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culture

Interview with Ruth Power - New artist, April 2012

NEW ARTISTS, April 2012: Ruth Power

/ Read the full interview in Ceramics Now - Issue Two

Ceramics Now Magazine
: You are a very young ceramic artist. When did you discover the potential of this medium? Did school have an important role in directing you on this path?

Ruth Power: Like most artists. makers or craftspeople, I have been interested in art and working with my hands from a very young age. I had a fairly basic art education in secondary school in Ireland (largely based on 2-dimensional drawing work) - quite the antithesis of what we do in third level education. However, I decided that I wanted to attend the National College of Art and Design (Dublin) from a fairly young age and my art teachers in school encouraged me to do so.

The college has a great system, by which everybody does a Core Year in their primary year (four years in total). From here, the student embarks on their first steps towards their professional formation as artists, designers and educators. The student has the opportunity to sample the diverse courses the college has to offer and in turn, discover where their strengths, weaknesses and passions lie.
Many people (such as myself when I began) have no idea what department they wish to pursue when they enter, so this system works really well. Throughout the year, I did a lot of 3D making and intricate work with wire and found objects, so I decided to go into the Ceramics, Glass and Metals Department, specializing in metals. However, when I entered the department I fell in love with ceramics and its diversity. I knew nothing about the material, glazing or mold-making. The only experience I had with clay was when I made a pinch pot in 1993 for Mother’s Day. I painted in neon pink and yellow (which was in vogue at the time!) with ‘Ruth Power, Age 5’ scrawled into the base. I was in instant awe of the abundance of potential of the material, and the infinite amount of creative and scientific exploration that could be done with this ancient medium. Thus, it was only until I was in my second year of college that I discovered the potential of ceramics.

Ruth Power Ceramics, tentacles, sexuality
Breasts (Cephalophilia), 2011, 48cm wide x 42cm long x 14cm deep; porcelain, LED light, cord, plug, wooden box with black paint and flocked interior (Black and white image) - View her works

Your works are debating subjects like censorship, mainstream pornography or sexual repression: did you choose these topics in the hunt for controversy?

I have identified with being a feminist for many years now and these subjects have been of huge importance to me. I had researched and discussed those topics for quite some time before merging them into my artwork, when I was in Third/Fourth Year. I wrote my thesis on a very similar subject (how pornography is influencing mainstream trends). In Second Year, we focused on skills and techniques and thus, did not get the chance to incorporate much of our own expression. It wasn’t until Third Year that we were taking on self directed projects and had the opportunity to entirely immerse ourselves into our own fully developed concepts.

To me personally, the work is not controversial; it is dealing with issues that I believe need to be addressed urgently and discussed more openly. Its just that sexual politics and pornography are not usually deliberated, and the naked body is still taboo in our culture. Moreover, because I have had a considerable interest in such topics for quite some time, any of the initial ‘shock’ factor had been lost on me a long time ago. So, for me, the work was never really controversial (especially since I have an open attitude towards sex, sexuality and the body). It was bringing to light issues that I believe need to be confronted, issues that affect me personally.

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  • Interview with Jim Kraft - Ceramic Technique, June-July 2011

    Interview with ceramic artist Jim Kraft - Ceramic Technique, June-July 2011

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

    Ceramics Now Magazine
    : What was the starting point in your investigation (research) with earthenware clay?

    Jim Kraft: When I set up my studio I bought an electric kiln which satisfied  my needs as I was interested in making objects that were not meant to be functional or to be displayed outdoors.  I did not want to cover the clay with a glaze, I wanted the earthen colors of the clay to be prominent.

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

    My work is solely hand-built. I roll  25# slabs of clay by hand. I use a clay extruder to make my coils .I imbed dry colorants in both the slabs and the coils. I throw dry colorants on the ware boards as I roll the slabs, the moist clay picks up the dry materials.  Depending on what series I’m working on I build the vessel forms using cut up or torn slab pieces and twisted off sections of coils. I use earthenware clay in either a buff or a red color.  After the piece is bisqued I brush on a black/brown slip, I let that dry and the next day I wipe it off.  It stays in the cracks and crevasses.  Then I brush on a clear glaze.  I let that dry and wipe it off the next day.  I leave enough to give it life but not shine.  I want the surface of the clay to absorb light not reflect it. This is a building up of the surface, layering, as you might do in print making or painting. Then I fire it a final time.

    Cord 5 - View Jim Kraft’s works

    What is your present project, what’s its history and how do you make the pieces? Tell us more about the process.

    Currently I’m building vessel forms using short torn pieces of clay coils and stacking them, like cord wood.  The end of each torn piece faces the viewer.  It’s like building with wine bottle corks or cigar butts, but end up looking more like natural, organic objects such as bird nests, bee hives or tree stumps.  The trick is finding the place where they don’t look like any of those things but allude to any and all of them. However I always want them to read as vessel forms, something that contains.

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  • ‘I will not lose my culture. I will never leave my culture. Even if I am given clothes, I will still be a Mursi.’

    This picture is available as a greetings card, with all profits going to Survival’s campaigns.
    Picture © Joey L

    Pictures from Ethiopia’s Omo Valley by award-winning photographer Joey L. A massive hydro-electric dam, Gibe III, is under construction on the Omo. When completed it will destroy a fragile environment and the livelihoods of the tribes, which are closely linked to the river and its annual flood.

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