Charlie Cummings Gallery is hosting Best Foot Forward. This benefit goes to raise money to help Drew Johnson in his recovery from a motercycle accident. Drew has been an inspiration to the whole University of Florida ceramics family. His persistence and peace of mind through his recovery have been remarkable. I have never seen someone cope with tragedy in such a proactive and postive way.
Many artists and clay companies donated goods for the auction. There are lots of great pots available for purchase. The auction ends tomorrow so bid while you still can.
"Best Foot Forward is a fund-raiser for University of Florida Ceramics major Drew Johnson begin_of_the_skype_highlightingend_of_the_skype_highlighting, a junior student who lost a foot in a motorcycle accident. He was hit by a driver who had no ability to pay, leaving Drew with large hospital bills. Drew has a wonderful can-do attitude, is a very promising student, and is now back at school.
Potters, sculptors and clay related businesses have generously donated 191 items to help raise money for Drew. Please show your support both for Drew and for the generous artists whose donations make this auction possible by bidding on items in this auction.
The auctions are divided into four groups that begin Tuesday, September 21st, and end in the evening on Monday, September 27th."
A few weeks ago attended the Shanghai7's. This seven on seven rugby tournament was established to help spread rugby throughout Asia. (for more info Click Here) The weekend tournament featured club, recreation, and semi pro teams from all over Asia. I got to see Malaysia play Japan and the home team, The Shanghai Hairy Crabs, win the club section of the tournament. The crabs definately had the most lively cheering section of all the teams in attendance. Every time the crabs scored a try (which is similar to a touchdown for you American football fans) chants of "Hairy Crabs, Hairy Crabs" went around the stadium.
As the games progressed the competition and the hits got more intense. I saw quite a few weak kneed players wobbling around after a big hit. I'm amazed these guys don't sustain more serious injuries from playing. It looked like the average age of the players was in the mid-thirties so I know they were going to need a lot of Advil and ice after the match. I respect all the players for having the toughness to return to their day jobs after getting banged up all weekend.
One of the most interesting things to see as a spectator was the crowd. The crowd of approximately 200 was the largest gathering of non-Chinese that I have seen in Shanghai. It was a English speaking reunion for the Rugby countries - S. Africa, New Zealand, Australian, and Great Britain. It felt like I stepped out of China for a few hours.
Tim Ludwig is a potter and educator from Deland Florida. I know of Tim through the students he taught at Volusa County High school. Their ceramics program always sent fantastic students to the Univ. of Florida. You can find more about Tim and his work in this months PMI. He has the cover article- Spontaneity and Control. The intro to the article states "Tim Ludwig uses an earthenware clay to make forms influenced by Peter Voulkos’s abstract expressionism, then he decorates them in the botanical illustrative style of the 18th century."
I'm a big fan of the way he frames his decoration with form. He creates two dimensional boundaries and then decorates just outside of their edges. The scale relationship gives the feeling that his flowers are going to jump off the pot. It is a really nice way to enliven scientific drawings that sometimes seem stiff when they are in books.
I had a great time on Friday filming for the Shanghai TV show, Tau Zui. This special interest daily show came by as part of a feature they did on our local creative district, Tianzifang. I spent a few hours working with the host Chen Lan to hand build a teapot, decorate a cup, and do a small amount of throwing. I built most of the forms in advance so that we could switch them in and out of the shots. We were trying to make it look like Lan, or Cecilia (her English name), had built the forms.
My previous experience being interviewed didn't prepare me for what it would be like to be on film. We did many, many, many takes to get the right combination of her speaking in Mandarin and me responding in English. She did speak in English occasionally but the show is geared for a predominately Chinese audience. We loosely followed a script that I never got to see it before we started. Mostly she would say "I'm going to talk for a little bit and then ask you a few questions... How did you start in ceramics?... How do you like Shanghai? ok, ok, ok?" It was a great improv exercise. I do tend to smile when I am nervous so the hardest part was not laughing. The crew were very gracious and lighthearted about the whole experience.
The show is part of the larger Dragon TV network and it shows midday during the week. The segment they filmed will air sometime in October. If I can get a copy Ill try to upload it to the blog. It should be fun to see how much they will cut. The shoot was about two hours but I think our part will be about 10 minutes or so. I hope they edit out most of the dumb looks I had as I was concentrating.
The first thing people ask me when they hear I am in a foreign country is "Do you like the food?" This basic question can yield a complicated answer. So far I haven't sampled even a tenth of the cuisine that this country has to offer. Each region has their own specialties that are rich in flavor and texture. Shanghainese food is known for being sweet, mildly spiced, and oily. When I traveled to Jingdezhen the food was similar but usually more spicy. It wasn't unbearably hot, like Szechuan cuisine, but it could sneak up on you if you weren't paying attention. From what I have tried I haven't found a taste that I don't like. I do try to avoid foods that are created with processes that have toxic byproducts. For instance, one type of preserved black egg has traces of lead in it from the plaster curing process that is used to make it. As much as I have tried to convince my coworkers that anything with lead in it is bad they still gobble it up when our Ayi prepares our lunch.
The restaurants that I find most entertaining are called Hot Pots. There are hundreds of them in the city. The general idea is that you cook meat and vegetables in a boiling broth that is heavily spiced. This fondue-like cooking process extends the meal to be an hour or more. The pictures above show our plates full of fresh mushrooms, seaweed, and a variety of soy products. Each restaurant has a buffet of dipping sauces that the food can be dunked in right after it comes out of the pot. My favorite is a Chinese BBQ sauce that is less sweet but more complex than the American version.
Pictured are my friends Eric and Guo. They are sitting at one end of the table with the hot pot between them. Each table can have two or more electric hotplates built into their surfaces. This makes cooking, eating, and talking very comfortable for large groups. On this night there was a group of Chinese business man having a dinner behind us. It was an absolute spectacle. The table of twenty was rowdy and excited to be together after what must of been a long day at the office. They came to the restaurant ready to eat with cases of beer under their arms. Every ten minutes a toast was proposed, which was then followed by at least two members of the group engaging in a chug off. As the night went on the table got progressively louder until they noticed me looking at them and began to shout "Chinese Man" as they beat their chests like King Kong. It was hilarious.
This competitive spirit is built into this style of eating. Each time I have gone to a hot pot there are moments where my friends are challenging each other to eat ridiculous combinations of food. "Seaweed + spinach +cilantro + fish balls + Hot Sauce. OK now you try hot sauce + mushrooms..." You can see Guo about to drop an octopus into the pot. When cooked right it is slightly firm and delicious. The craziest thing I have eating so far has been cow intestines. I was a little scared at first but shocked that they weren't that bad.
One surprise for me has been my new found love of eating with chop sticks.With a spoon you can shovel food into your body faster than your stomach can realize what is happening. As time passes you become overly full because you were eating too fast to notice your bodies signals telling you that you have had enough. Chop sticks circumvent this problem by making you eat smaller bites. This is a much slower and more enjoyable way to get food into your body. As a side note, China traditionally combats hunger in its massive population with large scale rice production. My friend says "Chinese might be poor but everyone eats rice every day."
Here is a snippet on Hot Pot history from Chinatownconnection.com. For the full post click here.
(The hot pot (huokuo) has a long history in China. It originated in the north, where people have to fend off the chill early in the year. It spread to the south during the Tang dynasty (A.D. 618-906). Later, northern nomads who settled in China enhanced the pot with beef and mutton, and southerners did the same with seafood. In the Ching dynasty, the hot pot became popular throughout the whole area of China.
I recently had an article published in Pottery Making Illustrated about my method of building and decorating. The article "Elevating Earthenware" highlights surface decoration techniques that can help build depth at cone 04 with slips and glazes. It also shows the foam/cloth mold technique that I developed while I was in Florida. I haven't actually seen the article yet so let me know how it looks if your a subscriber.
These images below show a close up of the molds in action.