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Find me more frequently for the time being at Folk-Art-Life.


Workshop Review: Sharon Virtue

Ahhh... Sharon Virtue. What a wonderful lady and talented artist. Yesterday we got to take a wonderful workshop with Sharon at Clay Creations and learn all of her lovely tips and tricks to design beautifully layered surfaces ripe with depth and color. I've been struggling to reach a quality of surface that I feel good about lately and this workshop definitely inspired me to try some new things. Sharon has developed a great method for layering imaged and color to create a uniquely collaged surface. Learning about the steps she takes made me think a little bit more about how I need to slow my work down a bit and take care to work my narrative into the clay at appropriate stages. I left thinking very differently about how to approach my work, which I think was what I was hoping for. :)

Some of my favorite Sharon Virtue tips?

-Think about what you want your work to do.
-It's okay to use the quickest and easiest way to do things, even if it strays from more traditional methods.
-Never leave any texture on a piece that you don't intend to put there... like canvas or sponge or clay gunk textures. Yuck!

Sharon said this was her very first workshop, though she's been teaching for many years. I congratulate her on a job well done and hope she continues to give workshops so more people can benefit from her fantastic ideas and inspiring energy. :)

Project Color Theory: Blue Butterflies

So I've been thinking a great deal about color lately. Perhaps it is the Surface Design class that I am taking at the moment or my adoration of Lauren Willhite's work over at Color Collective. It could be how much I'm struggling with color in my own work, I'm not quite sure of all the forces uniting on this one, but... they have conspired to force me into exploring color palettes via the ink dropper tool in Gimp (one of many free photo editing softwares available which are similar to Photoshop). Using some of my favorite images found on Pinterest, I've begun exploring color a bit more in depth.

After yesterday's workshop with Sharon Virtue and all the color theory talk that ensued there, I thought it might be nice to share with you some of my explorations and encourage you to try some of your own. It's actually quite fun.

P.S. More on Sharon's workshop coming up soon.

(original image via Metrolic)


Ingrid Bathe

After coiling and pinching all day long, the ethereal pots of Miss Ingrid Bathe just seemed so appropriate. Bathe writes "The repetitive nature of pinching and coiling, allow for meditation during creation." I couldn't agree more. I find myself getting lost in my work far more easily when I'm coiling.

How about you all- what are the most meditative moments of your processes?

(images via artist's website)


Studio Time: Doodle Tiles

Played with some new toys yesterday. Some makeshift stamps, an etching pencil (a la Michelle Summers), and a slab bevel-maker-thingy.

I had fun trying out some new surface techniques. Can't wait for Sharon and Diana's workshops.


Liz Smith

Look at the layering on these surfaces. What the heck? How awesome. Decals, glazing, carving, lusters- wow. I am totally drooling right now.

By the way... Lusters aren't food safe, are they?

(images via Charlie Cummings Gallery)

Workshop Review: Christa Assad

So I thought I would finally share some of my photos from the Christa Assad Workshop that I went to with a couple of girlfriends a few weekends ago.

First off Solano Valley College was so nice to open its doors for this free workshop. Instructor Kathy Kearns was very kind and the potluck was off the hook! Assad had some good things to say, too. Ha!

So this was a demo workshop, we just sat and watched Assad do her thing while we bombarded her with millions of questions. I felt a little awkward 'cause I think my friends and I totally dominated the conversation. I'd feel worse though if we hadn't been asking such awesome questions and Assad hadn't had such valuable answers. There was a fantastic slide show, which helped me think about how I translate my own inspiration into my work and just watching how Assad builds her pieces was pretty exciting. It's so hard to remember some times that most of her work comes from right off the wheel.

Because right now I'm handbuilding only in my own work, I found her general artist/professional advice to be the most valuable aspect of the day. So to share a few tidbits (not neccessarily direct quotes, mind you)...

Christa says:

-Just show up. (This seems key somehow.)

-Refining a form is how you get to a perfect form. Resolve your designs. (Along the lines of some other advice I was privy to recently.)

-Make time for a beer at the pub with friends! (This one has been the favorite of Sarah's and mine so far.)

I'm looking forward to upcoming workshops with Sharon Virtue and Diana Fayt the next couple of weekends. Those should be right up my alley right now as I struggle with the surface of my work.Stay tuned for those reviews! :)


Victor Visockis

Do these want to make you master carving or what? So gorgeous. Anyone know anything about this artist? I couldn't seem to find any information.

(images via Charlie Cummings Gallery)

Studio Time: Second Glaze-Firing

Got these out of the kiln yesterday morning.

The good news?

-they look less like Kiefer-Schroeder-Host knock-offs post-firing
-nothing exploded
-I like the crayola colors
-the giant bowl didn't crack

The bad news?

-they're boring as all hell
-I obviously did not put the same number of coats of slip on the Navajo Wheel pieces so they look incongruent and goofy as all hell
-a couple pieces actually did crack
-my Laguna glazes disappeared on the test pieces

So- back to the drawing board, wherever that thing is.

Does anyone have experience firing Laguna mid-range glazes to ^6? I got a couple of matte glazes to try out, but I think taking them to ^6 defeated the matte quality and the color. What do you all think?

Also does anyone have experience with enamels? Like, how do they work exactly?


Studio Time: Look-alikes

I felt like I had the most amazing a-ha moment on last night at the studio. Like I'd struck some kinda gold decorating some bisqued white stoneware pieces. Then the more I looked at them I felt like they resembled something too familiar. When I realized how closely the patterns resembled Emily Schroeder's work, I felt this cringe in my gut. Now, it's no secret that I am a huge fan of Schroeder, but I wasn't intending to mimic her work, nor was I even thinking of her work when I was decorating the pieces above. Somehow, though, it still seems I've channeled her designs into my work. I'm not really into this... and hopefully this is just one stage in the development of my own style. I'm still disappointed a bit though.

How similar do these pieces look to you? Am I being a total nut or does it look like I'm totally ripping someone off? What is a young artist to do when this happens?

(Mud)Shot: Michelle Summers

Woo hoo! Today we have another exciting artist profile on (Mud)Bucket.  Michelle Summers makes the coolest work- funky shapes and textures meet brilliant colors, quirky characters, and rad illustration. I'm such a fan, and it's so awesome to share her (Mud)Shot with you all today. Enjoy!

The Stats: Michelle Summers, Portland, OR, 10 years working in clay

Do you remember how or when, exactly, the clay bug bit you?

     I believe it happened shortly after visiting the Contemporary Craft Gallery in Portland. I saw some ceramic pieces that opened my eyes to the possibilities of what could be made with clay.  After I started to apply imagery and texture on my pots, I was hooked.

Can you choose three words to describe your work?

     Dreamscape, vibrant, illustrative

I find that as ceramic artists we can get really focused on the ceramic art world and forget what’s happening outside of it. Can you name a non-ceramic artist whose work inspires you?

     Actually, there are several I can mention: Megan Bisbee-Durlam (1), Betsey Walton (4), Joseph Hart (3), Alidra Alic (2), to name a few.  I get most of my inspiration from outside the ceramics world than from within it.

The directions you can choose as a ceramic artist are so many and so varied that we often have to choose a few areas to focus our expertise on. Is there a technique or skill, apart from your own, that you admire or aspire to?

     I think I want to transition into more hand built pottery.  I am attracted to the inviting warmth of hand built pottery with its textures and finger marks left like clues of its construction.

As makers, we are often surprised by what our audience likes best of our work. And our audience’s favorites aren’t always the same as our own. Of your own work, do you have a favorite piece or project?

     I enjoy making cups more than any other form.

Alternately, what is your favorite part of your creative process? (Sketching, glazing, pulling handles, installing, etc.)

     Etching images into leather hard clay.

Can you describe your studio space in a few words or sentences?

     Small, homey, bright.  My studio is in the middle of my apartment, starting where a dining nook was meant to be and extends all the way to the door of my bedroom.  Being a bit of a miser, I couldn’t bring myself to pay rent on a little room in the basement, so I live in my studio.

What is the one tool you can’t live without?

     My etching pencil.  I bought it for etching on silver but found it works even better on leather hard clay.

There are ceramic residencies, studios, schools, galleries, conferences, and museums all over the world. Where has your artwork taken you or where would you like it to take you in the future?

     I hope in the near future to do a residency at the Archie Bray Foundation or Penland.  Someday I hope to travel to China or Japan and learn about the ceramic traditions and processes used there.

Artists are multifaceted people and we often have more than one passion. What is an activity outside of ceramic work that you really enjoy?

     I like to go to the bookstore near my home, get a coffee and roam through the magazine isles.  I’m a big fan of home decorating magazines and, of course, art magazines. 

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received from another artist?

     It was something like this, “ideas are a dime a dozen, everyone has them and they don’t mean a thing if you don’t make them happen.”

Teachers always impress the importance of the sketchbook and designers often develop mood-boards as creative as their actual work. How do you collect inspiration?

     Other than my ventures to the magazine isles, I follow a lot of blogs online for inspiration.

If you could have a one-on-one workshop with any ceramist (living or not), who would it be?

     Meredith Brickell

How about some more preferences, perhaps a bit more trivial, shall we…

-Favorite color? Green
-Coffee or tea? Tea
-Last good film or book? Red, the movie based on the DC comic
-Minimalist or maximalist? Maximalist trying to become a minimalist
-Dogs or cats? Cats
-Favorite season? Spring
-Music, silence, or NPR in the studio? Music
-Sloths or lemurs? Lemurs!

And a bit more personal… Michelle, I've noticed you are an artist of many mediums. In addition to making pottery, you also design jewelry and paint. Your unique style, however, is clearly present in all that you do. How do you figure out which projects will get more or less of your creative energy or time? And do you have any advice on developing or maintaining a 'cross-media' voice for other artists interested in pursuing multiple mediums? 

     Since childhood I always aspired to be an artist and have tried my hand at every type of art medium I could.  After taking many many art classes at a local community college, I decided to pick a discipline and stick with it.  Even though I loved working in so many other mediums, I choose ceramics because it allows me to combine many of my other artistic interests. 
     Since my college days, I still dabble in painting and jewelry making as a personal hobby and they are something I do when I need a break from ceramics to play creatively with out any pressure.  I often find working in different mediums reveals new ideas to take back to my ceramics.  However, I don’t have a lot of time between jobs, so I have to devote most of my time to ceramics. 

Do you have a blog we can follow?

     Yes!  michmashceramics.blogspot.com

Lastly, where can we see your work up close and personal?

     I mostly show at craft venues like Crafty Wonderland in Portland and maybe this summer at Urban Uprising in Seattle.

If you are interested in participating in an artist profile or studio tour, shoot me an email with a link to your website or blog.  :)


Studio Time: Cream and Sugar

Work in the studio is coming along slowly. I have a new, revised list of pieces to make. That is, all the pieces I failed to make over the summer and then some added bonuses. Like 30 added bonuses. Up top are the cream and sugar set and the final four cups for my whiskey set. Also a close up of my new signature stamp (it's too big but whatever for now), a salt cellar with spoon, some three-dimensional doodles, and some stamps. I also tested some beads I had laying around for textures and got some pretty awesome results. A trip to the bead store might be called for.

Update: My stamp is too big. I know. It is also too -there-. Until I make a new signature stamp I think I might just stamp the bottom rims of my piece. Also, I came up with a winning surface design tonight me thinks. I'll share as soon as I get the new pieces out of the kiln.

How do you all feel about signatures? Should they be visible or hidden? Why do you think so either way?

Happy (Belated) Birthday, Mud(Bucket)!

Well, here we are at the two year mark... 

In February of 2009 I began this blog as an experimental, self-education tool. I thought I would use it as a motivational platform of sorts to keep me working hard and learning more than what they could teach me in school. Then I made a big decision, my current school would no longer be a place for me to study ceramics. I would focus solely on textiles in the classroom and my ceramic pursuits would be designated to a personal studio space. A big step up, I thought, until I realized how much work it takes to be your own teacher- FULL TIME!

Here I am now, still struggling to find the balance between school, my own studio practice, and blogging. There are a lot of really big things in store for me this year: graduation, marriage, and a big move to a brand new state. In addition I am planning on busting my butt to get as much work as possible out of the studio before I move as I have a couple shows coming up and I want to get the best body of work out of myself as possible with my remaining time at Red Brick Studio.  

So what does this all mean... Well, you know they call them the terrible twos. I think it's going to be one of those years. Exciting but always up in the air. I am going to try my hardest to maintain regular posting, but I don't think it will be as often as it has been in the past. That said- I am going to push really hard to produce much better content. I want to have more conversations with all of you, share more of my studio experience, learn more about the history of this medium, and invite more guests over for artist profiles and studio tours. 

Lastly but most definitely not leastly, I want to say thank you to all of you who read this blog and participate in the conversation. I couldn't have imagined to have been so lucky as to network such a great community through this blog. When I look at where all of you come from- Brazil, Latvia, Australia, South Korea, India, Mexico, France, and South Africa- I get chills. Thank you so much for all your commenting and encouragement. And for those of you who have yet to comment, don't be shy. Let me know where you're reading from, who inspires you, what you love about this medium. You're input is the most encouraging part of this journey, and it makes me soooo happy!

So, with all that said-

Happy 2nd Birthday (Mud)Bucket! 

This is going to be a busy year. :)

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