Let me come Home, Home is where ever I am with you....

Just downloaded Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros album Up from Below. There are few great tunes on the albulm. My personal favorite is track 6, Home. Check it out on Youtube.

(Music Review from http://www.cougarmicrobes.com/)

It feels like for the past few weeks I have joined my own cult group devoted to producing heartfelt psychedelic pop music. It all started when I was sent Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros‘ debut album ‘Up From Below‘…
Initially I was suspicious of how close the band came to capturing Kesey and co.’s aura. Everything from the bohemian clothes, the commune mentality and the dated album cover could be dismissed as part of some new ‘hippie-ster’ fad. The band even travel on a converted silver bus! Ultimately I kept retuning to the sheer magnetism of the songs and that is all that mattered.
The album is an epic journey emphasising love, peace and a sense of community whilst introducing an array of instruments including trumpets, xylophones, harmonicas, accordions, pianos and tons of percussions and whistles. Elements of The Mamas & The Papas, Buffalo Springfield, some Johny Cash and June Carter as well as recent releases by the likes of Elvis Perkins, The Arcade Fire and successive Conor Oberst projects spring to mind . In the hands of a lesser band this 60s and 70s influenced music could be perceived as insincere but with The Magnetic Zeros it remains genuine and fresh.
Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, at Koko, London
From the opening claps and stomps of first single ‘40 Day Dream‘ I know I had stumbled over something quite special. Indeed, the first half of the album is crammed with single material ranging from the fairytail-esque ‘Janglin‘ to the euphoric title track ‘Up From Below’ right through to the uplifting gospel tinged ‘Carries On‘.
The name Jade is referenced throughout the album as she represents a muse of sorts for the ensemble. Her vocals and subtle melodic emphasis provide many of the best moments so it is a pity that the track bearing her name is the weakest on the album. This is rectified very quickly as Jade herself  goes on to lead the standout track, ‘Home‘, . Its tongue-in-cheek delivery and deliberately syrupy lyrics can’t camouflage the breathtaking melody and genuine sense of the protagonists’ love.
After the emotional and musical peak of ‘Home‘ the band reveal a reflective side in the second half of the album. There is still room for ‘I Come In Please’ with its rolling daydream melody and trippy qualities but the likes of ‘Desert Song’, ‘Black Water’, ‘Simplest Love’, ‘Brother‘ andKisses Over Babylon’ (sung in Spanish) aim to be both brooding and epic. The sparse arrangements of these tracks and their cinematic delivery further highlight how talented this ensemble really are.
Album closer ‘Om Nashi Me’ is the perfect footnote for this adventure. The track reiterates many of the underlying themes that appear throughout the album and its amazing trumpet lead and mass chants will remain with you hours after its last note has rung.
Top notch musicianship, stellar songwriting and heartfelt singing make this a truly amazing aural experience and in my books ‘Up From Below‘ is already a nominee for album of the year.
Now to see them live…

Treasures from my collection pt 1

Over the years my family has given me a collection of quilts, heirlooms and other art objects. They are my biggest influence. I live with these objects, which allows me to digest them. Most of them were purchased and lived with for a period of time before they were passed onto me. I like this practice of giving away the things you most love. It has taught me that objects have their own history and I am lucky to be apart of that history. I am more their caretaker than their owner. I'm enjoying and protecting them for a time before I pass them down to my next generation.

Most of them aren't particularly valuable from a monetary standpoint. There value lies in their position within their own culture, or in most cases my culture as I experience it. Some of them are windows for me into another aesthetic.

This Christmas I received a blanket chest that my grandparents got on a trip to Morocco in the mid 80's. It is handmade wooden chest that's about four by three feet. The designs are very similar to Turkish, Syrian, Iranian tile work from 15th to 18th century. The pattern is colorful and complex. I have looked at this style of decoration for its mathematical division of space. Symmetry is made interesting by variations on simple geometry. I would imagine the design was drawn on the chest before it was painted. The hand painting makes each individual shape unique but similar enough for your mind to easily pick out the pattern. 


Kathryn Finnerty Workshop at Univ. of Florida- Come on down!

Kathryn Finnerty is one of my favorite potters. I got to see her work in person at the Eurocentric show at NCECA a few years back. She was making large bird jars that were absolute head turners. I kept going back for more. This will be a great chance to meet her and watch her work. We will have the usual workshop, as well as pot lucks and an after party. I can provide accommodation information if any needs it.
Press Release
H.O.T. (Handbuilt or Thrown) Clay, a University of FL student Ceramics club, is pleased to announce potter Kathryn Finnerty’s visiting artist workshop and lecture Jan. 28th- 29th .  Workshops are open to the public, free to students and the general public. H.O.T. Clay sponsors visiting artists with the support of the University of FL School of Art + Art History, a part of the UF  College of Fine Arts.
 Finnerty workshop schedule       
 January 28th    
8:30a.m.-4:30p.m.      Demonstration        Fine Arts C B14
6:00p.m.-7:00p.m.      Lecture                      TBA                    
January 29th            
8:30a.m.-2:30p.m.      Demonstration        Fine Arts C B14   
Kathryn Finnerty is a studio potter living and working in Pleasant Hill, Oregon.  Born and raised in Toronto, Canada, she studied Ceramics at the George Brown College of Applied Arts in Toronto and Sheridan College of Applied Arts in
Kathryn has taught at a number of institutions,  including the University of Manitoba, the Alberta College of Art and Design,  Ohio State University, Ohio University and the University of Alaska – Fairbanks. In the summer of 2000 Kathryn and her late husband, Tom Rohr, also a potter, moved to Oregon to build Pleasant Hill Pottery and focus on the practice of making pots.  More information about Kathryn Finnerty’s work: http://kathrynfinnerty.com/
Kathryn Finnerty Artist’s Statement
I am drawn to the historical traditions of European decorative ceramics. My work is ornately decorated with surface patterns and images integrated into the form of each piece. Earlier work focused on patterns and ornamentation that defined form with this decoration. My concentration was with a close-up, intimate, and confined sense of space much like the spaces that I physically inhabited living in a city. Moving 6 years ago from an urban center to acreage in central Oregon has expanded my perspective and presented me with the opportunity to discover a natural world outside of my previous daily experience. From my studio windows I witness a pastoral landscape particular to the Northwest, lush and green, wet and moist. There are quail living in our hedge-row, starlings nesting in the eaves of our barn, hawks that soar over our pasture and the owls that hoot from the woods at dusk. I see the coyotes cross the fields on the edge of our property hunting for vermin, hummingbirds flutter in our garden in search of nectar and a Great Heron resides in our pond in the summer months. All of this delights and nourishes me daily and I have found it impossible to resist the tug to draw on this abundance for inspiration in my creative process. This landscape has found a way to impose itself into the existing framework, drawing my attention and the viewer’s eye deeper into the pieces.
Master of Fine Arts, 1993
Studio Arts, Ceramics
Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Bachelor of Fine Arts, 1989         
Studio Arts, Ceramics
Nova Scotia College of Art and Design
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
Special Studies, 1987
Ceramics and Design
Sheridan College of Applied Arts, Ontario, Canada

Commercial Industrial Arts, Diploma 1986
Ceramics and Design
George Brown College of Applied Arts, Toronto, Canada
For further information contact Chris Pickett at cpickettt@hotmail.com
Campus map: http://campusmap.ufl.edu/


Blind Pig and the Acorn Blog

I just found a great Appalachian heritage blog, Blind Pig and the Acorn. I especially like this excerpt about Hog Killing Day. Go Here to read the rest of it.

"My uncle Blueford Dyer was the designated person at Granddad's to do the actual killing of the hog. He had a 22 rifle that he usually used. He'd put a little fresh corn in the trough to attract the chosen 'victim', and knew the exact spot on the pig's snout to lay the barrel against so that the bullet went through the hog's sinus cavities without breaking much bone, and entered the spinal cord, which usually instantly dispatched the pig. Not only mercy was involved in this method. "Everything but the squeal" was used from a hog carcass, and the brains were considered a delicacy. My granddad always had scrambled eggs and hog brains for supper on the evening of a hog killin. But one year, Uncle Blueford put the gun against the pig's snout, pulled the trigger, and after the shot, the pig just shook its head and went on eating. The 22 rifle short cartridge hadn't had enough power to break through the hog's snout! So Uncle Blueford got a 22 long rifle shell and fired it-same result. Just a little trickle of blood, and you could see the back end of the bullet embedded in the bone of the hog's snout. Blueford got mad! He went to his truck and pulled out his 30-30 deer rifle. Needless to say, granddad didn't get any brains to eat for supper that year. They were too full of bone fragments." By Keith Jones

Tipper writes the blog and tells about its name. "The unique name of this site comes from an old saying "Even a blind pig can find an acorn every once in a while." When I first started out in early spring of 2008 the saying behind the name was often in my thoughts-as I didn't really know if I could accomplish what I wanted too-but I sincerly hope like the blind pig-I'll find the acorn.

Appalachia is a haven for artisans of all genres. I believe historically this shows the independence that is often associated with mountain folk. They depended on themselves or their neighbors to supply the necessities of life: clothing, quilts, food, soap and even entertainment. I feature profiles of Mountain Folk who show an inclination to old time ways, to old time traditional music and to art. Whether someone is detailing how to can green beans, plant corn, quilt, or simply telling about their life, there is a wealth of information to be gathered from the people of the Appalachian Mountains. You can see the profiles as they are posted and on the Mountain Folk page.

Just saying the word "Appalachian" brings to mind music. I grew up in a musical family and was blessed to hear traditional Appalachian music on a daily basis. Pickin & Grinnin is a regular spot here and will feature my family's music.

For some Appalachia might bring to mind The Beverly Hillbillies and the quirky, feisty Granny. I think Grannies have been, and still are a tremendous asset to the world. Both my Grannies (although one was called Mamaw) were a huge influence in my life-after all they each raised people who went on to become my parents. My mom is now Granny to my girls, niece and nephews. I must admit some of The Beverly Hillbillies' Granny characteristics, though exaggerated, are true. I have a Grannyisms page where you can read about funny, quirky or inspiring things said or done by my Grannies and leave posts about your Granny and the influence she made on your life.

Generosity is a trait that comes to mind when I think of my life in Appalachia. I am continuing the tradition with Spread The Love, a monthly give away. To be entered all you have to do is post a comment to one of the blog posts or to the Grannyism page.

I hope you stop by the Blind Pig & The Acorn often to visit with the past, the present, and gain a hope for the future."

5 Questions from 15 year old ceramics student Haliegh Reeves

I got a really nice email from a ceramics student that wanted to write a paper on my work. I was flattered and she asked some great questions. They were so simple and direct that I had to think quite awhile about the answers. I thought I would post them.

What really inspired you to make pottery/ceramic things.? what was your early work like?
I started sculpting in clay when I was in the 8th grade. I made small pinched, coiled and slab built sculptures. I remember working for hours on a sculpture of a hamburger and fries. Its funny to me now, but it was a reflection of what I was interested in. I began throwing in High School and completed an International Baccalaureate certificate in ceramics. My high school teachers were very challenging and encouraged me to push my own limits. I stuck with throwing because it held my attention. Throwing helped me calm down and focus. At that point I started making basic shapes like vases, bowls, and cups.

How have you advanced since you started? and what are you doing different now from then?
When I went to college I couldnt immediately start taking clay classes so I worked as a production potter. In this capacity I helped make forms for other potters. It was a great way to get paid for increasing my skill level.
When I started working on my BFA from Appalachian State University my ceramic teachers pushed me to try a variety of forms and techniques. In school I was introduced to the idea that functional pots could convey their information in an unique and interesting way. Im still very interested in the ability of pottery to communicate through functional use on a daily basis. Most of my work is hand held and I enjoy how touching an object conveys a greater variety of information than just looking at it.
My current work is a set of functional service ware for a small family dinner. I think about matching my work to a casual sunday brunch. The number of forms I make has grown over the years, as well as the complexity of the design. I now make platters, plates, butter dishes, pitchers, tea pots, mugs, condiment trays, and jars.

Who were your BIGGEST influences and why? I have been influenced by Rock Creek Pottery (Will Ruggles and Douglas Rankin) http://www.rockcreekpottery.com, Julia Galloway http://www.juliagalloway.com/ and Kristen Kieffer http://kiefferceramics.com/
All of these artists create work that is well crafted and aesthetically pleasing. The attention to detail in Kristen's work has given me permission to obsessively decorate. Hers surfaces are complex but not overwhelming. Neither Kristen or Julia's pots are overworked. They lay it on but not too thick. They know when to stop. Its hard for me to stop decorating so I admire their sense of economy.
I worked periodically at Rock Creek Pottery between 2003 and 2005. During this time I would talk to Will and Douglas about what they believed about pottery. They imparted their understanding of the Mingei philosophy  http://www.mingei.org/about/origins.php This philosophy deeply affected my understanding of why and how you could make a functional object. Working for them taught me that you can work within a tradition without being trapped by it. Their work is steeped in an Asian aesthetic but they embrace their postmodern sensibility by borrowing from many cultures and materials.

The most important teachers I have worked with are Julie Hamilton, www.juliehamiltonart.com, Linda Arbuckle http://lindaarbuckle.com/index.html, Matt Long www.fullvictory.com, and Lisa Stinson www.art.appstate.edu/faculty/stinton.htm
They all have devoted countless hours to teaching me about pottery and art. I tend to be a relentless student and they have always treated me with respect. One memorable turning point came when I was a junior at Appalachain State. I was talking to Lisa about switching from Art Education to Studio Art. She asked me "How can you teach art if your not an artist?" See was implying that I needed to focus on my own work before I could teach anyone else. I later switched majors and now consider my own art practice to be the foundation of my teaching.
I could go on about the rest of the teachers also. They have all be influencial in so many ways.

What inspires you to do the work you do? I noticed that your work has some feminine touch to it (but i really like it) what makes you do that kind of work then normal art work.? My work does have a feminine influence. I embrace the idea that clay is inherently feminine in its plastic state. If you could compare the working state of clay to steel, I would say clay is feminine and steel is masculine. This affects how I touch the clay. I want my work to be soft and gracious. I like that clay responds to every gesture I make. Every time I move my hand, even with the slightest pressure, the clay responds. This feels very fluid and natural. I have worked with wood and a variety of metals in the past and I am frustrated with the amount of energy it takes to get them to take a shape. With clay it is instant.

The floral patterns that I use are feminine as well. That is directly related to my interest in quilting and fabric, both of which are heavily feminine in our culture. I enjoy the complexity of quilt patterns. I tend to like objects that show layers of pattern. I also choose to reference quilts because they reflect my desire to uphold the family tradition of passing down heirlooms from generation to generation. I now own quilts and other objects that my family owned. My grandmothers were quilters/knitters so I grew up using handmade fabric items. I like this direct link to my ancestral past. The objects themselves become place holders for tradition.


Computer driven nostalgia and OCMS at the Ryman



I spent NYE with Old Crowe Medicine Show at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. From the first note they were full of energy, and passion for bluegrass. It was my first time to the "mother church of country music".  (www.Ryman.com  May 10 1885 Nashville riverboat Captain Thomas Green Ryman (born Oct 12, 1841) is converted by southern evangelist Samuel Porter Jones and decides to build a tabernacle to serve the city's revivals)  The seats are church pews and the auditorium is flanked with stained glass windows. The night felt like a revival with the spirituals that were sung. The harmonica playing of lead fiddler Ketch Secor and the singing of lead guitarist Willie Watson left me in awe for most of the night. The sound was clear and the view was great. I was stomping my feet and singing with the rest of the crowd. The intimate venue and the die hard fan base reminded me of early String Cheese Incident shows that I saw more than ten years ago.

As I was taking in the whole experience I was thinking "how is a traditional style of music so popular today"? Being from Virginia, bluegrass is the musical heritage of the region. Some members of my family are guitar/mandolin players so Ive grown up experiencing bluegrass as a part of the cultural landscape. The first time I realized that Bluegrass was a national curiosity was when Oh Brother Where Art Thou hit the silver screen. Some of the craze can be attributed to George Clooney but some was a genuine interest in old time music/Appalachian culture. This was reinforced by cross over country stars like Alison Krauss and the Dixie Chicks, who brought bluegrass out of the hollows and into the main stream.

In the late 90's a self respecting teenager could still be cool while listening to banjo licks one minute, and bass beats the next. Its hard to reconcile how this music coexists with Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, and Jay Z. I actually think its a natural complement. The old time sincerity that bluegrass upholds is a balance to the anonymity of the computer age. As technology pushes the boundries of communication towards a new and unknown future a counter reaction towards the familiar is established. We fulfill the saying "two steps forward, one step back" with our love of all things Retro. Retro has become a great marking tool. Retro sells music, fashion and throw-back NBA Jerseys. Contemporary craft can fill the same need . Not all craft is traditional, but no art is created in a vacuum. Most artists are informed by the history of their medium even if they aren't devout followers.

I have totally embraced technology (as evidenced by my blog, Facebook and Twitter accounts) and nostalgia for pretechnology. I don't see them as mutually exclusive. I rock out to my Ipod as I try to tap into ceramic traditions that span hundreds, sometimes thousands of years. This paradox is one of the defining characteristics of my cultural environment. Our post modern time lines of influence would be drawn with a etch-a-sketch instead of a ruler.

Here is a video with the band talking about there influences from Nirvana to Bob Dylan.


Great CM Spot for BCW Winterfest

I was fortunate to have an image in the upfront section of Ceramics Monthly this month. I was chosen for being in BCW Winterfest (http://www.baltimoreclayworks.org/). My friend Elliot Marquet is also featured in a review of NCECA'S Continental Divide show. The description of his work as "landscape through the eyes of a cartoon" is spot on. He creates full volumes that are nicely surfaced with lichen, crawl and luster
glazes. He is now a resident at Carbondale Clay Center.

Happy Carter Holidays...aka tons of food

I had a fantastic winter vacation/holiday. I traveled to Black Mountain Studios to work for Austin and Maud Boleman. I go there about twice a year to make pots for them. It is a collaborative studio where multiple people work to make pottery that is stamped with the BMS logo. I really enjoy spending time with them. We make pots all day and play spades at night. This time I completed 110 Bowls of various sizes (salsa to Larger serving bowl) and I started about 30 platters, tea pots, and casseroles that they will have to complete. It was productive and a lot of fun.

I spent the Christmas holiday between both of my parents houses. My girlfriend came this year which gave me a whole new perspective on my family dynamic. I didnt realize how large my family was until I saw the look of overwhelming shock on Erin's face when we had 22 people at my fathers for dinner on Christmas evening. I am so used to the pandamonium that I didn't realize how crowded it is. We eat in shifts because the table isnt big enough.

As I look at these images now I realize my sense of decoration comes from my father. His house is a covered with objects that somehow seem to squeeze into the same space. Every inch is covered with paintings, pictures, collections of elephants, birds and pigs.
I had a teacher ask my once if I had horror vacui (literally: fear of empty spaces, also known as cenophobia) which is the filling of the entire surface of an artwork with detail.  I'm not sure about that because Im not afraid to leave space undecorated. For me there is pleasure in decoration. If it feels good then why not do it until you cant do it anymore? I find that I am attracted to pots, rugs, and paintings that have dense rich surfaces. So if I get asked this again I'll blame it on my family aesthetic. I come from a long line of overcrowded spaces.

On Christmas afternoon I got out our old family Bible. This Bible is huge. It weighs at least 20 lbs and is approx. 12 x 9 inches. I love to look at my great great grandmother Serilda's handwriting. She kept a written record of the family from the 1890's to the 1950's. It is amazing how much power this book has. It was not only a religious text but it was a ledger of all the important family events. Marriages, Births, Deaths, everything was marked in very elegant cursive handwriting.  Its nice to have such a direct physical connection to my ancestors. There is no equivalent to this in my life today. We haven't updated the details in the Bible in many generations. I think we would have to add new sheets to the notes section. I also got to see one of my great great grandfathers hand held copies of the new testament from the 1870's. We still have a pair of delicate wire rim spectacles too.

Heirlooms are my greatest influence. I'm interested in the power they contain and the power makers have in recording both the past and the present simultaneously. My pots are the personal expression of my collective family experience. I think about my pots as potential heirlooms.