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.
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.
“I am currently using ceramics and mixed media. My work is characterized by a reflection of contemporary society with a subtle humor and a tendency to idealize. I make works that stand alone, as well as installations.
The ceramic figures of ‘Sisyphus Work’ are condemned to an inevitable and senseless action. The titles that I use are referring to an existentialism in which an absurd figure plays the main role, extending far beyond the limits of vanity. They perform actions, although they realize that life is without meaning, but they stubbornly refuse to take the escape routes of death or faith. Spraying grass green, air exchange systems which are much too small to have any effect, machines that suck volatile odors, trying with mental control to move a vehicle. Again, and again, and again. Acceptance of the fundamental emptiness is the only thing that’s left.
The “Human Hybrids” installation is about the possible consequences of genome manipulation and malleable man. Genetic engineering, also called genetic modification, is the direct human manipulation of an organism’s genome using modern DNA technology. In examining the effect of specific genes, scientists have already made a fish that glows under UV light, pork with spinach genes, goats which produce spider’s web and there is also a Genmouse with super muscles that is protected against obesity.” Els Wenselaers
“Every day we are surrounded by objects of different character. Objects we either know from before or new things we’ve never seen. Created by nature or shaped by human hands. We distinguish between the known and unknown, and make new discoveries. What is known from before we often find in our home environment and community, and the more unknown objects we find when traveling or in new surroundings. I approach the objects in the exposition with different artistic strategies, and a transformation process that examines functional, sculptural and cultural issues.
In the selection of an object to work with, I look for what exudes a certain history and experience. By my hand, the objects are then transformed into new stories, and re-created objects. The original objects emerge as raw materials, in which their parts are recreated into wholes, with a desire to capture the time between past and present. The intention is to add something new and different to an object’s inherent character. Together these objects link together as small elements in a storytelling collection, and reveal a hidden story.” Kjersti Lunde
Appropriate means of creatively adapting to continual changes have been expressed though practices of art, architecture, science and technology. In this new body of ceramic works, entitled “Tectonic Perceptions”, the intentions are incorporating methodologies and theories from the mentioned practices to create a “new nature” in structural design for ceramic objects. The pieces seek to celebrate the versatility of clay with an aim of fostering new realizations of architectural space. Travels throughout Asia and an array of rich cultural experiences in China have brought about new realizations within the artist’s mind and perceptions of cultural identity, history and space.
These relationships have allowed the artist to explore relationships between the strong elements of tradition and modern identities rapidly evolving around the world. Explorations of these interrelationships and the intentions of the maker and his material have led to the new structural ceramic designs. Through his aspired process of invention, it is the artist’s intent to find a natural form by staying true to chosen materials and their inherent properties. The artist is in pursuit of finding and establishing a formal vocabulary that allows sculptural vessels to exhibit qualities of both unique and handcrafted objects of traditional cultures with that of machine made and mass-produced objects of our contemporary society.
Brian Kakas is an Assistant Professor of Ceramics at Northern Michigan University. He received his MFA in ceramics from The University of Notre Dame in 2007.
“Looking around Marie Torbensdatter Hermann’s most recent exhibition of work, we may well have a similar feeling: that we are in the presence of pots that don’t quite need us. They are just fine on their own, thank you. Poised atop their handmade clay shelves, microcosms like the implacably calm still life paintings of Morandi, or set out in a neat ring on the gallery floor, these ceramic sculptures have a quiet assurance, an ease that belies the difficulty of their own making.
You almost have to remind yourself that it’s by no means easy to create this sense of completeness. The usual way of doing it is to make objects that are resolutely alien to everyday experience: the abstract geometries of De Stijl, the weird and hermetic object-poems of the Surrealists, the industrial quality of Minimalist sculpture, or the unearthly light and space created by artist James Turrell. While Hermann’s work is influenced by all of these art historical references, she appeals to something more humble and humane than any of them.
While her commitment to achieving a unified aesthetic impression is total, it seems to me that her greatest interest as an artist comes at the level of the detail. Yes, she knows she must (according to some modernist logic) ‘earn’ the right to create an interesting shape, like a sharp break in the profile of a vase, or a gentle curve in the rim of a plate. For her, these subtle touches have to make sense within an overriding context. There is nothing whimsical about them. But all the same, Hermann infuses these little maneuvers with a great deal of enjoyment – just as the slight sway of a violin or the mournful swell of an oboe might convey the emotion that a composer feels for his own symphony. Hermann’s pots may inhabit worlds of their own, and to that extent they stand proudly and resolutely apart. But through the deft and playful touches that are everywhere in this exhibition, we are let into something very human indeed: something not too far from bliss.” Glenn Adamson, Head of Graduate Studies at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, about Marie T. Hermann’s work.