I just got back from my brother Jeremy's wedding. Most of my family made the trip to Loveland, CO were we took a Comfort Inn hostage for the weekend. One of the culinary highlights of the weekend was the Cherry, Apple, and Marion Berry pies that took the place of the wedding cake. Man they were good. They were made by the Estes Park Pie Shop and Bakery.
For my brother's batchelor party we went to Sylvandale Ranch to do some fly fishing. My brother used to guide for them so it was his home turf. We fished two man made lakes that were stocked with Trout. I caught a 21inch Donaldson Steel Head (As it turns out it is a genetically engineered fish. Highly interesting) . Actually I didnt do much. One of my brothers friends spotted the fish and cast for it. The fish jumped all over this nymph fly that was hanging below a Chernoble Ant. He handed me the rod and said "have fun". It was tag team fishing. After a day I felt like I was getting the hang of casting. It takes way more grace than I thought. It reminds me of throwing. Repetition, patience, and reward. I will definately go again when I can.
Being back in the Rockies brought me back to my time at Anderson Ranch in Snowmass Co. I have been thinking about that place a lot lately. I think I might have even written about it in the blog already. I was there in 2006 for the winter. Over the six months that I was there I changed from soda fired porcelain to earthenware, I skied my first( and probably last) double black diamond, and finally learned how to make a teapot that works.
I occasionally still have dreams that I am there working in the studio. I had a funny, and memorable, one about a year ago. In the dream Doug Casebeer(the director of ceramics) came into my studio to talk to me about my work. I had just thrown a few pitchers that were lined up on the table. He walked around them looking at the proportions and such. Suddenly he picks one up and throws it on the ground. It promptly flattened like a pancake on a griddle. He looks at me and says "Ben, you need to work harder". I took that as a sign that I needed to buckle down in grad school and I've been working harder and harder ever since. I am still being motivated by the history and the relationships I formed at ARAC three years later. Thats the sign of a good residency.
My initial attraction to earthenware came from its association with utilitarian objects. It has been used to make roof tiles, gutters, and some pretty rockin historical pots. (click here to see some great pots) I got to work this summer at Watershed with their brick clay. I made a few pots on the wheel and I was amazed at its ruggedness. It was coarse and I had to be very direct in my throwing. I couldn't dilly daly around with the form. I had to have a set idea and get to it pretty quick. If I tried to change one form into another, it would often collapse. Its lack of plasticity made my decisions matter. I had much less room for error.
I have become very interested in how a coarse material like this can be transformed into an upper middle class commodity( i.e. art pottery). When I decorate my pots I cover them with patterns made of slip. You can always see the clay body underneath the layers of marks. I love to see the red of the sgraffito lines, or the edges of handles. After thinking about why I am so attracted to this I realized that it comes from all the white washed brick houses I have seen in Va. When my father bought our family land he built on to my grandmothers house and whitewashed the brick. It was a signifier of a fresh start. It wasn't about erasing the history or structure of the house. It was about the rebirth that happens through resurfacing. Im very interested in this rebirth cycle. My study of quilts comes from the same plate. Old become new when its parts are rearranged.
I will be showing with my good friend Julie Hamilton at Signature Nine Gallery, Roanoke, Va.
Julie was my high school IB Art Teacher. She has since left full time teaching to complete her Masters and be a full time artist/mother.
Over the past 10 years we have both gone in numerous directions with our work. We decided to do this show when we realized we were making work about similar topics. Physically our work is very different but conceptually we are both working with ideas of transformation and rebirth.
We will be having an opening October 1st from 5-8. We would love to see you there.