Posted by on Jun 8, 2009 in Blog | Comments Off on Mushrooms and LLamas and Dogs, Oh My!

It’s been an interesting day in the studio–I’ve been very fortunate to be invited to some really nice shows and have been making different types of work for each one.  
Currently, I have four pieces in a lovely show (which ends on Wednesday!) in Carrboro, NC called “Animals Without Borders,” curated by Alex O’Connor.  She is an amazing painter and an animal lover.  I was so thrilled when she invited me to participate.  As expected, I found myself among the most excellent company.  Alex asked me to bring my “Cat Fish.”  This body of work is whimsical and folk-arty, and one of the closest things to functional pottery that I do these days.  Many are fitted with a piece of PVC pipe and can be connected to a small pump to become a water feature.
They came to be because I needed some color and to loosen up.  Until then I had been handbuilding vessels inspired by Native American potters of the American Southwest.  My first few pieces were a little more “traditional,” but one thing led to another….
Almost functional art:

Sex Pot.  The surface is not a glaze, but a layer of dilute slip, composed of fine particles, called terra sigillata.  The clay is very white–and looks like ivory after the first firing.  The piece is fired a second time in a sealed container with combustibles (usually shredded paper).  As the kiln heats up, the paper burns.  Carbon from the smoke binds with the clay, resulting in the black color.  This process is called “firing in reduction” or “reduction firing,” also seen in raku.  Even though I know what to expect (or what I hope to happen–see future post), the transformation is so dramatic, I always gasp aloud when I first see the piece.  
I love these pieces; they have won several awards, including cash prizes in national shows.  But they are so labor intensive!
An example of my non-functional art–

Garden Spirit, clay with bronze coating and patina–real metal, so it oxidizes as it is exposed to the elements.

Anyway, back to the Cat Fish–
The Garden Spirits were a step in the whimsical direction, but it was time for some downright wackiness.  Also, I figured I could use this experience to practice a new way of making hollow forms.  It was supposed to be a temporary thing, but people ask for them, even when I suggest other work!
Rocko, the Cat Fish–Dysfunctional art?
There is a show in Greensboro, NC on June 20, called “Potters in the Garden, sponsored by the Master Gardeners.  Jane, the woman organizing the show, is also a clay artist.  We met through the Carolina Clay Guild.  In addition to Cat Fish, Garden Spirits, and sun faces, I’m making mushrooms.  For ages, I’d wanted to make “Toad House Roadhouses” and, after working with Suzanne and Tom on mushrooms, made a few of  my own, adding front doors.  OK, it was a bit of piracy, but I did suggest the stamps we all used for the caps and offered some technical advice…..Still, I have to give them credit for putting all the information together, and helping me to get the concept out of my head and into the kiln.
Later this summer, I’ll bring my “big dogs” (the clay species–they don’t bark and you don’t have to clean up after them) and other work I’m able to complete to a show called “In Our Care,” at the Center for Creative Leadership.  It’s a corporate venue located north of Greensboro.  Another great honor, as people from all over the world go there for conferences and workshops.  Laura, the woman curating that show, invited a small group of artists and she probably heard me yell “Woo Hoo!” 45 miles away, when we got off the phone.  She didn’t have to finish the question–I could only say yes.  Laura puts together awesome shows and this is a fantastic opportunity.  I had the privilege of showing there as a member of the Alamance Artisans Guild a couple of years ago.  A percentage of proceeds from this show will benefit Red Dog Farm.  They rescue dogs, cats and farm animals, and even have alpacas now and then.  
Check out their site:
More on that show later.  
Needless to say, there are partially formed clay dogs, and even a clay llama, keeping company with the mushrooms in the studio right now.  Sounds grisly, but it will be alright, really.  No animals are ever harmed in the making of my art or this blog.
I’m sure others can confirm this–I’ve been fortunate to meet so many interesting people along the most unexpected pathways.  In another post, I’ll tell you about some other shows, including  “the most fun you can have at an art show,” Debbie’s and Eric’s “Come Out & Play.”  Stay tuned!