Art School: Semester 6, Week 5

Hello once again from the Rainy North. I love the rain, as it usually means I can get things done without feeling bad about avoiding being outside. And this week a lot has been done by way of school. Not much else, but I definitely have some photos to share this week.

Advanced Ceramics

If you’ve been following along, you know that there were two projects in progress:

  • a set of bowls to perform glaze tests in
  • a project based on several thrown bowl forms, pierced, cut, warped, and adhered together (or a set of nested forms, for those that really want to go the functional route)

My glaze test bowls are out of the kiln and I have the results. Here’s a shot of them all together:

I remind you that these were specifically setup as test objects, upon which we were to throw glazes and see what happens in the kiln. The instructor thinks perhaps we didn’t get as much reduction as we should have from the firing, but such is life. There are a few things in here that I think I may use on my sculptural piece.

And for the curious, here are close up photos of each of the bowls along with my notes about which glazes were used where. The notes won’t help you, but the photos do show the colours better than the single shot above:

As for the sculptural project, here are a few pictures of it before it went into the kiln for its bisque firing. There are a few minor differences from the last photos I shared, though they are mostly invisible to anyone but me.

This piece needs to be glazed this weekend, and it goes into the kiln on Monday afternoon, I think. So it should be done for next week, assuming it survives the bisque and glaze firings. I am still figuring out how I will glaze it at this point, so it will surprise me as well as you.

Finally, we’re starting the planning for the next project. The instructor calls it the Collective Bodies Project. She randomly assigns each student a body part (think cutting Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man into pieces — head, upper arms, lower arms, hands, internal organs, and so on) and we all create something to represent that part of the body. The various pieces don’t have to be representational, and non-ceramic elements may be added to each piece at the end if desired by the artist. In the end they are all displayed on the wall collectively in the form of a figure.

I’ve got the right thigh, and I am currently planning a thing done in multiple layers of ceramic mesh. It will be vaguely thigh shaped, but hollow and (I hope) open enough to see into the interior.

Oh, another thing about this project: we’re raku firing it. I don’t know the details of the glazes available yet, nor the specific clay we will be working with, but it should be interesting as a technical challenge. I’m not at all sure about the project itself, and in the end my piece won’t be particularly interesting on its own (or so I assume) but perhaps it will be a unique piece overall.

We need to have plans, sketches, and/or a maquette ready for Monday’s class. I have built part of the thing I will create this work on, and will have that ready to go come Monday.

Public Art

Good progress this week here. Last week, you may recall, I was waiting for the arrival of some magnets to test and see if they would work for my project. They arrived, and work, so I ordered 400 more which have already arrived as well. So I now have 500 magnets to use for this thing.

Last week I’d built two jigs — one each for cutting length and width of steel. This week I built another one for use on the box bender:

I know… that makes no sense at all. But I promise to take photos of this jig (and the other ones) once they are installed on the machines, so you can see what I created and why it is useful.

As it happens, I also created a fourth jig to be used to lay out the bend lines on the cut pieces of metal. Sadly I forgot to photo that one, so it will have to wait for next week.

The class is starting to get going, as evidenced by this:

That’s Jessica (foreground) and Heather (background). Both are creating large objects and are using insulation foam to fill the centres. My own project is looking pretty simple in comparison.

And finally, the collective window project for the train station continues. We each produced an artwork for class as an idea and then discussed. Mine is not pictured here because I hate it. (OK… I know… hate is a strong word. How about “strongly dislike”?) The interesting fallout is that most — if not all — of us really liked Heather’s image, and we’re all spending time this week working with what she started as a base, to see if we can create something we all like from that, or find closer common ground.

We have a tentative name for our collective as well, but as it was only a suggestion I am not sure it will stick. If it does, I will share it.

Cultural Theory

This class will be the death of me. Last week we read two pieces by Freud and one by Laura Mulvey. The former convinced me that Freud was a complete nut job who decided that all of his own issues must be very common, so he created ways to give them to everyone. Mulvey then used Freud’s language to discuss how women are represented in film. His work is awful. Her work is critical, but I really wish she hadn’t used Freud’s awful, non-scientific, unsupported gibberish as her scaffold for it.

This week we’re reading an excerpt from something written by Jacques Lacan, and another by Michel Foucault. I’ve read both once so far. The Lacan is impenetrable. Foucault’s is more readable, but I am not at all sure I understand it yet either.

We have one more week of lectures and then we do the midterm exam.

I cannot wait for this class to be over. Don’t get me wrong, the instructor is good and interesting and funny. But this material is… ugh. I am struggling to understand why most of it is relevant. Mulvey I get, but not the rest of it. Not at all.

This single class — more than anything else — is reinforcing the idea that I do not need (or want) to go on for a BFA or MFA. If this kind of stuff (Saussure, Barthes, Marx, Althusser, Freud, Lacan, and Foucault, so far) is actually needed in those programs, I really don’t see any reason to subject myself to them. Bummer, but true.

Other Stuff

As always, if I had the time to do anything else of interest, I would tell you about it. I have a painting that is still about half done that got going just before classes started. I don’t expect to get back to it until the holiday break at this point, if then. Whee!

Harbour News

Thankfully for you harbour fans, though, I have a few pictures to share.

On Monday I encountered this monster, anchored out in the middle of the harbour:

That is the Norwegian Bliss, one of the really huge cruise ships visiting Vancouver Harbour this fall. Note the water slide on the top of the upper decks. That thing is huge, and can carry about 4000 passengers.

Now, why was she anchored out in the harbour with a barge nestled up against her? Well, that’s because:

Canada Place — the cruise ship dock — was full. There were three “normal sized” ships there on Monday morning (you can just see the third one peeking out from behind the foreground ship on the right side of the photo). As a result, the Norwegian Bliss had nowhere to dock, so she anchored out in the harbour until the others had left. On Monday afternoon she was in the dock, but she’s so huge I couldn’t get a good photo of her in that location.

I suspect part of the issue is that the Norwegian Bliss is so huge she has to sneak under the Lions Gate Bridge at low tide. So her ability to come and go is restricted, so she came in when she could, even if there was no good place to moor available for a few hours. She left again on Monday night because on Tuesday Canada Place was empty once again.

And finally, on Thursday, I saw something that looked slightly out of place:

Sorry about the photo. That’s max zoom with my phone camera, and the best of about eight pictures I took trying to figure out what that was. It looked odd out there, moving into the harbour. Vaguely threatening.

And it turns out she’s the HMCS Edmonton, a defence vessel that seems to have participated in a lot of drug interdiction missions with the US.

We don’t see a lot of military traffic in the harbour, so it was interesting to note such a vessel present. No clue what she was doing here, but I did see her approaching a dock that I think is owned by Seaspan, a major ship repair and outfitting business. Perhaps she is visiting to get some work done.

And In Conclusion…

Finally, I have a bit of humour to share this week, courtesy of my friend Karen, who shared it with me despite thinking I would already have read it. I had not, and I laughed out loud. If you know about the flamingo thing, you’ll understand why Karen sent it to me. Warning: language. Mostly about geese.



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Jeff Powell

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