There’s something inviting about the bubbled crusty surfaces of Caroline Blackburn’s pottery. Rustic and minimal, it could very easily have been unearthed on a dig, an archeologist’s brush revealing its’ beautiful glazed secrets. A native of Los Angeles Blackburn studied Art History and Studio Arts at Boston College, earning a MFA at the Art Centre College of Design, Pasadena. It’s interesting to note that she initially trained as a painter; that skill translated from canvas to clay surface…
Landscape as Muse
We’re well into the first week of March and it’s snowing outside. Such a pain, but that may explain why I’m drawn to the work of Pippin Drysdale today. It seems to be reaching through my computer screen here; I can almost feel the warmth of those rounded forms on my fingers.
Australian-born Drysdale has been making her beautiful ceramic pieces for decades but if it weren’t for several events early on in her life she might not have stumbled across clay at all. Born into a wealthy family in the oh-so-leafy suburb of Toorak in Melbourne she’s said to have developed a rebellious streak in childhood due to an undiagnosed vision problem that was later corrected at age 12. Later, moving with her family to Western Australia and following high school she would go on to being expelled from business college and failing all subjects at technical college. The business world’s loss and humanity’s gain I’d say. A series of short term jobs in Australia and the UK and a year of travel in Europe ended with her returning to Australia in the early 1960s and a 5 year marriage that ended in 1972. So, where do the ceramics come in I hear you ask. I’m getting to that.
In the early 1970s Drysdale started ‘Pip’s Flowers’ in Melbourne selling her own handmade paper flowers. I suppose it didn’t last because she soon returned to Western Australia, starting a business selling fresh herbs that would eventually be sold across Western Australia (take that business college) and where she commissioned a potter to produce clay vessels to hold the herbs. And that ladies and gentlemen is where she was introduced to the intriguing world of clay. The potter became a friend and built a kiln for her in her back yard where she started making her very own small pots and goblets (I wonder if she still has any of those first pieces). Talk about a circuitous path to finding one’s raison d’etre, and proving that you don’t necessarily need to succeed in grade school or business college to succeed in life.
Driven by her growing passion she obtained an Advanced Diploma in Ceramics from Perth Technical College in Western Australia in 1981 and later completed a study/work tour of Italy and the US in 1982. Three years later she obtained her Bachelor of Arts (Fine Art) from Curtin University in Western Australia and in 1997 was selected to be a Research Fellow at the School of Art, Curtin University of Technology. I’m thinking her grade school teachers would’ve been surprised that she would go on to be awarded with both a Master of Australian Craft in 2007 and a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011 from Artsource.
Drysdale is inspired by the astounding hues, forms and vastness of her homeland and other remote places across the globe…
‘She draws inspiration from the colours and textures of landscape, and her emotional interpretations of place and space are injected into each of her pieces. Pippin focuses in particular on the vast, diverse Australian landscape and has created series based around the patterns and colours of the Pilbara region, the eastern Goldfields, the Kimberley, and the Tanami Desert. She has also travelled overseas to draw inspiration from the dips and peaks of Pakistan, India, Russia and Italy’ (via: The Government of Western Australia).
Check out her website where she’s happy to share her wealth of experience about techniques and look for her on Instagram here. Lovely.
Porcelain: the word makes me think of thinness and paleness, translucence and fragility, the antithesis of all the ugly chunky coffee mugs and scratched ikea dinnerware I have in my cupboards. (how do I survive such a wretched existence?) I’d trade them all for just one sculpture by Takeuchi Kouzo though. In his skilled hands porcelain is something rare and beautiful, a play of light and shadow on velvety smoothness, a state of sculptural decay captured forever.
Before I go any further here let’s take a closer and very brief look at porcelain:
- it was first discovered in China somewhere between AD 25 – 220
- it’s a type of clay that contains the mineral kaolin amongst other things like metals (alkali and aluminum) with a paste-like quality
- it’s deep white in colour
- it’s durable compared to bone china
- it fires at a higher temperature than bone china
Back to Japanese-born Kouzo who graduated from the Osaka University of Arts majoring in ceramics (2001) and the Tajimi Municipal Ceramic Design Institute, Gifu (2003). He developed his ‘Modern Remains’ series accidentally when, after knocking a sculpture he was readying for an upcoming exhibition he liked what he saw in the resulting broken forms. He explains it better here (via Keiko Art International)…
Kouzo’s pieces contradict what most artists in that field would probably want to avoid – breakage and destruction. But they speak of his younger self, inspired at a young age by images of decaying civilizations, of ruined architecture and as he says…
‘I want to make people feel the passage of time over my pieces. When people see the remains of a culture or decayed buildings, they evoke special emotions. I want to express not only the ruins themselves, but also the atmosphere surrounding them and their strong presence. In other words, I want the audience to feel exactly how I felt when I looked at the destroyed buildings and ruins’.(via ceramicsnow.org)
Takeuchi Kouzo…check out his amazing work 🙂
I’ve never seen ceramics like these before. Japanese-born Tomoko Sakumoto (BFA, Okayama University, 2000. MFA, Okayama Prefectural University, 2002) creates boldly coloured contemporary striped forms that seem to invite you to touch them, or is it just me? And I couldn’t put my finger on it until just now…the stripes, although so very precise, remind me of either a circus tent or a men’s necktie…so I’m sensing both a playfulness and seriousness from them at the same time. And I LOVE their bulbous forms!
Sakumoto’s artist statement doesn’t translate exactly as she might’ve meant but it gives you some idea of her process and intent with these very attractive pieces.
‘I create works for the beauty that a stripe pattern intersects the solid of ceramics. The form and the pattern are imaging in my mind passing through the processes or conversations of materials.
I make a lot of parts which I cast clay that add color to a plaster mold, and the form of the art object and a color of the stripe have been laid by piling up them. The plaster mold is the method that I arrived at to draw a straight line necessary to express the simple beauty.
The parallel lines which spread without determining it while snuggling up nearest, and crossing, the stripe is the meeting. I hope it becomes more attractive in what is expressed by the feel of a material of ceramics’.
As for a web presence, Sakumoto is represented by a number of galleries. Her work can also be viewed on the dreaded Pinterest. As well she’s referenced on Instagram by others but doesn’t have an account under her name as far as I can tell.
If art is meant to stir emotion then the work of Fujikasa Satoko has done it’s job. Powerful, gestural and billowing, her sculptures seem caught in the wind, defying the properties of the clay they’re made of.
Satoko obtained her BFA and MFA from Tokyo University of the Arts (2010), and is said to have burst onto the international stage, no small accomplishment for an artist who’s pieces take months to make.
She uses clay from the town of Shigaraki, southeast of Kyoto, the site of one of 6 centuries old cave kilns still in use in Japan today. Now, all I know about ceramics comes from high school which would fit on a pin head but there’s a whole universe of history and knowledge about clay, firing, glazing and pottery in general so all I’ll say about Shigaraki clay is that it’s said to be coarse yet pliable. Satoko builds her pieces over months by rolling the clay into thin strings which she then sculpts into the subtle flowing surfaces she’s known for. And those surfaces are thinnnnnn – anywhere from 2cm to 3mm. I can imagine she’s had to perfect the drying conditions of her pieces over many years of trial and error.
Her inspiration? Our beautiful natural world…
“It is through my intimate dialogue with my medium that I am able to express nature’s fluid energy. Drawing from both the beauty and power of this world and the emotional response that they evoke, I hope to convey nature’s life force in the mind of the viewer.”
You’ll see that I haven’t put captions under these images. That’s because this maker doesn’t have a website. She doesn’t need one 😉
Many centuries ago when I was in high school art classes were something you did as a distraction from what you were really there to learn; math, english, gym, social studies and all that other stuff. So when I came home from school one day all excited and told my parents that my art teacher had encouraged me to attend art school after graduation they were not very happy about it. I don’t blame them though. They were busy keeping the 7 of us clothed, fed and housed then and I can understand they were worried about the prospect of my ability to make a living as an artist. I didn’t go to art school in the end. I became a registered nurse instead and hated every minute of it.
Sharon Brill on the other hand attended the Neri Bloomfield Academy of Design and Education. After working as a graphic designer for 10 years (1996-2006) she says she returned to her old love, ceramics. Most recently she attended Skidmore College in New York (2009-2011). And now she makes beautiful, flowing porcelain sculptures that you feel you could dive into.
She says her work is ‘an exploration, a quest that combines spontaneous, intuitive work with meticulous accurate esthetics as an expression of beauty. Sometimes I feel like an archeologist, gently removing layers, peeling and exposing the hidden worlds waiting patiently, desiring to reveal themselves’.
‘The artworks created are abstract organic sculptural shapes. Their scale varies and some can be held in your hand and observed from any angle. The lines and movement lead the eye around the shape into it and all through it.’
Check out her website here to see more.
If you’ve ever used 3D printing to produce your jewellery you’ll know that the printer builds layer on layer of material to make the finished object. Those layers become part of the surface of that object which is fine if you don’t mind layers. I mind layers in jewellery, but in ceramics?
Rose Wei (aka ZHU OHMU) builds her ceramics by hand using a similar layering technique, coil on coil, inch by inch, allowing the material to slump and collapse on itself with stunning results.
Born in Taipai she obtained her Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours) from the University of Auckland (2012). She currently resides in Melbourne and explains her process like this…
‘The initial concept for this body of work was a response to the rise in popularity of 3D printed ceramics. Corresponding to biomimetics – the imitation of models or systems of nature, I wanted to see how forms would turn out if I copied the way the 3D printer mound coils on top of each other with my hands. Vessels are built through stacking, folding, pressing, pulling and these actions are often dictated by the weight of moist clay. Forms emerge intuitively and seem to ebb and flow in the manner in which they are made, often pushed to their structural limits. Unlike the machine, I am able to detect the slightest change in the properties of the clay body under different environmental conditions. This insight into plasticity and workability, which can only be obtained by spending time with the physical matter through play and observation, allows me to work with and manipulate the material. In the absence of firmware or a mechanical process, no two vessels can be the same- this project is a celebration of the artist’s hand in the age of automation.
Without formal training in ceramics, the self-formulated coiling technique often leads to breakage and misconstruction during the building, drying and firing stages. This unforeseen circumstance thus incited the project to embrace the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi – the acceptance of transience and imperfection. Further research inspired the project to adopt the practice of kintsukuroi (金繕い) – the art of mending broken pottery with gold lacquer. As the name of the project suggests, plant life is used instead to fill and embellish the cracks; subsequently the works becomes living organisms and will grow and evolve for years to come. Failures are not concealed but rather highlighted and aestheticised, embodying the sustainability of ‘visible repair’. Seemingly unremarkable imperfections are reexamined with a new and unexpected appreciation’.