Sunday, February 27, 2011

Standing at the end of the world.

Today I got my official rejection letter from the Bloomington Handmade Market. I've had a pretty crappy week this week, so it was not much of a surprise. Kind of like a punctuation mark at the end of a terrible, terrible sentence.

Oh well.

I'm not as devastated as I expected to be. Usually I will agonize over things like this, and over analyze why I might not have gotten in. Certainly my work looks a lot different now than it did when I was accepted last time (though I like to think it's really improved). And I did submit my Facebook page rather than a real website, since it's the only place I consistently update with photos of my work. I guess that wasn't the most professional thing to do. But all in all, I'm a little relieved. I could have used the money I would have made there, but at least now it's one less thing I have to worry about in the final weeks of my pregnancy. No fussing over signing up for Square, no scrambling to make a ton of work this month, no figuring out how to set up a newer, better booth display. I can focus solely on making work I want to make, and getting ready for this brand new creature I'm about to have. And given some of the other truly terrible things that have happened to me this week, this almost seems light by comparison.

I'm so glad I'm not completely broken up about this. Maybe I'm getting used to the idea that rejection is not the end of the world, and that there's always next time. It's nice feeling that way. Getting thrown into a major depression every time your work gets rejected can be a real energy suck. It's exhausting, and I'm tired of feeling like that. I feel pretty happy about my work right now, and the direction it's going. One little no is not going to stop me!

I'm going to leave you with a video posted by Emily Murphy on Facebook earlier today. It's so accurate, I was torn between LOLing and crying. Ceramic artists everywhere can probably relate.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Finding your voice, and how not to be a douche.

I got all my applications in on time this week, with three more upcoming that I still have to submit. I had to go out of town this weekend, so I haven't even seen what my finished doll jar looked like out of the kiln. I did get to see images of my new cups though.

I was browsing Twitter on a long car trip Saturday to pass time, and a lot of clay people were in a bit of an uproar over a blatant copycat on Etsy. I'm not entirely sure, but I get the impression she was a newbie that hadn't found a style of her own yet, and copied the designs of an artist she was a fan of. Since they both sell their work on Etsy, the copied pieces were quickly discovered, the original artist was notified, and a letter was sent to the offender. Thankfully, she immediately shut the shop down. Problem solved.

Now, I've been giving this kind of thing a lot of thought over the last few weeks. I look at a lot of other ceramic artists work, and I definitely get inspired by it. I like to think I get inspired without feeling the need to outright steal anyone's style or designs, though I may dabble in a technique just to try it out and add something new to my repertoire. Even then, I still feel a little nervous trying something someone else is doing, because I want to be sure I can make it my own. My Josie cup (the "Fuck You, Feed Me" cup) was made because my studio instructor, Rachel, did a sgrafitto demo, and I tried it out (with her encouragement) on that cup as well as a tile. It's my own original artwork, but it's a technique heavily attached to her work, which makes me a little uneasy. It doesn't look like the rest of my work (except that I have a habit of drawing Josie on just about everything. She's on t-shirts, cups, tiles, paintings, plushies, and even some handmade cards. It's like she has her own merchandise franchise.) I like it, and I might incorporate the technique into my work in little ways, but I'd feel uncomfortable if I started doing an entire series of black and white sgraffito work. It just isn't me.

I was happy to see someone link to a post on Kristen Kieffer's blog this morning about this very topic. It's excellent advice, and any young/new artist could benefit from reading it. It makes so much sense, in fact, that it seems like it should be common sense, but I think everyone still falls prey to being entranced by the work of other artists sometimes. Now, I'm not saying I'm going to stop obsessively trolling my Google reader list and Twitter for delicious new ceramic art to drool over. I'm not going to stop experimenting with techniques I'm inspired to try either. But I feel secure in knowing that my work is influenced by my own experiences, passions, and memories, and no one elses, and that is what makes it mine. When I'm in the studio, I draw from so many things in my life besides ceramic art to inform what I make, and no one is going to have the exact same interests that I do. I may still be working on a style that's completely my own, but I know I'll get there if I just keep making. And I know I won't be putting up any work for sale that looks like Kristen Kieffer's, or Diana Fayt's, or Ayumie Horie's, because I love and respect their work too much, and they worked hard to get where they are and find their own style.

I think so long as we all keep that mutual respect in mind, and draw from our own lives more than from other people's art, we'll all get there some day. And if we don't, we can expect to get a lot of strongly worded letters from a lot of angry artists. That's definitely incentive enough for me!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Finished a thing!

These pics are shit, but...

Side one
Side two
... I couldn't wait to share this. Just finished it last night. It should be glazed and photographed for reals on Sunday. I'll tell you more about it then.

The more of these doll jars I make, the more I want to make. The ideas just keep continually feeding each other. I already have the next couple all planned out. It's exciting having a direction to explore that keeps pulling me back again and again. I'm usually not great about following thru on an idea for a series either, so this feels really good to me. I've had the idea for these jars germinating in my head for a few years now, but I wasn't ready to make them until now, and I wasn't a strong enough thrower to make the forms I wanted. I'm still struggling with the forms a little, but now it feels like experimentation and not as hard a struggle, and I love it.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Studio art show recap

I wonder how long I can keep up this whole "posting a blog on a regular basis" thing?

I blame the weather. You can only be stuck inside sitting at the computer playing Bubble Island on Facebook for so many hours...

Yesterday evening was the studio show and sale. Not only did I have a blast, but I found out I have fans! I can't begin to tell you how giddy that made me. I guess Rachel and Andrew have been showing some of my work to their students over at Herron. Squee! Once again, an entire night spent talking about my work, my throwing, and ceramics in general. I was pretty much in heaven. I met some really nice people.

I also threw a whole bunch of new stuff! Tumblers, a big bowl, a lidded jar with three lids (not sure which will work out best), and a new doll jar.

You can see that round bottle form and the little vase directly to the right of it - that's going to (hopefully) be the next doll jar. I wanted a form that looked more like a traditional kokeshi doll - big round head with a skinny straight body. I have no idea how stable it's going to be, though. It may be way too top heavy to survive for long. Or even how well the forms will work together once I combine them. It's an experiment, so we'll see how it turns out.

Check out some pics of the instructor work in the gallery. It's all making me feel really inspired to take another crack at handbuilding. I swore off it in college because I was so bad at it, but look at these amazing sculptures! Maybe handbuilding deserves another shot...

Catherine Schlebecker
Rachel Bleil
Andrew Davis
Thanks to anyone reading who came by last night. It was great meeting you!

Friday, February 4, 2011


 My piece got accepted to the Skutt Kiln Peep Show! It's going to on display at NCECA!
My non ceramic artist friends keep asking "What's a peep?" When you're firing a kiln, there is a row of peep holes in the side that you can look thru to check on your stuff and make sure the firing is going ok. You keep these removable peep plugs in the holes when you're not looking so the heat doesn't escape. This show is an exhibition of functional peep plug sculptures - that is, they are made to fit into standard kiln peep holes.

NCECA is the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts, and they hold an enormous conference in a different city each year. This year it will be in Tampa, FL at the end of March. So I'm pretty excited - this piece will get seen by thousands of people. It's my first time being accepted to a national show. Maybe next year I'll take the big leap and apply to NCECA's emerging artist exhibit. That would be HUGE!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Ceramic ambitions

I have class with Rachel at the clay studio this evening. After nearly a week of not touching mud, I'm looking forward to it. I have two unpainted doll jar forms, a tile, and 10 greenware mugs waiting to be attended to, and I might get a little throwing in if there's time. I'd like to finish the most recent doll jar, the one with two faces, so that I can submit it for Clay Fest 2011 at U of I. Deadline is less than 2 weeks away! Ideally, I'd like to finish one more jar, and submit 3 pieces if I can.

Tomorrow is the art show at the studio as well. I can't wait to see more of the instructor's work! I've seen sneak peaks of new work by Cathy Schlebecker, and a couple of finished sculptures by Andrew Perry Davis and Rachel Bleil, and it all looks fantastic! I'm not just saying that either - I really love all of their work. Plus, I'm always excited to see artwork from instructors or professors of mine. I love being able to see their process and studio practices in finished form. I'm also feeling pretty honored that my peep sculpture with be on display alongside Rachel and Andrews at the show. I hope you stop by on First Friday, have a little wine and food, and check out the show. I'll be demoing on the wheel all night again, too!

Andrew Perry Davis
Catherine Schlebecker
Rachel Bleil
I have not been in the habit of sketching much lately, or keeping any kind of journal, which is a bit unusual for me. I used to journal obsessively, but I haven't written a thing in ages. I actually intended to keep one throughout my pregnancy, but I started off in such a funk, I just couldn't seem to make myself. This week I worked on finishing designs for Kentuckiana Pug Rescue's 2011 fundraiser t-shirt, which I worked out in my giant black sketchbook, and I realized that I've only got a few pages left in it. I started it in December of 2009 with the intent of drawing in it daily (anyone remember that ambition? I think I made it 3 months...) I think today I will go out and buy a new sketchbook and try again. If not daily, then at least making it a point to work out ideas on paper so that I don't forget them. I miss drawing and writing a lot, and I think the surface design work I've been doing recently shows it. I also think I'd like to try planning out my ceramic forms more, so that I have some vague goals for what I'd like to make when I sit down at the wheel. I'm not great at throwing exact shapes and forms I have in mind, but it's something I'd like to work towards.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Been stuck in the house for 3 days now due to this ice and snow storm. I can't say I mind too much. I haven't been very productive, but I have caught up on sleep, a lot of movies, and a couple of good books. My husband and I also got our taxes done (yay refund!), and I got my piece submitted for the Skutt Peep Show.

Today I thought I should go ahead and submit some pictures to Carol Epp's blog, Musing About Mud. I've been following her blog for quite some time now, so I was excited to see that she planned to feature a new ceramic artist everyday in February. I'm a little late to submit, though, so I don't know whether there will be room for me. Here's hoping. I just wish I had more professional slides of my recent work, or that the pieces I've finished in the last week were fired and photographed. Some of my slides are starting to look dated! Regardless of whether she shows my work or not, I'm looking forward to seeing a month's worth of ceramic artists featured on her blog. I've really enjoyed seeing what she's posted so far.

Speaking of photographs, I really need to get a graduated photo backdrop so I can take better slides. I've been told that Varitone is pretty much the standard among ceramic artists for their slides, but I was wondering whether there were any other kinds that people prefer? I'm also not sure how large of a backdrop I should invest in. I'm balking a little at spending $75 on one, but I would if I thought I would really need it. There are a lot of deadlines coming up, and I want to be able to submit the best slides I can. Any suggestions or advice would be appreciated!

Gonna go eat some delicious homemade bread I made this morning - it should be coming out of the bread machine right about now - and have a cup of coffee with chicory (New Orleans coffee is the best!). If you're stuck in this storm like I am, I hope you're staying safe and warm, and maybe drinking something hot and delicious out of a handmade cup:)