickly. Everything else was the same. It still took longer to get the fire started than I thought it should so I'm going to see if I can find small pieces of pine rather than hardwoods like kiawe that will burn more quickly.
I tried to make this firing as hot as I could, not at the very beginning of course, but as the fire became progressively hotter and the pots had time to heat up. I used a large box that was flattened that seemed to work well for fanning the flames. At one point I probably went a little too far and I heard a distinct pop and noticed a long crack running along the base of one of the pots. I guess it's really not watertight now! After about 3 or 4 hours, when the pots were almost done, it started raining and I decided to get the pots out of the fire pit. I use two long sturdy dowels to get the pots out by inserting one inside and using the other to steady it. I've had much greater success with this than with using raku tongs. I've seen too many people break the rims of their pots when inserting the tongs inside, and I haven't been able to get some pots out at all if they were too big around and had mouths that were too small. When I removed them from the pit, I rubbed ash on the smallest pot which made marks on it from the carbon that did not wash off (see photos). One of the pots was in the rain for a moment before I moved it inside and the raindrops made permanent marks on it (see photos).
I learned a great deal from this firing. Two of the three pieces were refired because I had been dissatisfied with how they had turned out when I fired them at Steve Martin's place about a month or so ago. The first firing didn't get hot enough and the pots turned out very dark, mostly a smoke firing. In this second firing, most of the carbon from the first firing seems to have burned off but not all of it. If I'm looking at this correctly, most of the color from the first firing seems to have remained on the pots, especially the reds. The second firing just added more color and more depth. I checked this with another pot that had been pit fired at Steve's that I put into a bisque firing (cone 06- 1828 F) in preparation for a regular glaze firing. All of the carbon burned off, but the reds from copper remained. It should be noted that this pot had not been coated with terra sig, so I'm still not sure if any color would remain on a pot with terra sig.
One of the pots that was refired had a texture created with a blue Mason stain slip with sodium silicate in it. I didn't put terra sig on it just to see what would happen. My impression after this second firing is that it absorbed an enormous amount of copper so it had more red on the pot than I usually get. I'm guessing that the more porous surface of the pot was able to absorb more from the fire. At the same time, the color is dry and doesn't appeal to me at all. The color doesn't have any depth and it's completely missing all of the little black spots that I love so much.
I spoke with a few potters since then about how they pit fire, and I received some advice that I'll try. One potter brought up an interesting issue. He said that he always uses a hole in the ground at his house when pit firing and encouraged me to do the same. He said that you need the ground to provide insulation so more heat would be retained and so the pots would cool more slowly when you were done. That made me think alot about what's happening in pit firing and how that might contrast with a cone 10 glaze firing. One of the most important concepts in glaze firing is the whole idea of "heat work." Heat work is the necessary combination of time and temperature when firing ceramics. If you throw a turkey into a 350 degree oven, you don't expect it to be 350 degrees in 5 minutes. Turkey is a poor conductor of heat so you might leave it in the oven for 3 or 4 hours until its internal temperature gets to around half that amount. Heat work is important for both clay bodies and glazes. It takes time for bodies and glazes to absorb heat and to vitrify or melt no matter how hot the kiln might be. But does this apply in the same way to pit firing? Since we're not using glazes, it certainly doesn't in some senses. But I've noticed that higher temperatures seem to volatilize colorants better and drive the color deeper into the pot, so heat is certainly important. Clay bodies also must be tolerant of thermal shock because temperatures are rising quite rapidly and they can fall precipitously is you pull pots from the pit fire when they're still really hot. I've done this many times and the only times I've had problems with this were with bowls. I have to keep bowls in the pit until they're completely cool or they will crack. My bowls, at least, can't withstand the stresses of being pulled out of the fire and placed on a piece of wood or concrete or metal. I'm intrigued by one thing, however, and that's the notion that pit fires can get much hotter if they have greater insulation. One potter claimed that his pit fires would get up to cone 06 (1828 F). I didn't ask how he verified that, but I should. I've never seen anyone using a pyrometer to measure how hot a particular pit firing gets, but I'm sure it's been done and could be done by me. Still, it's intriguing to think of what might happen at temperatures that high. Most books I read state that pit fires get up to around 1500 F at the most. Terra sig is also supposed to lose its sheen at temperatures that high. I'm also wondering how quickly color is added to a pot and how long a firing has to be sustained at a high temperature in order to get good color on a pot using this technique. In other words, does heat work play only a minor role in pit firing or does it potentially have more to contribute? Related to this, I'm interested in trying some saggar firing in our kiln to see what higher temperatures over longer periods of time might do using the same colorants. Maybe I'll try putting fire bricks around my pit or some type of ceramic fiber insulation. I can't dig a hole at the house where I'm renting, but maybe I could try it at Steve's place the next time we fire. And bring a pyrometer, of course!
Last night we celebrated the opening of two ceramics shows in Honolulu. The first is at the Louis Pohl Gallery and the second is at the Arts at Marks Garage, both located about a block away from each other in Chinatown. The sale at Louis Pohl Gallery has the theme "Whimsical Gardens" and has work related to flowers, plants, etc. I'm a part of this exhibition with four other potters. Thanks to Karen Kim for inviting me to be a part of the show. I don't really have very many pieces that relate directly to gardens but I have plenty of pieces that have organic forms and might be flower-like in their glazing. The show at Marks Garage has "Dinner Party" as its theme so the whole interior is made up like a cafe. There's even a menu that lists all of the pots and their prices. Daven Hee headed up the exhibition and did a great job of making it creative and fun. Both opened last night as a part of First Friday and were packed with people. The exhibit at Louis Pohl Gallery will be up through September 30th and the exhibit at Marks Garage goes through October 1st. Oh, and Tom Gibson has a great display of his tripod sculptures in the window at Marks Garage. Every time I see them I think of The White Mountains trilogy that I read as a kid.
This past Saturday, HPG hosted a Throw-A-Thon for Empty Bowl. The fund raiser will be in the spring of 2017, but we're already starting to make bowls for it. HPG does this every other year and this time Mark Kuhn will be heading it up. Some things will be different this year which will make it more interesting. Both schools and individuals that make at least 50 bowls (including trimming and glazing them) will be given a table where they can offer their bowls for sale. Think I might do that. I threw bowls for a little less than four hours. I'm not sure exactly how many bowls were made overall, but it was somewhere north of 300 from what I was told. Below are photos of most of the participants from Saturday and a video of Daven Hee throwing a bowl with a rice paddle.
The Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce has sponsored an art exhibition for almost four decades now and it has the reputation for being the best art exhibit in the state and the hardest to get into. Since the Hawaii Craftsmen exhibit is just around the corner, I decided to submit photographs to this show and ceramics to the Craftsmen show. I was going to submit four photos for consideration but I ended up submitting only three. I had gone to Pictures Plus to get frames for my photos so I could save a little money by doing the framing myself. It still ended up costing me $200 for four frames and mats, but that was about half as much as it would have cost to have them professionally framed. While I was framing one of the photos, my oldest daughter said to me, "Dad, do you think someone's really going to buy some photo of a homeless guy and hang it in their living room?" I had to admit it wasn't likely. I also noticed that one of the photos had two big smudges on it. I would have taken the photo back to Hawaii Pacific Photo to get cleaned up, but it was 2:30pm and I only had until 4pm to submit my stuff for the show. That's right, I didn't get around to framing my prints until the last minute, literally. I tried using water which was a big mistake since it made a noticeable spot on the photo. Now I know I should have used alcohol. Anyway, I couldn't use that photo so I submitted three pieces. I was pretty excited to get a call the next day informing me that two of my pieces had gotten into the show. The following photos are from the opening reception for the artists and their families. I took photos of all the ceramics in the show and some of the other pieces. As usual, the artists were more interesting than the art. The show will run through Thursday, August 18th, and is open from 1pm to 4pm Sunday, closed on Monday, and open from 10am to 4pm Tuesday through Thursday.
From May 27 to May 30, Hawai'i Craftsmen celebrated its 40th annual Raku Ho'olaule'a at Mokule'ia in Waialua. Ken Kang, one of the original organizers of the event, served as both the guest artist and the juror for the exhibition. The exhibition was at Marks Garage and featured the pieces chosen by Ken. Below are images of every piece in the exhibition which closed on July 1. I've also included photos at the end of some of the pieces in the silent auction, Barbara Thompson's display of pots in the showcase, and some of the guys doing raku outside on First Friday.
From May 23 to June 12, Cedar Street Galleries in Honolulu put on an exhibit entitled "Earth" with one painter, Hamilton Kobayashi, and two ceramicists, Kenny Kicklighter and Chris Edwards. Kenny and Chris are two of the best ceramic artists in the state and it was a delight to see their most recent work together in one exhibition. Kenny starts with thrown forms, usually cylinders, that he joins together and manipulates. He uses ash glazes on many of his forms and has learned to control them so their rivulets resemble trees and tree branches. Chris is a handbuilder who makes complex forms, often perforated, many of which appear to be based on the forms of diatoms. I've seen them at work several times and I can tell you their forms are not only difficult to design but even more difficult to execute. Many of their pieces sold at the exhibit, but you can contact them directly to inquire about any of the pieces that might not have sold or to ask about new work that might be in progress. Kenny's website is www.kennykicklighter.com and Chris's website is www.christopheredwards.net. Most of the pieces in the exhibit are included below. The first six images are of pieces by Kenny and Chris that are being offered in the main gallery.
This past Friday, April 1st, Pacific New Media at the University of Hawai'i held their eighth annual photography exhibition: Contemporary Photography in Hawai'i 2016. This year's juror was Jay Jensen, the curator of contemporary art at the Honolulu Museum of Art. Almost 500 images were submitted from more than 100 photographers and Jay picked 50 images to be part of the exhibit. I'm very interested in photography, as you can tell from my having a section on photography in my ceramics website, but I'd never tried to enter a photography exhibit until now. I submitted five images, the maximum amount, and waited for February 29th to arrive like I was waiting for the rapture. That's the day "accepted artists" would be notified by email. I remember going through the 29th as calmly as I could, trying not to think about the exhibit, trying not to check my emails too often. When I finally looked at my phone, my heart always sped up just a bit when I saw that I had 7 new emails or 5, but they always turned out to be another offer from Dell or Apple (how many computers or phones do they think I need?), another chance to fly the friendly skies with United, or somebody like Pandora telling me they "missed" me. By the end of the day it became clear that I hadn't made it into the show, that I'd been left behind. I tried not to be too down in the mouth, tried to think of excuses that I could share with family and friends who knew that I'd submitted photos. I went to bed thinking that I must not be a very good photographer, that I'd sent in the wrong photos and why had I sent in those photos when I had better ones that I knew I should have submitted? I started making excuses for myself. We could only submit photos from the last two years but my camera had died two years ago so most of my photos since then had been taken with my phone and the rest with my daughter Bethany's camera. If only I could have used my older photos; then they would have been dazzled by my skills! And then I began to think about what a small thing it was, really, a photography exhibition. Why did I even care if I got in or not? Besides, it's totally subjective who gets in and who doesn't, right? So don't take it so personally. But none of this self-talk made me feel any better and I fell asleep a little dejected. The next day I woke up trying not to think about it, but I was still a little down from not making it into the show. Sometime in the morning, I received an email from Susan at Pacific New Media saying not only that I'd gotten into the show, but that two of my photos had been accepted. Euphoria!! I was a great photographer after all! My photography skills had been vindicated, and I wouldn't have to make up excuses now for my family and friends. Now I could brag (humbly of course) that I had two photos in the exhibit: "By the way, you remember that exhibit I sent photos to, the one I told you was the most important photography exhibit in the state? Well, I found out they accepted two of my photos. Yeah, two! Of course, I'm a little surprised they didn't choose what I thought was my best photo..." and so on. Okay, it felt good to brag just a little, especially after feeling so depressed the day before.
It felt great for a few days telling family and friends "by the way, two of my photos are going to be in a photography exhibit..." but then I had to get my photos developed and framed, something I'd never done before. I sent my photos to Hawaii Pacific Photo and the results were pretty good, especially considering these images were taken with my phone, and the price was good for archival quality prints, a little over $20. Then I went to Art Source & Designs, one of the best places on O'ahu to have art framed. I found out quickly that framing costs a small fortune. What really blew me away was the cost for different types of glass. Regular glass is expensive, but art glass and especially museum glass (which have different levels of UV protection and are less reflective) cost way more than I expected. I went with the art glass and ended up paying more than $250 for framing both photos, even after getting a 25% discount. Such is the price of vanity, I suppose. This is not a knock on Art Source & Designs. They did a superb job. I've read more about this and I realize now that framing is a huge expense if you're doing art photography. This was a revelation to me. I asked someone more experienced than me what I might ask for my photos and they suggested a price uncomfortably close to what I'd paid for developing and framing. I comforted myself with the thought that if I sold both photos, I'd make enough to take my wife to McDonald's.
The artists' reception at Marks Garage in Chinatown was a great experience, and hats off to Susan Horowitz of Pacific New Media and David Ulrich, the Exhibit Coordinator, for doing such a superb job of designing the layout for the exhibit and making all of us feel so welcome. I went with my wife and we enjoyed getting to see all of the photos and meeting many of the photographers. Some of the best photographers in the state were there, and I enjoyed finding out more about their approach to taking photos. I felt very lucky to be in the show at all and tried to stay as far away from my photos as possible. Hopefully they'll forgive me for that. Below are a few photos I took at the reception. How can you not take photos at a photography exhibit? When someone asked me what I was doing, I said, "I'm working on next year's submissions!"