This post is in response to Carter Gillies "An Anatomy of Artistic Theft". Click here to check it out.
"That seems to be the outstanding fact of a human life: In the very depths of our beating hearts and pulsing veins we are forever and without question cannibals of ideas and robbers of any ingredient that isn’t nailed down." C. Gillies
After reading Carter's post I immediately thought of great cover songs. The definitive example being Johnny Cash's cover of the Nine Inch Nails song "Hurt". Cash transcends the beautiful melancholy of Trent Reznor's lyrics transforming the song into a potent autobiography. It was Reznor's idea that created the lyrics but it was Cash's life that created a recording that stands the test of time.
Reznor said of Cash's cover "I listened to it and it was very strange. It was this other person inhabiting my most personal song. I'd known where I was when I wrote it. I know what I was thinking about. I know how I felt. Hearing it was like someone kissing your girlfriend. It felt invasive." (click here for the full article) I can see Reznor's point of view. He displayed a huge dose of vulnerability to write this lyric. What have I become my sweetest friend, everyone I know goes away in the end. and you can have it all, my empire of dirt. I will let you down, I will make you hurt. What makes this work is that Cash's life supported the content of the song he was covering. The intense spirit of reflection that Cash brings to his version came from his own experience with grief, loss, and isolation.
This same principle applies to borrowing ideas from other potter's work. If you can get inside an idea, absorbing the content, then the idea becomes a natural extension of you. This isn't a matter of technical skill. It is a matter of matching skill with content. At some point in every artist's development the "Aha" moment occurs when it becomes clear that with enough practice you can copy any pot. Then the question changes from "How do I make this handle, spout, etc, etc. " to "Why should I make this if it has already been done? What does it mean if I copy this? " Answering these questions enables the evolution of an idea.
I like what Carter says about replication. "My heritage from Ron Meyers to Michael Simon to Linda Christianson seems pretty obvious to me, not so much as line for line replication but genetic indebtedness." The qualities in their work apply to his own because they all came to the same conclusion about pots. It is possible for potters to come up with the same answers to aesthetic questions without ever having direct contact with each other. This type of evolution is like two scientists coming up with the same solution to a similar research problem. If you take the birds eye view our art community is working on the problem of reacting/documenting cultural change. We cycle through larger ideas every five to ten years as culture shifts. For an example look at old Ceramics Monthlys. Periodically there are major shifts in technique and methods. This corresponds to shifts in cultural content that ripple through the community. We develop new methods to better communicate the change we see in the world around us.
My last point is that evolving other people's ideas is a healthy natural progression of knowledge. When I teach I am non possessive about techniques and ideas. I show students every possible solution because at the heart of my teaching I want my students to be better than me. Isn't this the whole point of teaching? I want them to absorb what I know and build on it for the next generation. How can our field grow if we are constantly reinventing the wheel out of some misplaced sense of ownership? I have been fortunate to have compassionate and patient teachers that would answer all my questions to the best of their ability. It is my responsibility as an educator to grant my students the same courtesy by demonstrating techniques and offering conceptual questions that will challenge their development as artists.
A hearty to thanks to Carter Gillies for providing the topic of today's post. Check out Carter Gillies Pottery here.
On plate days I spread across the studio like poison ivy. There are plates filling the tables while they pass through different stages of drying. I'm currently working with three designs - round w/square insert, octagonal, and five lobed. This batch are all thrown and cut using templates. They will get a layer of slip trailed designs before they are dunked in porcelain slip.
Shanghai has been beautiful for the past two weeks. The buds have just popped into leaves and the city is a glow with the light green tint of spring. I'm amazed at how fast this happened. The leaves seemed to magically appear out of no where. I'm ready for the long days of summer with the 8 o'clock sunsets and warm night breezes.
These pots are fine examples of pottery from the Majiayao culture. The swirling patterns are made from Iron slips brushed on coil-built earthenware. I love the way they balance large black lines and thin cross hatching to create the focal point of the design. The culture is from the area of China that is now the Qinghai and Gansu Provence.
The Pot of the Day series features art that I encounter on my visits to museums. These are from the Shanghai Museum collection, which offers a broad range of Chinese ceramics from 3,000 BC to the late 1800's. For the museum website please click here.
KareKare Beach- West Coast of New Zealand- 5826 miles from Shanghai
Da Shang Cun Village near Binzhou, China- 467 miles from Shanghai
The view from my grandparents house in Salem, Virginia- 7513 miles from Shanghai
View from the St. Petersburg Pier building- 8077 miles from Shanghai (674 miles from Salem, Va)
I was looking through pictures today soaking in the enormity of my last three months. By the numbers I have traveled 28,935 miles by plane since February. Each trip was significant in its own way. North China was an eye opener (click here), New Zealand was an adventure (click here), Virginia was a much needed homecoming, and Florida was a chance to recharge with great art and good friends (click here).
Traveling creates a sense of spontaneity that nourishes the routine parts of my life. By nature I am a creature of habit and repetition. I thrive within a structure turning the "ruts" of life into fertile ground for developing ideas. It's no coincidence that I put patterns on my pots. In the studio I enjoy repeating forms, lines, scratches, and pokes. My best pots come when I first start a form (the naive beginners-luck stage) and when I know them so well they spring out of my fingers (the relaxed expert stage).
Being out of the studio for a few months has given me a fresh perspective on my routines and work. In the last two months the most continuous time I had in the studio was during workshops. This barely counts as studio time as it tends to be more performance oriented than experimental. I found myself staying well after the participants to work at night. This extra "play" time has been reaping benefits lately in the studio. I've touched clay every day since I returned to China. I'm working on new forms while rearranging a few old ones that needed a jump start.
This bud vase has gotten a lot of attention recently. (I made the one pictured last month in Wellington. Click here for WPA highlights) The form is a variation on a Yuan dynasty bottle that I saw in a book years ago. I'm excited about the potential for this heavy slip trailing. I've been laying it on thick to see how much the pot can take without cracking. I might have to deflocculate it a little to help the fit. I made a batch of ten that all have different proportions and slip patterns. I'll post more pictures as they develop.
Yuan Dynasty- Pear Shaped Bottle with Iron spots, Longquan Ware. 13th-14th Cent.
Check out Michael Kline's recent bottles. Great to see this form trickling down the pottery pipeline. The proportions and lips change but a potters love for a big "hipped" bottled has lasted for more than 700 years.
The Pot of the Day series features art that I encounter on my visits to museums. This celedon beauty lives in the Shanghai Museum. The collection offers a broad range of Chinese ceramics from 3,000 BC to the late 1800's. I love to go and would be glad to offer informal tours to anyone who visits Shanghai. For the museum website please click here.
The Zen Teahouse in Louisville, Ky will be presenting Hot Pots, Cold Cups from April 18th - May 6th. I'm glad to participate with the white teapot that is pictured above.
The mission of the Zen Tea House is fantastic. (click here to visit their site) They provide tea, light meals, and meditation in the heart of Louisville. Their aren't many commercial establishments in the west that offer tea as a meditative discipline. Many cities could benefit from this mix of spiritual and physical nourishment. I appreciate this quote from their site.
"Essentially, during tea meditation, one looks inwardly to see one’s mind as it is, without any effort to interpret or judge. Whether our mind is pure or polluted, clear or confused, we only need to witness it. Once free from making judgment and blame, we will be spiritually open, understand ourselves deeper, and become more receptive to embrace others and their points of view."
Next time your in the studio look inwardly without any effort to interpret or judge. Work with a clear mind and save the judgement until after the piece is fired. How could that change your studio practice?
This reminds me of my favorite sutra, The Faith Mind. One particular line hit me hard the first time I read it. If you wish to see the truth then hold no opinions for or against anything. My initial thought was "This is bull shit. How can I not have opinions. I am an artist. I need to be able to judge what works and what doesn't." (Most times when I have this strong of a reaction I need to pay attention because something big is happening.) The righteousness of opinions is something I was taught to cherish. If I give up these opinions won't I be direction-less floating in a creative wasteland? As it turns out, I won't.
The way I look at this challenge is to separate the evaluating mind from the creating mind. They aren't exactly opposites but they are at odds with each other. Constant evaluating shuts down my creativity in a heart beat. My best studio discoveries come from allowing myself the freedom to fail, succeed, or plainly experience the newness of an idea. There will be plenty of time for judgement after a piece is completed.
I remember a studio meeting I had with Matt Towers. (Click here to check out his thrown porcelain sculptures.) We were talking about the throwing process and how to make "fresh pots". He stopped me at one point and said "Don't analyze when your throwing. Make ten pots. Then stop and look at them." This was great advice that I still follow today. When I am working I start with a clear form in my mind and make it with uncompromising focus. If a thought like "thats a little dumpy", or "why did I do that again", or "damn this is the best pot of the week" comes into my mind I bring my attention back to the clay. If I focus on the way it feels in my hands I usually get out of my mind (judgement) and back into my body (creativity).
The goal is not to eliminate the evaluating mind. We need this. As humans we have evolved into this type of problem solving as a means of survival. The goal is to use the evaluating mind to its best benefit without detracting from other mental processes. My evaluating mind is best expressed through sketching, writing, and Photoshop work. This allows me to work through multiple scenarios before I sit down with the clay. I find this segregation to be much more productive than intermixing my creative and judgmental mind.
So again, Work with a clear mind and save the judgement until after the piece is fired. Test this out in your studio and let me know what happens.
The Faith Mind Sutra
Hsin Hsin Ming
Third Zen Ancestor
The Great Way is not difficult
for those who have no preferences.
When love and hate are both absent
everything becomes clear and undisguised.
Make the smallest distinction, however
and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart.
If you wish to see the truth
then hold no opinions for or against anything.
To set up what you like against what you dislike
is the disease of the mind.
When the deep meaning of things is not understood
the mind's essential peace is disturbed to no avail.
The Way is perfect like vast space
where nothing is lacking and nothing is in excess.
Indeed, it is due to our choosing to accept or reject
that we no not see the true nature of things.
Live neither in the entanglements of outer things,
nor in inner feelings of emptiness.
Be serene in the oneness of things
and such erroneous views will disappear by themselves.
When you try to stop activity to achieve passivity
your very effort fills you with activity.
As long as you remain in one extreme or the other
you will never know Oneness.
Those who do not live in the single Way
fail in both activity and passivity,
assertion and denial.
To deny the reality of things
is to miss their reality;
to assert the emptiness of things
is to miss their reality.
The more you talk and think about it,
the further astray you wander from the truth.
Stop talking and thinking,
and there is nothing you will not be able to know.
To return to the root is to find the meaning,
but to pursue appearances is to miss the source.
At the moment of inner enlightenment
there is a going beyond appearance and emptiness.
The changes that appear to occur in the empty world
we call real only because of our ignorance.
Do not search for the truth;
only cease to cherish opinions.
Do not remain in the dualistic state
avoid such pursuits carefully.
If there is even a trace
of this and that, right and wrong,
the Mind-essence will be lost in confusion.
Although all dualities come from the One,
do not be attached even to this One.
When the mind exists undisturbed in the Way,
nothing in the world can offend,
and when a thing can no longer offend,
it ceases to exist in the old way.
When no discriminating thoughts arise,
the old mind ceases to exist.
When thought objects vanish,
the thinking-subject vanishes,
as when the mind vanishes, objects vanish.
Things are objects because of the mind;
the mind is such because of things.
Understand the relativity of these two
and the basic reality: the unity of emptiness.
In this Emptiness the two are indistinguishable
and each contains in itself the whole world.
If you do not discriminate between coarse and fine
you will not be tempted to prejudice and opinion.
To live in the Great Way
is neither easy nor difficult,
but those with limited views
are fearful and irresolute:
the faster they hurry, the slower they go,
and clinging cannot be limited;
even to be attached to the idea of enlightenment
is to go astray.
Just let things be in their own way
and there will be neither coming nor going.
Obey the nature of things, your own nature,
and you will walk freely and undisturbed.
When thought is in bondage the truth is hidden,
for everything is murky and unclear,
and the burdensome practice of judging
brings annoyance and weariness.
What benefit can be derived
from distinctions and separations ?
If you wish to move in the One Way
do not dislike even the world of senses and ideas.
Indeed, to accept them fully
is identical with true Enlightenment.
The wise man strives to no goals
but the foolish man fetters himself.
There is one Dharma, not many;
from the clinging needs of the ignorant.
To seek Mind with the discriminating mind
is the greatest of all mistakes.
Rest and unrest derive from illusion;
with enlightenment there is no liking and disliking.
All dualities come from ignorant inference.
They are like dreams of flowers in air:
foolish to try to grasp them.
Gain and loss, right and wrong:
such thoughts must finally be abolished at once.
If the eye never sleeps,
all dreams will naturally cease.
If the mind makes no discriminations,
the ten thousand things
are as they are, of single essence.
To understand the mystery of this One-essence
is to be released from all entanglements.
When all things are seen equally
the timeless Self-essence is reached.
No comparisons or analogies are possible
in this causeless, relationless state.
Consider movement stationery
and the stationery in motion,
both movement and rest disappear.
When such dualities cease to exist
Oneness itself cannot exist.
To this ultimate finality
no law or description applies.
For the unified mind in accord with the Way
all self-centered striving ceases.
Doubts and irresolutions vanish
and life in true faith is possible.
With a single stroke we are freed from bondage;
nothing clings to us and we hold to nothing.
All is empty, clear, self-illuminating,
with no exertion of the mind's power.
Here thought, feeling, knowledge and imagination
are of no value.
In this world of Suchness
there is neither self nor other-than-self.
To come directly into harmony with this reality
just simply say when doubt arises, 'Not two.'
In this 'not two' nothing is separate,
nothing is excluded.
No matter when or where,
enlightenment means entering this truth.
And this truth is beyond extension or
diminution in time or space;
in it a single thought is ten thousand years.
Emptiness here, Emptiness there,
but the infinite universe stands
always before your eyes.
Infinitely large and infinitely small;
no difference, for definitions have vanished
and no boundaries are seen.
So too with Being and non-Being.
Don't waste time in doubts and arguments
that have nothing to do with this.
One thing, all things:
move among and intermingle,
To live in this realization
is to be without anxiety about non-perfection.
To live in this faith is the road to non-duality.
Because the non-dual is one with the trusting mind.
The Way is beyond language,
for in it there is
The Pottery Workshop just rolled out an all new website. Organizing the virtual footprint for our organization was no small feat. The workshop now stands as the largest privately held ceramic institution in China (and I think the world). Our locations in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Jingdezhen house three community education centers, four galleries, an international residency, a ceramic trading company, a design factory, and a whole host of other ceramic related services. Click here for www.potteryworkshop.com.cn.
We owe a huge thank you to Patrick Coughlin for putting this together. Beyond his web designer extraordinaire status Patrick is a top notch ceramic artist. Click here to see his work. Make sure to watch the video from his 1/30/10 blog post My Chinese Life. He filmed a scooter ride through Jingdezhen, a sleeper bus to Shanghai, and a trip to the fabric market for a tailored suit.
After a few years of trying to resist I've started to add pots to my collection again. I had to cut myself off when I was in grad school due to lack of funds. I continued to trade with friends, acquiring a few great pots during that time, but for the most part the collection was on hold. All three of these beauties were purchased within the last month and the fever has been reawakened. I remember hearing that in the late 1700's the European aristocracy would literally sell their land to get porcelain that was being imported from China. I can relate to this level of passion for collecting.
My collection includes pots, weavings, rugs, quilts, furniture, and sculptures. (Click here for a post about a Morrocan blanket chest.) Being back in the states gave me the chance to spend time with these objects again. One of the great downfalls of living overseas is that I had to leave my collection behind. When I finally do settle down for the long haul I look forward to displaying everything at once.
The Kari Radasch platter and Sam Chung pots were "finds". They are both pieces from earlier bodies of work that these potters have moved away from. When they were still being made I was an admirer, but never pulled the trigger on a purchase. For lovers of Kari V1.0 there is a sizable stash at Natasha's Market Cafe in Floyd Va. (Click here for more info) When I discovered them I felt like I had won the lottery without even buying a ticket. I had a similar experience when I found the Sam Chung ewer in the storage area of our Fumin Lu shop in Shanghai. I think it was made during a 2008 soda firing workshop he conducted at the PWS Jingdezhen. This ewer has unbelievable curves. It has the same classic edge quality of a 1940's Rolls Royce.
The Michael Kline bowl is a great example of odd numbered decoration schemes. Its density sucked me in on the first glance. The first layer of non tinted wax has five sets of lines that reference grasses. The second layer of tinted wax repeats a floral motif three times. The interaction of the two layers ups the complexity of the overall design exponentially. I find myself looking in awe at Michael's pots often wondering what holds them together. They are really successful in their use of gesture and negative/positive space.
For more information on Kari Radasch click here
For more information on Sam Chung click here
For more information on Michael Kline click here
Black Figure Plate with Rooster and Fox. Late Corinthian 575-550 B.C.
Red Figure Hydria-Pyrix (Lidded Box) Paestean 350 B.C.
I spotted this rooster plate from across the room. It was my favorite piece of all the pots I saw at NCECA. I love the sgrafitto through the black slip. (Reminds me of Sue Terrill's work. Click here to see.) This is the first Black Figure piece that I've seen that didn't reference the human body in some way. The scale change between the large rooster and small fox seem to be a visual metaphor but I don't know the back story.
The lidded box was a tricky little form. It is shaped like a vase but disassembles to reveal compartments. It was thought to hold make up for an actor. Each compartment had a lid that was decorated with a different female face. Greek pots are great for dividing decorative space to tell a narrative.
The show was organized around the theme Myth & History, Gods & Mortals, Heroes & Hybrids. The variety of forms used to explain the theme was impressive. Glad to see they decided to go beyond the usual Amphora (Jar), Kylix(Cup), Kantharos (Cup) combo. If your in the Tampa area its worth the visit.
Top reasons Tampa did a bang up job on this years NCECA. (Due to Jet lag I'm going for snippets on this post. More to come later.)
-The Tampa Museum of Art hosted the most interesting line up I've seen in a small public museum. Every show was a heavy hitter. The Biennial had great exposure beside a Degas show, the Greek pots in the Worlds Apart show were fantastic, and the Herb Snitzer retrospective featured rare pictures of Jazz greats in their prime. Click to read more.NCECA Biennial, Degas: Form, Movement, and the Antique, Worlds Apart: Myth and History, Gods and Mortals, Heroes and Hybrids, Herb Snitzer: A Jazz Memoir, Realism: Selections from the Martin Z. Margulies Collection
- The conference center was located two blocks from Whiting Street (CaC03). It was our destiny to hold NCECA there.
-Great venues for shows. My favorite was the St. Pete Pier. It looks like a giant inverted lego pyramid. Check it out here.
-Good show titles for this years theme shows. Mindy Solomon Gallery hosted Florida Souvenirs: Sand, Surf, and Sin in the Sunshine State. (Top image Matt Shaeffers The Greatest Generation) The Gallery at the St. Pete Pier hosted Dead Reckoning: Boats, Buoy, and Beyond. I am a big fan of catchy exhibition titles.
-Ybor City, known for its hand rolled cigars, had streets lined with terra cotta facades. Click here for more.
-Tampa offered a variety of good food. Local restaurants served Thai, Cuban, Greek, and all sorts of Americana. I spent an evening at The Acropolis Taverna eating Gyro and Hummus with a large group of friends. Not only did they seat 20 of us at 10:00 pm, they did it while dancing, throwing napkins and smashing plates in a festive Greek style. (check it out on youtube)
Blogger just rolled out five new blog views. These are optional user-chosen formats that offer readers the ability to visually restructure the blogs they read. Some views focus on presenting the text in a more efficient way, while others focus on highlighting images. The mosaic view (top image) is my favorite. The asymmetrical block design spotlights images from past blog posts. The sidebar view (bottom image) is an efficient way to see older posts while still getting images and text. The only down side to these is that they override the blog template that the author has chosen. For art-based bloggers that design their templates to match their content this could be a major down side.
Let me know what you guys think about the new views. Which ones do you like?
All about Dynamic Views for Readers - Blogger Help