Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Kilnroom and hoarder redflags!

I have great news of great progress! The kilnroom of Mudfire Clayworks has been cleaned, organized and rearranged! The new layout is more spacious - more open - more inviting - more usable! A few more tweaks will be finished soon but members can already enjoy added shelves, wider aisles and easy access to their work. Dedicated shelves for bigger pieces are coming soon as well as the maiden voyage of the new large bisque kiln. Many items were found for the upcoming yard sale on Saturday October 19th at Mudfire! Tons (literally) of ceramic and other tools, equipment, materials and mountains of treasures are up for grabs! All yard sale proceeds will be put toward purchasing wheels for the workshop room, which kicks off future plans to allow studio access for members during all workshops!
I am really proud of the new kilnroom! In addition to delivering the good news, here are some helpful hints and cautions for anyone organizing, de-cluttering or setting up a work space.

I'm one of the Mudfire Residents, Kevin Bennett. 
I am also a recovering 
art supply pack rat.

- rediscover supplies you forgot you owned.
- discover supplies you have no memory of ever owning.
- are known by name at a thrift store by someone that is not even an acquaintance.
- keep the same materials in several places to increase the chances of finding them.
- have accepted someone's entire art supply cache before seeing what was in it.
- have a substantial amount of a media you dislike or do not know how to use.
- realize that things you are taking to Goodwill were actually once purchased there.

The urge to collect is one drawback of an artist's mindset. Everything begins to be a possible resource once you become practiced enough in turning a material into something greater. Even the most starving of artists can soon find themselves buried under harvested goods without proper control and good organization. As a miniature Kevin, I spent as much time categorizing my toys as I would playing with them. I saved my allowance to buy organizers for my Lego collection. I became practiced in problem solving, sorting and classifying...which became a great help when I later grew into an attention deficit sever enough that there have been many times in my life where a shiny object has almost been the death of me. Even if you feel no personal shame over the size of your hoard, a squared away storage or work area will help you accomplish a task before you forget what the heck you intended to do or how you intended to do it.

Chose a common denominator! Pick a way to group things that will work for you. Would it be better to put all the tools with tools then kinds of materials together? Should you separate according to activity where everything in the painting family, for example, shares a home?

Know what you are unwilling to compromise! Decide in the beginning what part of a space must be used for and what items must stay in it. You can make problem solving easier when you reduce the number of puzzle pieces by knowing what has to remain constant.

Start with a clean slate! If possible, move items into another room.  Determine what can be donated, gifted and what is just plan trash. Separate the remainder into groups as you go. You will notice possible uses of space when there is LESS IN IT! It also helps motivation when you see progress!

Set time limits! When faced with a tough decision of whether or not to keep a material, factor in how long you have been keeping it for a special occasion. I have a two year rule. After that...I feel better about putting it up for adoption. I set a “use by” date for anything older than two years that I cannot bare to part with...it helps get the ball rolling.

Balance availability, work space and storage! Using one area for many things gives you more storage space. More materials kept in storage until needed enables you to have more area to work in. BUT supplies kept out of sight increase the odds of forgetting they are there at all.

Don't over organize! Creating an overly detailed system that you know in your heart you will never stick to is a waste of time. If I can get away with it I will usually stop at groupings like “Things that cut” instead of making smaller individual homes.

Don't fight your instinct! If you notice things that commonly stray out of a grouping and into another, it may be time to find a home for that herd.

Give tours! Chances are extremely high that your perfect organization makes no sense to someone else. Especially in a shared space, show whose that will be working there the logic behind your decisions. Everyone can then benefit from the new efficiency and can help with upkeep!

Stay tuned for more updates from Mudfire Clayworks. The yard sale is October 19th! 

Special thanks to everyone that helped in the kilnroom cleanup and 
all those that have shown their appreciation! 
-Kevin Bennett

Friday, March 23, 2012

Featured Artist - Doreen Baskin

A recent call for submissions brought us in contact with an amazing, vibrant and totally badass (in my opinion) artist from Brooklyn. Teeming with ambition, primitivism, Doreen's characters bring on a stormy dissonance of color and expression and demand a reaction.  Getting to know Doreen a little better has had the interesting result of setting her work to music in my head. Smokey, bloodshot Lou Reed characters come to mind.  Yeah, I know, it's getting loud in here. Step out on the fire escape, have a drink, get to know one another.

What is your typical day to day like? 

First of all, I can’t start any day, typical or otherwise, without a huge cup of coffee, in a ceramic mug, of course.  I have three kids; my older son is 12, and the other 2 are my 9-year-old twins (boy and girl).  The first hour of any day is spent feeding them and getting them ready to go to school, sporting activity, etc.  On school days, I walk my twins to school, then go home, pour myself another cup of coffee, and head downstairs to the basement, where I have my studio, and work.  I work until I have to go pick them up from school.  This should mean that I have five hours straight to do my work.  But often, household chores, grocery shopping, errands, hunger, etc. interrupt the day.  Two days a week, I teach a children’s ceramic class at an after-school program at my twin’s school.  I also teach on the weekends.  

Apart from making things from clay, what do you enjoy doing?
I love to make things in clay.  Apart from that, I love to doodle. I call these my drawings. I don’t draw every day, but often enough, for my drawing to share space with my ceramics on my website.  When I’m not doing the things I’ve already mentioned, I could be found reading or watching movies.  I enjoy most genres, but my favorites are sci-fi, fantasy, action, mystery, and horror.  Lately, I’ve been reading and watching the “Walking Dead” series.  That’s why I was drawn to the show, “Pirates vs. Zombies”.    

Other things that I like to do are swimming in a lake in Vermont (my mother-in-law has a house there.)  I also love to go sledding in Prospect Park, the biggest park in Brooklyn, where I live, but we don’t seem to get snow anymore.

Describe the moment you fell in love with clay.  Have you ever cheated on it? 
To be honest, I can’t remember.  I’ve always loved clay, but I didn’t take it seriously until my second year in college. I’ve cheated on my white clay with terra cotta.

Who has been the most influential instructor in your life?
I’m going to be vague here, too.  I don’t recall any one influential instructor, but was driven by the punk rock music of the seventies.  Since I had no musical talent, I released all my teenage angst by doodling.  My doodles were found by an art teacher at my high school (I don’t even know his name) and he encouraged me to take art classes.

How much of your own ceramic pieces do you use in your own home?  Other people’s?
A lot.  I make work whether I have a place to show it or not.  My studio is also filled with unfinished work.   Back, before I had children and still had the energy to do retail shows, I used to trade with other artists.  I would trade my ceramics for jewelry, but mostly for other people’s mugs.  We live in Brooklyn, and don’t have a lot of space to collect larger pieces.

Do you tend to collect deep from one artist or style, or broadly across many artists and looks?
See above.  When I made a trade, it was mostly because I liked the person.  Usually, if I like a person, I will like their work. I have a collection of mugs of various styles.  One day, I’d like to have everything in my house be hand-made, and not commercially produced.  But that could be expensive.  I’ll wait until my kids are out of college.

Have you had any fun experiences eating or drinking out of your works?
Last New Years, we had a small party and served scotch in my drinking vessels (shot glasses, mugs, and even the tops of candle stick holders.)  Some of these vessels were functional, and some were definitely more sculptural.  It didn’t matter because after a few shots, the folks drinking out of the vessels with flat, even rims were dribbling just as much as those drinking from the sculptural ones.

What would be the title of your biography? Who would write it? What would the NY Times reviewer say? 
“I Wanna be Your Joey Ramone”
The New York Times would say that that title is already taken so I’ll get back to you on that.
I, of course, would write my own biography so I could embellish the truth…and that’s the truth.

Where does your inspiration come from? 
Joey Ramone.  Well, as I said before, as a teenager, I didn’t have anything but angst until I heard Punk Rock.  Punk Rock didn’t change my life; I still had a lot of angst.   The music just happened to be there when I was coming of age.  I loved the energy, anger, etc.  My version of releasing my creativity was visual, instead of musical.

As an artist, how do you feel about mass production?
In a perfect world, nothing would be mass-produced, especially food and art.

Who is your favorite artist not working in ceramics?
Frida Kahlo, but for a woman to say she loves Frida Kahlo is as ubiquitous as an artist saying she/he is inspired by nature.

Does the change of seasons affect your pottery? 
Yes.  Over the summer, when my kids are not in school, I have way fewer hours to work in clay.

If you could visit the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive), who would it be? 
Maybe Robert Arneson.  He’s famous, and he lives in California. 

Do you ever get potters’ block?
I have the opposite problem.  There always seems to be too many things going through my head, which causes me to shut down because I can’t focus on one thing (or two, or three.)  When that happens, I paint an unfinished piece that has been lying around for years until I can focus. 

Where would you like to be in ten years? 

Do you have any advice or words of wisdom for potters and ceramic artists just starting out on their own. 
Don’t stop.

If you could live in any time period other than this one, what would it be?
The future.  I’m dying to know what’s going to happen to the human race.  Also, I’m too afraid to go to the past, fearing I’d disrupt the space/time continuum.

What book or movie have you read or seen recently that rocked your world? Lately, I’ve been reading the books my twelve-year old recommends.  One of the more recent books is “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins.  I love depressing, post apocalyptic novels.  Anyway, I’m taking a group of twelve-year old boys to see the movie on the 24th.  I hope I’m not disappointed, just depressed.

Doreen's work can be seen in the upcoming Pirate vs Zombie exhibit at MudFire Gallery, and in shows across the country.  Go Brooklyn!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Massey's Time Machine

For all you non-believers... you shoulda been here last Friday.  Dr. Massey was giving free rides in his time machine. 

Featured Artist - Dow Redcorn

Looking at Dow's work, you experience nature, up close and far away, at the exact same time, with the visceral feeling of skiing downhill, very fast, with pine branches whipping around you, and foxes and wolves leaving tracks in the snow, and a warm cup of cocoa spiked with a bit of whiskey waiting for you down at the lodge. Yeah, it's like that.

Dow is always making. Always smiling. Always surprising.  We are so incredibly thrilled and honored that his first solo show is at MudFire Gallery.  And we'll always get to say "We knew him when..."
Read on, you'll be very surprised at his world of influences.

Apart from making things from clay, what do you enjoy doing?
I have quite a few oil painters in my family, so I have always been involved in painting. After I began airbrushing my ceramics with under glaze, I was inspired to airbrush oil paints on canvas. The result looks contemporary and I can finish these paintings quite quickly as the paint dries much faster than traditional oil painting. I also enjoy gardening, cooking and eating…. Is that a hobby? As far as sports, I really enjoy downhill skiing. Riding up the ski lift, surrounded by tall, thin white and red fir pine, is probably  one of the reasons why my current ceramic images are what they are.

Describe the moment you fell in love with clay. Have you ever cheated on it?
It was at MudFire. I had not been a member for long when I had an idea to make a cabin out of slabs of clay. It was probably too ambitious for a beginner, but it actually turned out quite nice. At that moment I felt like this was my medium and one I could succeed at and enjoy. I do cheat on it occasionally, but I always return to it.

Who has been the most influential instructor in your life?
Hands down, my father has been the most influential instructor/person in my life. From my earliest memories, he has always excelled in just about everything…art, sports, business, hunting, fishing, relationships, etc.  I was exposed to so many things by the time I was 21, it really shaped me at an early age. He also loves to travel. It seems like my sisters and I were constantly in the back seat of the family car (having “piggy fights”) and going somewhere.  Being originally from Denver, we were in the Rocky Mountains quite frequently, hiking, camping or fishing. The most important lesson he taught me? To enjoy life today.

How much of your own ceramic pieces do you use in your own home?
Actually I use very few of my own pieces. I use my coffee mugs occasionally but I use my salt pig almost daily. “Oink, oink”! My favorite pieces by others are mugs by Shadow May and Kyle Carpenter. Both are large and substantial vessels for coffee.

Is there a ceramic artist whose work you most admire?
 Alice Ballard. She makes nonfunctional forms and sculpture. Her work has probably had the most effect on my ceramic forms and designs. I think her artist statement perfectly describes her work… “The metamorphosis of Nature's forms, as they change from season to season, that attracts me to that universal world in which differing life forms share similar qualities.”

I also admire Beth Cavener Stichter. Her large sculptures of animals are incredible. I would love to sculpt figures this large one day.

Another ceramic artist that I admire is my Aunt, Jeri Redcorn. She makes traditional Caddo Indian Pottery. One of her pots actually resides in the Oval office.
Who would write your biography?
I’m not sure what the title of my Bio would be, but if David Sedaris wrote it, I’m sure it would be something funny or weird or perverted. It would get great reviews but only because David took my average stories and made them funny.

How important is the human or organic touch in your work?
I was once in Crate & Barrel and saw a slip cast, mass produced vase that was sprayed with brown tea dust glaze and it looked like a tree stump. It was $50 or $60 dollars and I thought to myself “I can do that...but make it more interesting”. So tree inspired ceramic forms and designs are what I have been doing over the past several years. I don’t necessary like close replication of natural forms. I like the artist making their interpretation of it. For me, inspiration can come from anywhere. I’m a person who notices everything, the small unnoticed details in things.

Who is your favorite artist not working in ceramics?
I love the artwork of British painter Francis Bacon. 

If you could visit the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive), who would it be?
Francis Bacon’s studio and home at 7 Reece Mews in London’s South Kensington neighborhood.  For the last 30 years of his life, the studio was never cleaned, so years of canvasses, brushes, photographs, sketches, notes, etc. piled up until his death in 1992. In 1998 the entire studio contents were removed and reassembled in the Gallery of Modern Art in Dublin. So, next time I’m in Dublin I could actually see it.

Do you ever get potters’ block?
I have not really experienced any potters block. I like to sketch ideas in notebooks so I always have somewhere to look for past ideas that were never pursued or to reinvent previous ideas. Sketching has also helped me be more focused in executing my forms as originally planned.
Where would you like to be in ten years?
I’m going to quote another MudFire potter’s answer on this question… “Alive and making ceramics”.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Featured Artist - Tracey Broome

Tracey's work is featured in the upcoming House and Home exhibit at MudFire Gallery.  When we unpacked her houses... we needed to know more!
Tell us something unusual about yourself.
I am an only child, I grew up in Myrtle Beach SC, hanging out on the beach a lot and skateboarding every day. My dad worked in a furniture plant and at night reupholstered furniture in a tiny barn out on a friend’s farm. He would take me with him and I hung out in the barn ripping fabric, nails and staples off of furniture frames for him. He drove a truck and to this day, I love to see an old Chevy or Ford truck pass me on the road. My uncle was a painter and my mom always thought I would end up being an artist like him. My dad worked for a lot of interior designers and I decided that was what I wanted to do, so I went to school, got a degree in design, met my husband, and spent the next twenty years as a designer married to a photojournalist. I worked for furniture manufacturers and retail furniture stores, traveled all over the country and later designed sets and props for the theater. I found clay in my 40’s and took a lot of classes and workshops before I decided to make it my full time profession. I am still married to the man I met in college, he is a staff photographer for the Associated Press and we have a daughter in film school at UNC School of the Arts in Winston Salem. She is studying to be a screenwriter, and we are like most parents, very proud of her!
What is your typical day to day like?
I don’t have typical days. I am not a good planner. I don’t sit down and say, ok, today I will make this and this. I walk into my studio, mess around with the piles of found objects I have and see what inspires me. Deadlines and orders can loom in front of me and I will get distracted and make something completely off track from what I should be doing. I make two or three pieces a day with lots of distractions in between the making. I will never be a production potter. I take a long time with each piece and I work very slowly. I know I should speed up my production and increase the number of pieces I make, but I am a slow southern girl. I once had a boss that called me “speedy” because I was so slow and methodical with everything. I make what I want to make at a pace that I like, that’s the best I can do!  At least once a week, I try to check in with other friends that are artists. We will meet for coffee, lunch or dinner and a movie, but it always inspires me and keeps me in touch with others who are doing the same thing I’m doing. I also like to visit a gallery or museum a couple of times a month just to feel the presence of other artists out there.                                
Apart from making things from clay, what do you enjoy doing?
For years, my husband and I were rock climbers. We climbed a couple of times a week, we had canoes and paddled whitewater a lot. Then he got this job with AP and I found clay and now there is little time for that these days. We still like to be outdoors, camp, hike, he climbs when he can, I don’t climb anymore, but sometimes think I would like to get back to it.  Now, I enjoy time with my friends and family, really good coffee, really good food, good films, art, all the good stuff we need in our lives!

Describe the moment you fell in love with clay. 
When I was a little girl my grandparents liked to visit Jugtown and Seagrove and they would take me there when I stayed with them in the summer. My grandmother had a great love for pottery and I loved those rides through the country to visit the potters down in Randolph County. I remember walking into the shop at Jugtown and feeling such a sense of history there. But I truly fell for clay at the State Fair in Raleigh. There was a potter in the Yesteryear pavilion with a wheel and he was shouting out at the crowd as he made pieces, telling stories and talking about what he was doing. I can’t tell you a thing he said, but I can still remember the sight of that clay on that wheel. I looked down at my daughter who was very small at the time, and I said to her, I am going to do that! Soon after that, I signed up for pottery classes and never looked back. I would love to know who that man was that influenced me so greatly!
Who has been the most influential instructor in your life, and what was the most important thing you learned from him or her?
I have had many amazing instructors and I have taken many many classes and workshops. They include: Meredith Brickell, Ronan Peterson, Susan Filley, Adrian Arleo, Debra Fritts, Steven Forbes deSoule, workshops with Amy Sanders, Po Wen Liu, Hitomi Shibata, Blaine Avery, and there are more I’m sure that I am forgetting. I picked up so many techniques and tips from each of these artists that I use in my work every day.
But the two instructors that have helped me the most are Deborah Harris and Barbara McKenzie. I took classes from these two potters at Claymakers in Durham when I first moved to Chapel Hill. They taught me above all else, the importance of a well crafted piece. They taught me to take the time to do things right. They also taught me that it doesn’t just come overnight, that you have to do the work, you have to not be afraid to try things and fail, and they helped me understand how to move on, not get attached to a piece that was obviously not working and just start over. They have both been endlessly giving of their time and knowledge as I have grown as a clay artist and they have both become very great friends.
Where does your inspiration come from?
Most of my inspiration comes from old discarded objects, antiques and treasures that people give me from their attics and drawers in their homes. If it’s rusty, old or broken, it inspires me! I am inspired by the architecture of the rural south. I love old cemeteries, plantations in South Carolina where I’m from, barns, dilapidated houses out in cotton fields, old paint on weathered wood. I also like to wander around in flea markets and antique malls. I feel so nostalgic when I am in one, especially if they are playing really bad music on their intercom. I love the crazy people that run their stalls at outdoor flea markets. I like to just hang around and listen to the conversations. I hear some crazy stuff, let me tell you. For instance, yesterday I was in an old shop in Asheboro, NC and I heard these two elderly ladies talking about the way things were when they were young girls. One was saying that they didn’t have yard sales when she was a girl, when they wanted to get rid of stuff they just threw it away. She said “why we took a bunch of our furniture one time and pushed it over the bank down the road from us.” Now THAT inspires me!! Only in the south!

Who is your favorite artist not working in ceramics?
Jean-Michel Basquiat  and Andrew Wyeth, I know extremely different, right?! but I love them both. The Basquiat movie is in my head all the time. I went to the Wyeth museum in Maine last summer, I just stood in this room with Andrew Wyeth’s paintings and cried.
Do you ever get potters’ block? How do you get out of your creative ruts?
I do get blocks, I seem to reach these plateaus and I get to a place where I feel that I don’t know what to do next. I get moody, irrational, lack confidence in my ability, question why I do this. And then, like a flash, I get a spark of inspiration from some crazy thing, and I’m back at it. I have gotten more used to it, I can feel it coming like a tidal wave and I just wait it out. I know that it will pass and something will come, I just wait for it. Many times I get out of these funks from something that wakes me at 3am, some glimmer of an idea, and I will grab my notebook and write it down. Recently, a girl I blog with wrote about a note in her friend’s studio that said “just work”. How true is that? If I just go out to my studio and do something, anything, something else will follow. Just Work! When all else fails I call my artist friends and go have coffee with them or I call my daughter and something they will say strikes a chord and I’m good to go.

What book or movie have you read or seen recently that rocked your world?
Movies:  The Radiant Child, Basquiat, Harold and Maude, Stalker by Andrey Tarkovskiy, 2001 A Space Odyssey
Books: I recently read A Different Kind of Luxury: Japanese Lessons in Simple Living and Inner Abundance and it changed the way I thought about a lot of things. 

Check out Tracey's wonderful houses the House and Home exhibit opening March 2 at MudFire Gallery.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Featured Artist: Shawn O'Connor

Shawn's unique wood fired work has everyone at the studio talking.  We decided to circle back around to find out more about our favorite Downeaster.
What is your typical day to day like?
I try to treat my studio as a normal job. I typically work Monday through Friday from 8am to 5pm with and hour break for lunch. Many nights during the week I put a few hours in doing paper work or photographing work. I try to take weekends off from the studio, but frequently find myself working if I haven’t left town. I typically throw in the morning and trim and assemble in the afternoon.       

Apart from making things from clay, what do you enjoy doing?
I’m an outdoor person at heart. I love to hike and camp, but pretty much enjoy any outdoor activity. I’m also enjoy music, of all types. I frequently go to shows and concerts.       

How much of your own ceramic pieces do you use in your own home?  
I try and use my own work often. I feel it is important to understand fully how my work will live out its life in other people’s homes. I will often make changes to future work I make, from the experience I have using it. I have a good collection of other people’s work that I typically use every day.     

Is there a ceramic artist whose work you most admire?
One of my favorite potters, and friend of mine, is Jennifer Allen. Our work is visually and physically very different, but we share some of the same artistic values that go into our work. 
Why is handmade better than mass produced?
The hand made offers the aspect of the human connection. Often the value of the maker is entwined in the object that they make. The user, or owner, of the object will often have a personal connection to the maker, adding significant emotional value to the object.  Mass produced objects are often sterile and cold void of human emotion and connection. The tactile qualities of my work are very important to me, as this is part of the experience I am creating for the user. My work is meet to be used in the service of food and drink, so it is important to consider all the senses when making these objects.      

Who is your favorite artist not working in ceramics?
Probably Richard Serra. I love his use of form and surface to create work that gives an experience to the viewer on a monumental scale. 

Do you ever get potter's block? 
I sometimes do have potters block, but find if I start working through a series of forms that I have already made, I usually end up creating some new one at the end.  

Where would you like to be in ten years?
I would like to have some roots somewhere in ten years. Hopefully before then but, you never know how things are going to play out. I’ve been moving around a lot the past five years, grad school, residencies, jobs. I’m starting to feel a lack of “home” or stability in this transient lifestyle. It’s not really an ideal situation for a studio potter.       

Visit Shawn O'Connor's solo exhibit at MudFire Gallery in Atlanta or online http://www.mudfire.com/shawn-oconnor-2012.htm

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Best of Kiln - Ginger Birdsey's Pastel Pinch

This week's "best of kiln" award goes to the always fabulous Ginger Birdsey for her gorgeous cup and serving tray set in soft pastels.  Check out the way the glazes pool and interact in crevices, and don't forget to set your internet browser to "feelie" mode to get a sense of the luxurious satiny texture. This set is marvelous!

Ginger used a white stoneware glazed with 2-D blue and Apricot glazes.  The set was fired to cone 6 in oxidation.  2-D can be finicky, with a thick application resulting in pinholing, so test a bit, to get the right consistency on your work. Apricot, on the other hand, is a magic glaze that can make even your flattest glaze super-sexy variegated. Get down!

Custer Feldspar    44
Whiting               19.9
Flint                    10.7
EPK                    10.7
Lithium Carbonate    5.3
Talc                      3.1
Frit 3124              6.4
Rutile                   7.7
Bentonite             3.2

2-D Blue
Dolomite             21.8
Whiting               3.3
Nephyline Syenite    47.5
Ball Clay             24.1
Frit 3195             3.3
Cobalt Carbonate    0.5
Rutile                      4
Bentonite                1.9