Interview with Blaine Avery - Spotlight, November 2011

Interview with ceramic artist Blaine Avery - Spotlight, November 2011

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→ 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.

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Interview with Connie Norman - Spotlight, November 2011

Interview with ceramic artist Connie Norman - Spotlight, November 2011

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→ 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."

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Interview with Antonella Cimatti, Spotlight - October 2011

Interview with Italian ceramic artist Antonella Cimatti - Spotlight - Recognized artist, October 2011

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→ The full interview with Antonella Cimatti is featured in Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue One / Winter 2011-2012.

Ceramics Now Magazine
: You are a very consequent artist, having worked with ceramics all your career. Why did you embark on this journey?

Antonella Cimatti: I was born in Faenza, I studied in Faenza at the “Ballardini” Art Institute and I have been teaching at this same school for over 30 years. It has just been so natural to work with this material in this city, because it’s so well known throughout the world for its ceramics.

The techniques and subjects you are approaching are very different - paperclay, fibre optic installations and low temperature. Working with so many different materials may be difficult, how do you manage to combine them?

Well, I come from Italy, a country where the artists feel the weight of our history and ceramic traditions, but where there are also many new influences from the world of design and fashion!

In fact, in the last few years, in the design and fashion sectors there has been a notable trend regarding lightness and attention to detail, which is so incredibly in line with my way of being and working.

I believe that the greatest undertaking of the artist is that of professional maintenance. As a matter of fact, along with spontaneous creativity, you indissolubly must add an elevated professional competence regarding technique; through reading and observation, the joy of experimentation, of combining, and of moving forward.

Antonella Cimatti Contemporary Ceramics

Trame di luce (Weft of Light), detail, 2008 - View Antonella Cimatti’s works
Installation with translucent porcelain paperclay, fibre optics and handbuilt  flowers in glazed porcelain, temp. 1250°C.
Exhibited at the 54th International Art Exhibition at the Venice Biennial, in the Italian Pavilion, for the Emilia Romagna Region. Photographed by Bernardo Ricci

Your attention to detail makes your paperclay works unique and pure within their shadows. Tell us about the constructing process.

I’ll tell you how you can, while having an idea in mind, transform and tame my technique. 
My way of working is not traditional. My objective is to create a lightness in ceramics- not only regarding weight but also visually. I need to discover the right combination of materials in order to obtain the results you see.

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Interview with Simcha Even-Chen - Recognized artist, September 2011

Interview with Israeli ceramic artist Simcha Even-Chen - Recognized artist, September 2011

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→ This interview is featured in Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue One, Winter 2011-2012.

Ceramics Now Magazine
: We know that you are a successful ceramic artist and also a scientist. How do you find time and motivation for both of your jobs?

Simcha Even-Chen: Science is a continuous stimulus for me; it has broadened my creativity thinking; it has pushed me to experiment and taught me that patience and perseverance lead to improved results. Art and science are integral parts of my life; although following both careers involved hard work (nights and weekends are dedicated to ceramics). I’m not preparing to give up one or the other. My analytical mind is well attuned to intuitive and creative possibilities; they successfully combine and complement each other.

Ceramics Now Magazine: Your works are investigating the elements of ambiguity and dynamic of opposites, or in other means, they try to mislead the viewer. Can you tell us more about this?

Simcha Even-Chen contemporary ceramicsI have always been fascinated by the elusive harmonies created when a precise controlled architectural element is brought together with intricate surface designs and colors to generate the complete object and induce an aesthetic as well as intellectual stimulus.  My body of work deals with construction of architectural geometrical shapes, their fragmentation, and the rapport generated when they are combined to form an assemblage. The use of the geometric design on the surface adds another dimension to each object on it own, but also has an impact on the fractures between objects in a group, as the flow of lines and shapes redefines the significance of each shape and gives a visual perception of unity and harmony to the work. The division of the body surface between white and black as well as the use of lines softens the shape. Placing the grid or lines on the edge of the shape, so that the shape flows, completely dissolves the hard lines. Viewed from different angles, surface and volume are blurred, giving an illusion of flatness.
While the black sculptures may seem massive and heavy, their weight is light when actually lifted. Their stance appears fragile when placed on their convex side, but they are full of energy and movement. Once again, the duality of heavy-light, stability versus instability, negative and positive shapes, produce contrast between appearance and reality.
I am starting on a new line of works dealing with balance, flow and motion. A dialogue between the inside and the outside of the object exists in each work creating flow motion in addition to the dialogue between the objects that developed through the way the objects are placed.

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Interview with Liza Riddle - Recognized artist, June-July 2011

Interview with ceramic artist Liza Riddle - Spotlight - Recognized artist, June-July 2011

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Ceramics Now Magazine
: What is your present project, what’s its history and how do you make the pieces?

Liza Riddle: I am exploring using soluble metal salts on low-fired porcelain clay, a project I began two years ago and am just now achieving the effects I desire.  All of my work is hand coiled, then carefully burnished to a smooth finish.  I bisque fire the clay at earthenware temperatures, paint them with water soluble metals – iron, nickel, cobalt and other salts, and fire again at low temperatures.


Three Closed Forms - View Liza Riddle’s works

Ceramics Now Magazine: Where do you get your inspiration for your pieces and what motivates you?

I seek to create work that evokes a sense of wonder and mystery, forms that beckon to be held and admired.  I delight in closely observing and then interpreting natural objects and events – weathered boulders on a mountain slope, wind ripples on a gray blue sea, complex designs on a delicate bird egg – their rhythms, patterns and forces have greatly inspired my work.  I am an avid traveler and hiker.  During my adventures I have discovered the magnificent pottery of ancient cultures in the American Southwest, South America, and Asia, which speak to me in very profound ways.   

In what techniques do you usually work and what materials do you use? Do you find working with soluble salts hard?

I have been experimenting with soluble metal salts for the past two years, a collaboration with my husband, Mark Goudy, which draws on the inspirational work of the master of soluble metals, Arne Åse. Through trial and error, I have developed my own techniques for applying these almost transparent, highly sensitive “watercolors.” The chemicals are toxic and care must be taken while working with them, so my experiences working with photography chemicals and in a scientific laboratory have been extremely helpful. Although metal salts are challenging to work with, I love the sense of anticipation as I wait for a kiln load to finish firing, the joy of seeing their almost magical effects. Some results are disappointing, but I enjoy challenges. Because working with metal salts requires continual testing, inventing and learning, I am certain this project will keep me engaged for quite a long while.

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Interview with Shane Porter - Recognized artist, May 2011

Interview with ceramic artist Shane Porter - Spotlight - Recognized artist, May 2011

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Ceramics Now Magazine
: In what techniques do you usually work and what materials do you use?

Shane Porter: My practice is multi-disciplinary in nature, from the way I draw, plan installations and think about different concepts. These areas intertwine from the research that informs my work- by rough scribbled drawings on scraps of paper, to precise computer aided illustrations. I usually need to see my pieces in three dimensions before going any further so after the initial drawing stage, I will construct rough maquettes (usually made from paper, card etc.) to get a sense of scale and presence. The series Vessels 2010 were first made from turned plaster using a lathe and from that initial investigation I played with scale and proportions before turning to clay to make the finished objects. Vessels 2010 were made in two separate stages. A bowl-like press mould was made and a large mass of white stoneware was pinched into it so to not create any seams. A top was then made from a slab of clay and the rather rough pieces where joined together and then slow dried for 4 days. The pieces were then turned on the wheel to create the desired form and finish. I am interested in clinical forms, which flirt with the idea of mass production, but which disrupt this notion by subtle marks of the maker. 


What is your present project, what’s its history and how do you make the pieces?

“If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.”- Matthew 16:24

My work explores the role and function of the Vessel within ritual theory and practice. I am currently developing a new body of Vessels which are inspired by the practice of Corporal Mortification used in Orthodox Christian traditions.  Corporal Mortification is the practice of inflicting pain on the body as a type of spiritual psychology which uses the ‘body to affect the mind’, punishing man for carnal desires and indulgences, therefore becoming closer to the divine.

This work is still in an early stage of development and I am beginning to create a series of porcelain paper clay Vessels which challenge the function and ergonomics of the ritual container. I am interested in juxtaposing materials in unusual ways which enable the viewer to question the various connotations which are deep rooted in society. I manipulate typography, clay and organic materials to create narratives and conversations across the work.

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Interview with Cynthia Lahti - Recognized artist, April 2011

Interview with ceramic artist Cynthia Lahti - Spotlight- Recognized artist, April 2011

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Ceramics Now Magazine
: What is your present project, what’s its history and how do you make the pieces?

Cynthia Lahti: I am working on several ideas right now: people wearing disguises, busts of elegant women, and male/ female couples. These are all subjects that have always interested me but that I have never fully explored.

I am also continuing to use some of the broken piece from my discarded sculptures that I have saved. This idea started in 2010 with he creation of the sculpture Vault Alarm that was composed of broken sculptures. In my current exploration of this idea, I am experimenting with combining the broken pieces together to form a new figure. This idea came from realizing that when I destroying unsuccessful sculptures, body pieces that remained were often extremely interesting to me and I could not discard them. I am finally inspired to see how they look combined together and I have been very excited by the results.


Socks - View her works

In what technique do you usually work and what materials do you use?

I am focusing on hand-built ceramic sculptures of human and animal figure(s). I like to use a wide variety of clay bodies, my favorite being porcelain.  I have used all types of firing techniques to achieve the final surface treatment on the pieces. I am most excited but the results I have been getting from cone 10 soda and salt firings and low fire raku.

What was the starting point in your investigation?

I start by finding images of figures that intrigue me in older books and magazine, I then do drawing of the images and finally sculptures, inspired by these drawings, are create out of clay.

My art is influenced by human artifacts from ancient times to the present, as well as by my personal experiences and emotions. Like the varied objects and images I draw on for inspiration - from 1940s knitting catalogs and outsider art, to Native American cedar carvings and Degas’ sculptures of dancers—my artworks force an explanation of reality and compel viewers to connect to a larger human experience. Currently I am focusing on ceramic sculpture based on expressive images of the figure I find in a variety of source materials.

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