This gallery contains 16 photos.
Our schedule ended up looking like this with lots of changes but we still got everything done.
Here are a few pearls of wisdom from Alleghany. I apologize for the wonky memory these were taken from notes written months ago!
- Making work is your expression of your experience in the world. It is important that someone wants to live with your pots. Look at the weaknesses before setting up. Know the field, the traditions and actively pursue and make within those traditions.
- How to put work out in the world? Functional pots – the buyers love to meet the person who made the work. Look for non profit art center galleries, such as The Clay Studio, Philadelphia or Northern Clay Center, Minneapolis. Apply to juried shows, keep putting the work in front of jurors. Try applying to artist in residence programs to focus on studio practice. Important to document your work.
- Metaphor: you have a really smooth functioning car and you take out the engine and all its parts. Then you put the parts back together some will thrive and some with not.
- Artist’s statements: thinking and writing about your work in the language of making. What is the process? For example – Anne Currier’s work is clean and sculptural, Tony Marsh, Chris Gustin, Bobby Silverman are about the contrasts. Read their artists statements.
And so we came to the goodbyes and Meg Kelly read the following:
Hopi Prophecy 2000
Every piece of equipment must be washed clean, the wheels, stools, tables are moved outside and the floor is hosed down.
We unloaded the reduction kiln which was a great firing. The salt – not so great. The kiln went into reduction too early and thus the clay was reduced which affected the glazes. Clay bodies were gray with pitted and crawled glazes. The worst were the celadon glazes.
That is the way it is with ceramics. Just move on and make some more pieces.
Auction was a lot of fun. Alleghany donated this wonderful Flora set.
Day 9 was a whirlwind of glazing, glazing, and loading, loading! And then a gorgeous beach afternoon.
Assembling stack forms
Firing the salt kiln. There is nothing quite like a salt firing to bring a community together.
The kitchen has a long list of serving dishes needed. We got a demo and they will get their dishes.
11lb bowl was 7 1/2″ high and 15″ wide at the top.
15lb platter 2 1/2″ high and 18″ wide
12lb bowl 6″ high and 13″ wide at the top
We unloaded the salt kiln. All these photos were taken by Alexis Eynon
Then we discussed the firing and USE.
Salt kiln is loaded and firing begins.
Our schedule for the two weeks which soon changed.
Day 3 was Lidded Jars. I particularly liked this statement of Allegheny’s that moment of beauty such as when a flower petal causes us to pause.
What are the decisions we make in our pots that are part of our artistic expression and how can we cause one to pause?
The lids of a jar can be as beautiful as a pot so if the jar is broken the lid is still a beautiful object.
Day 4 Teapots. How does one start? One thinks about form, about motion, about the feeling of making something beautiful. Allegheny thinks of teapots as being feminine, the making of tea is a ritual, it is nurturing, it is the taking of a moment to slow down. Things to think about, how do we think of beauty, what is beauty, how do we look at the world. These inform our pots. How a finger or tool touches the clay – those are important moments.
Assembling teapots. If the spout is too low it is hard to pour. Place the handle high otherwise it is too much on the wrist when pouring.
Haystack’s lack of wifi was frustrating (for me!). To be fair there is wifi in the library and the lack of cell coverage is hardly under their control – still it was frustrating to be on the E with one bar. It surprised me how much I have come to rely on the internet for my artistic practice. Those 1980 college days of sitting in the library at Philadlephia College of Art drinking in ceramic and pottery books are long gone! In recent years I have enthusiastically embraced Instagram, (for which you need internet), when I am inspired and this workshop really inspired me. Alleghany’s attention to detail and thoughtfulness continue to inspire me.
Allegheny started the workshop making cups. He asked us to make a cup that is personal to ourselves, a cup to be used for a specific ritual or need. He challenged us to think about our own rituals, for example, what do you like to drink in the morning? Here some thoughts he shared with us while throwing cups designed expressly for use in his expresso machine “Sylvia”.
Working on the inside of a form is most important because with forms such as a cup, unlike a painting, you look into it. Balance and proportion thoughtfully executed suggest confidence.
We choose to make things that show our vision of the world and we share our idea of that beauty or tension with people around us. The work is alive as people experience it.
Alleghany explained his thought process of why he works from the inside out. As one drinks from a cup, rings of tea or coffee are left on the inside, the liquid leaves traces of horizon lines, just like water rippling along the edge of the shore when you throw a rock into it. Alleghany as a maker thinks about the experience of drinking the opaque liquid, seeing those horizon lines and finally coming to the last dregs of liquid and having the experience of seeing a change in the form. What do those lines mean to you as they become markers of time?
Risk and creativity are tied together, one has to take a risk to explore creativity.
After a glorious lunch which included sandwiches, multiple varieties of salads, two homemade soups, and the aforementioned cookies, Alleghany continued with his thoughts on use and making. He posed the question what does it mean to be a maker in our culture? While in Karatsu, Japan, Alleghany studied with Takashi Nakazato, who believes that our hands develop memory through repetition of form, and from this repetition one achieves the rhythm that is used in functional work. Patterns built up from layers of memory ensures the work is alive as people experience it.
Clay as a responsive pliable material becomes the instigator of plasticity in one’s hands. Our hands learn from the clay’s plasticity and our touch and sensitivity to the material becomes a direct communicator to the brain, to the heart, and to those that use these pots.
How does one’s work instigate change? What does it mean to make a breakfast set for two which includes a vase? Perhaps the new owners of this set find themselves filling the vase with flowers and celebrating breakfast together in a new and meaningful way. How does the work change when the object is to make serving bowls that fit together? These are some of the questions and thoughts we began our own making thinking about.
And one final thought – cicatrix – this word became our mantra as we talked about it’s meaning and how it can apply to much of pottery. We came back to it many a time. The dictionary definitions for cicatrix are: 1. The scar of a wound. 2. A scar of the bark on a tree. 3. A mark on a stem left after a leaf or other part has become detached.
Initially, we were using the noun cicatrix to convey the connection between handle and mug but it grew to spouts, pitcher handles, and knobs. A cicatrix became those moments in time, those connections, that convey a decision, a choice, an artistic practice.
Back from two fabulous weeks at a workshop at Haystack on Deer Isle, Maine. It is a magical place. Founded in 1950 the school moved to it’s current location in 1961. The school was designed by renowned architect Edward Larrabee Barnes and is cleverly built on the side of the hill preserving the natural landscape. The entrance called the “breezeway” houses two buildings, to the right is the gateway auditorium and to the left the store and library. The only (I repeat the only!) wifi (for students) is in the library and the only place where phone calls are permitted is here in the breezeway. It can be a very popular area. A short walk on top of a large granite boulder walkway takes you to the heart of the campus and a view of the ocean which is accessed by a long staircase.
The school offers clay, glass, metals, paper, bookmaking, blacksmithing, weaving, fibers, woodworking and more. Susan and I were there to take Alleghany Meadows workshop Make, Use, Look, Think.
There are various types of accommodations from dormitories to quads, doubles and a few private single rooms with shower. These buildings built into the hill are accessed by wooden walkways. The ceramic and wood studio is on the right and one level down is the metals, paper and textile studios. Glass and the Fab Lab are a short walk back up the hill. And then there is the dining hall. The bell rings at 8am, noon and 6pm and the food is simply abundant and delicious. We all began to feel like a pavlovian experiment trained to hear the bell and become instantly hungry. And then there are the cookies. Large batches of cookies baked daily, we never had the same cookie twice. After lunch the cookies were put into a large cookie jar and were accessible along with a constant supply of hot coffee all afternoon until they were all gone.
I didn’t take many photos of the food but this one of cookies with our excellent chef Tom is from Alleghany! All the food was served in hand made dishes. Large bowls for salad, pitchers for serving water, platters and bowls for vegetables, small pitchers for dressing. Breakfast and lunch were self serve while dinner was family style. The food was excellent and it was impossible to go hungry! Every night was a dessert to rival the previous nights!
What a gem of a show. Over the years I have heard many stories about Val Cushing and I am sorry never to have met him. By all accounts he was one of the best teachers and a great potter. This is a quote by Val Cushing, simple and true.
“It is in nature that I find the rich colors, the dynamic textures and the harmonious forms I love to make”
Val M. Cushing
My final quote is one that I aspire to and I imagine most potters do too.
“I aspire to make beautiful pottery – some to be used and some to function visually as sculpture” Val M. Cushing