Interview with ceramic artist Ken Eastman

Interview with Ken Eastman / Featured now
By Ileana Surducan
Published in Ceramics Now Magazine Issue 2

Ken Eastman’s work is on the cover of Ceramics Now Magazine Issue 2

Why did you choose the vessel as the central element of your art? Was there a transition from functional vessels to sculptural ones?

I have been working in ceramics continually since 1980. There have been periods when I have moved away from the vessel, but really it has been at the core of my work for most of the time since then. I do not make functional pots, but rather use the vessel as a subject - to give meaning and form to an expression. For a long time now I have realized that my overriding interest is making new coloured clay forms. This seems for me to be the essence of pottery- to make shapes which occupy and contain space and to decorate those shapes. By decorate, I mean to paint slip or glaze, to draw, to make image or line across the skin of the clay.

Ken Eastman Ceramics

Ken Eastman: For all we know, 2010, Stoneware with painted coloured slips and oxides, 43x31x37 cm.

Does your creative process start from a certain image in your mind, or do you seek for inspiration as you progress?

I have always made things - at first out of Lego and wood and for a long time now, using clay. Working on how to approach creating, so that I can go to work every day and explore shape and colour and move forwards, is always hard. The breadth of ceramic possibilities means that to make any progress it is necessary to build up some strict limitations. I use writing and drawing to approach the spirit of a piece of work, but I do not draw an ‘architectural plan’ of the piece that I am about to make: ideas that work in two dimensions are often different from those that are successful in three dimensions. Also, if I knew exactly what I was going to make before I started work in clay, there would be little room left for the play and invention that is an essential part of creative work. A large part of the reason for making is to see things which I have never seen before - to build something which I am excited about and wish to show and share with others. So I try not to plan anything except roughly how to proceed within my imposed limitations.

Tell us about the slab building technique that you use. What are the challenges that you encounter and the skills that it requires?

I roll out slabs of white stoneware clay by hand with a wooden rolling pin. Most of the rolling is bashing the clay flat and the rolling smoothens the material towards the end of the process. From the moment I start rolling out slabs I have to start making decisions - not what the piece will look like, which will in time become clear, but the details - how wide, how long, how thin or thick the slab, choices which determine shape. The objects which I make are clearly defined, they have drawn ground plans, smooth walls and clear edges, but this resolution emerges slowly. There are certain curves and curlings which a thin slab can manage better than a thicker one, but sometimes it’s the soft fatness of a rim or the weight of a piece which is more important.

Colour is an important part of your work. How do you see the interaction between colour and volume?

As soon as possible in the making process, I begin to make marks on the surface with coloured slips and oxides, whilst the clay is still quite wet. I paint on numerous layers of colour, firing the work repeatedly. I apply it in response to three dimensional form and it is in this way I paint the surface in order to explore and make sense of what I have made. I don’t know what colour I want a piece to be until I find it by working - building up layers of colour can often feel more like a stripping away to reveal what was meant. I am interested in the relationship between colour, the illusionistic space of a surface and actual space. This relationship is a complex one - as well as inhabiting the 2 dimensional space on a curving plane of clay, colour can, in a sense fill the actual 3 dimensional space of the vessel itself. Glen Brown in writing about my work said that colour becomes “volumetric, contained, like real space itself, by the vessel walls rather than merely carried on them: it becomes a fundamental content of the work rather than a superficial aspect of it.”

Today’s contemporary art puts a lot of emphasis on dynamics and interactivity. In this context, what is the merit of an art work that encourages contemplation as an aesthetic experience?

Being a static artwork does not exempt it from being dynamic or profound. Art work which is three dimensional demands that the viewer moves around the work and becomes involved in order to experience it and to contemplate it, which is of course a truly dynamic and interactive experience.

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Interview with Liliana Folta

Interview with Liliana Folta / Spotlight
By Ileana Surducan
Published in Ceramics Now Magazine Issue 2

What sparked your interest for ceramics?

I was in college taking painting classes and I wanted to learn sculpture. One day I stopped by the sculpture lab to ask the instructor if I could audit the class. She agreed and handed me a piece of clay. I was amazed at the work of the students. A retired engineer was making intriguing ceramic sculptures. The forms were powerful and provocative. At that moment I thought of how versatile and expressive clay could be to express both powerful and delicate ideas. It was, for me, the medium of infinite possibilities.
Immediately my brain had an explosion of ideas. I fell in love. I realized I could create 3D from some ideas of my paintings. In fact, I ended up sculpting so many pieces during the class that The Art Department awarded me a grant to do a whole semester and also the first solo show ever done by a student in the college.

Liliana Folta Ceramics - An Abstract Poem of Freedom

Liliana Folta: An Abstract Poem of Freedom (detail), 2009, on going traveling/interaction/installation.
> View more works by Liliana Folta

Besides ceramic art, you have also created paintings and murals in order to express your inner universe. How does working in three dimensions change your creative process? Do the processes differ a lot between these mediums?

When I work in 3D, the process of creativity is more fluent, very spontaneous and I can communicate with feelings that I didn’t know I possessed until I felt them in my hands. I can transform them into something visual for others to see. It is a natural process, born of my subconscious. Back in my childhood, I recall helping my father in the garden and end up making objects with mud.

In my paintings, it’s me: my surroundings, my past and present, something very personal and intimate expressed through a different tactile experience.
As with murals, most of them have been collaborative works I’ve done with students at schools. The first one I made came out of the blue. A friend asked me for ideas on what to do with a wall where the tiles had been removed. I had the idea to teach the students about mural making and the importance of recycling material to make art. That’s how the first mural was born.

You express yourself freely using clay. What are the main materials and ceramic techniques that you use?

I like to experiment, so I have been using different kind of clay, such as stoneware, low and mid-fire with glazes and oxides. When I do mixed media, especially installations, I like to integrate other materials like metal, found objects and fresh water pearls. I use handmade techniques from slab, clay relief, and impressed texture to carving.


Your past experience and your personal history seem to be an important source of inspiration for you. Tell us more about the symbolism of your work.

Maybe that’s why I work in different mediums; I am much better expressing my self visually. Sometimes an image will stay with me and I am compelled to paint or sculpt it. Much later, I will realize that these images have a much deeper significance to me, one that transcends the visual. These images become symbols of social-political issues that are at the core of my world views and concerns. For example in the ceramic chains installation, the chains remain unconnected and loose, which symbolizes the right of freedom of the individual; regardless of religion, race, country, and gender. Freedom of expression is something that we, as humans should never have to give up.

Many of your works have an intrinsic femininity. How does being a female artist influence the themes and the ideas you choose to represent?

My themes and ideas begin with personal experiences, past, present, as well as everything that surrounds me: people, places and objects. Sometimes stories interact with different characters in different circumstances. I also like to create surreal landscapes for them.

The white flowers I used in the “Warrior’s Series”, are images from my bank of memories of my father’s garden; he used to mix the flowers in the vegetable garden, which was my play yard during my childhood. “After Chaos”, a woman sleeps peacefully. She is able to find tranquility because she is surrounded by “white warrior flowers” - deceptively frail, and yet possessing all of the strength of memories, nature and the power of womanhood. These flowers guard her as she rests before facing whatever trials the day may bring to her.

You come from Argentina, and you define yourself as a Latin American artist. How does your cultural heritage reflects in your creative experience?

My Latin American roots inform my work. I was born in Argentina, my parents were immigrants of the World War II, and so my back ground tradition at home had a strong European flavor. Even so, I grew up proud for the country that welcomed my parents and the country they taught me to love. Moreover, I am also married to a Puerto Rican man, my son was born on the island too and we spent many years there. This is yet another passage in my life, where the colors and details are reflected more in my paintings than in my ceramics. So you see, my cultural heritage is a potpourri of different tradition and experiences, and everything is reflected in my art.

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Patricia Sannit - Artist of the month, October 2012

ARTIST OF THE MONTH, October 2012: Patricia Sannit

Patricia Sannit - Artist of the month on Ceramics Now Magazine

Interview by Ileana Surducan for Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue Two

How did your experience in working on archeological sites in Jordan and Ethiopia influenced your work?

My work in Jordan and Ethiopia profoundly changed my work. I went to Jordan between my undergraduate degree and my graduate degree. At that point, I was already serious about clay, and although my early training had a functional emphasis (the well known American potter Warren Mackenzie was a teacher and influence), I had become more interested in sculpture. But my work had little focus and I was frustrated by what I saw as the triviality of my work. It didn’t seem to have a core or substance.

Before University, I had been an exchange student in Norway and had learned a lot about history, arts and culture there, but had not put it to any good use. However, when I went to Jordan, two things happened. I traveled all over the region - into Syria and Israel, and throughout Jordan, notable the amazing Petra. I was deeply impressed by the ancient culture and the design of the buildings and tombs and the handmade objects resonated with me. I understood finally that there was a connection between people and cultures and it was in a way manifested through the visual vocabulary around me. It related to the textiles of Scandinavia and the work that I had done as a kid. The desire to create some order, through geometry, on the natural world, and on roughly hewn stone and constructions seemed universal.

My other experience there that had a huge and lasting impact on me was the excavation itself. At Ain Ghazal, working in a “square” (archeological sites are frequently divided into precise squares so as to map out the location of a find onto three points in space) and seeing how the layers of the earth marked time and culture, hiding, or harboring, the evidence of past people was exciting to me. I recognized and felt awed by all of the people who had come before me. Ain Ghazal was first settled about 7250 B.C., during the so-called Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) period. The result of our excavation was the discovery of a diverse assemblage of symbols including tokens of many shapes, animal and human figurines, modeled human skulls, “monumental” statues and mural and floor paintings. My square had a beautiful floor painting of iron oxide on plaster. During the final days of the field season, I worked to uncover the floor. As a ceramic artist, discovering a plaster floor painted with iron oxide, the same Iron oxide that I used so often in my work, was a thrill. But more significantly, as I knelt, sweeping the dust from the floor, I felt a profound sense of connection to the women who had lived there 9000 plus years before. I knew that we had shared many of the same feelings and concerns; I felt connected and understood that there was a huge chain of humanity of which I was a part. I still get goose bumps thinking of it. And that sense of our common humanity is what still informs my work today.

My subsequent adventure was in Ethiopia. I am very fortunate to have married a man who works at what is called the “Lucy” site in the Afar region of Ethiopia. Lucy is an Australopithicus afarensis, and her species populated that part of Africa between 3 and 4 million years ago. She is pat of our species ancestry. As one scans the ground for fossils, walking in the same rough wadis where our earliest ancestors walked, the sense of our history coming to surface is very powerful. It’s a beautiful place, though drier now than it was when Lucy lived there. It is very quiet and empty, and potent with history.

Patricia Sannit Ceramics - Artist of the month on Ceramics Now Magazine
Patricia Sannit, Cradle, 2010, hand-built, carved and incised reclaimed clays, slip and stain, 21”x32”x12” - View Patricia’s works

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Annie Woodford - Spotlight, October 2012

SPOTLIGHT, October 2012: Annie Woodford

Annie Woodford - Spotlight on Ceramics Now Magazine

Interview by Ileana Surducan and Vasi Hîrdo for Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue Two

You take your inspiration from nature. You are not just making a superficial observation, but you conduct a research of the things hidden to the naked eye. Tell us more about the universe you have discovered through your explorations.

I am fascinated by the natural world in its widest sense and at all levels. An interest in the nature of time - the past, present and future has led me to investigate multiverse theory and hidden dimensions - concealed worlds. From there I began to examine nature on a microscopic and nano scale. I became fascinated by the concept of the unseen and rendering it seen.

One of the subjects I investigated was that of diatoms, especially fossil diatoms. Invisible to the naked eye, beautiful and structurally complex I discovered them to bevery significanting the field of paleoclimatology - they are an important indicator of climate change.

I like to select various aspects of the natural world and then examine them on both a macroscopic and microscopic level, considering them in terms of their relationship to time and how they relate to other parts of the universe.

[] Read the full interview in Ceramics Now - Issue Two

Intricate but also delicate, your work seems to be obtained through a very meticulous process. What materials and techniques do you use and how much time does it take to complete a new piece?

Porcelain is the clay I favor - I particularly like ‘Southern Ice White’ which was developed by the Australian ceramicist Les Blakebrough. In general, the works are handbuilt; occasionally I use slip in a free but controlled way, sometimes combining it with fine glass fibre. I like to push the material beyond its perceived boundaries. The characteristics of porcelain mean that it requires careful handling throughout the making process and control and accuracy with firing and cooling.

I often incorporate extraneous materials once the piece is fired such as metal, monofilament, fibre or horsehair. These elements add richness to the work.

A new piece can take up to two weeks to make, depending on its complexity and it can take a further week or two to construct and apply other elements. I work intuitively when I am making, drawing on my research and bringing all the experiences together.

[] Read the full interview in Ceramics Now - Issue Two

Annie Woodford Contemporary Ceramics, Ceramics Now Magazine
Annie Woodford, Circlet, 2009, Porcelain, copper, stainless steel, 24 x 24 x 24 cm
View Annie Woodford’s works

Both science and art are a way of looking at the surrounding environment. What do you think is their meeting point? What kind of form of knowledge is art?

I often find myself working with scientists on projects and I think the two disciplines have many aspects in common. They both help us to understand the world around us. They both rely on investigation and imagination – the ‘what if?’ principle.

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Marta Jakobovits - Romanian ceramic artist, October 2012

ROMANIAN CONTEMPORARY CERAMICS, October 2012: Marta Jakobovits

Marta Jakobovits - Romanian ceramic artist

Interview by by Ileana Surducan and Alexandra Mureşan for Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue Two

What message or emotion do you want to convey to the observer through your works? Is your artistic undertake based on a certain idea or is it more of a searching process and experimentation?

For me, this process is never conscious, programmed or preconceived. It is more of a constant experiment that is absolutely instinctive. My only guides on this path are those primal, undefined sensations generated by touching and feeling the malleable and permissive clay.
Only afterwards I come to realize with wonder that a kind of actualization takes place - a humble identification, like a translation of some archaic, immemorial message. When I stop and ”read” the pieces that I created, and I analyze the way I created them, I marvel and realize that an actualization was already in me, that that translation was made through me.
Good or bad, this is my path; through it I try to understand, not in a rational way, but rather through sensations and feelings, some of the facts of my existence, trying at the same time to leave some signs behind, signs that have meaning only if they are perceived by others.

[] Read the full interview in Ceramics Now - Issue Two

Many of your works are created in raku – a technique that is not the most convenient for everybody. Why did you choose this technique? What are the advantages and disadvantages that it presents?

Raku is a technique that allows one to obtain very special and organic effects, both surprising and discreet. The expressive potential of the surface is greatly enhanced and can vary according to time and to different types of materials used in the burning – crumbled paper, sawdust, grass or dry leafs. Because of the strange appearance obtained through the ulterior reductions, the objects that are born through raku seem to me to be part of an ancient world, they appear timeless.

The process of preparing the clay for the object that will be raku fired is special and equally important to me, because this offers just as many possibilities. The preparation involving different salts, oxides, engobes or glazes, in diverse combinations gives the final piece a special and unique visual individuality.
Throughout the years I tested many of these possibilities, and through numerous repetitions I tried to understand and feel the spell of prompt intervention and immediate decision. These interventions can give you the impression that you work directly with the magical proprieties of the ceramic material.

Marta Jakobovits Contemporary Ceramics featured on Ceramics Now

Clay is perceived by many to be a docile and easy to manipulate material, but a real ceramic artist knows its potential and limits. In your opinion, what should be the relation between an artist and the material he uses?

Clay is a material that is very open to the tactile dialog of touches, and this opening is very important to me because it creates a link to a world full of miracles and secrets. Through the material I am capable to connect with messages from ancient times. Clay seems to transport me into a different time, a different dimension. This is the reason why, whenever I find myself face to face with clay I try to reach the highest level of sincerity.

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Kwok-Pong Bobby Tso - Spotlight, October 2012

SPOTLIGHT, October 2012: Kwok-Pong Bobby Tso

Kwok-Pong Bobby Tso - Spotlight on Ceramics Now Magazine

Interview by Ileana Surducan for Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue Two

Your work evokes artificial landscapes and strange architectural agglomerations. What is your source of inspiration?

Most of my work inspired by man-made objects; something like a view of building blocks from the sky, transformer boxes out in the field, and strange formations on the roof. Recently I started to add more abstracted objects, like the connection parts of an exhaust fan, pipe or even inside a lock. I am inspired by something that is recognizable but has an uncertain function.

[] Read the full interview in Ceramics Now - Issue Two

What technique do you use in order to achieve the monolithic, geometrical volumes that compose your work? Take us through the process of creating your work.

For most of my work I combine hand building, slip casting, and wheel thrown techniques. In terms of surface, I achieve an ultra-smooth finish by using a range of sandpaper from 200-600 grit. I then use a marble polisher to sand the surface till it is as smooth as butter. For my industrial landscape series, “The View From Above,” I leave the clay surface as it is this emphasizes the unique qualities found within a raw clay body. For my “Industrial landscape series”; I apply glazes, sometimes paint or enamel to achieve the old sanded look.

The Industrial Landscape series are exploring the mysterious relationship between how one object fits unexpectedly into another and becomes a whole new composition. Tell us more about this relationship.

The mysterious relationship between space and curiosity has always influenced my work. I think those space redefine objects and give those objects meaning. For example, when you have a simple form like a cup, the space created by the handle defines the shape of the cup, when you added a saucer to this cup, the composition has changed. It redefines the function of this cup not only by adding more meaning to it, but also increasing the tension. I believe that one object needs another object and the space in between are the main reason why I am interested in this relationship, it is also what peaks my curiosity and motivates my work.

Kwok-Pong Bobby Tso Contemporary Ceramics
Kwok-Pong Bobby Tso, Zeta, Industrial landscape Series, 2011, Porcelain, paint, wood, hobby paper and metal, H 13 1/4” x W 14” x D 6”
View Kwok-Pong Bobby Tso’s works

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