Beth Cavener Stichter workshop.

bethcavenerstichter

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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: debra :

Moon Cherry?

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At the end of a dead-end street, right next to a roaring highway and a grocery store parking lot, there is a bench where no one sits. Behind the bench are three ordinary little trees that bear this curious fruit in the fall. Each is shaped, sized, and stemmed like a cherry — but they are a toxic-looking red with spiky protrusions.

On my way to the studio in the fall, I often find myself veering down this street to see if any have fallen. The juxtaposition of the familiar and the alien is fascinating to me.

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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 :

The love rock.

Dinosaur Pinchpot

My husband and I joke about the day ‘the love rock’ hit us. It was a moment before we were dating, when each of us realized that we were very intrigued by one another. It was high romance after that.

This little pinch pot is my clay ‘love rock’, which hit me a couple of months into my first clay class. It showed me that clay is the right medium for me.

But it didn’t start out that way.

I was very disappointed when it came out of the glaze kiln. It looked so different from the vision I had in my head. When I was finally able to see the piece objectively, I saw that it was much better than what I had imagined. The interaction of heat, glaze, and clay had informed my vision. The collaboration between control and happenstance had produced a much more interesting piece.

That is the power of this medium for me.

: debra :

: f l e u r y b l u e :

everything seems possible

What inspires you? Tapping out a rhythm, choosing a color, writing a poem, running as fast as you can across a field — digging into some juicy clay?

I can tell when I’m inspired. The moment feels electric with possibilities and I lose the sense of time passing. That’s the ‘fleuryblue’ — that wide open space full of creative possibilities and interesting connections. But it is nothing unique. Everyone has their own special ‘fleuryblue’ to go to.

I laugh really hard when someone tells me they can’t hula hoop with these gargantuan hoops we’ve got. I laugh because I get to prove to them that not only can they do it, but it will be easy for them. Once they open the door (even just a little bit) the little kid inside of them comes running out and takes right over. Kids live in the fleuryblue. Watch them some time — they get it.

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