Half way through the residency and the three of us are organizing our bisque and glaze firings. Our works are so different from each other and they take different sorts of space, so it does require maneuvering. Paolo, co-director and ceramic artist himself, has been very helpful with the firings and most generous with his assistance. It is especially nice for us when he has some time to do his own work while in the studio. Lori-Ann and he have a busy schedule with teaching classes in the studio as well as presenting lectures to other organizations for c.r.e.t.a. Rome.
Paola and Lori-Ann arranged for dinner with the three of us the other evening, taking us to a part of Rome we hadn’t been to before by car. We had the experience of driving in Roman traffic (reminded me very much of New Delhi) – cars taking up every inch of space and drivers maneuvering assertively without too much use of the horn, but lots of verbal and hand expressions. It seems there is a pattern to how they get about, but it is difficult for the non-driver (especially non-Roman driver) to see. We had a lovely evening in their company before we were back at it the next day.
(click on image to enlarge)
end of day warmth on walls
the forum view from the Capitoline
Teatro di Marcello
a rainy Piazza Navona
detail of buttresses of Teatro di Marcello
tile 2 of cobblestones
Debra and Nuala putting the salesman through his paces
My initial thoughts were to spend the residency researching tiles and ceilings in Rome – the sense of the city about me has instead taken me to interpreting surfaces that present themselves daily – the cobblestones on my walk through Trastevere to c.r.e.t.a.; ruins of columns, arches and sculptures; trees and buildings – there is enough for many lifetimes of work. Beginning is daunting, but I have.
I share a space near the Capitoline Hill with my friend Debra and another sculptor Nuala Creed at c.r.e.t.a. We have formed a good daily routine, mostly quietly working accompanied by Italian radio that reminds me of what our CBC FM station was many years before our cuts.
I’ve taken photographs, and am using them to form images on my tiles that are not large, approximately a foot square. With one bisque behind me, I’ve started painting the surfaces, so hopefully will have some results by the end of this week.
My working routine was rudely interrupted by a cold that many Romans seem to share, but I recovered just in time to spend a few days with friends from London, looking at sites I have been meaning to see. It was wonderful, but am feeling pressured to get some better work completed….
on the Sisto Bridge about to enter the Campo di Fiori
the real thing including 25% shrinkage!
kiln loading with tiles, limoges and Nuala’s sculptures
my desk littered with some tiles and limoges
Sparking the creative energy of all eight students in her class, Molly managed to extract something different from each of us – the mark of an excellent teacher. No clones here as she expertly taught her techniques (with additional illustrations from her new book) with the magnificent backdrop of Rome. Eight of us were from different parts of the planet – Norway, France, Australia, Canada, US and of course Rome. Aside from being an expert in design and ceramics, Molly is warm and personable and I will follow her career with great interest.
Concurrently, c.r.e.t.a. co-director Lori Ann Touchette took us to museums in the city with an additional Florence side-trip, continuously adding knowledgeable commentary about the works and sites we viewed, giving a richness to the works of art you can only get if you are fortunate enough to have someone who loves the works as much as she does and has the knowledge she possesses.
It was a fabulous preamble to the six week residency to come.
Mishima, Molly style
the class outside of c.r.e.t.a studio
front door to c.r.e.t.a. Rome
Lori Ann making a point at Crypta Balbi
Laurent in front of one of Betty Woodman’s constructions
the walk to c.r.e.t.a. through the Jewish Quarter
Recently I was commissioned to make a tile mural with inlay – not something new for me. Indeed, the buyers wanted me to return to a previous time where my work was perhaps more spontaneous, using rougher edges but with more structure on the interior of the form, with various sizes of coloured slip inlay contained by line I would later colour with liquid slip. This way of working reminds me of playing musical notes, and I attempt to include this feeling of flow and punctuation. I found this very exciting and also rejuvenating for me.
some results to work with...
with great help - naked raku
Deb and Tim viewing the results
Deb's work prior to firing
Mary with air gun protection
Marianne -generosity personified
I have had a good, actually, very good residency for the past three weeks but leave-taking is difficult for me. Off at 6:00 am this morning to the Budapest airport with a kind, courteous and clean taxi service arranged by the ever efficient Emese. Deb was up at 5:30 to sit with me, eat oatmeal, drink coffee and see me off.
The third week was full of surprises in addition to the wonderful two days we spent in Budapest in sweltering conditions… Tim Andrews, a raku artist from Devon, and Marianne Ban from Budapest, a musician who makes small loved objects, were teaching at ICS. Both were most generous with their time and ideas – lots to be enjoyed and learned and as an additional bonus, Maria Gestler arrived with her packed car to load her favourite gas kiln. She is a model for us all, working incredibly energetically, measuring her spaces and filling the kiln as I have seen rarely filled, still working with her beautiful forms and gracing her surfaces with her screen printing and free form brush work.
As my cabbie and I drove through the lush countryside I was moved by the way things had changed so dramatically since I arrived three weeks ago – touching down to a barren, cold land to now have lush deciduous trees in bloom, and the flowers gone all too early because of the unseasonabe 30 degree heat. I thought about the good things at the institute – the wonderful sense of morning with the clanging church bells and the song birds joining in chaotic song – the delight at the end of the day in having a beer or glass of wine with Deb and sometimes an other who would join us after a day of saying little and working in the comfort and stress of our own studios before we went out to dinner, deciding which of our restaurants we would go to. The daily rhythm of the studio will be remembered and definitely missed.
It has been two weeks since I arrived at the International Ceramics Studio (ICS). I have done little but work in my studio so familiar to me as it is the same space I worked in three years ago. Aside from our work, Debra and I go out for evening meals, shop for staples, talk with the other artists and students in residence and spend some time looking at exhibits and the ever wonderful buildings of the town. One more week to finish up after loading the first and only bisque during my stay.
Three weeks is a brief time to do a residency, but I am surprised at the freedom that comes with such a short period for exploration, and also the amount of work that I have been able to complete. And then, there are the artists who move in and out of the space who always have things to offer and exchange, the ever helpful people who work here and do everything possible to make stays worthwhile and creative. There is a very positive energy at the studio encouraged by a working day to rejuvenate the studio grounds (spring clean-up) now that the sun is out after a long cold winter and goulash was made by the returning Bepo and palinka was enjoyed by all.
Debra and I are firing more frequently which is a good thing… Sundays seems to be the preferred day – we load late Saturday afternoon and I get up a couple of times through the night to turn it up and we are hopefully complete to 2300 F degrees around 2. Today is a bright clear day and we like that as there is no walking back and forth in the rain…
Deb is busy, almost frantic actually, getting ready for an exhibit opening next Saturday while I seem to have more time on my hands. We were able to pack this kiln really tightly and are getting more even heat on the top and bottom and actually have back pressure in the bottom peep hole while the temperature still rises.
At 2200 F we are beginning to get a little impatient and shouldn’t be really as this is a critical time in the firing – reduction is completed and we’re trying to equalize bottom and top, clear the kiln all while trying to reach 2300 degrees F, or what is known as cone 10.
We wind down at 3:00 pm, taking longer than we thought – the bottom is again about a cone higher than the top. We will wait the requisite time for cooling to about 250 degrees F and open the following day. Some of the results of this firing are in the colours! Lots to think about and work on.
Walter's tools - lovingly made
Walter teaching - wonderful to listen to
Walter's hand-made tool for using on different leveled forms
Walter's seals - so elegant
Walter's thrown and altered jug
Bigger than life sculpture - Beth Tavender
Gail's spontaneously marked plate...
sculptural form of Anne Drew Potter
Gail throwing elegant forms upside down
A workshop and a conference – stimulating , informative – lots to digest. Debra and I traveled to Huntington Beach on the Amtrack Coastal Starlight Express – an awesome way to travel and meet people. The journey was followed by a three day intensive workshop, learning how to properly fire our kiln. We realized we’d been far to heavy handed in making adjustments and were firing too long to get the reduced results we wanted. Paul Geil is a techie nut and his information was interpreted by potter Tom Coleman who was kind of a front man translating information in a more readily understood format for non-techies while giving us lots of helpful throwing and glazing tips. There was enough information to keep us busy for a long while. Two months later we were off by train again to Seattle for a pre-conference workshop with soda firing Australian Gail Nichols and English clay artist Walter Keeler for three days (my choices). This was worth the trip itself. During our two days off we did the galleries (180 exhibits around town and area)and couldn’t begin to see them all, before the conference started on Thursday. It was an excellent eight days of information and interaction, meeting with people we hadn’t seen for a while and becoming reacquainted with old friends. The photographs will illustrate some of our rich experiences and some of the ideas influencing our practice.
Such a rich few months since the completed installation of the kiln – looks beautiful, doesn’t it? Deb and I have fired it a couple of times but know we need to know so much more about it to make it really work.
In the interim since the summer, I’ve cleaned up a wasp ground nest and released the queen (not me exactly doing this) canned with my friend Gladys (seems she and some of our friends have been doing this for years) made multitudes of Christmas cakes for the season with my friend Daphne (almost all gone) as well as spent many hours working in the studio throwing on the wheel, perfecting my inlay techniques (still having a challenge with over glazes) and casting my tiles. I’m pleased with some of my work but still have a way to go. I need to get some of my work photographed and update the website as well, but for the most part, the work has been steady and learning “what I forgot” is constant.
Debra and I were fortunate to take a workshop with Paul Scott at Emily Carr in the fall – lots of wonderful information but like anything, even though we went to work on the techniques right away, doing it is much harder than it looks. However, it is good to be back in the studio – now, if I can just do the blog more consistently!
Well, installing the venting is taking longer than I thought it might – seems we like taking holidays in the summer and it’s difficult to synchronize us all. That however changed today as the venting gentlemen are here working as I write.
I spent a few days on Hornby Island visiting some of the local artisans there and generally being inspired by their work and their ability to work in a relatively isolated environment through the year. I have been spending time “learning what I forgot” – a little frustrating but after so many years of not being in my studio on a regular basis. I have found it a challenge to establish a routine and get down to work – partly because I am not having a huge amount of success.
However, there are glimmers of light and that of course comes with regular work in the studio and diligence in recording what I have done. A few examples of my recent low-fired work…. Hopefully, I’ll soon have some medium and high fired work to show.