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.

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.”

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.

Mitros-lecture
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.

Pot-On-Screen
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.

Clay printer top
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.

 

Mitros working printer
Mitros operating the 3D printer

 

clay-printer
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.

Mitros-Cup
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.

Bio-Rad
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.

 

Amy Elswick; The Independent Artist

A Profile, by Suzanne Adams, Clay Elements

What is the life of an artist and what does it take to be successful?
Amy Elswick has the answers.

I met with Amy at her renovated, spacious studio/home on East Chestnut in Louisville, KY.

Amy’s Appalachian heritage includes parents, aunts, and uncles who took the opportunity to explore and learn at Berea College. She used her years at Berea to work in the ceramics studio as a production potter where she could experiment with numerous clays, glazes and techniques. Amy began as a Spanish major who subsequently found that clay “fit her hand like a glove”.

In addition to pottery making, Amy learned pottery selling at Berea. The Craft Marketing Program taught students to use craft as a career. She sold her student work through the college gallery and learned basic marketing techniques.

Imagine a young potter who also had the dream of promoting exchanges of the arts throughout the Americas (remember her studies of Spanish cultures). Amy traveled to the American southwest to test her role in the local environment. She returned to her hometown Louisville ready to make pottery that connected her traditional Appalachian background with the clay works of Pre-columbian pottery and architecture.
Take a look at Amy’s website clayhousepots.com and you will recognize that her imagination takes hold when she uses clays, glazes, brushes, and carving tools. She consistently produces dinnerware, gondolas, platters, drinkware, bowls, and vases.

Amy’s work includes sensitively carved vases, fluid spiral patterns painted on inviting bowls, gondolas with surface treatments that are as intriguing as the food within. Notice the earthy, restful glazes that are reminiscent of colors in the Kentucky mountains.

In short, Amy Elswick makes pottery for lovers of the expressive range that only clay and glaze can create.


Amy’s work has evolved into large hand built vessels made to hold such items as magazines and fireplaces accessories. Her architectural mirrors are particularly strong in ceramic form and pattern.

Asked what she plans to do in the future, Amy presented a large (approx. 6 ft. by 2.5 ft.), nicely carved ceramic relief of Louisville’s downtown profile, mounted on a lighted glass background suitable for fronting a counter or bar in one of Louisville’s commercial establishments. I like the way she thinks.

We shouldn’t leave this profile without mentioning Amy’s marketing skills. As a young potter, Amy worked for two artists who sold pottery and art nationally, at high prices. Three years with Dana Major and Serge Isupov provided her with the knowledge that pottery is a business that requires organization, confidence, and a practical, energetic work ethic. It even requires that the potter become artful at packaging ceramic works.

Amy’s business is one in which she makes gallery connections at national wholesale markets, such as the American Craft Council show. She reliably fills orders by first determining how much money she needs to make at a show or gallery, then outlining production methods and outcomes that succeed in fulfilling her plans on time.


We see in Amy Elswick a potter who knows the business front and back; a potter who is a model for anyone with the passion to combine creativity with ceramic technique to produce forms that exemplify a sincere personal philosophy. We in Louisville are fortunate to recognize her as a successful, Independent Artist. Thank you, Amy.

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.