Interview with Brian Kakas - Artist of the month, January 2012

Interview with ceramic artist Brian Kakas - Artist of the month, January 2012

→ Subscribe to our monthly newsletter if you want to receive news and interviews with ceramic artists.
→ The full interview with Brian Kakas is featured in Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue Two.

Ceramics Now Magazine
: There is visible consistency in your creation. What was the starting point in your investigation with ceramic art?

Brian Kakas: The starting for my works comes from the traditional vessel and understanding the primary elements in design. I have taken the elements of the foot, body and lip of a pot and applied them as more structural elements within my sculptural designs. Development of a language within these components has allowed the works to maintain continuity through the progression of forms. The works become more refined as I focus on transitions of lines and volume. Complexity in the structures, are inspired from marine life, geological formations, buildings, bridge design and armor. With the creation of all my works I try to stay true to the inherent properties of the materials. 

Your works reveal a very rigorous methodology. Tell us more about the process of constructing them. Do you make preliminary drawings?

I used to draw blueprints for my pottery and sculptures. But the works always seemed to lose something in the translation from 2D to 3D. I think the spontaneity of the sketch and energy never quite translated. Once I began using slump and drapes molds I began to only sketch gestural drawings with ink. This allowed me take an idea (not a concrete design) and began to find new forms through exploring hidden lines within objects while only maintaining the idea of the gesture. I apply the gestural line I am looking for onto the X, Y and Z axis of the object in order to maintain flow and control of the entire 3 dimensional space it occupies. I am working with a modular mold system, which allows me to create an inventory of parts to pick and choose from freely. This system allows me to maintain being in a “state of art” while exploring new forms. The sculptures are hollow and all have an inherent strength as I complete lines whether circular or elliptical, symmetrical or asymmetrical. Then I construct a lip on the vessels using armature, just like ribs in an airplane wing or in a boat hull. The ribs create a template to be covered with slabs, which accentuates the forms I have already created. The tensile strength of this element keeps the hollow forms from warping or moving during the firing process.

Brian Kakas - Contemporary Ceramic Sculptures

Architectonics – Hull Improv, side view, 2011. White stoneware, slab built, 38”L x 18”W x 17”H, Cone 04 Oxidation - View his works

Tell us more about large scale fabrication. Taking the size into consideration, have you confronted with some particular technological problems?

I found through many accidents, the importance of the foundation you build on.  There were many cracking issues early on in the high arches of the sculptures. I thought it was uneven displacement of weight that could be resolved by building additional supports that were fired with the works. But with continual cracking at the point of the supports I began reviewing the overall movement of the pieces throughout the shrinkage stages, from cone 04 to cone 10 the problems were the same.

Read More

Interview with Marianne McGrath - Ceramic Installation, January 2012

Interview with ceramic artist Marianne McGrath - Ceramic Installation, January 2012

→ Subscribe to our monthly newsletter if you want to receive news and interviews with ceramic artists.
→ The full interview with Marianne McGrath is featured in Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue Two.

Ceramics Now Magazine
: Before starting a career in ceramics you studied Biology. In relation to your line of work, how would you characterize the relationship between Biology and Ceramics?

Marianne McGrath: I believe my study of biology helped create the artist I am today: one that works by questioning what surrounds me, and by creating objects based on observation in a very systematic manner. Artists, like biologists, work from direct observation and immersion in the environment around them, and are forever attempting to interpret this world.
Both groups employ creative means to achieve this. I grew up on a farm in Southern California, one my family had farmed for four generations, surrounded by this natural world that was under the direct manipulation of the human hand to serve human needs. I believe I was drawn to study biology in college because growing up immersed in this agrarian landscape and was incredibly interested in the idea that we, as humans, have this ability to define, control, and use the natural world that surrounds us, yet we also have an imperative responsibility as a species to maintain this world.

In my final semester in college, I took a ceramics class, the first art class I had ever formally taken. I was immediately overwhelmed by the questions I found artists asking, by the responses that they drew from their audience, and the simple fact that they were using dirt, one of the most basic components of the natural world, to create. This type of communication and way of thinking drew me in and I decide to completely change the direction of my life. I found that my voice was much more attuned to express my concerns of the livelihood of the natural world through the means of art than through my study of biology.

In the studio today, I find myself working in much of the same manner as I used to in the biology lab: trying to find the answer to a particular question. I also recognize my history as a student of biology in my draw to clay’s ability to be manipulated at all levels of its creation, whether its in the mixing and altering of a slip, or in the potential of atmospheric firings. I use this characteristic of clay as the basis of communication in my works.
Marianne McGrath Contemporary Ceramics
What I See, What I Saw II, 2011, unfired earthenware, plywood, steel rod, wax, 4’h x 10’l x 20’x
- View her works

You use unconventional techniques in very interesting ways, like unfired earthenware and wax. Tell us more about these methods and the creation process.

The medium of clay itself creates a very heavy material metaphor. Artists, I believe, are drawn to it for it’s malleability, its ability to record the touch of the human hand, and the sense of permanence it retains once fired. Unfired clay, especially at the bone-dry stage, is incredibly fragile and ephemeral-it can be dissolved or broken down immediately. The impermanence that clay retains at this stage struck me as incredibly meaningful, and I thus employed it to convey the meaning that I wished for in my work.

Read More

Interview with Deborah Britt - Spotlight, January 2012

Interview with ceramic artist Deborah Britt - Spotlight, January 2012

→ Subscribe to our monthly newsletter if you want to receive news and interviews with ceramic artists.
→ The full interview with Deborah Britt is featured in Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue Two.

Ceramics Now Magazine
: You are in this field for more than ten years now; when exactly did it all start? Tell us how you discovered the passion for ceramics.

Deborah Britt: My passion for ceramics came rather late. Having been born and raised on a farm in Northwest Missouri, far away from big city influences, exposure to the arts was minimal. Art classes in my small-town school were non-existent past grade school—with a student body of 60 students in grades 1 through 12, resources were focused on the practical skills and knowledge essential to a farming community.

My interest in the arts began in college, where I was first exposed to fine arts through an Art Appreciation course. After earning a degree in Business, and subsequently a Masters Degree, I was firmly entrenched in the corporate world. The spark that ignited my interest in art, however, continued to smolder, but it wasn’t until I witnessed a wheel-throwing demonstration at a local art fair that my desire to delve into clay became real. After 13 years in business, I returned to school with a whole-hearted desire to master the art and craft of clay, ultimately earning a BFA degree in Ceramics. I have never looked back.


Deborah Britt Pottery -Ceramics

Blue Pitcher Set, 8” x 13”, Wheel-Thrown and Altered, Salt-Fired Porcelain with Slip and Glaze Decoration, Cone Ten, 2011 - View Deborah Britt’s works

You are mostly creating pottery pieces. How would you explain your attraction for functional ceramics?

I was initially attracted to the wheel. Learning to throw basic utilitarian forms was a joy to me.  The tactile sensation of wet clay is so seductive! However, there are some ideas that cannot be conveyed by functional pots, thus I also do sculptural work. I like the idea of making work that is approachable both on an intimate and intellectual level.
Making functional work appeals to the part of me that wants to connect personally with the user. I love the idea that the work will be handled, and I strive to make work that goes beyond the basic utilitarian form. In other words, I strive to make the work “special” for the user, in an effort to elevate the mundane, e.g., drinking a cup of tea, into the conscious enjoyment of the daily ritual, rather than a routine act.

I love to play with form, so even in my functional work I like to bring in a sculptural sensibility. The functional and sculptural forms play off each other—one idea leads to the next—so for me, the back and forth of sculptural vs. functional is essential.

—- The full interview will be featured in Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue Two.


There is a remarkable touch of sensibility in your decorations. Tell us more about how you decorate and where do you get inspiration from.

I am intrigued by the fact that we as humans are so connected to the earth, from the food we eat to the ceramic cup we drink from. I am drawn to relatively matte surfaces, perhaps because of their tactile nature or maybe because of their relationship to nature itself.

I want the clay to look like clay, and have been drawn to the salt firing process because of the ability to let the beauty of the clay body speak for itself as it fuses with salt. The element of surprise that arises from firing to firing with the phenomenon of flashing and variation of salt distribution has always held great interest for me.

Read More

Interview with Kathy Pallie - New artist, January 2012

Interview with ceramic artist Kathy Pallie - New artist, January 2012

→ Subscribe to our monthly newsletter if you want to receive news and interviews with ceramic artists.
→ The full interview with Kathy Pallie will be featured in Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue Two.

Ceramics Now Magazine
: When and how did you discover the passion for ceramics?

Kathy Pallie: Growing up, I was always the artsy-craftsy one, making things out of all different kinds of materials, using lots of different techniques. I loved going to my Dad’s office in New York City where they produced display products/props used in retail store windows and interior displays. To me, it was a magical, fantasy industry.
Though I never had art classes in high school, I decided that art would be my major in college. As a first year art student, I was introduced to clay. I immediately loved the tactile sense of working with clay and creating 3-dimensional objects.

My interest in clay took a back seat to advertising design which was my major within the art curriculum. This was followed by a very exciting career in commercial art designing decorative and functional display products for the retail stores, exhibit world and point-of-purchase industries. Most of these products were 3-dimensional, large scale and fabricated from a variety of materials. It was always exciting and challenging to work with materials that had totally different commercial uses and to create products from them that were applicable to the display field. Much of this was done in foreign countries working with cottage industries, sometimes sitting on the ground outdoors with chickens and roosters strutting by.  

Years later, when I retired and put my hands back into clay, I realized that this was a material that really excited and intrigued me, and one I had to explore in depth. I was hooked! My “clay play days” took over. Now instead of designing products that had to be marketable or meet a client’s design criteria, this was just me, the clay, and the creative process and didn’t need anyone else’s approval. I played with clay with a childlike approach, investigating, experimenting, and learning, as much and as fast as I could.  

Kathy Pallie Ceramics

The 4 Elements – Earth, Wind, Fire, Water, Earthenware, glazes, 18”H x 14” Diameter, 2011 - View Kathy Pallie’s works

Tell us more about your creative process. Where do you get inspiration from and how do you find the journey towards the final outcome?

My inspiration comes from just living and observing and being receptive to what is going on around me. I’ve always been inspired by the unlimited variety of textures, patterns, and energy found in nature. I love to be outdoors skiing, hiking, swimming, watching the changing light patterns from dawn to sunset, seeing flowers bloom and leaves unfurl. I’ll often take photos for reference, pick up pieces of bark to experience the sensation of the surface texture, and closely observe different patterns and details. I interpret my reaction to these things in clay. Though many of my artworks have a trompe l’oeil effect, I am not trying to mimic Nature. Rather, I try to bring the essence of what I have experienced in the outdoors into interior spaces.

Once in the studio, the clay often seems to have a life of its own as it leads me, morphing from one form and concept to another. On other occasions, I can envision the completed piece before even touching the clay.

— The full interview will be featured in Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue Two.

Read More

Interview with Connie Norman - Spotlight, November 2011

Interview with ceramic artist Connie Norman - Spotlight, November 2011

→ Subscribe to our monthly newsletter if you want to receive news and interviews with ceramic artists.
→ The full interview with Connie Norman is featured in Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue One / Winter 2011-2012.

Ceramics Now Magazine
: Text and pattern is seen everywhere on your works; they make a fantastic rhythm and enhance the forms. When did you start to use text on your works?

Connie Norman: My current style using text started years ago when I was making mixed media sculptures that were mostly clay integrating text. I gave myself the challenge to make something esthetically pleasing. What I wanted to do was -to be able to tell a story with pots. I suddenly had the revelation of incorporating the text onto my pots. But it is very ironic that I use words on my work, because I have always struggled with writing. And I still do! When I was working in sculpture I only used single words, but now I have expanded to phrases. 

You recently came home from Ethiopia. What did you experience there? Tell us your impressions.

My journey to Ethiopia started approximately four years ago, when my husband and I started the adoption process for our son Vander. In 2009 our permanent relationship with the country of Ethiopia started, we traveled to Addis Ababa, to pick up our son. As the days, months and years went by; I realized I wanted to give back to the country that gave us our son. I started looking for a way to go back to Ethiopia and volunteer. I went to Ethiopia this past July for three weeks. I worked with three organizations, One Child Campaign, Vision on Africa and Mission Ethiopia.
Connie Norman working with Tigist, the master potter of Vision on Africa.I worked with women to help restore their dignity who are HIV positive and who have leprosy, and women who are destitute. Through the language of clay we were able to communicate, laugh and be with each other without a common language.
The women of Mission Ethiopia are HIV positive and suffer from leprosy; these women are considered outcasts and unemployable. Women like these and their children, spend their days searching the garbage dumps for food. Now, these women make pit fired beads, which are fired on the ground in an open fire.Currently they are able to feed their children and themselves.

I sat with the women much like an old fashioned quilting circle, they showed me how to roll the beads in my palm and decorate each bead. While we were making beads their children ran in, out and played outside with meager toys like old tires, but were always smiling. 
Vision of Africa is an organization that is helping destitute women in many diverse ways, they provide medical care for mothers and children are educated on contraceptives, sponsorship programs of orphans, and of course they train women to be potters. Ceramics in Ethiopia is a very hands’ on process  I was asked to help the women with their production process, but I felt like I learned more from them, than they learned from me. Tigist, the master potter gently guides the women from mixing the clay they collect from other regions of Ethiopia, to hand building bowls, vases, spice cellars, and coffee pots, and much more. While I was there, Tigist did a pit fire with me. I was amazed at her skill; she laid the green pots near the fire and slowly moved them into the fire ring. Then just like in American raku, she threw the pots in some dried leaves for a post reduction process. 

Connie Norman in Ethiopia with boys from one of the orphanages in Addis

"Me in Ethiopia with boys from one of the orphanages in Addis Ababa.  I caught my frist chicken."

Read More

Interview with Blaine Avery - Spotlight, November 2011

Interview with ceramic artist Blaine Avery - Spotlight, November 2011

→ Subscribe to our monthly newsletter if you want to receive news and interviews with ceramic artists.
→ The full interview with Blaine Avery is featured in Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue One / Winter 2011-2012.

Ceramics Now Magazine
: You’ve been working with ceramics for over twenty years now. Do you remember your first works? How did you evolved in time?

Blaine Avery: It has been just over 20 years since I stated in the field of ceramics. I remember my first works very well I know at every point in my career I strived to produce the best possible work I could, going against any business plan and striving to be the best artist I could. I threw away many of my works because in my opinion they just did not meet the mark. I felt it better to show and sell only what I felt was the finest quality I could produce at any point of my development as an artist. My first works were refined shapes as I was trying to get to the root of the form. Most were based on early american folk pottery that of, Edgefield South Carolina, Central North Carolina stonewares and slip trailed earthen wares.

These first works were simply glazed or left unglazed and fired in a wood-fired salt glazing kiln. In my early work I wasn’t ready to decorate the surface, I was only concerned with the root of the form; once I felt that I had achieved mastery of this, only then was I able to begin to think of working with surface design, by adding patterns a zoomorphic imagery. However, some forms still call me to show their true essence.

Blaine Avery Ceramics - Ceramics Now Magazine

Dancing turtle platter (salt glazed, local clay, hand painted slip, glaze) - View Blaine’s works

You work with great delicacy when using patterns and symbols of ancient cultures on your works. How do you choose these patterns?

I first began looking at my surroundings, taking patters and imagery from nature. So much inspiration can be found in nature, if you just pay attention to its rhythm and symmetry. With other designs I do look back on many cultures, taking from them what I feel is relevant to me in this time and place. I first started looking at early American ceramics of the 1600’s forward, than from there I began studying pre-Columbian ceramics and folk art from around the world. There is a common thread that links all ancient cultures, a trueness and simplicity that I feel drawn to. I also study textile patterns for many ideas as in nature there is a rhythm, a symmetry and a repetition that calls to me. Sometimes, I take only one small part of a pattern and cover the pot with it, repeating the process over and over; repetition can be very powerful if done correctly.

Read More

Interview with Tanoue Shinya - Japanese ceramic artist, Keiko Gallery

Interview with Tanoue Shinya - Japanese ceramic artist represented by Keiko Gallery, October 2011

The special feature in partnership with Keiko Gallery includes interviews with 10 Japanese artists represented by Keiko, and many images with their works.

→ The interviews will be published in the first printed issue of Ceramics Now Magazine. Pre-order Issue nr. 1 - Winter 2011-2012 or subscribe for one year.

Ceramics Now Magazine : What was the starting point in your investigation with ceramics? Do you remember your early works?

Tanoue Shinya: When I was a student of Theology at the Doshisha University, I also belonged to the ceramic club. I was just absorbed to make something with clay in the club’s room. I worked for some textile company for two years after the graduation, and I entered Kyoto Saga Art College because I wanted to learn more throwing techniques. I remember the pieces I made in the college very well. The pieces I’ve made in my freshman year are the origins of my current series.

Tanoue Shinya Japanese Ceramics - Contemporary Ceramics Magazine

KARA-10: Fu- a, 2010, Glazed clay, 7” x 26” x 4 1/2” (h) - View his works

Your works may be simple, but the details, the lines and curves of your works are very sinuous. Tell us about how do you construct your pieces.

After creating the vessel or sculpture’s shape with coil techniques, the slip is applied on the surface. And then I groove the surface with needles one by one and at the end I rub iron into those grooves.

The important theme of my pieces is the shell - egg shells, shells of fruits or seashells, because they are deeply related to the normal circles of life. The cobalt blue in the pieces represent the ocean, which is the origin of life on Earth.  The wombs are consideres to be the shell of human beings, so if I could express in my pieces the memories of leaving the wombs (leaving forever the protective and comfortable feeling), it would be wonderful.

Read More

Interview with Claire Muckian - Artist of the month, September 2011

Interview with ceramic artist Claire Muckian - Artist of the month, September 2011

→ Subscribe to our monthly newsletter if you want to receive news and interviews with ceramic artists.

Ceramics Now Magazine
: You are a very young and talented ceramic artist. Can you tell us what was your first experience with ceramics?

Claire Muckian: Thank you, but I’m not that young actually. I studied art in school, liked it very much but never considered it as a possible career. After many years training and working in various environmental management roles, I began to realise how much I missed making art. So, I returned to the University of Ulster in Belfast to do the BA Fine and Applied Arts with a view to specialising in drawing. There, I had a brief introduction to clay, which I had never used before and had an instant connection with it as a material. I loved how malleable it was and how you could so easily transfer a quality of touch during making. I viewed it as an extension of my drawing practice. So, I made an impulsive decision to specialise in ceramics for my Degree after that.

Claire Muckian Contemporary Ceramics Magazine - Artist of the month

Turbine, porcelain - View her works

Constructing using hand-building techniques give your works a sense of delicacy and lightness. How do you make your works? Tell us more about the process.

As I mentioned before, I enjoy making where I can transfer a sensitivity of touch to the material. It is important for me that the sculptures maintain a certain immediacy, vibrancy, and vulnerability that can be achieved easily with drawing, but that tends to be lost when making 3-dimensional work.  I think this is the case with ceramics in particular, where so much time and processes are involved. I predominantly choose hand-building techniques such as pinching and coiling so you can build quickly and loosely. I’m not so interested in the perfect surface and I like to achieve an appearance of the handmade. I like the texture of hammered metal and to leave holes and marks like fingerprints. This gives the work an unfinished aesthetic that adds energy and immediacy to what are seemingly primitive works but that still feel fresh and relevant.

I wish to heighten the viewer’s awareness of space, air and silence.  I am interested in the viewer’s experience and response to objects, particularly the handmade object. I believe that the viewer finishes these forms off in their mind and participates in their making to a certain degree.

Read More

Interview with Shamai Gibsh - Ceramic Technique, September 2011

Interview with Israeli ceramic artist Shamai Gibsh - Ceramic Technique, September 2011

→ Subscribe to our monthly newsletter if you want to receive news and interviews with ceramic artists.
→ The interview with Shamai Gibsh is featured in Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue One, Winter 2011-2012.

Ceramics Now Magazine
: What was the starting point in your investigation with Saggar firing and Terra Sigillata painting?

Shamai Gibsh: Terra sigillata painting intrigued my imagination when I was a teenager.  At first, I saw Venetian vases decorated with black and white figures and later with color painting, as part of the history and heritage of the eastern Mediterranean board. Years later, when I was already a ceramic artists, I researched terra sigillata and the rediscovery of it in the 20th century, and started to apply it to my work. I tend not to use glazes in my work, except for exterior mural work. Thus, the use of terra sigillata over the last 15 years enabled me to reach a non shiny and a very appealing color palate, and when fired within saggar vessels in the presence of organic materials or smoked firing, appears to have exiting results. I fire within a saggar, which is an enclosed clay vessel that holds the specific organic material, to get the desired results. Over the years I have used many forms of organic materials like saw dust, salt Marché, pine needles, various seeds and fruits. These days, I mainly use pine needles collected from two forests; one in the Carmel mountains and the other one close to my studio.

Installation “Stelae 2011”, 235x213x55 cm. Stoneware, Terra sigillata, Saggar firing.


Tell us more about the process of constructing your works. Does it take much time, do you have to make many preparations?

The manual part of my work: wheel throwing, hand building murals and sculpting occupy a large part of my time. However, these come after an idea has been formed following considerable thoughts, planning and designing. Naturally, I am influenced by my roots, the immediate cultural and social environment and by the exposure to anything that touches us as human beings. Therefore, yes, it is a lengthy process.

My preference of the use of sagaar firing also contributes to the prolonged preparatory phase in my work. Bone-dried vessels, made out of white stoneware clay, are covered with three layers of terra sigillata, occasionally decorated with copper cuttings and bisque fired to cone 06. Metal soluble are also used for decoration, and the objects are inserted into clay vessels (saggars) which are just a bit larger than the fired object, and filled up with organic materials, mostly pine needles, pretreated with different oxides. I fire in reduction to around 1000C.

Preparation of murals varies. At times terra sigilata is applied in different layers on a plaster board in a reverse pattern, followed by a thin layer of liquid clay. When in a leather-hard state, the board is lifted and cut into tiles, bisque fired and only than saggar fired. In other instances, tiles are painted with terra sigiillata, applied with layers of various copper cutting and even painted with oxides and metal solubles, bisque fired and saggar fired.

Read More

Interview with Mark Goudy - New artist, September 2011

Interview with ceramic artist Mark Goudy - New artist, September 2011

→ Subscribe to our monthly newsletter if you want to receive news and interviews with ceramic artists.
→ Pre-order the first printed issue of Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue nr. 1, Winter 2011-2012.

Ceramics Now Magazine
: Your work with ceramics has been active only in the last three years. What did you do before that? Tell us about your first experience with ceramics.

Mark Goudy: Well, my mother was a potter, starting back in the early 70’s, and so when I was a teenager I was exposed to clay through her work. She had a studio in our basement, with a wheel, kiln, glaze mixing area, etc. I tried throwing on the wheel back then, but I didn’t really connect with the craft aesthetic or the making process during that time. I was more interested in playing music and adventuring outdoors than working with mud.

Somehow thirty years went by before getting my hands back in the clay again. I ended up studying engineering and enjoyed a twenty-year career in the computer industry (designing graphics chips for companies such as Pixar, Silicon Graphics, and nVidia). It wasn’t until a little while after my mother passed away that my wife Liza had the idea of paying homage to her creative spirit by taking a raku class at our local adult school. Pull pieces directly out of a red-hot kiln and drop them into burning sawdust? …sign me up! It was fun performance art, but it was the building process that really drew me in. I started hand-building and designing systems to create forms that reflected my own sensibilities. More classes followed, and within a couple years I left the virtual world of computer engineering and was spending a lot of time in the clay studio. It was refreshing to be working with such a physical material and in a process where every piece created embodies its own unique identity.


Three Vessels - clockwise from left: (m70) 7”w x 3”h; (m81) 10.5”w x 4”h; (m71) 8”w x 3.5”h


You usually work with soluble metal salts, that give impressive shapes and patterns. How do you make the pieces?

I may have been influenced by my experience in computer graphics, where you can render all sorts of interesting objects composed from intersecting curved surfaces, but early on I wanted to get away from the radially symmetric forms that come about from working with the wheel. So I learned about slab construction and ended up making a series of special hump molds (by pouring plaster into stretchy fabric suspended through triangular cutouts in plywood) to shape the clay. These molds enabled me to construct forms out of asymmetric parabolic curved surfaces, which had immediate appeal. My basic process is to shape, and then join these surfaces together to make my rounded vessels. The arcs in these pieces are designed to fit the sweep of my hand as I burnish the surface by rubbing with a smooth stone. For now, I enjoy working in a scale that fits easily into the hands, with forms that feel like waterworn stones.

Read More

September Newsletter, Ceramics Now Magazine

September Newsletter, Ceramics Now Magazine

Our newsletter is coming later this month with amazing interviews. Claire Muckian is our Artist of the Month and talks about her career as a young ceramic artist, Simcha Even-Chen is our Recognized Artist and Shamai Gibsh talks about Ceramic Technique. Plus the New Artist we are proposing every month (name to be revealed soon).

Subscribe here to be the first to receive the interviews.

+++ A special feature on Japanese artists, with many interviews and images is coming in early October!

+++ Soon you will be able to pre-order the first printed issue of Ceramics Now Magazine (November)!

Interview with Clare Twomey, exhibiting artist at the Overthrown: Clay Without Limits exhibition

Interview with Clare Twomey, exhibiting artist at the Overthrown: Clay Without Limits exhibition, Denver Art Museum, July 2011

The special feature for the Overthrown: Clay Without Limits exhibition includes images from the exhibition and interviews with some of the exhibiting artists, plus with the curator. Subscribe.

Ceramics Now Magazine: Collecting the edges is the name of your work exhibited at the Overthrown: Clay Without Limits exhibition. It’s a site-specific project that enhances the corners and the ceiling of the space, but it also enhances the edges of the exhibition. Tell us about this project.

Clare Twomey : Collecting the edges is a response to the architecture of the two buildings one designed by Ponte and the other by libeskind. The work I made collects and focuses their shared dialogues of space and light across the whole museum site. When moving thought the two buildings you become aware of the complexity of architecture of both guiding you through the depth and layers of the buildings, my work responds to this. The soft rich clay dust has collected in the edges of these architectual details and staggering flights of space in both buildings. The clay acts as one authorship uniting the two buildings for the time of this exhibition.
The pure red Colorado clay drifts describe the material alone, the way they ease up against the architecture describe the shapes and light in the building.
The temporary nature of this work allows it to be at a different pace to the monumental structures it is formed by. It is a reminder of a moment in time, rather than a permanent demand.

Clare Twomey, Collecting the edges. 2011. Red clay dust. Site-specific project for the Denver Art Museum supported by Jana and Fred Bartlit. Photo by Jeff Wells

Ceramics Now Magazine: From all the artists exhibiting at the Overthrown, you seem to have an outstanding easiness of making site-specific installations. Where did you learn this? (Or is it learnable?)

Clare Twomey: When I left the RCA 15 years ago installation work in the field of the applied arts was in its infancy. This allowed me to create my own language of large scale and temporary works that did not become a competitive language but a meaningful exploration of potential within a material specific dialogue.
Through critical appraisal and practical learning in visual languages and context the work I have made has developed and is nurtured by all the wonderful curators I have had the opportunity to work with. In all the projects I have worked on the curators and myself have only hoped to make new work that can question the current contexts of making and meaning within the structures of craft, clay and the wider visual arts. Part of this is my personal drive to make work that continues to challenge the work i have made and that I want to making the future. To learn this is to only look at a set of skills, to want to be immersed in this, is a personal undertaking that involves the kind of risk that is outside of a given learning environment.

Ceramics Now Magazine: Your previous works have been exhibited at Tate and Victoria and Albert Museum; how did you receive Gwen Chanzit’s invitation of exhibiting your works at the Denver Art Museum? With excitement, or with reservations? You can also tell us how long it took to come up with the project.

Clare Twomey : When I was installing my work “a dark day in Paradise” 2010 at the Brighton Pavilion I received a phone call from Gwen Chanzit. I remember this clearly as I was sitting in a chair looking at a stuffed duck on a platter in the grand kitchen whilst also directing the composition of hundreds of black ceramic butteries from the ceiling in the great kitchen.
Gwen talked with great passion and intelligence of the museums intention to focus on clay across the whole museum for the duration of summer 2011. This was an amazing idea that a whole museum and its collection would lay emphasis on one material. I was immediately taken with the ambition of this and Gwen’s invitation to make a new work across the whole museums architecture was second to none. This felt like it would be a defining moment to examine scale, architecture and languages across a broad site.

Clare Twomey, Collecting the edges. 2011. Red clay dust. Site-specific project for the Denver Art Museum supported by Jana and Fred Bartlit. Photo by Jeff Wells

My work would sit across the whole museum and also reach into the contemporary clay exhibition – Clay with out limits. The artists invited to this exhibition were all my contemporaries, they are the defining makers of our time, I was thrilled to have a shared dialogue in this context. It was a privilege to be invited to make a vast work and be in the context of such a ground breaking and enabling exhibition.

From London to Denver we shared books, pictures and architectural plans, Gwen visited my studio in London and I made a site visit to the Museum. When visiting a site one must arrive with a very open mind, I had on our first visit no planned ideas for the work. I made a response to the architecture I experienced and this was vastly influential in the development of the concept.
The whole development happened in one year from invitation through to delivery in the museum. The museum was incredibly supportive of a challenging work.


Ceramics Now Magazine: What do you think about the exhibition, about it’s scale? Overall, there are 25 exhibiting artists.

Clare Twomey: The exhibition Clay without limits is a moment in time; the lead thinkers and makers of clay work in the USA and beyond responded with ambition to Gwen’s invitation. The nature of Gwen’s invitation is the core of the curatorial prowess of the exhibition. She approach the artists and gave them an opportunity to make works for the future, each artist I feel has not done what they did before, Gwen’s good curatorial sensibilities drew out the best work these makers have produced to date. It is a great exhibition.

The groups of artists that are bound together in this exhibition possibly for the first time, here they are seen as a movement. We can see in the landscape of making how these artists make sense as a group, a large group. We can see what happens at the centre what happens on the edges. If this show had been any smaller it may have replicated exhibitions that came before but its scale means that now we can see clearly where we are now and what the future holds.


Ceramics Now Magazine: What are you working on now? What are your future plans?

Clare Twomey : I am currently the artist residence at the Victoria &Albert Museum in London. This is a 6-month residence that is in a studio in the middle of the ceramics collection. The residency acts as live studio in the museum; I am working experimental works looking authenticity and multiples. The web pages that link to this are http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/people-pages/clare-twomey/
As research Fellow at the University of Westminster I have just started work on a 3-year project that investigates the history and impact of ceramic installation in museums. Within this project given funding from the AHRC myself and my fellow investigators Christie Brown and Edmund de Waal will be publishing works, a website and a collection of texts.
The next fully formed work that will be on exhibit is that for an Art Museum in Bergen, Permanenten The West Norway Museum of Decorative Art. For the exhibition Thing Tang Trash-Up cycling in Contemporary Ceramics. This work is a vast work that spreads from the grand entrance to the main exhibition gallery.

——————————————————————-

Born in 1968, UK, Clare Twomey lives and works in London, UK.

Clare Twomey is a British artist and a research fellow at the University of Westminster who works with clay in large-scale installations, Sculpture and site-specific works. Over the past 10 years she has exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum, Tate, Crafts Council, Museum of Modern Art Kyoto Japan, the Eden Project and the Royal Academy of Arts.

Within these works Twomey has maintained her concerns with materials, craft practice and historic and social context.

Clare Twomey’s installations have the social and historical context in which the installation is created as their point of departure. Often they only exist within these frameworks. A number of her installations disappear or perish in the course of the exhibition period as part of the work. Often the onlooker’s mode of behaviour is conceptually included in Twomey’s works. This, for example, applied to the artwork Conscience/Consciousness (2003), in which Twomey had covered the floor of the gallery with very thin ceramic tiles which broke when trodden on.

At the Brighton Pavilion she housed thousands of black butterflies that became a veil of mourning in amongst the wonderful yet menacing rooms of the Pavilion creating a discussion about the indulgence and excess of the building and its creation.

At the Royal Academy she worked with the traditional flower makers in stoke on Trent to make hundreds of exotic flowers in a work titled Specimen that examined the protection of objects and the destruction of objects as the flowers were not fired and exposed to the publics touch through the exhibition. This vulnerability relates top the losing of craft skills in Stoke on Trent.

Clare Twomey is actively involved in critical research in the area of the applied arts, including writing, curating and making. She has developed work, which expands the fields’ knowledge of larger scale installation works.

Visit Clare Twomey’s website.

Subscribe to our monthly newsletter and like our Facebook page if you want to stay in touch with us.
→ Read more interviews with ceramic artists and search through our featured artists.

Interview by Vasi Hirdo - Editor of Ceramics Now Magazine

Interview with Mia Mulvey, exhibiting artist at the Overthrown: Clay Without Limits exhibition

Interview with Mia Mulvey, exhibiting artist at the Overthrown: Clay Without Limits exhibition, Denver Art Museum, July 2011

The special feature for the Overthrown: Clay Without Limits exhibition includes images from the exhibition and interviews with some of the exhibiting artists, plus with the curator. Subscribe.

Ceramics Now Magazine: Tell us about Mast Year, your work exhibited at the Overthrown: Clay Without Limits exhibition.

Mia Mulvey : I chose the Oak, America’s National Tree, because it has long been a symbol of endurance and strength. The title, Mast Year, refers to the phenomenon in which Oak trees produce a prodigious abundance of fruit. This proliferation has been recreated with emblems of beauty and nature: birds, butterflies and moths.  Lacking life and using forms present in death such as bird “skins” and insect mounts, the connection between the tree and the fauna (pins and cable ties) highlight the forced, unnatural attempts to recreate the sublime by using synthetic, man made modes of connection. Historically, swarms and flocks and have been viewed as omens of both luck and death and such sights in nature are rare if not completely absent. The ultimate goal of Mast Year is to invoke something beautiful yet dark that speaks to the fragility of nature as well as the more poetic and undefined feelings of loss and the desire to exert control despite its futility.

Mia Mulvey, Mast Year, 2011. Stoneware, porcelain, cable ties, and pins. Photo by Jeff Wells.

Ceramics Now Magazine: Your works have a very strong connection with nature, and you can almost say that they are indeed natural. How come you are exhibiting them in museums? Shouldn’t they be part of a free, wild space?

Mia Mulvey: I am interested in creating sculptures that, while realistic in form, are models or copies. Like plaster casts found in both art and science museums they stand in for the original that exists someplace else. They are re-creations that reveal and highlight our misconceptions, viewpoints and our “understanding” of the world.


Ceramics Now Magazine: Why did you take this challenge of exploring the nature in a scientific way? Are you trying to replicate the nature?

Mia Mulvey : The idea of replication and recreation is central to this piece. It is both integral to the concept as well as technically significant. In my work I spend a great deal of time making sure my work is real and factual. I spend a great deal of researching and manipulating my forms so that they are as realistic as possible.I want my work to correlate to a nature “out there” that exists in one form or another. In Mast Year, it exemplifies a nature that we are trying to put back together.

As to why am I exploring nature in a scientific way? I am continually inspired by science, specifically the ideas of discovery and wonder. Albertus Magnus defined wonder as: “Wonder is the movement of the man who does not know on his way to finding out, to get at the bottom of that which he wonders and to determine its cause.” 
Under this definition, wonder is not a static moment; it is the moment of inspiration through the act of learning and discovering the truth. These ideas are present both as concepts in my work as well as guides for my studio process and research.

Mia Mulvey, Mast Year, detail, 2011. Stoneware, porcelain, cable ties, and pins. Photo by Jeff Wells.

Ceramics Now Magazine: You are inspired by an environment that is eternal - the natural world, but unfortunately, your works (or anybody’s works), are ephemeral. Are you disturbed by this, or are you happy with the fact that some day your works will be taken away by nature?

Mia Mulvey: I view this as opposite really. For me, nature is ephemeral and our understanding of the natural world and science is always changing. Part of the reason I work with ceramics (porcelain specifically) is that is has a history of delicacy and beauty in tandem with strength and longevity. Ceramics hold up remarkably well while many other things decay. For Mast Year I wanted to juxtapose fragility with strength both physically and conceptually.


Ceramics Now Magazine: What will you be working on in the near future?

Mia Mulvey : I am very excited to spend the rest of the year back in the studio. I have long been interested in digital tools and how I can use them with ceramics.  For Mast Year, I worked with a material called porcelain tape (Keraflex).  I experimented with a laser cutter and developed a process for cutting and handling the material to achieve pieces more delicate and exact than I could create by hand (the butterflies and moths).  I plan on starting on a series of works which explore these new possibilities and also incorporates 3-dimensional printing. 

——————————————————————-

"The scientific and museum context identifies a system based on order, fact and discovery. It is within this system of scientific display, process and ideology that my work exists. Museums of Science and Natural History evolved from the curiosity cabinets of the 16th and 17th centuries. These collections were displays of specimens, oddities, art and inventions. They permitted the viewer to relive the moment of discovery and to inspire ‘wonder’. In the 18th century there began a shift, instead of poetic spectatorship objects began to be classified and ordered. Taxonomy gave way to the museums of natural history and the museums of art. I am utilizing the scientific/ museum context to explore the notions of ‘wonder’ and the ‘real’. . In my work I am inspired by science and in it our ability to discover wonder. In nature, we are faced with a familiar but superficially understood natural world. It is through such discoveries of wonder and beauty that we deepen our understanding of the inner workings of nature and how they may be applied to our lives.

In Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle, Albertus Magnus wrote:
”Wonder is the movement of the man who does not know on his way to finding out, to get at the bottom of that which he wonders and to determine its cause.”
Under this definition, wonder is not a static moment; it is the process from the unfamiliar towards understanding. I am interested in the illustrative, educational representation of objects that reflect the notions of wonder and natural beauty. Nature is an infinite spectrum of such ideas. Through science and mathematics this world can be delved into and discoveries of wonder can be made. Through the investigation of scientific processes and contexts I can present real and imaginary objects that hint at the multi-layered discoveries of wonder, innovation and beauty found in nature. I seek to present the unknown and make the irrational rational.” Mia Mulvey

Visit Mia Mulvey’s website.

Subscribe to our monthly newsletter and like our Facebook page if you want to stay in touch with us.
→ Read more interviews with ceramic artists and search through our featured artists.

Interview by Vasi Hirdo - Editor of Ceramics Now Magazine

Interview with Paul Sacaridiz, exhibiting artist at the Overthrown: Clay Without Limits exhibition

Interview with Paul Sacaridiz, exhibiting artist at the Overthrown: Clay Without Limits exhibition, Denver Art Museum, July 2011

The special feature for the Overthrown: Clay Without Limits exhibition includes images from the exhibition and interviews with some of the exhibiting artists, plus with the curator. Subscribe.

Ceramics Now Magazine: Tell us about your work exhibited at the Overthrown: Clay Without Limits exhibition.

Paul Sacaridiz : An incomplete articulation is a new work designed for the Denver Art Museum. The piece utilizes the conceptual framework of a schematic diagram to point towards differing ways of articulating form. Sagging mounds of ceramic extrusions are situated alongside precise mathematical models and awkward structural forms. Individual components are physically and conceptually networked together, creating an elaborate three-dimensional system of mapping that becomes suggestive of propositional models and utopian systems. The work is comprised of objects that are intentionally fabricated in a variety of ways, ranging from digitally rendered and prototyped to more direct, analog processes. 

Paul Sacaridiz, An Incomplete Articulation, 2011. Cast, extruded, pinched ceramic, wood, powder coated aluminium, cut vinyl, board. Photo by Jeff Wells.

Ceramics Now Magazine: Does your work, An Incomplete Articulation, trying to reach an agreement between simple/ decorative and geometric/ architectural forms?

Paul Sacaridiz : For a number of years, my work has looked at the visual correlation between domestic objects, such as decorative food molds, and the actual structures of built architecture. In many of these works, the approach to abstraction has relied upon decoration and pattern becoming something structural, rather than simply applied to a surface. An incomplete articulation follows this approach, but is less metaphorical than past projects. Ultimately, the piece is a response to considering systems of abstraction and the seemingly impossible task of understanding something in its entirety.


Ceramics Now Magazine: You have an amazing ability of transforming every-day forms and simple objects into a complex statement. Isn’t it hard? From our experience, keeping it simple is sometimes the hardest thing to do.

Paul Sacaridiz: There is a tipping point in every piece, that place where what you have done is simply too much. One of the greatest challenges that I set for myself is figuring out what can be removed before the overall work starts to break down. This results in a very slow pace of observing and responding to a piece of sculpture. As time has passed, I am most interested in exploring a sculptural logic that is both pragmatic and highly allusive at the same time. This relies on a specific balance, which has to be reevaluated with each project.

Paul Sacaridiz, An Incomplete Articulation, detail, 2011. Cast, extruded, pinched ceramic, wood, powder coated aluminium, cut vinyl, board. Photo by Jeff Wells.


Ceramics Now Magazine: What advice can you give to those who look at your works? Should they be aware of something in particular?

Paul Sacaridiz: Looking at sculpture should be experiential; the scale of the work and its materiality are as critical to the overall reading as conceptual concerns. Viewing work should never be a passive activity and one needs to be engaged in deciphering images and objects at a multitude of levels. If I have done my job correctly there will be multiple entry points in any given piece. There are many tropes that allow this to happen, and they should be taken as such. If an object appears to be beautiful or illogical, it has the capacity to operate on an emotive or philosophical level. Both are equally valuable, and afford a jumping off point from which one can look at something from a position of curiosity, questioning and wonder.


Ceramics Now Magazine: Where can we find you and your works in the next future?
 
Paul Sacaridiz : I am on the faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and will be teaching a workshop next summer at the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, in Deer Isle, Maine.  Over the next year I will be working on a project that seeks to explore the limitations of three-dimensional scanning and the possibility of translating that information into tangible objects. Scanning is generally successful with objects that are solid volumes and therefore “readable” as a continuous surface. My primary interest is in scanning things that are not single surfaces, but rather conglomerations of multiple layers. Such information may prove challenging, if not impossible to fully record, resulting in a surface that is technically a failure in terms of the computers ability to read and render it in a complete mathematical state.  I see this research as being as much a question of physical possibilities and limitations (of machinery, technology, etc…) as a philosophical investigation into abstraction and the limitations of understanding something that is perhaps impossible to fully grasp.

——————————————————————-

Paul Sacaridiz (b.1970, Brooklyn, NY, lives and works in Madison, WI) received an MFA (1998) from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a BFA from Alfred University (1993).

Since 1997 he has been active in solo exhibitions, collaborative projects and group shows at a diverse number of venues including: The Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, the Icheon World Ceramic Center, Icheon, Korea, The Dubuque Museum of Art (IA), The Alfedena Gallery, Chicago, The Northern Illinois University Art Museum and the Ceramic Research Center at Arizona State University. His work has been the subject of reviews and articles in Ceramics: Art and Perception, The New Art Examiner and Art Papers among others.  Sacaridiz has been the recipient of residencies at the Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts, The Ragdale Foundation, The Vermont Studio Center and the Art/Industry Program at Kohler Company.

He is currently an Associate Professor in the Art Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Visit Paul Sacaridiz’s website.

Subscribe to our monthly newsletter and like our Facebook page if you want to stay in touch with us.
→ Read more interviews with ceramic artists and search through our featured artists.

Interview by Vasi Hirdo - Editor of Ceramics Now Magazine

Interview with Benjamin DeMott, exhibiting artist at the Overthrown: Clay Without Limits exhibition

Interview with Benjamin DeMott, exhibiting artist at the Overthrown: Clay Without Limits exhibition, Denver Art Museum, July 2011

The special feature for the Overthrown: Clay Without Limits exhibition includes images from the exhibition and interviews with some of the exhibiting artists, plus with the curator. Subscribe.

Ceramics Now Magazine: Tell us about your work exhibited at the Overthrown: Clay Without Limits exhibition.

Benjamin DeMott : Diminutive and impossibly fragile my instillation is an object. Constructed on site I consider the project situational and site specific, a foil among the monumental scale and mass of the exhibition. An intricate composition of splintering porcelain extrusions cantilevers across a clear acrylic box reflecting its madcap geometry in the surface below. Suspended within this labyrinth of line are wafer thin peals of acrylic paint laser cut from direct scans of the ceramic assemblage on which they’re applied. A weighted cast chunk of underglaze balances the porcelain constellation, perched atop its laminated mass is a piece of chewing gum. This functions as a placeholder for concerns with a visceral relationship to scale and a figural/literal jest on taste. More broadly, I’m concerned with traditions in the decorative arts and a modernist handling of material, I aim to afford my audience a friction between wonder, curiosity and the trepidation felt by prospects of uncertainty.

Benjamin DeMott, Untitled Thumbnail, porcelain, paint, glue, glaze, gum, 2011, H 6” x W 9” x D 7”


Ceramics Now Magazine: Your works are mainly assemblages of a variety of materials, which make different connections. How do you make them, what is the process?

Benjamin DeMott : The most playful part of my process is also the most tedious. The task of fixing one end of a ceramic line to another with Elmers glue, Tweezers, fly-tying vices, and at times the aid of an Optivisor. The subtle character of any given connection and the consequential angle and line, generates a case of questions regarding formal relationships of intuited proportions. The parameters of my own patience, vision, and precision with tweezers or lack thereof often define what gets accomplished or not. I approach my assemblages like drawing in space. There is a lot of failure and loss in the studio the happenings of which are great teachers.

Ceramics Now Magazine: There is a high level of uncertainty in your work. Is that induced, did you wanted to be that way?

Benjamin DeMott: If there is any uncertainty in the work it’s seated in the conditions of material and the specific method of construction. A teacher once told me that I shouldn’t be making this kind of work out of clay. That wire would work just as well as it wont be as fragile. I rely on the meaning associated with materials. The myriad implications and signifying qualities of a ceramic line shift the conversation to our shared cultural experience with it. In context fragility operates as an underscore to set of references, and personal insights.
The ephemeral and precarious nature of the work imparts a sense of urgency. As a provisional object it directs you to the present. What is happening now?  What is being seen now? What are these consequences?

Benjamin DeMott, Katie’s Keep, detail, stained porcelain, paint, glue, 2010, dimensions variable

Ceramics Now Magazine: What motivates you and where do you get inspiration for your works?

Benjamin DeMott: Sentimentality, Waning middle class idealism, the color beige, Fischli &Weiss “Quiet Afternoon”, Louise Lawler’s “Pollack and the Soup Tureen”, Richard Tuttle’s drawings, the religious experience of fly fishing, Anne Dillard, and the sensual enjoyment of fine food, drink, and sex.

Ceramics Now Magazine: Where can we find you and your works in the near future?

Benjamin DeMott : I’m moving to Chicago this week, which will be a major sea change and hopefully rejuvenate the work. This September, I’ll be collaborating with Eric Miller, an artist from Philadelphia on our continual project  “Practice of the Druggist” at Hunter College in NY.  Next year I am in a two-person show with Julia Haft Candell at the Greenwich Pottery House.

——————————————————————-

"Fragile, thread thin ceramic extrusions are tenuously bound to one another by glues and household fix-it material. The painfully delicate fired ceramic line, zigs and zags splintering into a complex network where the familiarity of scale shifts from that of the watchmaker to the astronomer. Interspersed within these precarious structures are decorative debris. Chips of acrylic paint, and colorful skins of latex hover and sag demarking their compositional space. Highlighting impermanence, these assemblages are contingent and situational, potentially configured for only a short duration.

A playful longing for solidity amidst operatives of change inspires my dialogue with material. My intent is to afford the audience a confrontation, a friction between wonder, awe and the trepidation felt by the prospects of uncertainty. The motive of my work is to question our relationship with impermanence. To be a companion and embrace what uncertainty offers is the aim of my agenda.” Benjamin DeMott

Visit Benjamin DeMott’s website.

Subscribe to our monthly newsletter and like our Facebook page if you want to stay in touch with us.
→ Read more interviews with ceramic artists and search through our featured artists.

Interview by Vasi Hirdo - Editor of Ceramics Now Magazine