Monday, February 4, 2019

The Art of Japanese Stab Bindings

Here are the gorgeous books created at a workshop I recently taught on the Art of Japanese stab bindings, using hard covers.
Mine are the two on the bottom left with the green trees, and under it, the cover with the fishes swimming. As a calligrapher, I got into making books by hand.That was the technique used long ago, before the printing press. Everything made with care and precision, the book and writing, both  art forms.
My other book on the top right has  the purple and green flowers. This has a more complicated form of stitching. Look at the contrast of the thread on the brown  cover in front,which really shows the finished pattern. A lot more complicated than just two holes! These are experienced book makers I am teaching, so it is always a challenge to know more than your students.
Japanese stab binding has a long tradition, and were usually made of rice paper. Each hole has to be sewn at least two times, front and back, to complete the pattern. The sewing is always begun other than the first two holes to make the knot less obtrusive. For this lesson, I chose the hard covers, mat board covered in decorative paper.The six hole design is a real challenge. Therein lies the art!

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

The Art of Playing

Here is one of my latest creations I call  "Words on Clay". A ceramic plaque, using porcelain clay as my canvas, with words  in a somewhat calligraphic  script. I use a small brush and cobalt blue oxide to create this image on the clay. It is   then covered with a clear glaze, and fired to a high temperature. It could last longer than I do, as it hangs on a wall.
These are not my words, but those of the noted Irish play write and author, George Bernard Shaw. He live to almost 100, so he had many pithy writings. Since we are in a new year, this quote seemed to be a fitting message to myself, and others. 
It is a brand new time, 2019; another step in this progress we call life. With all the challenges in today's world, maybe it is good to remember to take the time to play  more. 
For me, this can happen when I am in the studio, writing out my words on clay, or when I am travelling and play is the destination. Now, if I can just remember to live each day as if I am on that vacation...And you ?

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Tango in the Art of Ceramics

Here is another form of Tango.This ceramic box is in my current show entitled " Spirits", at the Jerome Artists' Cooperative,  about forty miles from where I live in Sedona, AZ.
It stands about seven inches tall and four and a half across. Large enough to store a treasure or more.
I've always loved to dance and started studying Argentine Tango some years ago. Tango colors are red and black.Here the couple on the top are very well matched.They dancing in what is called a " close embrace."
Tango is really a very disciplined dance. When you get good enough you can play more with your style. 
I knew I wanted to do something to celebrate my dance for the show. I guess it is part of my " folk art" style , which are often containers.
This container is made of porcelain clay, which is  fired to a  lower temperature in order to use these bright     colors. Afterwards, it goes into a primitive firing to get that nice crackle and patina. One always must hope that the delicate dancers stay standing, which these two did.
The art of ceramics always involves the unknown, just as the tango has that element of surprise.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Impressionism in the Garden at Giverny

Here I am in Claude Monet's gardens outside of his house in Giverny. Finally after so many years of visiting France, I  was here, in person.
As you wander through the gardens, seeing all the colors of  flowers ,plants,water in the ponds, it is easy to see how he could paint his " impressions"  of what lay before him.
Giverny is a Very small town. In fact you have to take a train to Vernon from Paris,  and then a bus or the " little train" eight kilometers to arrive there. What a clean little town.Flowers everywhere. 
It was a popular summer retreat for many painters,including Americans,  but Monsieur Monet was the best known in town. His visitors included Mary Cassatt, Cezanne and others. Now there are other French artists who have galleries along the one main street. It was fun talking about their art, in French, with them.
Monet  bought his rather large house in 1890, after he started selling in America, then bought more land nearby for the Jardin d'eau, the water garden.The house is pink with green shutters.In 1916, he built a large studio, which I think is now the gift shop. Here he worked on his  large canvases of the ponds and water lilies.They are now in L'Orangerie museum in Paris. Each canvas covers a wall.
 It was fascinating to watch the wind play with the lilies on the water, while I sat on a bench and just observed. The green leaves would stand up like little butterfly wings, and then lay down again. I think maybe that is one of my fondest impressions of the Garden in Giverny.

Friday, September 7, 2018

The Newest of an Ancient Art

Did you know the oldest mask found was dated 7000 BC.?  I didn't . This       " Small Spirit" is dated 2018,  a  recent addition to my portfolio. It measures about eight inches, including all its decorative additions. I am having a show starting this October at the Jerome Artists' Cooperative .
 I enjoy creating  new surprises to display. I am now entranced with adding stones and beads to the copper wire I use to hang this ceramic image.They seem to float. If you look closely, you can see the  two blue beads I created. Easier to match colors, although clay is always risky. 
It also got me wondering about all the masks every where, which are so much a part of our world culture.
In 13th century Venice, Italy, masks were worn at  Carnival, perhaps to get around the rigid society of its time. Dia de las Muertes in Mexico invites the Calveras, or skull, honoring the dead and acknowledging that it will visit us all at one point. Africa has long been a source of these images. In China they show up at the celebration to bring in the new Year.Masks are used for protection;disguise; ritual, and entertainment, and come in all sizes and  materials.
 My passion is clay, and certainly in my travels I have seen others who use this medium. I started making the miniature size because they seemed so detailed and yet so ...small. Something you can even hold in your hand. Surely there is a space in everyone's life for something so petit and yet intriguing?

Friday, August 10, 2018

Studio Art

Here I am in my clay studio, in Sedona, AZ.  Behind me are the shelves with my ceramics at various stages of completion. In my hands is one of my miniature masks in its       " green ware form." What that means is I am dealing with just dried clay in a shape that can break if I hold it wrong, or use a tool incorrectly. It is in its most fragile state now. Here's  where the touch of experience comes in, or tries not to. 
Next job: put it into the kiln and low fire to the bisque stage. This actually comes from the term used hundreds of years ago by the British potteries, back when everything was totally carried out  by hand. Once fired, the clay would have the consistency of a biscuit.
  It is now more difficult to break, hence easier to handle, and able to take glaze.That's an important step toward completion. To my right is the mask that has had its purple glaze and awaits the final firing. As you can see, it is white. After firing, it turns dark, and the color stand out . Native American in the southwest  make their pottery in a similar style.
Then it gets complicated. I need Lots of Time for the assemblage: copper wire wrapped , then gently covered with yarn ; bent finger ; leather backing, ;  burnt fingers on hot glue ; find handmade bead to decorate, Or I have to make it! and finally, Give a hair cut. 
The Art of the studio, and the studio.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Beach Creativity

 Beach Creativity is a good theme for all artists. For me this  is going to the beach for a week in the hot summer days of Sedona, AZ. Here I am in California,   mesmerized by the hypnotic quality of the endless waves. They start way out under the sea, then crash in by the shore, engaging all my senses. 
You see it. You can smell it, and certainly you can watch it endlessly. 
 It is also finding the perfect wave, and riding into shore on my trusty boogie board. Hopefully I don't wipe out too badly, step on a sting ray, or swallow the ocean. Then it is a good run. 
Why do I call it Beach creativity? For one thing, you focus on the "now" right in front of you, as you must when starting into your creative work. Also, I think we all need a break, a vacation  from living  in our minds. These sights and sounds often help forget all the " shoulds " we tell ourselves to be doing. We  are only present in the nature before us.
And finally there seems to be clearing of the mind , a readiness to go on, when this beach is only a memory. Is there inspiration drifting in my mind as I return to my ceramics or calligraphy ? I hope so.