Ceramics Now is an independent art platform and magazine specialized in contemporary ceramics.
Suzanne Stumpf: Interactive Sculpture No. 9, 2008, 16”h x 8”w x 8”d, wheelthrown porcelain with handbuilt components; black slip and shellac resist; oxidation fired to cone 10
Although Interactive Sculpture No. 9 appears at first glance to be some sort of game, there are no rules here. It is intended for the playful pleasure of the viewer to arrange the sticks with their different colored tips entirely to their own whim. (When all the sticks are removed the work is a trompe l’oeil with the raised black dots hiding its holes.)
“My work mainly consists of salt-fired Porcelain and Stoneware. The salt-firing process is unique in that salt is introduced into the kiln when it reaches the proper temperature (2345 degrees F for my work). Inside the kiln, the salt vaporizes and settles onto the pieces, forming its own glaze over the clay body. I also use various slips and glazes to further decorate the pots.
In my functional work, my goal is to make the pieces “special”. I hope that everyday users will appreciate being “in the moment” as they sip from their hand-made cup or enjoy soup from their favorite bowl.
My sculptural pieces all have specific meaning for me, but sometimes are just fun! I don’t wish to impose my views of the work upon others, but would rather viewers lend their own interpretation to the pieces within their own contexts and ideas. Most importantly, I hope the sculptures will inspire viewers to pause and consider how the piece relates to their lives.” Deborah Britt
"As a commercial artist designing products for retail store windows and interior displays, trade show booths and special events, I worked with many different materials to create three-dimensional objects. When I retired and started working with clay, I realized that clay was an exciting and wonderfully tactile material which I had to explore in depth.
I’m intrigued with the concept that the artist’s hand can manipulate clay into a work of art which expresses an emotion, tells a story, can be functional or is purely visually appealing. At times, the clay 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.
Inspired by Nature, my work reflects the unlimited variety of textures, patterns, and energy I find in my natural surroundings. Texture and the tactile sense have always been an important part of my work. I hand build with clay slabs, coils, and extruded shapes and use various clay bodies, firing processes, glazes and cold finishes for making different forms and surface textures.
I enjoy creating artworks which not only express my love of Nature, but which also allow me to bring the essence of the outdoors into interior spaces.” Kathy Pallie
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.
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. 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.
"Me in Ethiopia with boys from one of the orphanages in Addis Ababa. I caught my frist chicken."
“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