/ Read the full interview in Ceramics Now - Issue Two
Ceramics Now Magazine: You are strengthening your career as a ceramic artist year by year. What was your first contact with ceramics and when did you realize you have a passion for it?
I took a ceramics class in my junior year in college, and that changed my world instantly. I was constantly in the studio. I had worked with wood and metal prior to clay, but it was amazing to find one material that possesses the qualities of many materials. Throughout its various stages, clay is plastic at first, then flexible and strong like wood, then hard like steel. This is over simplified, but basically I love the metamorphic qualities of clay. It is an incredible material that twenty years later, I am still very passionate about.
Assisted Nucleation, 2011, Low fire ceramic, washes, glaze, rubber cord and steel fastener, 20H x 30W x 10D inches - View his works
What is the most difficult part in constructing a new piece? Tell us about your creative process, from sketches to the final display.
I usually work on multiple pieces at one time, so that they feed off of each other as a series. My work is often an amalgamation of forms and details from mostly natural objects and landscapes. I have a lot of natural objects and photographs around my studio. I use these details as a starting point for the forms and surfaces that I create, often manipulating the scale or color of the details that I am interested in.
I often start by sketching in a notebook to quickly work through ideas, then I move to a large chalkboard for some full scale sketching. My sketches are often covered in words that inform the themes I am working on. Once I can visualize the form I want to create I move on to construction, my favorite part.
The most difficult part of constructing my larger work is managing the appropriate humidity. I allow certain areas to dry enough so that they have strength to support the form, while other areas are wet enough so that I can continue adding more clay. All of this happens while maintaining a smooth gradation of humidity between those areas to avoid cracks. I spend several weeks working on one piece, often jumping between other pieces while I wait for one to dry enough.
I rarely build my work in the position that it will rest. This does two things. It makes it easier to move the piece around to work on it and it keeps the orientation of the object open until the end of the building process. I can have most of the form completed and then cut and dart areas to modify the form. Once the main form is completed I smooth and refine the surface. This step is very meditative for me. It has a rhythm and fluidity that I enjoy.
/ Read the full interview in Ceramics Now - Issue Two
Ceramics Now Magazine: You are a very young ceramic artist. When did you discover the potential of this medium? Did school have an important role in directing you on this path?
Ruth Power: Like most artists. makers or craftspeople, I have been interested in art and working with my hands from a very young age. I had a fairly basic art education in secondary school in Ireland (largely based on 2-dimensional drawing work) - quite the antithesis of what we do in third level education. However, I decided that I wanted to attend the National College of Art and Design (Dublin) from a fairly young age and my art teachers in school encouraged me to do so.
The college has a great system, by which everybody does a Core Year in their primary year (four years in total). From here, the student embarks on their first steps towards their professional formation as artists, designers and educators. The student has the opportunity to sample the diverse courses the college has to offer and in turn, discover where their strengths, weaknesses and passions lie.
Many people (such as myself when I began) have no idea what department they wish to pursue when they enter, so this system works really well. Throughout the year, I did a lot of 3D making and intricate work with wire and found objects, so I decided to go into the Ceramics, Glass and Metals Department, specializing in metals. However, when I entered the department I fell in love with ceramics and its diversity. I knew nothing about the material, glazing or mold-making. The only experience I had with clay was when I made a pinch pot in 1993 for Mother’s Day. I painted in neon pink and yellow (which was in vogue at the time!) with ‘Ruth Power, Age 5’ scrawled into the base. I was in instant awe of the abundance of potential of the material, and the infinite amount of creative and scientific exploration that could be done with this ancient medium. Thus, it was only until I was in my second year of college that I discovered the potential of ceramics.
Breasts (Cephalophilia), 2011, 48cm wide x 42cm long x 14cm deep; porcelain, LED light, cord, plug, wooden box with black paint and flocked interior (Black and white image) - View her works
Your works are debating subjects like censorship, mainstream pornography or sexual repression: did you choose these topics in the hunt for controversy?
I have identified with being a feminist for many years now and these subjects have been of huge importance to me. I had researched and discussed those topics for quite some time before merging them into my artwork, when I was in Third/Fourth Year. I wrote my thesis on a very similar subject (how pornography is influencing mainstream trends). In Second Year, we focused on skills and techniques and thus, did not get the chance to incorporate much of our own expression. It wasn’t until Third Year that we were taking on self directed projects and had the opportunity to entirely immerse ourselves into our own fully developed concepts.
To me personally, the work is not controversial; it is dealing with issues that I believe need to be addressed urgently and discussed more openly. Its just that sexual politics and pornography are not usually deliberated, and the naked body is still taboo in our culture. Moreover, because I have had a considerable interest in such topics for quite some time, any of the initial ‘shock’ factor had been lost on me a long time ago. So, for me, the work was never really controversial (especially since I have an open attitude towards sex, sexuality and the body). It was bringing to light issues that I believe need to be confronted, issues that affect me personally.
Residence of Growth, Allison Luce at the Zentrum für Keramik-Berlin
by James Romaine
/ Read the full review in Ceramics Now - Issue Two
Since its inception in 2005, the Zentrum für Keramik-Berlin has been an oasis of cultural exchange for ceramic artists in one of Europe’s principal artistic centers. Founded by Thomas Hirschler and Kaja Witt, the residency program provides a creative sanctuary in the midst of an exhilarating city where artists from around the world can create artwork stimulated by their surroundings and experiences. Developed after the couple spent time at the Archie Bray foundation in Helena, Montana, the Zentrum für Keramik-Berlin welcomes artists to a city that is, at once, standing in history and bursting into the future.
Ceramicist Allison Luce, who lives and works in Charlotte, North Carolina (USA), participated in a residence at the Zentrum für Keramik-Berlin between May and July 2010. Inspired by a city with such a tumultuous past, Luce was amazed at the beauty and resiliency of life that was Berlin. This residence allowed her to experience the city in a different way than previous trips that were characterized by quick visits to the main tourist sights. By taking bike rides along the Mauer Weg, following the path of the Berlin Wall, she was able to weave between the former East and West Berlin in a way that was impossible for 30 years and experience where the wall divided the city. Since Luce was there during the spring, she saw the quiet garden of the residency transformed into a blossom of life. As the weather warmed, she also went to various monuments and landmarks around the city, such as the Soviet War memorial, which is tucked away in a quiet residential neighborhood. Luce was amazed to experience a city’s metamorphosis woven from a web of history into something thriving and beautiful.
Evaporate, 2010, 14.5” x 13” x 5.5”, Fired Clay with oxides, watercolor, mixed media. Photo by Allison Luce.
In Berlin, Luce developed a body of sculpture, collectively entitled “The Serpent Tree”. Referencing nature as well as the body, “The Serpent Tree” works, such as Mandrake and Echo, as vessels of birth, growth, death and, even, life through death. The theme of residence has been a central theme of Luce’s ceramics for many years. Her work materializes the twisted processes of organic growth. One of the advantages of clay ceramics, born of earth and fire, is its potential material affinity with the viewer. Luce’s work takes full advantage of this affinity. Working in clay, the material out of which all of humanity was created, her sculptures explore the ephemeral nature of our existence and the belief in the promise of life. Just as the body is the residence of the soul, Luce’s sculptures are residences of presence and meaning.
Steve Belz: Assisted Nucleation, 2011, Low fire ceramic, washes, glaze, rubber cord and steel fastener, 20H x 30W x 10D inches