Collaboration with Suzanne Stumpf.


These pieces are the result of a collaboration with Suzanne Stumpf, a ceramic artist from Natick (and former Mudflat artist). This collaboration began when Suzanne gave me a piece in the greenware state that she made with a combination of porcelain and paper clay. I added a grog-filled dark stoneware sculpture body using an expansion-style joint and split the piece into two. Then I bisque-fired the pieces and returned them to Suzanne to alter in the bisque state, glaze, and fire to cone 10 in her new electric kiln.

I find it interesting that these pieces have no ‘bottom’. They can rest on a surface in several orientations. Each orientation seems to express a different mood:

It was great fun surprising one another with our choices. We are looking forward to another collaboration, this time in reverse — I’ll start by giving Suzanne a greenware piece, she’ll add to it and bisque it, then I’ll glaze it. Look for the results here, and check out Suzanne’s work at www.ceramicsatthebarn.com

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Glass firing.

Bisque ware with fully fired porcelain inlay and glass — before . . .

Debra Fleury - glass firing

after!

Fully glazed and fired porcelain form with glass — before . . .

after!

This was a very fun experiment, but I spent a sleepless night hoping that I wasn’t going to have to buy a new kiln for Mudflat because my glass melted all over the place. Some did escape, but I fired on trays with sand in them. Whew!

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The closed door.

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A friend of mine very kindly offered me the use of her private studio for two weeks, while she was away on holiday.

I was mad with excitement. For the first time in my clay experience I was going to be able to work behind a closed door, alone with my sketches and my thoughts. When the time came I spent every moment I could behind that door, making the same form over and over again.

What happened was magical. My thinking sharpened. I forgot myself for hours at a time, completely engrossed in the making. Soon I was surrounded by work, which was informing the work in my hands. Nothing was in the way of the process.

Two weeks and 202 pieces later I feel like I grew a dog’s year as an artist. I gained tremendous insight into my creative process and the ways of working that will feed it best.

And yes, there is definitely a closed door in my future.

: debra :

Beth Cavener Stichter workshop.

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How do you spell epiphany? I’ve been in the conceptual weeds for a couple of months — trying to find my way to forms that speak to me, and straining against my technical boundaries. My studio situation was getting me down, too. I work in a community studio, which is wonderful and challenging at the same time. So many bodies milling about and not a lot of space for reflection, no room to spread out, no place to post sketches for contemplation.

This workshop was a revelation. Beth started with little formal clay training. She forged her own way with clay, failing a lot and developing techniques that aren’t supposed to work (if you listen to clay lore). Her process is remarkable. She makes these often enormous pieces that are completely hollow when she’s finished. They start as solid masses of clay thrown onto carefully constructed armatures. The mass of clay is then cut apart and each section is hollowed until the walls are 1/4″ thick. The thin walls make for a stronger piece, because the stress is spread out over a larger surface area.

Once the hollowing is complete, she puts the form back together again. After some adjustments, the piece is often cut into a couple of sections for firing. The process continues after the firing with grinding, reassembly, cold finishing, and sometimes porcelain slip application with a refire. Amazing.

Her risk-taking, explorer attitude and self-deprecating good humor really got me fired up to get out of my own way in the studio and forge a path to my own unique creative process. Thanks for a great workshop, Beth.

Beth Cavener - at work

Here’s an image of Beth in her Washington Studio. Notice the Plastilene mockette on the far right.

Below are some images from the tile show going on at the Clay Art Center in Port Chester NY, where the workshop was held.

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The formula for alien skin.

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Blue and chartreuse underglazes were applied to the porcelain greenware in a gradation from light to dark. Most of the chartreuse burned out, but what didn’t made the blue a little warmer.

After bisque, I applied clear glaze and waxed the dots. After the wax dried, I dipped the entire piece in spodumene glaze. The spodumene blushed pink and orange in places.

Viola! Alien skin.

‘Cheesing’ on Adero.

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A few of the artists around the studio joke around about ‘cheesing’ on one another. Artists are influenced by their experiences, and part of that experience is the work of other artists. We can’t help being influenced by one another.

All the great movements in art were picked up and stretched by an informal collaborative of artists playing with similar ideas, building on one another’s work. Seeing other’s art helps me to see more clearly the possibilities for my own work — even if the style or the medium is completely different from mine.

I recently attended a surfaces workshop with Adero Willard at Mudflat Studio. She is completing the Salad Days Artist Residency at Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts. After these workshops, the shelves are invariably filled with riffs on the visiting artist’s work. You can walk by the shelves and say to yourself, ‘Looks like XYZ artist has been in town!’. Sometimes to integrate a technique or idea, we must first try it out the way we saw it before we can make it our own.

This piece is my ‘Adero’ piece. Those familiar with her work will recognize the influence, although the form itself is not an Adero-style form. So Adero, if you’re reading this — here is my homage piece to you, as yet unglazed. Check back here for the result, and thanks for a great workshop.

If you want to see some authentic pieces from Adero Willard, as only she can do them, go to www.watershedceramics.org. Or better yet, go to the Salad Days benefit and take one home with you!

: debra :