The Wheel in the Studio Goes Round and Round

Work coming full circle in the studio this winter

If you’ve been keeping up with my previous posts since November 2016, you’ll know that I’ve been in a bit of a creative funk.  The results of the election knocked the stuffing out of me and it took awhile to find my creative footing.  When I’m stuck like this I find what I need to do is just shut up and make and let the reasons why take care of themselves.  The act of making with my hands seems to plug my brain into some sort of electrical outlet that ignites the spark that jumpstarts the creative juices into flowing.

For those of you who know my work, I’m not much of a thrower.  There are several reasons both ergonomic and creative.  Ergonomically I seem to have freakishly small hands.  Add to that my lower back is always an issue.  I keep toying with teaching a clay class called Throwing with Tiny Hands and a Bad Back.  Creatively, round forms make me very nervous.  They’re just so- circular!  Circles have so many connotations:  they have no beginning or end; they have a sense of completion; and there’s always that pressure of repetition.  I’m not a production potter by any stretch of the imagination.

But this winter I hunkered down in my studio every day and threw.  There was something very soothing about getting up in the morning, making a pot of tea, putting on an audio book, shutting the door and sitting down at the wheel.  Life at the time seemed so out of kilter, and  I needed the structure of repetitive routine.  I craved the calming influence and hypnotic effect of watching the wheel go round while clay squeezed between my hands.  I began to look forward to my days at the wheel like I never have.  I decided to challenge myself and throw plates, platters, bowls and cups to fill the kitchen cabinets in our new vacation home in the mountains of Colorado.  I may be out of creative gas but I could at least trick out my ride so that when the tank refilled I had more power under the hood and bells and whistles on my dashboard  to go more places than ever before.

I decided to stop being a wimp and to finally learn how to throw plates on hump molds and plaster bats and to make cup handles with an extruder.  I also challenged myself to throw series of bowls and forms the same size, and to nest.

Things started happening.  I found myself adding textures and elements making these round static forms more interesting, more mine.

From there I started thinking about colors, glazes, firing ranges and applications.  In the spirit of adventure I decided to revisit some old glaze recipes requiring spray-on application as well as some I’ve never done before, even using commercial glazes in combination with others.  Spraying involved figuring out the correct thickness, even which air compressor to use.

While all this was happening, the creative current began to trickle in.  I had a bag of glass nuggets incompatible for fusing and a glass lidded jar from a defunct terrarium.  All of a sudden the jar was on its side with the bag of nuggets next to it, and every time I walked by I glued one on.  What began as form of wheel avoidance and procrastination became an Ex-Voto urn for the sculpture Good Friends.

It was such a relief to make a glass sculpture by simple cold working.  But then it made me miss fusing.  I found myself getting emboldened.  While I was doing all these new things, and to a certain amount of success and satisfaction, why not finally get around to finishing some sculptures that have been percolating way too long in my noggin?  Time to fuse some glass and make bases for sculptures and lamps, and while I was at it, how bout some coasters and trays for spring!

Before I knew it, I had completed my goals.  That wheel work paid off in spades.  Not only do I have the dishes, bowls, and mugs made, but I seem to have launched myself into a better place creatively.

Studio tour on the road: Quebec City, Verrerie Coquelicot, Jean Belanger, artiste verrier

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Jean Belanger, artiste verrier in front of one of his large and impressive glass wall pieces

When traveling I never know where my feet will lead me, but so far it’s always been always to the best places. Especially when in foreign lands I send up a little prayer as I embark on my journeys to be guided by angels to places I need to see and people I need to meet. My short weekend trip to Quebec City was no exception, for it is where I walked through the door of an artist’s shop and met artiste and verrier, Jean Belanger.

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Some of Jean’s work on offer in his lovely shop, fused glass, stained glass, blown and slumped glass objects

To regard Mr. Belanger as a verrier does not do him justice- yes he is an artist and craftsman in all glass disciplines, but also a sculptor, welder, 3D printing artist, t-shirt maker and poet, in other words, a Renaissance man.

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My favorite piece, a very colorful, thick and substantial fused glass table on feet he designed and welded himself.

What was lovely about stepping into his shop was his willingness to talk to us- about his process, his work, his history as an artist, his successes and struggles. He welcomed hearing about us, our art, our projects. When we left I felt as if I added another friend and partner in the pursuit of creativity. This does not happen often, and when it does I look up to the sky and thank my angels.

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T shirts, mostly sporting profound and topical quotes

Visit his shop in person or on line:

Verrerie Coquelicot

Jean Belanger, artiste verrier

515 Rue de l’Eperon

Quebec, Canada G1K 6S7

(418) 692-1555

http://www.verreriecoquelicot

jeanbelanger@verreriecoquelicot.com

A Breakthrough and A New Assistant

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Not a bad weekend shut in the studio, for a change!

As the saying goes, “don’t give up just before the miracle.”  All the clay I touched for the past month wound up in that endless cycle of wedge, throw, reclaim, wedge, throw, reclaim.  Sigh.  Whether my efforts made the clay just a boring blank cylinder with no spirit, or a structural failure, everything just kept going into the damn bucket.  In bygone days, when I was young and had more ego than brains or skill, I thought every single time I touched clay had to be a masterpiece.  Runs like this would be crushing and I’d leave the studio and walk away from clay for a good long while.  Now I just persevere.  I realize that nothing worth creating comes easy.  There is no antidote to this situation but hard work.  I also realize that my absolute worst day in my studio as a full time artist equals my best day when I was stuck in an office driving a desk for 23 years at a job I had grown to loathe.  Audio books and a new puppy helped too.

Enter Mel.  Our teenage Treeing Walker Coon Hound who we adopted on February 2, 2016.  Mel was rescued from a neglect situation in West Virginia, fostered while he got shots and neutered then sent to a kennel in southern Pennsylvania to adopt out.  We managed one week without our dear Petey who died with us here at home then we realized the house was too empty and clean, the studios too quiet and our lives without that happy canine chaos that gives us our energy.   He’s a big white warm soft bundle of love requiring us to change his name from Boomer to Mel, short of Marshmallow Pie.  He’s very good in the studios, he even has his own cubicle.

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Mel , our new studio assistant, in his studio cubicle reporting for duty.

After about a month of fruitless labor, things started happening.  More shapes were coming off the wheel to be put in the wet box instead of the reclaim bucket.  I wasn’t happy with them as is, but no matter.  I kept throwing.  All of a sudden I could see shapes for my commission project that had me baffled and clueless for months;  I could see sculptural infrastructure that could be assembled from forms coming off the wheel.  Suddenly these cylindrical forms, so lifeless and lackluster were blank canvasses for me to alter and add texture to make them come alive and sing.  Hmmm!  All of a sudden I’m dragging out my Haeckel books and hunting for ideas, making slip and filling my decorating bag.

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My current treasure troves of ideas and inspirations

 

And suddenly, here I am, breaking through to the other side, busting out from craft into art.

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Functional forms given spirit and life

 

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3 plain bowls demanded to be assembled and turned into a sculpture

Glass was happening in the studio too.  My students are wonderful.  They make thoughtful, deliberate, creative work.  They are putting alot of care and effort into making elaborate creations so output is slow.  I took advantage of the empty kiln space and made some work of my own.  Aside from incorporating it into sculpture I don’t work with glass as a primary medium, but every now and then it’s fun to make a tray.  It’s straight forward “what you see is what you get” manner helps clear and calm my mind in between elaborate clay projects or when working in clay is more of a wrestling match than a productive, fun pursuit.

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Jewelry bits, trays and coasters are nice palate cleansers in between clay projects

Now when I sit at the wheel I feel more back in the saddle.  Glazing here we come, yee hah!

Studio coming and goings, January 2016

7 blank canvases screaming for decoration.

7 blank canvases screaming for decoration.

Being away from my studio for long periods of time feels like holding my breath underwater for way too long, only instead of my lungs, I feel like my soul is going to burst.  Life has had me out and about, selling at holiday craft fairs and on line, spending time with friends and family for the Christmas and New Years holidays, resuming my teaching gig in glass fusing at the museum, and doing the big time suck known as working on the computer.  I finally got to throw some clay around last week.

Usually even though I’m away from clay, projects are fermenting in my brain.  I’ve been trying to work out another sculpture for my Ex-Voto series in my head, with not alot of luck.  So I just went into the clay bin and got busy on the wheel.  Sometimes that’s all it takes to get unstuck.  I took a workshop over the summer and was so impressed by everyone else’s prowess at the wheel that I resolved to hone my skills a bit, so my first exercise was bottles using 3 to 5 pounds of clay.  It was fun and I got 7 out of 8 balls for my troubles, not bad for a long drought.

I put them in the wet box and let them keep to ponder the next step.  I have some new raku glazes that I think would look great on a bottle, but, these were just too plain, like blank canvases begging to be painted!  So I saved a couple and decided to spice up the rest.  I’ve got a glaze pallet of really wild runny glazes that break and change color depending on where they run and pool, so I broke out my texture tools, made some slip and went alittle wild.

The barnacle fairy visited the studio yesterday.

The barnacle fairy visited the studio yesterday.

I’m excited for the next step and my wheels are already turning for more forms and styles.  I hope to raku or luster strike fire as much as I can, because I’ll be teaching a raku workshop at Peters Valley the first weekend in June and I want to practice.  It’s so nice to be in the clay again, I feel like my soul can breathe again, phew!

Like I said, I’m teaching glass fusing again at the Montclair Art Museum Yard School of Art.  I have a wonderful group of students this winter, a mixture of returning students, advanced, intermediate and beginners.  It’s a thrill to see what they do with the glass and I try so hard to fire everything with care.  I have a gremlin that lives in my kiln that loves to play tricks on my firings, from sprinkling kiln wash on the glass ware while it’s molten to over or under firing very reliable firing schedules.  I’m happy to report that rather than ruin my student work, the little scamp only ruined 2 of my own trays.  I swear I could hear him giggling behind the kiln when I lifted the lid.

The kiln gremlin attacked my cheese trays- blisters and bubbles where sparkles should be, little scamp!

The kiln gremlin attacked my cheese trays- blisters and bubbles where sparkles should be, little scamp!

Finished student work, at least they escaped the mischief of the kiln gremlin!

Finished student work, at least they escaped the mischief of the kiln gremlin!

Student work about to be slumped into dishes and trays.

Student work about to be slumped into dishes and trays.

Oh it’s great to be back in the studio, it’s going to be a wonderful new creative year!

 

I’m Having a Jewelry Sale!!!

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Was $42.00 now $31.50 until January 30, 2016 To purchase go to: https://www.etsy.com/listing/199676110

Treat yourself to one of my fused glass jewelry items during my 2016 Winter Jewelry Sale!!!!  Enjoy 25% off selected items in my shop.   Browse my jewelry categories and select a nice bauble to drive away the winter blues.  Earrings, pendants, bracelets/earring sets, belt buckles and more!  Shop today while supplies last!

LisaGWCeramicsnGlass

 

 

I’ve Been a Busy Bee!

Oh it’s so good to be back in the studio and away from the computer at least for a couple days, and even though the tasks were more rote than creative.  My studio time is as necessary as breathing and being out of it is like holding my breath, I get panicky if I go too long without it.

All the little projects in last week’s studio tour have been done and a glass order has been placed to make holiday trays and items for craft fair and holiday sales season.

Upcycled/recycled fused glass art trays painted on back with glass paint and baked to fuse. Now they can be displayed easily without visible hanging hardware or stands. Tiny little detail that makes a huge difference!

Upcycled/recycled fused glass art trays painted on back with glass paint and baked to fuse. Now they can be displayed easily without visible hanging hardware or stands. Tiny little detail that makes a huge difference!

Repaired as best I could the broken ceramic statue and gave a lick of paint to the plastic ones. Repaired Msgr Bradley's rosary beads (he prays very hard) and finally finished editing, captioning and printing out images from our MAY 2015 Priest Project Event at the Archidiocese of Newark. (I feel so guilty it took this long!) These pages will go into a book kept in our church Heritage Room that chronicles the our Restoration Workshop/Priest Project work. For more info go to: http://lisagw.com/projects/oll-restoration-workshop/1

Repaired as best I could the broken ceramic statue and gave a lick of paint to the plastic ones. Repaired Msgr Bradley’s rosary beads (he prays very hard) and finally finished editing, captioning and printing out images from our MAY 2015 Priest Project Event at the Archidiocese of Newark. (I feel so guilty it took this long!) These pages will go into a book kept in our church Heritage Room that chronicles the our Restoration Workshop/Priest Project work. For more info go to:
http://lisagw.com/projects/oll-restoration-workshop/1

The sculpture in the back right of the image got its drop of glue and is ready for delivery.

More bottle trays made, bottoms of tiny bowls ground, more glass items painted on the back and baked, a broken Murano glass tumbler melted to make into a dish or jewelry.

More bottle trays made, bottoms of tiny bowls ground, more glass items painted on the back and baked, a broken Murano glass tumbler melted to make into a dish or jewelry.

Studio time is over for now, drat.   Time to photograph, process, box up, ship out, upload to Etsy.  In between is a trip to Denver, to enjoy a wedding and see some art!

Studio Tour, September, 2015

This is the first installment of my studio tour series. I hope to provide you with regular updates on what’s happening (or not) in my studio, giving you a glimpse of what goes on in there and in my brain behind the scenes.

This installment can be called, “not alot going on just yet.” This is a state of affairs that happens as the seasons transition from one to another, in between series, or in between sales events.

Lately most of my work is taking place staring at a computer monitor.  Uploading images, adding items to my Etsy shop, blogging, working with consultants and assistants to create new social media platforms.  But a tiny amount of work is going on in the clown car known as my studio.  I find little projects as I clean, pesky little maintenance tasks, like a pile of kiln furniture that needs scraping, bottles in need of having their labels removed and cleaning prior to slumping into trays, gluing, repairing, cold working.  Basically, the place is a mess in need of a good solid cleaning!

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Welcome to the clown car, don’t mind the mess!

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Sculpture needs a drop of glue before shipping off to its new home

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Tiny treasures in need of grinding, religious statuary in need of cleaning, repair and painting as part of my Restoration Workshop work for my church community

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Sometimes an object is beyond repair. This statue was broken once before and just can’t be repaired. 😦

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Broken Murano blown glass tumbler from Venice to be remelted and made into jewelry, recycle reuse!

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Bottles, clean with labels removed drying in oven to prepare for slumping

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Items just washed, drying before being photographed, cataloged and put up for sale

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Glass found object artwork waiting for the backs to be painted

 

There is alot to do:  place a glass and finding order, prepare for a glass jewelry making workshop, plan and prepare for 2 holiday craft fairs.  This is the side of being an artist they didn’t teach me about in school.  The mind’s eye envisions artists happily creating work in their studios all day long, giving life to work effortlessly and happily in their signature voice, stopping only to give someone a studio tour and sell a piece to someone who magically appeared on their doorstep or to fill an order for a store or gallery hankering to feature them.

No, it’s never that simple.  From carving out the time, formulating the idea, wrestling with how to best execute it to the blood sweat and tears of actually creating it, firing it, finishing it and getting it out into the world.  That’s what goes on behind the wizard’s curtain beyond the closed studio door.  Here’s to hoping next month’s studio tour has some new work on the boards to show you!