J. D. Schall; from clean design to narration

Artist Profile by Suzanne Adams, Editor

On a mid-November day I walked into a remarkable artist’s life, J. D. Schall. Creative studio and artistic home were shown to me, the fortunate blogger, by one of Louisville’s premier potters.

J. D. had just returned from a trip to Mexico and observed that; “Mexicans have symbols from their culture that have been given to them and used for centuries. I’m currently pursuing symbols that have meaning in our culture.” J. D. has spent the previous two years developing work that incorporates his unique interpretations of symbols, such as fleeing rabbits, onto his boldly formed functional works.

Plates-and-Bowl

Rabbit-Bowls

How did Schall get to this point in his career? In telling his story, J. D. revealed that his creative processes coincided with his choices of place and work. As a college student at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, he majored in English literature and minored in anthropology and religious studies. Imagine seeking knowledge from great minds and times while living in the rolling, isolated landscape of mid-Wisconsin. In his last semester, 1994, J. D. took a ceramics course and continued to make ceramics for three years thereafter; trading ceramic classes for job hours worked.

In 1997, J. D. moved to Baton Rouge, LA and formed Studio 801, a 15-member artists’ cooperative. He also became the head potter for Burts Cason Inc., a pottery design firm specializing in interior design. It was in Baton Rouge that J. D. began throwing large pots, sometimes handling 18 pounds on the wheel. His palette changed from the browns of Wisconsin to the intense colors of southern Louisiana. He learned the ceramics trade while working alongside American merchandisers and ceramic painters from Vietnam.

In 2002 J. D. moved to Louisville and founded Schall Studio and Design. At this point he began to specialize in clean modern design, influenced by 1950’s modernism and the Arts and Crafts movement. Ancient Asian and Greek ceramic influences are also present in his work. J. D. has been successful in building his career through representation at numerous wholesale and retail ceramic shows. He currently sells in galleries and interior design firms nationwide and takes private commissions.

Schall-Design
midnightyellow150
In 2009 Schall had a very impressive exhibition in which he showed large pieces which displayed his love of color, painted surface treatments, and the use of tarnished gold and silver leaf. Simply beautiful.

J. D. describes himself as a builder on the wheel. In his modern design series we see that this process suits the creation of works that confidently handle daily aspects of living, such as dining, gardening, lighting, bird watching. As a builder, Schall pays close attention to each component of each form: base/foot; body; and lip/rim. As a designer he delivers his art through sprayed and brushed color. By placing one deliriously exciting color next to another, often on a bold pottery rim, J. D. brings life and meaning to the sculptural pottery form.

During the past two years Schall has been developing another way to bring meaning to form. He is currently creating expressive narrative symbols and stories derived from nature and fables, such as birds, leaves and flowers, The Tortoise and The Hare and The Three Blind Mice.

We can glimpse the reasoning behind the symbols in Schall’s painting of the Three Blind Mice by viewing a vintage card in his studio where the mice are in danger of loosing their tails. J. D.’s mice have tails intact and are sporting halos.

Blind-Mice-CardThree-Blind-Mice
J. D. uses fine brushes and slip-trailing to create gestural marks with black and white slips and underglazes. He draws free-hand on fired clay or he uses tracing paper to repeat images, often dancing around clay forms.

It’s a pleasure to witness an artist as he uses seminal experiences from his past (college studies, wheel building, Asian painting techniques, cultural symbols) to structure a new process for his current works. J. D. explains his motivation: “Just as I have to justify selling modern design by pushing my works beyond the ordinary, I have to work out the reason behind my symbols.”

JD-Shadows

J. D. Schall’s work is for sale on Thanksgiving weekend, Nov. 23 and 24, at the Pigment Gallery, Mellwood Art Center.  He is represented at AA Clay Studio and Gallery in Louisville. He is also participating in the $20.00 sale at Copper and Kings on December 8th.

The Feel Good Medium; a six pack of clay benefits.

  • 1.  Confidence – because we make an object that is relevant to our lives.

     

    2.  Focus – because we concentrate on specific methods and results.

     

    3.   Creativity – because we make highly personal decisions
    about artistic forms and meanings.

     

    4.  Physicality – because clay “pushes back” as we exert control.


    5.  Relaxation
    – when we get into the “flow” and lose ourselves
    in a meditative state.

    6.  Sociability – when we enjoy sharing knowledge
    and creative time with friends.

    AA Clay Studio & Gallery is a shared working space with modern clay equipment. Our goal is to promote excellence in the field of ceramics by providing the necessary learning tools and equipment for personal development. The studio is an access point for emerging and practicing clay artists.

Clay – Why Do We Love It?


Clay
blankets our earth’s surface with tiny particles of weathered granite.

Wet clay is strong and malleable. Dry clay holds its shape and can be hardened through heating to extreme temperatures.

“If one takes any finely grained non-clay mineral and mixes it with water, a crumbly mass will be produced with almost zero formability. If the same is done with clay, however, there is produced a mass that is readily formed into any desired shape and, most interesting of all, it will retain that shape under the force of gravity. In other words, the clay mass has three unique properties; first, it may be deformed without cracking; second, when the deforming force ceases, the shape will remain fixed; and further, when the clay mass is dried, it has considerable strength.”

Studio Potter, Volume 4, Number 2 (Winter 1975/76)

Clay has strength because many extremely fine particles can be tightly packed in a clay body.

It’s plastic because its molecules are shaped like dinner plates, with an average diameter of one micron (one millionth of a meter). When wet, the ‘plates’ slide against each other due to thin sheets of water between them. The presence of water allows clay particles to move against each other and change the clay form without breaking.

Pull, pinch, slice, carve, stick, roll, press, twist, and squash!
We can form almost anything out of clay.

A clay object can be hardened through firing at high temperatures, such as 2400 degrees Fahrenheit. It can be coated with specific clays (glazes) and fired again to make an object that is impervious to water.

Once high-fired, a clay object can never disintegrate into its original molecular structure. This is when we call it ceramic.

As early as 24000 BCE people were making figurines for ceremonial purposes. Functional pottery flourished when agriculture became prevalent around 10,000 BCE.

Venus of Dolni Vestonice                        Ancient Mesopotamia pottery
(26,000 – 24,000 BCE)

Wallace and Gromit is a British clay animation comedy series created by Nick Park of Aardman Animations. circa 1990.

Learning is Play.

It was our pleasure, yesterday,  at AA Clay Studio & Gallery to invite 15 “beginners” to the studio to reacquaint themselves with the joy of clay. Two major techniques were taught – wheel throwing and hand building.

Each “student” did a fine job grasping the basics. And, to the basics these enthusiastic folks added that important ingredient – PLAY.

Let the following pictures tell the story.

Alex-leads-class
Alex introduces the group.
Alex demonstrates wheel throwing.

 

Suzanne demonstrates hand building techniques.


Participants were from Level Up, a local business that organizes classes taught at various arts, food, wellness, lifestyle, and business locations.