Monday, March 28, 2011

First Post!

Hi!  I’m Sarah.  I’m a functional potter and jeweler in East Central Illinois who’s just getting started as a professional craft artist.  This blog is a way for me to develop a web presence, and to give all my claymates, benchmates, and fellow Penland junkies from over the years a way to see what I’m up to.

I’ve been working in clay and metals since 2003 and 2004 respectively when I started taking classes in both media at Parkland College in Champaign, IL:

In clay at Parkland I mostly worked with cone 10 gas reduction fired stoneware, though I also experimented with low fire earthenware and raku firing (I particularly liked the raku, as I could actively take part in those firings).  I also saw my first salt and soda fired pots at the Parkland Art Gallery’s spring ’08 Ceramics Biennial Invitational- as I was working for the gallery at the time, I actually had the opportunity to handle the work when unpacking and packing the show, and thus was able to experience it tactilely as well.  In 2009 I took my first clay class at Penland School of Craft, the 8-week Spring Concentration on wood, soda, and salt firing with McKenzie Smith and Gregory Hamilton Miller.  This class was something of a revelation, which, as I gather, first experiences with Penland very generally are...but this was also my first chance to really participate in firings in a major way, and having had no prior experience with atmosphere firing, I had no pre-formed expectations; thus I was amazed that it was possible to have something of the elements of variety, spontaneity, and surprise that I liked so much in raku firing, available to me in a high fire, very functional form.  Since that first Concentration I have been back on the hill a few times (with more yet to come!) to learn even more about clay and atmosphere firing.  When I’m not at Penland, I’m at Boneyard Pottery back in Champaign, where I’m the studio assistant for Michael Schweigmann, and I also teach beginning to intermediate level pottery classes.  My own work at Boneyard is restricted to porcelain fired to cone 10 in gas reduction, though I lust for a soda kiln...and spend much of my time practicing forms to try out the next time I get my hands on one!

In metals I’m still at Parkland, where I have had the good fortune to work during most of my time there with a truly gifted instructor, Robert Laible.  If there is anything that can be done to metal (especially involving stone-setting) that he can’t do, and do well, I’d be surprised (bow to Sensei!)  During umpteen semesters of independent study metals classes I’ve been working in sterling silver using casting and fabrication methods to make nature inspired forms involving varying degrees of realism: plants and insects are favorite sources (a gardening mother, and entomologist father...), and I frequently use bezel and prong setting techniques to add gemstones to my work.

My philosophy on craft is similar to that of the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries which revolted against the mass-produced products and lifestyle brought on by the industrial revolution.  I believe that the use of handmade objects in everyday life provides an important personal connection between maker and user, and that exposure to intellectually and aesthetically stimulating surroundings deepens and broadens your personality, your taste, and the way you respond to life.  I want my work to be functional (wearable, useable) art that will be used in everyday life- not stored away, put on display, or kept at a distance in a museum or gallery, but experienced on a subconscious as well as conscious plane (i.e. morning coffee out of a handmade clay cup vs. a mass produced plastic or cast ceramic mug from the store).

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