Louisville Clay Members Gather for an Evening with Kristian Stephens

Kristian Stephens, as a ceramic artist and floral designer in Louisville, creates compositions that are sensitive gestures of calmness, space, balance and love of nature.

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The basis of Kristian’s floral arrangement is the practice of Ikebana, a refined expression of an artist’s personal philosophy. Add to this the unique sculpted vases she makes to interact sublimely with leaves and flowers, and we have one art form influencing another.

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Kristian explained that Ikebana is a form of flower arranging developed in Japan; was prominent in the 14th century; and is popular today, with over 3000 schools teaching the art form.

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Ikebana is a three-pronged process based on: simplistic design; a minimal number of flowers; and meditating while designing. The designer’s state of mind is actually more important than the flowers. As Kristian said; “Ikebana is all about the love and need of the artist.”

Using a highly systematic method of floral arrangement, the mind is freed to become integrated with nature and self. Only 2 or 3 flowers are used in which each flower occupies a specific space. The tallest flower represents the sky; the middle sized flower represents the human; the lowest plant, the earth.

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Integral to this meditative approach are the beautiful unglazed clays of Kristian’s vases. Here’s how she creates the natural forms that hold her floral arrangements.

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Begin with two pounds of wedged stoneware clay, formed into a pyramid or other geometric shape. Let the clay rest for two hours.

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In order to lighten the lower portion of the form, press a hole in the bottom of the clay that only reaches a few inches into the clay.

Take time to press the clay walls out to widen the opening and smooth out any air bubbles, leaving thick walls.

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When the clay form has dried to the “just right” consistency, begin shaving the outside walls. Kristian exclaimed that this is real fun and relaxing for the artist.

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The top is the last part to shave off. Holes are then poked into the clay to accommodate flower and leaf stems.

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The vases are bisque fired then fired to cone six with no glaze. For a vase to hold water, a clear glaze is added to the opening where the stems reside.

“It’s all about the way that the space is used. Every flower placement, every slice of clay, has a huge meaning and presence.” We all felt the importance of Kristian’s words.

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Following Kristian’s demonstration, the group’s energy level exploded. Our exuberance came from our understanding that our own art can be a successful expression of appreciation for nature, space, and raw clay. Thanks Kristian for creating vases that express Ikebana so well.

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And to make our evening more wonderful we joined Elmer Lucile Allen in celebration of her 88th birthday. She is a great friend to many of us at Louisville Clay.

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The work of Kristian Stephens can be seen at:
Lady Made Pottery
ladymadepottery@gmail.com

Shop Etsy at https://www.etsy.com/shop/ladymadepattery

Kristian Meade

Floral Design and Event Styling
Kristian Meade Florisrty@gmail.com

Wayne Ferguson, Ceramic Humorist

A Profile, by Suzanne Adams, Clay Elements

Wayne Ferguson does not sign his works anymore and does no marketing. Yet he is most likely the best known potter in our region.

Wayne calls himself a potter. Nearly all of his works are functional: bowls, pitchers, bottles, ocarinas, platters, and teapots. He roots himself in timeless traditions of ceramic technique and design.

 

When asked whether or not he is a folk artist, Wayne replied that early on he questioned that too and was advised by educators that, no, he was not, since he had taken some ceramic college courses. Wayne is so uniquely and presently in touch with his surroundings, and presents his ideas so illustratively, that I have to question this judgement about folk art.

 

How can it be that our own stories are told by works that are overflowing with details of Wayne’s own life and culture? I believe that it is because he puts us in places and times of fascinating peculiarity, and, by presenting just the right details, comes to the point of a grand idea.

Tiles-Dixie
Stories from American life.

 

Wayne’s earliest memories of working with clay are the times when his mother made clay of flour and salt so that he and his brother, Lemuel, could play with little soldiers. He went on to play with clay from the creek near his house in northern Kentucky.

Middle and high school years were tough for Wayne who matched adversity with youthful wildness. He and his brother did things that would have led to reform school were it not for the interjection of his high school art teacher, Eva Hinkle. She was able to convince Wayne that his future was with clay and art. He graduated with straight A’s and, as is well known by his friends today, with a generous heart.

A major turning point in Wayne’s life occurred when he witnessed Ladi Kwali at Berea, c. 1970. She made huge, symmetrical pots with clay coils. It was then that he decided that he would become a professional potter.

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Wayne holding pictures of Ladi Kwali at Berea.

How does he make his pottery? Wayne is a hand builder who makes “hollow-work vessels”. He pinches, coils, and presses clay to make forms that he can combine with other clay forms and finish with carving and letter stamping. Words, stamped into pots are a centuries old form of communication.

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Wayne in Louisville, Kentucky studio.
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Wayne using letter stamps.
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Pottery with stamped letters.

Over fired white clays, Wayne applies colorful glaze washes, making sure that detailed texture is apparent. Colors are representative of the world around him. Glazes are low-fired in oxidation.

Wayne makes commemorative objects and effigies to remember personal, environmental, social, and political events.

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James Meredith, civil rights activist.
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War Canisters

He draws from other cultures and times. For example, he combines semblances of pre-Columbian stirrup-vessels with playful criticisms of political figures.

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He places B-52 bombers atop delightful clouds and palm trees amid the skeletons of war.

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He uses the timeless art of individually designed whiskey bottles to express his views on Mitch McConnell, for example. Many of Wayne’s most grueling commentaries appear to be toys. The irony captivates viewers and keeps them looking. And thinking.

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Old Turtle Boubon bottle
Toys
Donald Trump effigy

Some of Waynes commemorative sculptures can be disturbing or highly politicized. Yet, he notes that the Mayans made pots depicting the beheading of captives. Wayne does not hold back on his views either: his views have lead to censorship of his works from some national exhibitions.

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You can see Wayne Ferguson’s work, uncensored, in Frankfort this fall. Visit his upcoming show at Capital Gallery of Contemporary Art; 314 Lewis Street; Frankfort, KY 40601. Opening date: Oct. 26, 2018.

AA Clay Joins The Ages by Making a Ceramic Mosaic

Ancient Greek mosaics are believed to be the earliest form of the mosaic technique. Greek methods began with the use of pebbles to form designs, binding the pebbles with compacted earth or a mixture of sand and lime. Artifacts, where pebbles were used to make patterned floors and pavements, have been found from the 8th century BCE.

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Pebble mosaics persisted until approximately the 3rd century BCE, when they began to be replaced with mosaics of cut stone, glass, and ceramic cubes, or tesserae, which were adhered with mortar.

Tessera, (Latin: “cube,” or “die”) plural Tesserae, in mosaic work, a small piece of stone, glass, ceramic, or other hard material cut in a cubical or some other regular shape. (Britannica, 2018)

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Ancient Greek mosaic showing tessera pattern.

Mosaic art became the leading form of pictorial art, culminating in the extraordinary Byzantine period. The Renaissance movement, c. 1400, initiated the painted fresco technique through which artists were able to produce more realistic representations.

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Mosaic dome of the Hagia Sophia 450 BCE

Use of the tesserae technique has ebbed and flowed over the centuries and has led to a wider skill set of varying techniques used by contemporary artists.

 

Enter AA Clay Studio and Gallery.

The Process:

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Step One: Collect ceramic pieces.

 

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Step Two: Layout design on cement board.

 

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Step Three: Apply pieces with mastic adhesive.

 

 

Step Four: Apply colored grout to each panel.

 

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Step Five: Installed Ceramic Mosaic.

 

Still interested in mosaics?
Check out contemporary mosaic street art below.

The city of Prague, Checkoslovakia funds artists to enliven outdoor culture through ceramic mosaics.

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Space Invader, influenced by popular arcade videos of the 70’s and 80’s, creates “invasion waves” in cities where he and his crew install 30-40 mosaics in various street locations. His goal is to bring art outside museum walls.

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Space-Invader

Jim Bachor uses contemporary subjects of pop imagery, like Starbucks and Twinkies, to fill potholes. He mixes cut glass tesserae with the gritty asphalt of Chicago streets. His art strangely refers back to ancient street pavements. Who would have thought?

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AA Clay members are proud to be a part of the long history of mosaic art making. We offer our outdoor mosaic wall art to all who are a part of our ceramic and neighborhood communities.

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The completed AAClay members Ceramic Mosaic, August, 2018

Suggested reading can be found at the Ceramic Arts Network site under free downloads, bottom of page two: https://ceramicartsnetwork.org/freebies/free-guides/page/2/

Experience Thermal Shock and Oxygen Reduction at AA Clay Studio & Gallery

April 14; 5 – 8 pm  ——  AA Clay Studio and Gallery, 2829 South 4th St, Louisville, will present a rarely seen clay firing process, called raku. The event is free and the public is invited. Enjoy watching the artists as they remove their clay objects from the open, roaring hot, outdoor kiln.

The AA Clay raku workshop raku workshop & kiln firing includes an evening of raku firing on April 21 in which ceramic objects, previously made by workshop participants, are fired in an outdoor kiln. This is an exciting event for artists and viewers alike, as the firing process, from loading the kiln chamber to removing objects from the hot kiln, takes only 45 minutes.

Artists and art lovers at AA Clay want to share their enthusiasm for ceramic art with other art enthusiasts in the community. They say: “Bring a lawn chair and experience the drama of clay heated to 1600 F.”

Husband and Wife Invent Raku Pottery

Chojiro and his wife developed the raku technique

It all began in Japan. Here’s how it went down:

After 450 years of feudal conflicts, constant warring came to an end in the late 1500’s.

Zen philosophy, the belief that beauty resides in the simple, the quiet, and the imperfect, spread throughout the land. The tea ceremony embodied Zen philosophy.

The great tea master, Sen-no-Rikyu

A great tea master, Sen-no-Rikyu, officially promoted the clay works of Chojiro and his wife, who had developed the raku technique of making simple hand-made bowls.

The raku technique of respecting natural processes has continued to influence ceramic art worldwide.

Artist Matt Mitros at I.U.S. Ceramic Department – 3D Printer Technology

It takes a lot of skill and attention to be both a focused artist and teacher. Brian Harper, ceramic teacher at I.U.S., made this evident by bringing Matt Mitros to campus to work with students.

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Matt Mitros demonstrates 3D printing at I.U.S. Ceramic Department

If you read our previous blog you know about Matt’s innovative art. Let’s now take a look at his presentation about ceramic 3D printing.

Matt began by demonstrating Rhinoceros, a 3D graphics and computer-aided design (CAD) application. Using this software, Matt designs objects and molds for objects in his art practice. He uses Rhino to operate a CNC router to carve molds from solid blocks of plaster.

Aware that students learn best through hands-on involvement, Mitros facilitated group design of a ceramic vessel using Potter Draw software. Laughter ensued as students created a fanciful vessel on  screen.

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Students create design for 3D printing using Potter Draw

Next, Matt shot the design to a program, called Slic3r, located on a computer attached to a 3D printer. Slicer programs put designs into layers;  create codes that determine scale and wall thickness; and can design inside and outside walls of a pot differently. These aspects of 3D printing alone distinguish this technology from wheel-throwing, even hand building, with clay.

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3D printer before attaching clay extruder

As Matt worked with the hand-made 3D printer that he brought to class, we were able to watch the pressure extruder, mounted on the printer, as it emitted clay through a nozzle to create a vessel and a honeycomb relief pattern that Matt uses in his sculpture.

 

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Mitros operating the 3D printer

 

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Students watching exruder in action

Mitros made the point that he works with printers in order to be innovative with the technology and to add to the conceptual framework of his sculpture. Furthermore, Matt loves textural qualities of clay that physically show the process of creation. For example, he casts clay into plaster molds and doesn’t remove the seam lines. He often produces objects on printers that show each layer produced by the nozzle.

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Cup extruded from 3D printer

 

As a grand finale, Matt Mitros demonstrated a specific use of the printer that he uses extensively: one object, such as a clay-printed toy, can be attached directly on top of another, such as a clay-printed potato.

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Bio Rad #13, 2017, mixed media, showing printed honeycomb pattern

 

It’s all about having fun with machines to create new ideas and new art objects.

 

Spraying Glazes Is Easy at AA Clay Studio & Gallery

Cave-PaintingAs early as 37,900 BCE a human hand was placed on a rock surface in Indonesia and pigment was then blown through a hollow tube (bone or reed) in a diffuse cloud over it, leaving a silhouette image of the hand on the rock. Such images occur in many prehistoric sites all over the world and were created by people of all ages and genders.

Spraying glazes is currently a popular technique for the surface decoration of ceramic art. Spraying underglazes, glazes and colorants can be done with a variety of tools including systems comprised of compressors, spray guns and ventilated spray booths.

AA Clay Studio and Gallery now offers studio rental of such a system, along with training in the application of sprayed glazes.

Glaze spray facility at AA Clay Studio, Louisville, Kentucky
Spraying glaze

Two contemporary potters, Martha Grover and Stephen Hill, describe their reasons for spraying.

Martha Grover:“I started spraying my glazes about 4 years ago. I found that I was unable to achieve evenly layered surfaces and color transitions through traditional methods of dipping and pouring. By using two sprayers, one small for my bright colors concentrated at the edges, and a large one for the overall piece, I am able to create a varied, even surface that shifts from a bright color to light seamlessly.”

Martha Grover pottery

Stephen Hill: “Spraying permits me to blend multiple glazes together seamlessly and also gives me the ability to isolate colors on the rims handles, and feet of my pottery.”

Stephen Hill pottery

Following are some general tips for spraying glazes.

  • All materials must be finely sieved, preferably through a 100 mesh screen.
  • Keep the gun tip at least 6 inches away from the object.
  • Keep the gun pointed squarely at the work.
  • Spray in long even strokes. Make each stroke separately and release the trigger as you finish each stroke to avoid pile-up.
  • Make several passes over each area, with thickness testing using a needle tool.
  • Wear a properly fitted respirator with a hepa filter.

 

Stephen Hill demonstrates his glazing process

Figure 1

A transparent green is sprayed to emphasize a spiral movement.

Figure 2

An iron saturate is sprayed over the green strontium mat to turn it into a Tuscan orange.

Figure 3

The wide rim is sprayed with a mat black glaze to frame and contrast with the interior of the platter.

Figure 4

Stephen Hill, completed platter.

As you see, spraying a glaze is no more complicated than spraying paint. You may need only to cover a sculpture or vessel with an even coat of glaze. Additionally, this technique has many decorative advantages.