Human civilization is completely dependent on this one planet, this one complex, beloved, and tiny dot in the vast universe.
We, the people gathered and scattered all over this globe, are all connected by this fundamental dependency.
The food and water that keep each of our bodies breathing come from forests and fields and oceans and aquifers and valleys and rivers and orchards in particular places on this one complex, beloved and finite planet.
The economy that built our farms and schools and houses and dreams and brings water and food to keep our bodies breathing doesn’t know that this complex and beloved planet is actually finite.
The technology made possible by this very same economy is saying very loudly in measurements and maps that we have found the clear and actual edges of this complex and beloved planet.
And the fuel for the strength and power of technology and the economy that always grows has all along been quietly adding to our atmosphere.
The added atmosphere collects more light from the sun, and more of the energy remains on this globe, changing the movement of water and heat around our one beloved and complex planet, changing our weather patterns.
The more fuel we use, the more substantial the change, and the atmosphere already circulating around us can absorb enough energy to shift the rhythm and features of our seasons still further from the pattern we were born into.
We, the people alive in this moment, did not choose the starting conditions for the economies, societies, and ecosystems we were born into.
Our particular starting points have shaped who we each are in this moment, and as we live and breathe and work and love, we each shape our shared future.
The children we love, the children gathered and scattered all over this planet, and all the people born the tomorrow after tomorrow will inherit the sticky physical and emotional imprint of our actions and decisions.
What do our dreams look like, when we stop and wonder?
I'll get another blog post up before too long, but in the meantime, an artist interview for you to enjoy:
(and if you're feeling a bit impatient, start about watching about 3 min 30 seconds in, when she starts to describe how to make images that feel fresh and spontaneous by understanding how we actually see).
This week marks two years since I set up a table to sell my work for the very first time at the First Thursday Street Gallery. And this year, this week includes another big threshold – I get the keys to a studio space of my very own. It's a little scary, but mostly very exciting, and I'm really looking forward to settling in and making it my own. It's an amazing spot and I feel very fortunate to have gotten it.
The risky part is that I decided to raise funds for a kiln and pottery wheel through Kickstarter. The way Kickstarter works is that you make a video and tell the story of the project you want to undertake, choose ways to reward people who want to back your project, then set a goal and a deadline, and launch it into the world, hoping that your friends and neighbors and interested strangers will join you.
The fun comes in making the video and finding a concise and playful way to tell your story. The nerve-wracking part of this kind of crowdfunding is that your backers only get their rewards (and you only get your funding) if the crowd has pledged enough to meet the goal by the deadline.
I'm currently eight days away from my deadline. The support I've gotten has been very encouraging, and I also still have a ways to go. There are a lot of risks in life, and in making a living as an artist, so this does feel like a good way to begin with this new studio.
I'll let you know how it turns out, and if you see this before May 12, you'd be very welcome to join the project! [UPDATE: we reached the goal with a day to spare and ended up with enough to buy the pottery wheel that I really wanted -- many, many thanks to all the backers!]
full project at http://kck.st/1bdPoXW
Being part of the Portland Urban Sketchers group has really helped me loosen up my drawing. Although I've often brought my watercolor set and a sketchbook while hiking, this week's trip to Jefferson Park Wilderness was the first time I've really used them, and the first time I've attempted anything more than a small sketch of a single flower.
I of course still did sketch wildflowers (how could I resist?).
But the big difference is that I also tried to capture my favorite mountain.
Here's how it turned out.
It's summer, and with the lovely long days, it seems the last thing I want to do is sit down to write a proper blog post. But thanks to youtube, I can cheat a little by sharing a few videos that I've found especially inspiring. Enjoy!
pulled handles, ready to be attached
scoring the mug body where the top part of the handle will be attached
deciding how big the handle will be
lower attachment site scored and slipped
adding extra clay to sculpt a more substantial connection between the handle and mug body
it takes a bit more time, but I like the finished look and it lets me get a sturdy connection for a thin handle
new mugs, ready to dry out and get crows painted on them
It was the spring flowers that finally got me to add some color to my work, even though I've had a whole box of underglaze colors for months. There is something so joyful, and so fleeting, in the earliest spring blossoms that I knew I wanted to capture something of that. What better way than sketching directly on clay?
The pencil marks burn out in the firing, and it's always a bit of a surprise to see how the underglazes turn out.
And just so you know, all the pear blossoms were collected from this broken branch.
Right after seeing Tim's Vermeer, I placed a hold on David Hockney's Secret Knowledge at the library. It came in this week, and I stayed up too late three nights in a row reading it. It's a fascinating analysis showing how the Old Masters used converging lenses and mirrors to transform the three dimensional world into a two dimensional image in the same way a camera does today, with their brushstrokes capturing the image in place of the film or electronics we now use. The reason artists like Vermeer, van Eyck, Caravaggio, Velázquez, and numerous others were able to create photographic likenesses in their portraits so long ago was that they were actually doing their own kind of photography by letting the light focused by the lens or mirror graph the spatial relationships for the picture. Though the written hints of how they did this are rare, the evidence in the paintings is clear – the optical distortions of a lens or mirror that aren't present when our human pair of eyes look directly at a room or a face have been faithfully reproduced. It's a fascinating book, and David Hockney's writing is full of the delight of discovery.
Reading Secret Knowledge also brought back a favorite memory from teaching a high school physics class in Indonesia. For one of the labs, we used convex lenses (they're thicker in the middle, and able to focus light) to show the physical basis for the ray diagrams in the textbook. It was fun to see the dim image of the wavering candle flame change position and magnification as we moved the lens towards or away from the actual candle, but the real magic happened when we held the lens up to the big windows along one wall of the classroom, and held an index card at the focal point on the opposite side – a glowing image of the distant hills appeared on the paper, upside down, but alive with the movement of clouds across the shimmering blue sky.
You can get the same sort of image from a pinhole in a darkened room (camera obscura) or with a concave (magnifying) mirror, and it's certainly worth a try if you have a convex lens or a concave shaving mirror handy, or an interesting view out your window and good curtains. There happens to be a makeup/shaving mirror in the bathroom, so here's the image of the kitchen tile and cabinets, projected onto paper. Magic.
I love the shapes crows make as they fly, but finding a way to recreate their inky silhouettes on clay has been a challenge. I think I'm finally coming up with a strategy that's fairly straightforward.
It starts with a set of custom rubber stamps that I ordered from Atlas Stamps (so much easier than the handmade option). After the pot is trimmed and dried, but before it's been bisque fired, I gently stamp the images onto the clay, curving the rubber stamp to match the shape of the fragile greenware.
Pretty much any kind of stamp pad with do. These two were given to me and my sisters sometime in elementary school, and somehow (amazingly) still have enough ink and moisture to be usable. I start with a light color, which gives me the option of redoing the stamp if I don't like the placement. The organic dyes in the stamp pad will all burn out in the firing, so I don't worry about any extra marks I've made on the clay.
I then use a very fine brush to paint black underglaze over the stamped outlines, using the original set of photos as a reference.
Once the underglaze is on, they're ready to be bisque fired. It also works to do this stamping and painting on bisqued ware, but the raw underglaze sometimes resists the glaze, leaving an uneven surface on the finished piece.
The weather the last few days has been beautiful, and what better way to celebrate it than spend the morning outside sketching the first flush of cherry blossoms along the waterfront in downtown Portland? I joined Portland's Urban Sketchers and tried my hand at sketching cherry trees against the backdrop of the Steel Bridge.
I'm still learning how to pick out the relevant details from a landscape scene for the sketch, but being around so many talented artists was incredibly inspiring. I finished up with some close up sketches of cherry blossoms, which was so much easier.
Afterwards, a group of us went to see TIm's Vermeer (a very entertaining documentary about an inventor recreating a Vermeer painting), then tried out a neolucida that one of the sketchers had brought along. It felt a little like cheating to trace a sketch from life, but I think I'm going to have to get one. And if Vermeer wasn't above optical assistance, why should I be? Here's a really quick sketch I made using the device.
As I biked home, I started wondering what it would look like to use it for sketching on a curved clay surface....
This month marks a full year that I have been filling my days with clay. I began provisionally – giving myself permission to take six months away from the job search to do the one thing I still felt inspired to do. The studio where I'd been taking classes offered a monthly partnership with unlimited access at a very reasonable rate, and I was just getting to the point where I needed practice more than instruction, so in March 2013 I became a regular at the studio. And somehow, here I am, still at it.