Art School: Semester 6, Week 3

Hello once again from the mind of the middle aged weirdo going back to art school for the fun of it. The third week of the semester is now completed, and things are moving along. Let’s review what happened, shall we?

Advanced Ceramics

Class this week included a lecture on various ceramic artists — mostly from the 1960’s — who were changing the way at least some people saw ceramic work. They were creating non-functional work, and playing with colour and convention. Artists mentioned included:

There were many more. I can’t read all of the names in my notes, and I probably didn’t catch them all anyway. And yes, I know a few of those links lead to images of functional works. The instructor was discussing a bit about how the current trends in ceramics (and all the arts) ebb and flow. It was interesting, and there is a lot to learn from the history.

And then there is learning by getting our hands dirty, which we’re also doing, of course. The instructor gave us a demo of centreing (there’s a Canadian spelling that looks all wrong!) an inverted bowl on the wheel and trimming the exterior to thin it down and create an interesting foot. The process is a bit slow, and a bit risky. It is easy to trim through the bowl if you aren’t careful. Over two days I trimmed them all — destroying only one in the process — and now they are drying. Here are photos:

Sorry about the colour differences there. Normally my default photo prep technique avoids that kind of thing, but not this time for some odd reason. Weird.

Anyway, as you can see, I created a number of different foot shapes for these bowls.

The plan for these is to do glaze tests, where we apply several glazes to the interior of each bowl — layering them up in various ways — to see how they react with each other when fired. We have something like a dozen glazes to work with, and a few colours of prepared slip as well. (Though I didn’t use any slip. The clay will fire white, apparently, and that’s good enough for me.) The bisque firing is next week, then we glaze and do the glaze firing. I doubt I will get to fire all of mine, though it may depend on how full the kiln is. If there is room, she won’t care, but if there is limited space I probably will only get to fire five or so of them. We’ll see.

And finally we were given our first actual assignment. (All of the above is apparently not graded. It’s just to get us back and used to the wheel and working with clay again.) We are to create a set of at least three thrown objects, each of which we must pierce at least once. With those forms we have two choices:

  1. We can create a set of related, nested, functional objects. Things like bowls, colanders, or hanging baskets.
  2. Create a sculptural work in which the three pieces are attached to each other in some interesting way.

These rules are very flexible. We don’t even have a written set of guidelines as she wants us to problem solve as we develop our own practices.

Anyway, we have two weeks to get them thrown, trimmed, attached (if needed) and bone dry, ready for bisque firing.

My current plan is to throw a series of forms, puncture them to the point where they look (in some ways) like a lattice work, and then make them nest together, so you can see the innermost form through the outer pieces. I suspect they will nest together in the end, though they will be bisque fired separately. Whether they will be glazed together — so they are bonded — or separately — so they can be separated once finished — is still not clear to me.

What I do know is that I started throwing small forms on Friday morning, and created three that will eventually nest well. I will go back on Saturday morning to work with them some more, and throw some more too. Sadly, I forgot to take a photo of the ones I threw on Friday, so I guess you will see them next week.

Public Art

This week there wasn’t too much happening in this class. We had a lecture about an art collective called Postcommodity, which is based in New Mexico. They make art that addresses a lot of things, but particularly seems to concentrate on indigenous issues and related areas, like borders. Then we talked more about the collective our class is forming to design the two art works that will go on the local train station, and we had the rest of the welding demo in the shop, covering TIG welding and plasma cutting.

My own personal project took a left turn in this last week. In last week’s class I’d talked with the instructor about two possible projects and she’d pointed me at one of them. This was the one in which I created a structure to add colour and organic shape to a particular area of the library on campus. A couple of days later I met with the art librarian, and she had some legitimate concerns that we discussed. Specifically she pointed out — quite rightly — that there isn’t enough light in that part of the library (and, in fact, the architects that did the design really screwed a couple of things up). That lack of light is a general problem, but was a deal breaker for my proposal. She also mentioned the possibility of putting things on top of the shelf stacks in that area, rather than suspending them. That’s an option I had not considered.

I took detailed measurements of the space and spent time sitting in a chair, sketching, trying to find an alternative. I did find one, of sorts. Imagine a dragon (or something like the Loch Ness monster) swimming in the books, and seen only where she comes out of the top of the book stacks. Such a creature could be looking directly at the chair I was sitting in, and I liked that idea. It’s a bit kitsch, I know, but I liked it. So I went home and drew that up and had it ready to discuss with the instructor in class on Wednesday, but there was no time.

So I met with her the next morning and we went over it all. She suggested a different approach, based on my stated goals and interests. Perhaps there is a way to use simple, painted, 3D shapes mounted to the top of the book stacks to do what I wanted. And with that we looked at the work of a few artists, most particularly Donald Judd. She got me thinking, so now I am reworking my concept using her suggestions and need to have sketches, a model, a proposal, and an early budget together for this coming week. That’s some of the stuff I need to get through this weekend. With luck I will have some sketches to share here next week.

Cultural Theory

Another lecture, more reading, and more writing. This time around the instructor lectured about Marx, and it seems I mostly understood what we read last week. We got back last week’s assignment (several questions and one answer, all based on the contents of the reading) and my mark was excellent.

This week we’re reading Louis Althusser, a French Marxist who died in 1970. His take on Marx is so complicated I don’t yet understand it. I’ve read all the material just once, though, and it takes more than that. I will figure it out and do the writing about it this weekend as well.

Other Stuff

As with last week — and I suspect for all of the rest of this term — I have been swamped and done nothing but deal with school stuff. This particular combination of classes is challenging and keeps me very busy. So I have nothing else of interest to share overall, I’m afraid.

Harbour News

That said, I still ride the SeaBus to and from school, and so see what is going on out there in Vancouver Harbour. Early in the week, a large cruise ship left on a rainy day:

I believe that is the Island Princess, but my memory could be faulty. Look at all those decks. Regardless of the name, I looked her up that morning when she was still moored at Canada Place. She’s not one of the really huge ships — only carrying about 2800 passengers plus crew — but she’s still pretty big.

And I know that pictures of cruise ships are a strange thing, but honestly, they are so big and so weird, I feel almost obliged to be impressed by them. They are essentially floating cities. The logistics behind making them work at all is astounding, and, like one of you who commented last week, I really don’t understand why they stay upright. There must be a lot of mass below the surface that we don’t see for them not to roll right over.

And yes, I know they are pretty much an environmental disaster. Lots of burned fuel and pollution of various kinds. I get it. I am not taking any cruises myself. But I am really fascinated by the ability of humans to create things like these. Huge, complex systems that need to operate in many ways entirely on their own for periods of time. The big container and cargo ships are a similar thing in some ways. Fewer crew, so less food and water needed, but out in the ocean for longer periods without resupply and direct contact. You don’t want to be in the middle of the Pacific Ocean without power, so those things really need to work. (I suppose some of the cruise ships do ocean crossings, though, so I shouldn’t underestimate the duration of their voyages.)

In any case, I conclude that humans are strange creatures, and I see the Port of Vancouver as something of a window into us.

Then, on Friday, that window had to be enlarged:

Each of those should be clickable to see larger versions of those pictures. This is Ovation of the Seas, a monster ship that was in port on Friday morning and afternoon. There are eight decks of staterooms with balconies, and up top — for entertainment — you can see a climbing wall and a large panda (in the middle photo) and some sort of ride thing (in the right photo).

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that two very large ships are going to be visiting Vancouver soon. This isn’t one of them. This beast is apparently smaller. And that’s despite the fact that she can carry almost 5000 passengers.

Apparently the first of the really big ships arrives at the end of the month. Ovation of the Seas might not have the same clearance problems going under the Lions Gate Bridge that the really huge ships have.

And In Conclusion…

If you read this far, thank you. Last week, only two of you reported typos, and there are a bunch that needed fixing! The first report arrived shortly after I published and only mentioned one, which I fixed immediately. Then nearly two full days went by with no more reports. I thought I was OK, but it was not to be. The second report arrived documenting several more to be fixed. *sigh*

So, once again, please report typos! I will fix them. And every one you report means someone else doesn’t have to struggle with both my poor spelling and my poor sentence structure. By calling out my goofs you are making the world a better place.

Thank you for your support!

Written by

Sculptor/Artist. Former programmer. Former volunteer firefighter. Former fencer. Weirdest resume on the planet, I suspect.

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