Friday, April 15, 2011

NCECA 2011: Tampa ... and post NCECA fun!

Finally we get to the NCECA post... completed at 2am, but oh well. 

A terrifically fun time: I went down to Tampa for this year’s NCECA conference (for you non-clay people out there, it’s the clay conference/trade show for North America).  It was nice to get out of C-U, which was still holding on to the last gasps of winter despite the calendar -and the flowers in the garden- saying it’s spring; there was snow coming down during the drive to the Indianapolis airport!

On arrival I met up with a couple of Penland buddies from last summer -Sandy Payson and Bobby Kadis- who were my comrades-in-arms over the next few days.  Wednesday morning and into the afternoon we went on one of the bus tours to North Tampa where we saw a couple shows of note, and a lot of ghetto Tampa thanks to the out of town bus drivers hired for the conference (not all bad, the architecture was really nice- lots of beautiful Arts and Crafts bungalows with deep shady porches).  Back to clay though- the first of the good shows was an exhibit of some of Don Reitz's recent work at the University of Tampa; I was particularly interested in seeing the show, as Michael Schweigmann, back home at Boneyard, had told me that Reitz was someone he really admired.  I was really impressed by the sheer level of skill involved in making such massive pieces that still had a sense of refinement and care, and I liked the interaction of the firing with the coarse clay and the ability to see the movement of the flame over such a large 'canvas'.  The second really interesting show was the Soldner Society show over at the Heights Waterfront Trolley Barn; I found it fascinating because of the sheer range of type of work shown, yet in reading the notes and essays in memoriam that were written by the contributing artists you saw the same themes over and over in how Soldner contributed to their work, careers and lives- the creative exchange between mentors and mentees can be really fascinating.

I spent Wednesday afternoon looking at the gallery areas at the NCECA Expo- lots of really nice work...such a treat to see and handle (and flip over to look at the feet on!) work that I've been admiring in magazines and books for years!  I spent a lot of time drooling my way through all the beautiful functional pots in the the Artstream Gallery (an Airstream *love!* that has been totally retrofitted to be a travelling gallery).  But then I wandered over to the the Red Lodge Clay Center booth...and there I found them: Sarah Jaeger pots!

This creamer and sugar set in particular had me seriously considering the logistics of say, not eating for the rest of the trip in order to buy them, but in the end logic won out, and I went away potless...but only after I had spent a good fifteen minutes caressing and photographing them!  After all this gushing, do I really need to add that Sarah Jaeger is one of my two favorite clay artists of all time?  (And to the other one- you know who you are!)  Oh yes, and the Matt Long, Malcolm Davis, Steven Hill, and Elaine Coleman pots were pretty nice too!

Thursday started bright and early with an 8am panel on reduction cooling.   I found this really interesting; the premise being that you fire to your final temperature in oxidation (though with an early body reduction), thereby saving fuel, and then after having shut the kiln off for an hour or so, put it into a reduction cycle for a couple hours to achieve that nice toasty color.  As I recall, one of the panelists said that the shorter you reduce in a hotter kiln the lighter your color will be, and on the flip side, the longer you reduce in a cooler kiln, the darker the color.  Do note that this was particularly in relation to wood kilns, though I imagine that it would probably be true in gas salt/soda too- maybe a little too hard on some glazes for gas reduction?

Pete Pinnell's lecture on the Art of Drinking came next- a historical overview of the development of the drinking vessel, combined with a lot of humor, and a little commentary on the differences of how men and women hold cups (women always try to use too many fingers, and hold cups at a right angle to the arm, and men use too few fingers, and hold the cup as an extension of the arm- raising the elbow to drink). This was followed by a lecture on historical curation of ceramics in a domestic context- from 18th century porcelain rooms in palaces to the expulsion of art from the home thanks to modernism, to the re-entry of ceramic art into the home in more recent times. Thursday night was spent gallery schmoozing in St. Petersburg with Susan Feagin and Simone Travisano from Penland, followed by more schmoozing at the Hyatt bar...

Friday was April Fool's Day -and no, I didn't prank anyone!- but there was a good one pulled that day by someone; a rumor was put out that there were free drinks at the Hyatt bar.  You could definitely tell it’s a clay conference; one guy came sprinting past, headed for the Hyatt!  Sandy and I headed for St. Pete for the afternoon.  We started at St. Pete Clay where there was a good show of Montana clay (more Sarah Jaeger pots!), but the gem of the afternoon was when we headed up to Clearwater to St. Pete College and saw one of the best clay shows I have ever seen, hands down.  It was of Islamic influenced ceramics (already a topic that interests me) and not only was full of drop dead gorgeous work, it was well curated too.  The participating artists were: Sam Chung, Sanam Emami, Cary Esser, Julia Galloway, Steve Godfrey, Steve Grimmer, Chris Gustin, Andrew Martin, Lorna Meaden, Jeff Oestreich, Aysha Peltz, Allison Reintjes, Steve Roberts, Jane Shellenbarger, Linda Sikora, and Todd Wahlstrom.  Linda Sikora is definitely on my workshop want list now!

We raced back to Tampa in time for the suburban wood and soda lecture- this was one of the big NCECA draws for me.  It was worth it, basically a very detailed how-to talk on retrofitting an electric kiln into a wood/soda kiln to be fired in a suburban context- plus tips on how to do it without flipping out your neighbors!  Lots of ideas, which I may may modify to really play with it- updraft? Cross draft? Chimney placement and base/ firebox alterations...  On my way out of the Convention Center I saw the Artstream people celebrating their 10th anniversary with a rather fantastic Artstream cake:

...Then after dinner, and some rather disappointing shows at the University of South Florida, I spent the evening giggling like a schoolgirl with my friend Jocelyn from spring ’09 at the Hyatt bar.

Saturday morning was spent packing up, and then Sandy and I went over to the Convention Center to catch the end of the Emerging Artists slideshow, which was followed by the most hilarious closing address (make that 'karaoke') by Robin Hopper... this defies description- Michael Kline says he'll post video on his Sawdust and Dirt blog, so you'll have to wait for that.

After the conference I spent four blessed days up the road in Ridge Manor with my dear friend McKenzie Smith, one of the instructors from my first stint at Penland.  McKenzie also had his old friend Jeanette Rakowski (from his residency days at Archie Bray in Montana) staying with him, who turned out to be another kindred spirit of the first degree.

Amongst other things McKenzie took us canoeing twice- Sunday on the Weeki Wachee, and Monday on the Withlacoochee.  (Oh glory, what names!)  Sunday’s trip took us though one of the most beautiful places I think I’ve ever seen- floating on clear aqua water through a peridot and chrome diopside landscape of maple and cypress trees hung with spanish moss trailing over the water from the riverbanks lined with patches of palmetto and ferns, with glowing islands of reeds, willow, and lilypads.  (And four foot long gar cruising the bottom!)  The Withlacoochee was a little less scenic, but provided ample compensation in the form of at least ten alligators (two 6-footers!), lots of turtles, and no small biting insects!  Now as a side note, I remembered from McKenzie’s slideshow from Spring ’09 Concentration at Penland that his work was inspired by not just by the Ruggles and Rankin pots from back at Penland, but also by the landscape in Florida that he grew up with and still lives in.  Well, after having seen for myself, I can really pick out the references- overlapping plant forms are turned into gestural drawings, the water is the same clear aqua color as soda fired oribe glaze...

Unfortunately for anyone hoping for pictures, I was having way too much fun to spoil it by hauling out a camera!

So, after having lived something similar to the movie “Lost in Translation” for a few days, I’m back in the reality land of day-job work, taking and teaching classes, and happily back to the studios... though less happily to the umpteen buckets of reclaim awaiting processing!

I have some experimental shino glazed pieces for the upcoming C-U Artists Against Aids show/sale (more on that in the next post!) that I glazed before leaving for NCECA and are now out of the kiln, there also some new metals pieces finished in the last month... but that’s for the next post, after I photo-doc them, and get those pots turned in by Sunday!  In the meantime, if you’re in this neck of the woods, The Annual Parkland College Juried Student Art Exhibition is up in the Parkland Art Gallery until the beginning of May, so go check it out- there’s a necklace/earrings set of mine on display, amongst lots of other good art!

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