CONGRATULATIONS!

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RAEWYN ATKINSON

Who has been awarded a ‘Special Prize’ in the Korean Ceramics Biennale 2015, for her entry entitled, Deep Time #29. The Deep Time series arose via her engagement with New Zealand’s Antarctic Programme, where she was a participant in 2000/01, and is based around the core samples taken by scientists towards dating and observing climate responses over long time periods. Raewyn is one of ten prizewinners in this major international competition. With 2629 entries from 74 countries originally, the judging team reduced the exhibition to one hundred and Raewyn’s work was one of the ten considered the most outstanding of those. Others are listed below.

Grand Prize: Neil Brownsword, UK .

Gold Award: Andrew Burton, UK

Silver Awards (2): Brad Taylor, USA, Jiin Ahn, Korea

Bronze Awards (3): Alexandra Engelfreit, Netherlands, Huben Ohne Druben, France, Team, Jeffrey Millar and Thomas Schmidt, USA and Canada

Special Awards (3): Annouchka Brochet, Russia, Kosmas Ballis, USA, Raewyn Atkinson, NZ

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL, BUT PARTICULARLY RAEWYN! WELL DONE

Raewyn Atkinson, Deep Time #29

Raewyn Atkinson, Deep Time #29

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Anders Ruhwald Downunder

Danish-born, USA based ceramist, Anders Ruhwald left New Zealand a couple of days ago after a brief visit of about three weeks as guest of Whitecliffe College of Art. He, and family, had some social and vacation time initially in Auckland and on Waiheke then in Central Otago. His final week was taking seminars for Masters candidates at Whitecliffe and as part of this he gave a talk on his own work at Auckland Art Gallery. Which is all a rather boring way of introduction for what I found to be a most engaging talk.

Ruhwald was introduced to the audience as ‘one of the world’s leading ceramists’ which is the sort of hyperbole to be expected from those hosting and paying the bills, and the sort of remark it is usually good to stay clear of because such claims are, of course, contingent upon a host of ‘ifs and buts’. Nevertheless Ruhwald has, since graduation from Bornholm School of Glass and Ceramics in 2000, carved an extensive trajectory through some impressive educational and residency programmes first in northern Europe then in Canada and the USA. Bornholm is a Danish island in the Baltic Sea off the coast of Sweden that has a long history of arts and crafts practitioners. I visited last year and thought that, although larger, it had much the same feel as Waiheke. Maybe it’s just islands but in both there resonates echoes of earlier communities of artists and craftsmen in the numbers of art spaces, galleries and former production places and present celebrations of those still current.

Ruhwald went from Bornholm to Copenhagen then England and Royal College. He is now Artist in Residence and Head of Ceramics at Cranbrook Art Academy, a private educational institution with only graduate programmes, outside of Detroit in Michigan, USA. Cranbrook has ten departments designated by medium or product –Fibre, Photography, Printmaking, Metalsmithing, Painting, 3D Design, 2D Design, Sculpture and Architecture each headed by an established artist or designer who is the primary mentor for students and the head of their studio program. Each has a personal studio located within their department and graduate students work directly alongside their Artist-in-Residence and learn what it means to be a working artist and how a leading practice is built and maintained.  Artists in Residence (and their partners and families) live on campus – very close to their studios.  In this, Cranbrook is not simply a graduate program – it is billed as a unique community of artists and designers living and working together, on a campus designed for this kind of exchange by Eliel Sarinen the first Architect in Residence. It sounds like a dream job – no worries about accommodation or studio and expected, first and foremost, to produce work and exhibit, and with students already graduated in ceramics beside you to assist, challenge and feed into the projects. Tony Hepburn was Ruhwald’s predecessor, who went there from Alfred, SUNY. There is a long history of excellence there and seems there is no shortage of students even though they are paying with upwards of 30,000 dollars annually. It’s a different world.

Ruhwald’s talk covered three areas: His own recent work; an intervention he carried out in the Saarinen House which sits on campus as a sort of monument to the famous architect and another project in an empty house Ruhwald has bought in Detroit (where property is on an opposing track to Auckland’s!). All were interesting and the Saarinen House work can be seen on the internet while the new house project is currently in gestation. It was his personal work that engaged my interest most.

We had earlier contact a few years ago as I included his work in an exhibition I curated for Yinnge International Ceramics Museum in Taiwan. Divided into a series of rooms, I included Ruhwald’s work in the ‘domestic interior’ area which I saw in that Freudian term, ‘the unheimlich’ and along with other works: Marek Cecula’s curious, ostensibly sanitary and bodily intimate but otherwise unclassifiable objects, Richard Slee’s trajectory of flies, Raewyn Atkinson’s glowing, wall-hung, over-scaled necklace of anti-depression pills, Shu Mei Su’s table and chair made from writhing, twisted apparent reinforcing steel and Kristin Johansen’s ironically humorous and ambiguous, Crotch Mirror, Handle and Shaving Foam Holder. Ruhwald’s Purple Interior was as comfortable, or uncomfortable, as any other in the blacked out, spot-lit space we conjured for them. These were the works most difficult to discuss in the training sessions we held with the docents, upon whom we would be reliant once opening events were complete and the museum settled to regular exhibition mode. I realised one of the many cultural divides which was that while the west is not averse to visualising the home as repository for mixed responses, often several deriving from different emotions at once, it was unusual in Asia where the home is viewed very differently.

Ruhwald’s work sits astride some of the strands of what is considered current or avant-garde in ceramics today – minimalism, surface, references to the body and to play, the increasingly permeable spaces between ceramics and design or ceramics and art, both at the same time, and above all – installation. Yet it has a distinct presence that echoes no other and is unmistakeably his.

His work maintains subtle resonances with pottery in the modelling and fingering marks on many surfaces. Rhythmical and even, they solicit reminders of, and probably indicate, careful and skilled, hand building and offer surface activity with rhythmical patterns of shadows. These are contrasted here and there with an almost industrial sleek surface which perhaps links with Danish design in their clean reductivity. However, the forms are not so glibly identified. Often over-scaled, and initially apparently simple, they represent nothing much in particular but somehow manage to hover between minimalist sculpture, bits from children’s broken wooden toys and parts of implements like cake mixers or vacuum cleaners – just sliced-off bits that might have been ever so slightly functional … logical familiarity disintegrates and you find yourself seeking clues in his occasional apparent references to decorative elements like candles. This might be a giant candle, that a chair frame hanging on a wall, maybe these could be giant mechanised stick insects or those up-scaled shelf brackets. But it’s no use. Easy connections are rarely forthcoming and titles, often clues to content, don’t help a heap. Although, some might. “If all man’s products were well designed, joy and harmony would emerge eternally triumphant” was one where all works surfaced in an even, dense black sheen, looked like they were taken from an overpriced catalogue and seemed to me commenting upon Denmark’s on-going reputation for domestic design objects. Another was, “Almost Nothing” where this time all works were token and white, again possibly commenting upon tropes of interior design. But what to make of “The View from the Sides of My Nose” or “Temperance!” or “We float in space and cannot perceive the new order”? It’s not straightforward, or effortless.

Consistent is an eschewing of conventional foundations. His works can sit firmly upon the floor, slouch or lean against a wall, be suspended from above or propped up on multiple fragile-looking striped sticks, but they don’t occupy a plinth. There are few obvious means of support anywhere. A leitmotif seems to be a blue light bulb and this maintains that recurrent connection with the domestic, even the frivolous domestic when hung with three or four glass beads around its strange glow; a sort-of ultra-minimalist chandelier. The domestic is always present but is more a sense than any divination or logic. It’s fairly apparent in forms that can only be interpreted as window frames despite their lumpy surface treatment but then you are confronted by a structure with some resemblance to a ships funnel except that instead of a depth into which you might dive, there is mirror at the opening and it becomes more like an eye glaring back. Constant is an odd interplay and tension between being just slightly menacing and poking the mickey.

All exhibitions I have sighted are installation – another constant. And Ruhwald does not install into a white cube but instead makes an entire environment for his little-bit discomforting works that I read somewhere he calls, ‘inconveniences’ – how apt! He hangs curtains of plastic strip like those that droop in doorways in warm weather as fly repellents. Or he builds walls and floors of tiles, carefully colour co-ordinated with the works themselves. These ‘inconveniences’ demand their own space that is carved out from whatever the exhibiting institution offers, rather than being fitted into surrounding architecture.

Then the colour – strong, and flat and even. Some shows are monochromatic. In others there are just two colours involved, like a strong orange and deep turquoise blue and these can add yet another layer of disquiet when almost spectrally opposite in hue and it occurred to me that if photographed with black and white film they would probably appear to be the same boring mid-grey. Layers of intrigue…

For those who were in town and able to attend his talk, Ruhwald’s commentary was straightforward, easy to follow and thankfully free of art jargon. I enjoyed it and it clarified plenty for me although he left much unsaid so that the viewer might mull those ambiguities, incompatibilities and feelings of unease the work can engender. Certainly his work makes clear that ceramics is no longer a discreet practice with clear boundaries. It sits easily into that spectrum where art intersects with ceramics and is shown in private or public galleries which usually exhibit contemporary art and which, very few years ago, would have firmly closed doors to anything labelled ‘made from clay’. But what I enjoyed most was the fact that his work is all about what a large majority of ceramics has always been all about and that is the humble domestic interior.2-18-15

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Overthrown Ceramics at the Limit Part of Marvelous Mud

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Images that follow are taken from the artist’s website where more of his exhibitions might be viewed. Individual works are not titled. The exhibitions were between 2005-2013.

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Worth a View

With ceramics the 2D view can mislead or confuse and it’s best to be able to walk around works. But then that’s not possible with off-shore shows and here is one that is absolutely worth a view. You don’t get the whole picture of course but this is work deserving of a look and a think.

Sent to me by one of the artists in the show it is currently being exhibited at Smith College in the USA which is a private liberal arts college for women in Massacheusetts. Their mission is to ‘educate women of promise for lives of distinction’ and the arts are covered as vigorously as any other subject. I was fortunate enough to visit the campus last year and saw the fine gallery where this current show is displayed so can imagine a little how it might manifest. It would be quietly mounted allowing the works themselves to soar.

Called Touch Fire, it is Japanese women ceramic artists deriving from several generations and clearly, those different generations show. Starting with centuries embedded traditions in ceramics that deprived women of developing into being artists in their own rights. These included only menial tasks allowed for women, including in some areas being forbidden to enter the kiln site when menstruating, or banned from ever touching the kiln at all, the exhibition’s title becomes self-explanatory. Starting with the immediate post-war generation where they learned from relatives or husbands the exhibition takes us through the start of higher education for women to the so-called ‘Super Girls’ of the 1980s who aggressively challenged male hierarchies and to current times when there are now a majority of female students at institutes of higher learning in the arts, including ceramics.

Some may recall the very different and excellent exhibits we would have in ‘The Fletcher’ exhibitions during the ‘90s that (we worked out) derived from independent female studio ceramists, particularly from the Osaka/Kyoto areas. They were some of those ‘Super Girls’ who were determined to avoid the male-dominated hierarchical systems that were, at that time, still powerfully present in Japanese ceramics and which prevented them from participating in numerous events in Japan. When I eventually met some of them I learned how positively they viewed ‘The Fletcher’ as it treated everyone equally and anonymously with no bias for gender. (To tell the truth, in those days we had trouble telling Japanese female from male names!)

This site is of the catalogue so, in addition to images of the works, there are also bios, small histories and some working methods, where particular, are briefly covered. The range is vast but with one exception, all is hand-building of some sort rather than wheel-based. Much of the work derives from nature and textiles but also includes socio=political comment and sexual allegory, with a feminine aesthetic. Techniques include, enamel overglazing, pate de verre, silk screening, terra sigillata and casting elements.

Ninety four works by twenty-odd artists – spend an hour or so…

Go to http://www.smith.edu/artmuseum2/archived_exhibitions/touchfire/what_youll_see.htm

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Paul Maseyk at DPAG

One Pot Wonder.

I had a (literally) flying visit to Dunedin so as to replace David Craig, who had to go to New Guinea, on a panel at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery where were three exhibitions with ceramic content. That in itself is worthy of a mention – the principal gallery in one of our principal cities shows contemporary ceramics in three concurrent exhibitions. Unheard of…

There is the Barry Brickell retrospective and a group exhibition entitled ‘Sleight of Hand’ about diverse artistic practices such as illusion, theatricality and transformation that includes Madeleine Child’s gorse, in partially sprayed state, contrasting vibrant growth and dead wood as one of the exhibits. Then there is a survey show called One Pot Wonder by Paul Maseyk.

This is Maseyk’s first survey show and was at the invitation of DPAG Director Cam McCracken and first mooted when he was at the Dowse but the idea continued after McCracken moved to Dunedin. It’s appropriate that Maseyk should be showing alongside the Brickell show as he has spent a lot of time at Driving Creek, altogether about four years out of the past fifteen. While he says that ‘Barry is not a teacher, in the teacher sense’, he also says, ‘just living there is all the learning needed as everything is there for a potter to use and it is up to you to get into it. Clay, machinery and, above all, the wonderful wood kilns to use; it is a potter’s paradise.’ Despite being in paradise, he has stayed his own man. There is not, on first glance, very much similarity between Brickell’s robustly-coiled, gritty shingle-inclusioned, wood-ash flushed and salted, iron bearing clays and Maseyk’s thrown and precision-turned, pale, tight-surfaced, linear decorated oxidized bodies. But perhaps one aspect that has rubbed off is a fearlessness concerning scale as both tackle large works successfully.

It is scale that immediately strikes when viewing Maseyk’s exhibition. It’s beautifully set out – ample space, good heights for each work using tables, shelves and plinths and effective lighting which highlights exhibits in a slightly darkened room.

General View

General View

Scale is emphasised by placing the largest work outside the exhibition room, on a landing opposite and above. It’s the title work and stands at over two metres tall looming down across the gallery lobby space toward the entry to the main show. It’s worth the trip up the stairs and would have been diminished by the low-ceilinged gallery space (it is former retail space not purpose-built). Initial viewing confirms that here is an up-scaled version of where he has been engaged for some time – the quotation of a classical Greek vessel atop an elongated, elaborated, occasionally oddly proportioned base delineated with fine lines, repeat motifs from multiple sources and minutely detailed illustrations of personal and appropriated imagery. They become, at this scale and with alternating straight and carefully curved silhouettes, more totems than pots. There are protrusions in the form of animal handles, cylinders and breasts but the more overt, sexual angst of youth, imagery of earlier years has tempered into that of the expectant father at 40. However, at the gallery entrance the sign reads “Please Note: This exhibition contains images of nudity and adult themes” beneath the admonition not to touch the artworks. So the Playboy bunny depicted at top has not fully left the room.

One Pot Wonder

One Pot Wonder, 2014

The exhibition is of vessels. Not all are functional although most look as though they might but on the trio Big Blue, Big Orange and Big Yellow with their spouts and handles and practical-looking, brilliantly hued glazes – something of a departure for him – no orifices can be seen and he confesses these were attempts to make something bright, solid coloured and with what seems an obvious use but no way of doing it.

Rainbow

Rainbow

Rainbow

Rainbow

Rainbow

Rainbow

His Rainbow is also brilliantly coloured, seven works with similarly formed bases and variations in the upper parts clothed in iridescent, highly reflective automotive paint in – as you’d expect – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. It was something he learned when on a residency in the USA and another artist arranged this for his own work. Maseyk noted the idea but only tried it after return, employing ‘a marvellous craftsman’, whom he reimburses with beer. One codicil is that a marvellous panel beater would apply such highly reflective surface finish and stunning colour only onto perfection of base but these pots display turning marks in places and that emphasise process instead of glorifying form. But it’s a successful strategy that he also uses effectively on another work, ‘Movement of Squares’ where the central, globular, gold finished area separates top and bottom; his typically eye-confusing grids and their repetition in house facades. It also suggested comment on the Kiwi average of a house shift every seven years.

Movement of Squares, 2011

Movement of Squares

Other works carry anatomical imagery rendered in what seems a new method for him in that, instead of his usual linear rendering, these are shaded with highlights and lowlights as he saw in a book on human anatomy and wanted to see if they could be replicated on a pot, not simple when painting with slip that dries instantly on contact with raw surface. These are a small series that experiment with the application of this imagery and it perhaps was the challenge that drove this as some are more effective than others. Details of anatomy are oddly applied to curiously mechanistic looking small forms and it’s a challenge to see correspondences. Others are more successful when the anatomy is confined to the neck of the vessel and interiors rendered in gold paint. Most cogent was a larger, single work entitled ‘Going to Shit’ where the realistically painted anatomy is that of an export carcass and the work delivers a familiarity of form and multiple illustrations. The crisply turned profile is perfectly balanced by patterns of simply rendered cows heads and doing what cows do while the body carries Chinese and New Zealand flags, commercial logos and a 2L plastic milk bottle with the word Pooh as content. The message is underscored by an image of an iconic tourist landscape with a lake draining down a plughole and it all seems more pristine by application of a clear shiny overglaze (something he has avoided in the past). While the politics is rather ingenuously delivered it possibly marks a broadening out from the regular inclusion of his personal adventures that marked earlier work.

Pieces of Meat, 2011

Pieces of Meat, 2011

Sweetbreads I-V

Sweetbreads I-V

Sweetbreads 2012

Sweetbreads 2012

Going to Shit

Going to Shit

Going to Shit

Going to Shit

This is where he shines most brightly – the work he has developed pretty much since leaving Polytech and he “stumbled across red clay, slip, and clear glaze together with a fortuitous gift of an ‘ultimate slip trailer’…. that freed me up from making pots, dipping them in boring glazes and firing them to stoneware temperatures. I could make a pot as a canvas and then draw whatever I wanted on it (or whatever I was able given my drawing limitations) and then fire it into permanence and usability”. When searching through historical ceramic books he came across Greek pots with their formal proportions and depictions of life and decided, since he ‘had gradually been increasing detail anyway’, to make his own version including the friezes and meanders (ornamental patterns). It’s been a steady development of vessel forms and surfaces with incremental additions of new techniques and media.

He is not the first of course. Californians Michael and Magdalena Frimkess have been collaborating since the 1960s on work celebrating Greek vases, among other iconic forms where he throws and she decorates with contemporary imagery such as people riding tandem bicycles or pushing supermarket trolleys. Garth Clark called them ‘prescient pioneers in Postmodern ceramics’. They recently enjoyed a retrospective at the Hammer Museum in LA at the instigation of no less than Ricky Swallow, a fan of their work. Englishman Grayson Perry springs to mind with his detailed drawing and other means of reproduction on to classically formed pots as critique of life, but his subject matter is darker, more threatening, but also often more conglomerate and enigmatic. Maseyk’s earlier linear illustrations could be provocative but their overt nature carried elements of the brashness of youth; the ‘look what I’m into’, often seen in youthful work of many genres, yet somehow they stayed light and peculiarly earnest because his self-deprecating humour ran blithely through. But as he says, “definitely a lot of the content is personal, but then no one will ever know what is or isn’t when I am not around to explain it”.

Clearly personal are two older works included in the show. ‘Commando Maseyk versus the Zig-Zag man’ of 2006 and ‘Portrait of the Artist on a Young Horse’ of 2007 are consummate examples. Classically formed vessels top well formed pedestals of good proportion without any over-reaching and all crisply turned as ground for his slip-painted surface ornamentation. This features repeat motifs, Bridget Riley-ish trompe l’oeil devices, mind-numbingly, closely packed, parallel, fine lines and quotations from a variety of sources from commercial logos to Lichtenstein’s lifts from Marvel comics enclosing personal narratives around a battle with tobacco or girlfriend issues. Restricted to black and white with small emphases of colour, the welcome high contrast is snappy: something not always achieved as slip can simply look dusty with no glaze to clarify distinctions. These are fine examples of his work: obsessional, personal and well resolved with his knack for applying embellishments fitting well, even enhancing, the pots’ profiles. They are decorated pots, a long-standing ceramic tradition and these devices wouldn’t work applied to a flat surface with four corners. They are risky in that they go against many enduring tenets about ceramics in this country and occupy a unique corner for their maker.

Commando Maseyk vs the ZigZag man, 2006

Commando Maseyk vs the ZigZag man, 2006

Portrait of the Artist on a Young Horse 2007

Portrait of the Artist on a Young Horse 2007

His time in the USA at Montana’s Archie Bray on a residency, that eventually stretched to almost two years, gave him a freedom (the great American buzz-word) to increase media, content and scale – often unavoidable assets of longer State-side visits where possibly the sheer numbers of populace or maybe the isolation in Montana engenders an anonymity and carelessness of consequence. His work on return, in an exhibition at Auckland’s Masterworks, carried all of that confidence but perhaps needed the grounding of ‘home’ to rub off the more confrontational and prurient bits, or possibly it’s been the tempering scrutiny of a tighter and closer community, or maybe it’s just time. But he has continued to experiment and work with others when opportunity arises, added new methods and media, deepened his oeuvre and exhibiting regularly. And now he’s just had his first survey. We should look forward to the next one with interest and see where he has gone.

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marketing tools

For those soon to hang up their turning tools for the summer …   Instead of cleaning out the studio, making that long-promised proper photography area or lying on a beach scratching yourself, here are two things that recently dropped into my inbox. Both are concerned with marketing work/improving profile in various ways. Both are from the USA so we may not be large enough for everything to be viable and the second one will cost you money (there’s always Santa) – but not a lot, and who knows, some of what is contained may move things closer to whatever it is you desire for, and from, your ceramics.

 

NCECA – America’s huge, 6-7000 attendees, annual, multi-faceted event for ceramics has just released a 40-minute video on YouTube documenting Virtual Realities, Material World, one of the panel presentations from the 2014 Conference in Milwaukee. It features four artists who use social media to widen the audience for their work. Presenters were Ben Carter, Carole Epp, Michael Kline and Adam Field. If you have interest in this, take a look and learn how your peers in the clay world are using social media to advance their work, connect with audiences and sustain vibrant professional networks.

The panel discussion that follows the individual presentations is on Ben Carter’s blog called Tales of the Red Clay Rambler for those wanting

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molly

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A six-week interview series designed to get you and your ceramic career launched! Co-hosted by Ben Carter of Tales of a Red Clay Rambler Podcast and artist-designer Molly Hatch.

SERIES STARTS JANUARY 6th 2015! 

CLICK TO WATCH THE VIDEO TRAILER!

Have you ever wanted to collaborate with a big company like Anthropologie? Publish a book? Sell more of your work? Well you are in the right place. Join us for THINK BIG! 
In today’s art market, artist’s have to be more than just makers. We are makers, marketers, sales people, web designers, and a so much more. Think Big! is a six week series of interviews with successful ceramic artists, art agents, dream clients and book editors. This series of interviews are designed to help you build the skills you need to expand your creative business, learn some tricks of the trade and think beyond the traditional methods of reaching your market.

SIGN UP BEFORE JANUARY 6th, 2015 for and EARLY BIRD REGISTRATION FEE OF $99! AFTER JANUARY 6th, 2015, YOU CAN STILL SIGN UP THROUGH TO THE FINAL DAY for $149!

CLICK HERE TO ENROLL!

How it works:

Each week we will send you a link to an interview with a new guest. Each week has a themed conversation around a topic that will help you think through and navigate ways to sell your work, market your work, find new audiences through social media and collaborations with larger compaies and even how to get yourself published.

We encourage participants to discuss the videos each week with a prompted discussion group online, where you can connect with other members of the series and have a community discussion about the topics that come up for you each week. Ben and Molly will be watching the group discussions as well as joining in.

In addition to the video interviews and discussions each week we will include downloadable bonus material in the form of a series of worksheets. The worksheets are for you to keep and work through at your own pace. By the end of the six weeks, you will have gathered many thoughts and ideally will have a clear direction moving forward in your creative business–on to BIG THINGS!

OUR GUESTS:

Interview Week 1: Choosing your Audience with guest MEREDITH HOST

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This week Ben will talk with Meredith about finding the right market for your work, how to price work and what its like selling in a gallery as well as craft fair ins and outs.

Meredith Host was born and raised in Detroit Rock City and received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Ceramics from the Kansas City Art Institute 2001. Meredith has spent time at numerous ceramic residencies including the Watershed Center for Ceramic Arts, where Meredith was the 2005 Salad Days Artist where she designed and produced 500 salad plates for their annual fundraiser. In 2008, she completed her Master of Fine Arts in Ceramics from Ohio State University. In 2011, Meredith was named one of the NCECA (National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts) Emerging Artists. Meredith lives in Kansas City, MO where she is a full time studio potter & also works on her foldedpigs commercial line.

Interview Week 2: Effective Communication in the Marketplace and better use of social media with guests KLEIN REID

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This week Ben will interview Klein Reid about best practices with social media, how interaction through the web has grown their business and much more!

KleinReid is a small, design-driven studio producing finely crafted work from their New York City studio for over twenty (20!) years.  Their hand-made work incorporates a variety of time-honored studio and industrial techniques. Their dense, translucent porcelain is hand-mixed from their own recipes. Their glazes complement their refined forms. Every new collection elegantly conveys goals that have remained consistent since KleinReid’s inception: thoughtful design, fine craftsmanship and lasting beauty.

Interview Week 3: Selling in the Digital Age: Etsy with guest Whitney Smith

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This week Ben will interview Whitney Smith about making Etsy work for you, advantages and disadvantages of running your own business as well as other platforms for selling and marketing your work online.

Whitney states: “My relationship with clay began in 1994 with my first wheel-throwing class at Cabrillo College in Santa Cruz.  I had an instant rapport with clay, and I spent my first years as a potter single-mindedly pursuing a mastery and understanding of my new love. Early on, I was lucky enough to work for other professional ceramic artists where I learned not only the basics of running a production ceramic studio, but given a window into a world where people supported themselves making their art. In 2000, I finally made the leap into full-time ceramic artist, working solely for myself, making the work I love to make. It has been, and continues to be, an incredible journey where I am constantly challenged by my chosen medium to always be better, learn more, and to meet the peculiar demands of being a full-time artist in the world.”

Interview Week 4: Licensing with guest Arlene Scanlan

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This week Molly talks with agent Arlene Scanlan about licensing, how to develop a brand identity and what its like working with an agent.

ARLENE SCANLAN, Co-Founder Moxie & Co

Between the two of them, Moxie’s founding partners, Arlene Scanlan and Laura Becker have more than 50 years combined experience in the licensing industry. From their work on building classic properties like Peanuts and Garfield right through to a more recent collaboration with Urban Outfitters on a custom bike and Cole Haan on an exclusive MTA advertising partnership, Moxie & Company is truly the culmination of the knowledge, experiences, skills and successes that the principals have gathered in their journey along the sometimes turbulent, but always exciting, licensing super highway. In building Moxie & Company and the properties they represent, they have focused on extending their valuable iconic brand assets into lucrative franchises that endure.

Interview Week 5: Publishing a book with guest Mary Ann Hall

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This week Molly talks with editor Mary Ann Hall about what the publishing world is looking for in an author, best practices for submitting a book proposal and more!

MARY ANN HALL, EDITORIAL DIRECTOR, QUARRY BOOKS AND ROCKPORT PUBLISHERS

Mary Ann is an experienced publishing professional specializing in innovative, illustrated art and technique books. For 12 years, she led the art and crafts publishing program for Quarry Books and is currently editorial director for Quarry Books and Rockport Publishers developing books on art, crafts, design, artisan food and lifestyle topics. Currently based in Shaker Heights, Ohio, she is a Midwesterner who has lived the largest part of her life elsewhere and an urbanite who loves to hang out in woods. As a serial enthusiast, she enjoys many creative pursuits, including Burmese cooking, zydeco dancing, hiking, hot yoga, painting, reading, and having adventures with her children.

Interview Week 6: Collaboration with guest Jennifer Rome

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This week Molly talks with Jennifer Rome about how Anthropologie works with artists, what they look for in an artist, what the future of artist collaborations look like and where you can submit your artwork to be discovered!

Jennifer Rome Head of Artist Collaborations: Anthropologie Home

Anthropologie is a multi-channel lifestyle brand that sells women’s clothing and accessories, home furnishings, found objects, gifts and décor. Anthropologie products are an expression of our customer’s appreciation for artfulness and good design. To that end, our buyers and designers travel the world to uncover special products and to collaborate with talented artisans. Jennifer Rome has worked as a buyer and head of artist collaborations at Anthropologie for over 9 years. Jennifer oversees all artist collaborations in the home category at Anthropologie.
Register now and work at your own pace! 

Click here to register!

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The ASP Annual “Fire and Clay”

I have just had the interesting task of selecting this exhibition. I seem to have given it a bit of a hard prune, at least, that’s what is around the traps so I’m told. The word ‘exhibition’ is often misused. I have even seen it applied to placing a few pots in a local butcher’s window – there among the sausages – and similar circumstances. There is a difference between an exhibition and a sale of work and we should not confuse them. My own view is that an exhibition is something to be worked for and if the work is not ready for such a term this year then next year it may be. Or the year after. But, if it is labelled an exhibition it should, in my view, be treated as such so my regrets to those I removed or partially denied access to showing but, for some reason or other, to me as judge for this year, there were reasons. After I go on a little about some of the winners I’ll go on a little about some of them.

I enjoy work that deals to some of our long- held clichés, some very long and very tightly held. In this instance I mean our landscape. Barry Brickell and Len Castle began addressing this as subject back in the early-mid 60s. Brickell was flatting with and near a bunch of art-trained individuals and the concept of our own landscape, as opposed to one filtered through a British or a European lens was then fresh and under regular discussion. Castle also knew a range of contemporary artists and became aware of the issues. Brickell and Castle addressed these issues ceramically but each in different ways. Castle with translations of the texture, character and structures seen in nature to the surfaces of vessels and a dramatic use of glaze, always with his highly developed sensibilities to the aesthetic of the work. Brickell chose to incorporate the clays, minerals, rocks and shingles from the landscape itself to make the clay body and glazes he worked with, and coal and the trees from his land to fire his kilns. Castle stayed with it as principal subject matter for all his long career. Brickell often had other subjects but maintained this principal.  Following this lead there have been myriad interpretations of landscape. Every generation has produced its versions, most straightforwardly sincere and occasionally there’s the relief of a glimpse of tongue in cheek. With so many predecessors and about a score of variants submitted to this last ASP show one wonders if it will ever go away as the subject begins to feel more than a bit tired. But it needn’t go away, as not all versions are those seen before…. many are, but just occasionally there is a fresh angle.

So it was something of a serendipitous revelation when I viewed the work Kate McLean entered for the exhibition. Here was familiar landscape but rendered anew as the view was low in angle and apparently from water. It initially seemed like simple screen prints on faceted surfaces around forms that might be rocks but maybe not, and it did not matter. However when examined more closely, and particularly in 3D, and thought about, it was clearly ingeniously and thoughtfully done with repetitions subtly introduced, shafts of subdued colouration and care taken with the horizon line and how that fitted around the irregular forms. Her statement confirmed my initial positive reaction, appreciation of the time invested in resolving the evident associated problems and filled all possible gaps. It said,

During summer I swam towards this view daily on the high tide, and it became a challenge to capture in the medium I am exploring, the focus and feel of this tranquillity so close to the city.

I reflected on the thin crust we occupy between the sky and sea, the contrast of the city and the backwater, the pohutukawa that completes the arch of the bridge and the good fortune that is ours to live in this peaceful country.

Over winter the transference of summer thoughts to the object this has become, occupied me, responding to many possibilities: the form and how it would receive the image, colour, and the three dimensional print. One form became two in my pursuit to describe this landscape, just as one’s eyes wrap what they see. There is no single viewpoint, the sea and horizon form the edges and could be manipulated.

I loved the part about no single viewpoint as that is what happens as we move, whether walking , riding or swimming, viewpoints adjust and shift and that is what happens as one moves around this work. It was a complete package. So, for me this was, ‘Best in Show’.

Not that there wasn’t ample competition. I also liked partner Matt’s work that paralleled the concept of two pieces comprising one work. Only on a bigger scale. These pieces were also screen printed and here the view was not low but lofty from above, and the view was of cyclists and their shadows snaking over undulating surfaces. It needed the addition of a statement that clarified the concept for an audience but it was absolutely worth a Merit Award. As was Brendan Adams’ wall platter entitled, I…I’ve got to get out of here! This primitive stuff’s beginning to get under my skin. And made in the style of a Roy Lichtenstein cartoon painting made in the style of a Marvel comic and possibly made references to the abundance of Leach-style standard ware still being made and offered for exhibition. More screen printing in evidence. There were other works I also liked a lot. Chuck Joseph’s richly embellished, gold-rimmed bowl of Kowhai flowers on both surfaces was a marvel, like patterned cloth covering the surfaces instead of the usual ceramic trope of confining pattern/decoration within defined borders. Julie Collis’s candelabra of stacked porcelain cups with more gold embellishment and entitled, What will you do when the lights go out? This piece of delight would compensate well in any power cut. Christine Thacker’s large scale and most elegantly formed pitcher with curious painting that must somehow explain the title of Tunnel of Love, that I failed to read. The eyes just right – slyly watchful – on Helen Perrett’s Large Vermin and Charlie Seakin’s intriguing Involution that also could have done with some comments to give this viewer a bit more of a lead-in (there were six different explanations for the word in my dictionary). I enjoyed Ann Hudson’s Ice Landscape with layered depths of blue staining the exteriors of a pair of graceful cast bowls but the stark white interiors felt unfinished and asked for some softer treatment to echo the exterior drama. I also liked Carol Stewart’s simple but subtly lifted Serving Bowl and it was perfectly presented next to Greg Barron’s, Cut-sided Jar – surfaces and colours resonated effectively. And so it went. There was much to enjoy and, in these days of hybrid work so much in evidence, I reflected on those additions that graduates from art schools have to bring to their explorations in clay. There was Louise Rive’s recent Portage win and many of those mentioned here trained in other media prior to turning attention to ceramics. We are richer for this amalgam of media and method and the open attitude to bold experimentation.

There were also two more awards to give. I found the parameters for these unclear. One, from the Rick Rudd Foundation was to be given to someone ‘exhibiting for the first time with the ASP’. I wondered if it was really meant to encourage a recent student but had to choose what was best from the small list of names given me so the prize was given to a maker long experienced (clearly from the work) and recently moved to Auckland so exhibiting with ASP for the first time. The other award was for a residency at the ASP for three months and again there was a very short list of names. In such a circumstance I think it could be far more helpful for applicants to state what they wish to achieve during the residency instead of simply ticking that box on the entry form. Then that short statement (a paragraph would do it) can be measured against the work submitted and perhaps a more informed decision made. As residencies assume ever increasing importance, reasons to participate should be made very clear. While I was very comfortable with the awards for work, I was less so with these. It was not that the work did not stand up but that I was uncertain about the intent.

At the inaugural runs-through on-screen there were a number that attracted for various reasons and of these several stood out. Sometimes the initial attraction remained when viewed in 3D and sometimes this faded a little. There was that old problem of scale – that despite having dimensions and a tape measure to hand, expectations for a particular scale over-rode this rationale and so it was occasionally surprising when seeing the 3D reality. My problem, not the artist’s. However the artists had two principal problems…

Initial choices were made by image. Here arose the first problem. Many images were simply insufficient to clearly see what the work was about. Whether teapots had functional lids, no matter how small, or if vessels presented as a group actually made a group that made some sense, or if function was an aim or the artist was relying on that old adage of… ‘it’s about a ….. ’.   Angles were often odd and close-up views were very few in number – could have done with more of both. Sometimes images were poorly focussed and sometimes the work was too small in the frame to see clearly what was going on. In a time when cameras capable of taking a good image are everywhere, and cheap, then too casual an approach to presentation when another view or a close-up would clarify much, with a show to put together I left it out. Taking an adequate image is surely preparation for the time artists will submit for Portage, or to a gallery for inclusion in the stable or to some off-shore event. So getting the image right in the first place is a given. Digital is cheap, there is no waste of film and no expensive processing. It’s just experience and a little extra effort or else having someone more expert do it.

We have gone through a transition… from an era when we could get away with, “My work speaks for itself” to one where critical discourse around your work is invited and expected; being asked to think more rigorously about what you are trying to do is a navigation to be enjoyed and one that can focus and improve practice. Making a statement, or sometimes just a good title, that can relate to the work is a necessary adjunct to producing the work. Image and statement making are crucial to acceptance anywhere in the world now and just another skill to be learned. It’s professionalism.

On reflection, I realise that in this instance I have selected three screen-printed works for the principal awards. Had someone put that to me, even six months ago, I’d have refuted such a possibility. Not that that was all those works had going for them by any means. But it’s interesting… every time you do something that presents a challenge you learn something new about yourself. Thanks for the opportunity.

Kate McClean, Auckland Postcard

Kate McClean, Auckland Postcard

Matt McClean, Crossed Paths

Matt McClean, Crossed Paths

Brendan Adams, I…I've got to get out of here

Brendan Adams, I…I’ve got to get out of here

Chuck Joseph, Kowhai Bowl

Chuck Joseph, Kowhai Bowl

Christine Thacker, Tunnel of Love

Christine Thacker, Tunnel of Love

Julie Collis, What will you do when the lights go out

Julie Collis, What will you do when the lights go out

Greg Barron, cutsided jar

Greg Barron, cutsided jar

Carol Stewart, serving bowl

Carol Stewart, serving bowl

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The Portage – part two

The Portage exhibition looked spacious and was characteristically set out high as has been usual with New Zealand shows. Guess I’m used to it but I prefer it up closer to my nose than at belly-button level as is more commonly seen off-shore. It’s just that I am recently back from being away so was more conscious than usual of that difference. Takeshi remarked that the general display was ‘high’ but he did not seem to mind that. His own work was somewhat lower and also looked good but was a little tight for space. But after all, he did not know the space and the Gallery did not know how many pieces he’d bring with him. A couple of the bigger scale pieces might have been better hanging on the wall. Large plateaus and serving platters are customarily hung and serve two purposes – they are usually too big to fit comfortably in a cupboard and hanging adds an image to a kitchen or dining room wall. The traditional large serving dishes from Staffordshire are transfer-pattern decorated with bucolic rural scenes on ivory earthenware, but in this case, Takeshi’s slightly wobbly, blobby-wire, textured and cut surfaces, with their depths of Ching-pai glaze, offer a livelier panorama on pristine porcelain and in their task of presenting food – superb.

His greatest love affair is with food, along with the customs that surround it, and he takes interest in how this comments on a society and a culture. He enjoys nothing more than creating new generations of vessels to extract the best of a ceramic tradition and renew our attention to ritual. From the dominance of one of his huge Sansai surfaced plateaus running with pigment, to the delight of wine seen through the translucency of a textured porcelain goblet, he steadily pursues new approaches and generously shares them via work that is a mixture of control and ease – perfect for the contemporary occasion.

For those who attended his demonstrations in Nelson and Auckland, and his talk in Wellington (more than 50 at each demonstration and one hundred plus at the Dowse) there were many philosophical gems that clearly explained his approach to making with clay so that watching one of his swift bursts of action was almost superfluous. The demonstrations he gave this time, and the talk, were different to those of the past. Making notes on what he was trying to impart rather than waiting to record, with camera or poised cellphone, was the way to go. And he mentioned that several times. However, thinking of those talks and workshop demonstrations, some perhaps need to remember that rushing up after a talk, accosting on the street or sitting beside in a bus waving books or cellphones full of images about own work is confronting; a response capsizing experience. It makes me wonder what was expected by way of reply. It’s hard to guess when any thoughtful commentator would need a good discussion and some interval to consider. This is the first time I have taken such a guest around like this to places and it was surprising how entitled a few people think is their due. Most, however, were considerate and welcoming and he took great pleasure in talking again with those he has met on earlier visits – like the Van der Puttens who lent their kiln and workshop some years ago, so that he might make extra smaller works for an exhibition. He took great pleasure also in meeting new artists like the good folk in Nelson who offered some great hospitality and many kindnesses and he finally met Barry Brickell, after many occasions hearing about him. When they eventually did meet they were both a little wary initially. Brickell because he does not approve of competitions and wants nothing to do with them (and also perhaps because of the reputation of ‘Japanese Masters’) where Brickell has always sought to promote our own ways of doing things . Yasuda because he’d heard so much about the Brickell reputation for so many things. However after initial reticence they found much harmony and Brickell so loved what Yasuda had to say in his ‘judge’s comment’ for the catalogue, particularly the bit about not believing ‘in international art since art is a product of a community and a society’, that he offered a residency at his workshops in Coromandel for someone. Takeshi, for his part, swiftly recognised Barry’s singularities and was more than a little impressed by the railway. One would never think of Takeshi Yasuda, supreme hand-maker, as a technology buff but he admired Royce McGlashen’s unique adaptations of industrial machinery and processes for his own production and was in awe of Barry’s dedication to his life’s greatest achievement and what it represents. It was surprising to learn that Takeshi Yasuda is a lover of efficient machines (particularly motor bikes) but not that he also relishes adaptation and invention. After all, he is probably one of ceramics’ most productive transformers of tradition and generator of new manifestations for established form.

The exhibition has an exceptionally long run this year – through to next year and visitors have until February 8th to view it. The curatorial emphasis, by recent judges, was absent this year. Takeshi instead simply chose works he personally felt had merit and made no attempt to categorise, label or group. The exhibition was returned to a straightforward show of selected individual works that bore little particular relationship with any neighbouring work. That may have been due to the fact that he was taken, because of time constraints, down country very swiftly, following his re-selection of works once they were viewed in 3D. There was no time to consider any curatorial approach to display as recent judges have been able, and chosen, to do. Scott Chamberlain wanted to contextualise exhibitors’ work with others from the artists’ oeuvres or series but few had any back-up work – results in part from our fire–at-the-last-minute culture (although, one imagines the wood-firers may have been able to supply numerous similar pieces). Paul Scott grouped works for their relationships with other works. As he stated in the catalogue when writing on the judging process, ‘… outstanding entries were extricated – then the exhibition was built around them’. Amy Gogarty, a curator and writer rather than a maker, aimed to ‘present a coherent narrative’ and interestingly applied adjectives to her selections , that she thought, ‘captured the spirit or intention of the works’ which then ‘coalesced into themes’ that recognised connections for purposes of exhibition. This is a contemporary approach often now found off-shore in both exhibition and catalogue. Does it mean, as suggested in the Portage catalogue that, more than a ‘simple snapshot of current practice’, the Portage exhibition ‘is heading firmly toward becoming an exercise in saying something about the state of ceramics’ here? Surely, since its inception, it does both? It was set up to replace the Fletcher Awards that died in ’98 and the intent was firmly toward a national show rather than international. Competition from off-shore was unwelcome for some, but Fletcher Challenge saw itself positively as an international business and wanted that reflected in the Award, and the award administration was confident that New Zealand could hold its own. And it did, being represented in better proportions than most countries.

As for that recurrent remark on the absence of the ‘useful’ pot, as someone remarked – it’s surely less that the Awards are weighted toward the non-functional but that useful pots are simply not entered because they are not made. The reason for that is that there is nowhere to show them. White cubes, and those aspiring to be, are chary of the functional and those old-style pot-shops with their stacked shelves of useful pieces are long gone. Apart, perhaps from a shelf here and there like in Vessel in Wellington or in the old style, home-based ‘open day’ events that seem to proliferate again at this time of year.  Takeshi awarded functional makers this time with Chris Weaver’s Pitched Pourers and Duncan Shearer’s Bottle and Two Cups and included a number of others who offered tableware such as Amanda Shanley, Louise Rive, Elena Renker, Tanya Nola, Simon Leong, Charade Honey and Julie Collis, while there were more that were clearly intended for domestic uses such as holding flowers and altogether these slightly outnumbered the clearly non-functional, mainly intended for contemplation, exhibits. Then there were those indeterminate pieces that fit no easily identified category….

The events were rounded out on the Saturday with a bus tour, called Clay O’Clock, around a number of galleries where the artists/exhibitors talked about their work. Briefly, it was an enjoyable day with the hard work removed by someone else taking responsibility for getting us from place to place. Northart to Te Uru for Takeshi’s walk and talk then into town with exhibitions/displays at galleries where you can expect to find some quality ceramics like Masterworks which held some superbly practised and congruent works by Bronwynne Cornish and Denys Watkins, and John Roy, or Anna Miles Gallery with a show from Richard Stratton, FHE with Emily Siddell’s glass and clay through to new interest sites by galleries such as Whitespace that beside long-term support for artists Madeleine Child and Jim Cooper shows other ceramics now in its side gallery space. There were other offerings from work that rehearsed the styles of American cerami-stars Arlene Shechet and Nicole Cherubini presented as performance in reportage of a sham archaeological dig finding, where we were generously included in the joke by the three protagonists, at Objectspace, through to the final and major event of the day which was the retrospective of Bronwynne Cornish’s work, Mudlark, opening at Gus Fisher, freshly arrived from its beginnings at Hawkes Bay along with what looks like another excellent and comprehensive catalogue, as Cornish fully deserves. I look forward to time to read it in depth. It was a grand and extensive show, dramatically presented in a darkened gallery that ending a grand, if exhausting day. Perhaps it will happen again, further making the events around the opening of the Portage Awards un-missable.

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