Thursday, April 16, 2015

Glazes Workshop in SC

John Britt workshop in SC glaze testing education

Clay Club: Glazes Workshop in South Carolina June 5-7, 2015:

John Britt workshop! This will be a great opportunity for students to fine tune and explore glazes.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

FB Ceramic Index Update

It has been a while since I have updated the Facebook Index of Ceramic Artists. Ten months to be exact!

A little background:
It was my interest in statistics that prompted me to set up a short list of my peers a couple of years ago that I recorded dutifully every week or so in my little tattered Field Notes pamphlet. This analog list in pencil was then transferred to a spreadsheet, and eventually became this list.

Why track this kind of stuff?

Aside from your personal preferences  concerning Facebook, Google, and "big data" the Facebook Page is a pretty awesome marketing tool for your business. Through posts on my FB Page, I get feedback from fellow potters and get an idea what my pottery customers "like" and respond to. Comments and likes are akin to compliments and smiles from folks who visit my studio or at events where I  meet folks in person. The stats from my Page help me to decide what is working or not, what content people are interested in.

In addition to looking at my own marketing practice, it's insightful to look at what others in our field are doing to market their work. It's helpful for me to see how others are growing their following on Facebook and to try to figure by what means.  FB introduced their "Pages to Watch" feature, which (looks suspiciously like my FB Ceramic Index ;-)  to help "compare the performance of your Page and [your] posts with similar Pages on Facebook."

Check out this awesome article written by Justin Rothshank about his use of social media to market his pottery.

So, I highly recommend that you set up a facebook page now if you haven't already. Building a strong social media following takes years to develop and the sooner you start the better off you will be. Consider your facebook business page an outlet for telling your story as an artist, a place to share your thoughts, your pictures, your milestones with others. At the least the process will provide an additional perspective on the work that you do, even if, at first, just your friends and family follow you.

An explanation:

Since data is only as good as you can accurately interpret, I sort the Pages according to the biggest change in followers during any specific time period. My reasoning for this is based on the assumption that changes in follow-ship are usually the result of diligent activity on the part of the artist managing the page. The more postings, events, etc usually result in increases of likes.  (although this article claims that changes in likes may be because of a variety of page activity, not just posts to the page)

So here are the top Pages from the Sawdust & Dirt Facebook Ceramic Index that had the biggest change of followers since June 2014.

How these boxes work:

Each Page Box is scrollable and if you click on posts within these boxes you will be transported to the FB Page. You don't have to be logged onto FB unless you want to comment or like pages. If you are logged into FB as your Page admin, you might have to switch to your personal identity. sorry.
If you want me to list you on the Index, leave your Facebook Page URL in a comment or email it to me

Monday, April 13, 2015

Dish Soap and Reclaim Nation

I spent most of the day uncovering and sorting through things in my studio. There was some fun prepping some  red dirt for a new batch of dark clay, some reclaiming slipped into plaster bats. (See illustration) 

clay kline slop NC Carolina
the only thing more inefficient than reclaiming your clay
is making a drawing of it as you wait for it to be ready. ;-)


But the only dishes I got my hands on we're the dirty ones in the sink. But that's ALWAYS good practice running your hands all over a dirty dish can sometimes be very illuminating! 

I thought the soap pattern on this metal bowl took on a pattern a lot like soda glaze. 




I did manage to clear my work table and I plan on filling it with fresh clay tomorrow! 

Until then, chiao
Michael

It's Monday Somewhere

The clock just ticked into a new week, here at midnight North Carolina.
The family and I are just back from a wonderful week away from home in the sun and sky and ocean of South Carolina. The travelogue would have contained stories of leisurely good times, bike mishaps, bug bites, banged heads, jellyfish, and campground intrigue.
But a logbook wasn't kept, but pictures were taken and we did some live streams via Periscope, a fun way to say hi to the world outside the camp.
So, upon the return of any travel, it's always nice to sleep in one's own bed and appreciate home in a way that may be hard to appreciate in the day to day living in it.
The other contrast to a week of leisure is the work that lies ahead. I strolled through the studio tonight just to make a few mental notes on what it is I want to do this week as I start the road to Firing 52!
It was nice to see what I had been working on before I left a week ago and am excited to get my hands back into the clay again.

Here's a picture I took for Instagram, and later shared on my Facebook page, and thought I should include it here just to round out my audience.
More of this work to come as well as some other exciting things in the weeks to come!






A mashup of 4 recent platters with Mishima/sanggam style deco.
Posted by Michael Kline Pottery on Monday, April 6, 2015

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Stories Potters Tell: Clay and Community in the St. Croix Valley Pottery Tour

Here's a great new video by the American Craft Council about the St. Croix Potters Tour. There are so many family faces and pots!

I'm very excited to announce that I will be showing my work at Guillermo Cuellar's studio in 2016, so let's get together next year in the St. Croix Valley!

Friday, March 20, 2015

AKAR Yunomi Preview

yunomi for AKAR Design Gallery with wax resist swirlware floral motifs cobalt blue


I wanted to follow up with a little critique of these yunomi that I have sent to AKAR which I will not do at this point, sorry. Such a tease! But I DID manage to shoot some individual shots of the cups! I wanted to get some nice pictures before I shipped them off, so here they are! 

The 2015 AKAR Design Yunomi Show preview

yunomi for AKAR Design Gallery with wax resist swirlware floral motifs cobalt blue

yunomi for AKAR Design Gallery with wax resist swirlware floral motifs porcelain local native clay pottery

yunomi for AKAR Design Gallery with wax resist swirlware floral motifs porcelain local native clay pottery

yunomi for AKAR Design Gallery with wax resist swirlware floral motifs porcelain local native clay pottery

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Chosen Ones

yunomi cups for AKAR Design annual yunomi show swirlware decorated pottery

Out of the 30 swirl cups that I fired last month in the wood kiln, these are the 5 i have chosen for the annual AKAR Design Yunomi Invitational [2014] [2013] [20??]. I wanted to choose a group that showed a variety of color, swirl, and brushwork.

The process is a curious one, that begins with an invitation to do a show along with some of the best potters in the country and challenges me to make cups that push my abilities and techniques into new areas. Curious because in the end you might say these cups look like the kind of cups that you might expect from me. And you would be partially right, I guess.

But, contrary to my last post, this palette and style is but a subtle variation and refinement, not the kind of obvious change I talked about the other day. Each firing there are a handful of pots that are unusual and maybe not what I expect. Then I try to reproduce their goodness, whatever it may be, often missing the mark or guessing wrong on the combination of variables that affect a pot in the wood kiln.

So, to get a group of pots for a show like the Yunomi show, I might need 30 to get 5 or 6 exceptional ones. It's a strategy or process of "make bunch and some might fly" that many a studio potter are grateful for and since it's fun to make a lot of pots, its a great way to work.

But the other thought I have, or the other question you might pose, is who am I to judge?

Everybody has different tastes, different needs. Some like their pasta soft and some like theirs al dente. But in the end, I guess someone has to throw it against the ceiling to see if it sticks. [ba dum tssshhh] and I guess that would be me. But in the end, or at the point of sale, you, O fair and trusted customer, are the final judge!

The AKAR Yunomi show opens on the morning of May 15th and a LOT of the pots sell in the first hour! My advice would be to be take the morning or the day off, bookmark the website and get a front row seat! You should also follow AKAR Design on the Facebook for some fun preview action!

Thanks so much for reading!!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Playing The Pro

sanggam korean pottery influence inlay process
new inlay slip test tiles


I had an interesting conversation with a student who is taking Cynthia Bringle's concentration at Penland last night. We made introductions and she said she was more of a hobbyist than an artist. I chuckled to myself and said that "I think I knew what she was saying, but aren't we all hobbyists at times?"

I think she was using  the word hobbyist as a kind of code, but I guess I took it in maybe a different way than intended. I thought, "Great! We should all be hobbyists, we should all just do this pottery/ceramics thing for the pure joy and curiosity!" I thought about the great qualities of a child's drawing and the unencumbered act of joy and un-selfconsciousness. I thought about the best flow in the studio happens when, as my friend John Simmons would say, I'm "goin' n blowin'"  and I'm lost in the flow of making stuff.  We should all be so lucky to be able to sustain this way of working  as much as possible.

Or maybe she was using "hobbyist" as a kind of code to mean, "I don't get paid to make art, like you do, so don't judge me or my work too harshly". (which would be the opposite of what I would think or do)

[I don't know, I'm maybe making a big deal when I shouldn't. I do that sometimes, making things WAY more complicated in my head than the reality on the ground.  But I'll try to go on, of course, hehehe.]

Maybe labels are more about expectations and ambition? Once we are considered as a professional in our field does it guarantee the work that we do to be successful, of high quality, a kind of tenure? Maybe. Who's to know.

Which brings me to the point I'm grasping for, that the cycle of life, of creativity, or whatever, goes through waves, highs and lows, successes and failures. Periods of joy and periods of boredom.  Just because I call myself an artist or I call myself a hobbyist, doesn't mean there is any guarantee of brilliance or of mediocrity. We're all capable of both.

I have certainly recognized the latter in my work! I am super critical of my work, but at the same time I have to cut myself some slack. I'll be the first to admit, I'm no genius. Brilliance doesn't just come naturally. (I can just see the emails and comments rolling in.)
[the ramble continues]

OK, I guess what I'm trying to get at is that to get to that place of unselfconscious creativity, as an adult, takes a LOT of work.  A lot of us  have to work to overcome our burdens of self doubt and expectation.  It may take us hours to quiet the voices in our head, maybe years.

So here I am, today. Working on some test tiles of some  completely  new work. Well, almost. During the last firing session I got completely obsessed with a technique that I had seen in a bowl at the Freer Sackler last Fall.

Korean Bowl Freer Sackler Gallery Smithsonian repaired gold

In exploring this technique and trying to "figure it out" I realized that "I" was getting completely lost in the process. Those voices in my head were being silenced by my complete joy and curiosity.  The voices in this case were the rational ones, the ones telling me it would be a safer bet to stick with the work that was familiar to me and my clients. The voices that said "don't take too many chances, there are orders to fill"

It has been a little while since I've been taken with a curiosity like this. I've let those other voices speak too loudly. But all metaphors aside, maybe I was just a little bored and needed to change it up a little? In a recent episode of the podcast, The Tales of the Red Clay Rambler, John Balistreri says that an artist has to "put it all on the line, you have to be able to take risks and the failures you have are the most valuable things." [Episode 95, @16:58]

Lucky for me, I got the opportunity to hold that beautiful Korean bowl last fall. Maybe I just fell under its spell? I do believe that objects can have this sort of magical power to change us as makers or as humans. But it is the time we put in, laying it on line, taking risks, risking failure, that are of the most long term value.

So, for now I am a hobbyist, dabbling with this new found joy. Just as it should be.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Reflection

I have been writing each morning for a week or so, now over at 750words.com and it has been really great. And in a recent convo with Cynthia Guajardo (@ceramicscapes on twitter) we were getting nostalgic about the olden days of pottery blogging. There was a time, before Facebook ate Blogger, where some pretty awesome stuff was being recorded in pottery studios all over. And still is to an extent. But mostly I see updates linked on FB more often than at the actual blogs.

SO maybe Cynthia and others will return to the long form again. Or not. What are your thoughts??

But before you answer that question, let me offer this retro-blog post from Don Pilcher in 2010.

Don Pilcher pottery sculpture rascaware rascal ware Champaign



  So I’ve concluded this: nice clay, a well-made form, a sensuous glaze treatment and a toasty firing. What have I got? A ceramic fashion show; not much more. It’s what Ralph Bacerra described as “just a pot with a glaze on it.”

After twenty-five years of making those pots, with some success, I quit ceramics to attend to a slew of life’s other demands. In the process I got a new job, new car, new house, new dog, new wife; same kids, same town. [READ MORE]

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Ayumi's White Pots


White Pots

Studio Assistant: Molly Spadone

Michael Wilson: Director and Filming

Chloe Beaven: Video and Sound Editing

Miles Beaven: Music


Here's is Ayumi's video transcription.

Best artist statement I've seen, heard, AND read, lately!




Like a lot of people, I split my time now between the digital world and the physical one. My head’s filled with amazing stuff I see online, and yet I also need the messiness of the clay and the materiality of it to feed me on some fundamental level. I remember going outside on a freezing cold winter night when I was at the Archie Bray almost twenty years ago. I looked up at the stars and remember thinking that it was the cold that made me feel alive and part of this world, it wasn’t just seeing the vastness of the sky. It was the sensation of touch, the cold air on my skin. And I think the importance of touch gets lost sometimes in the digital world, because it’s all about the visuals now. Being cold or being uncomfortable makes you aware of your physical self. I don’t think we necessarily need to be uncomfortable to be aware. Awareness can come in different ways and clay is one shortcut to this kind of awareness. It makes you remember being human and being vulnerable. And that’s a lot of what my work is about.




There’s a meditative quality to all this repetition we do as potters. It requires being completely present in order to make work. You’d think that this kind of repeat would make you spacey and not pay attention, but it’s the opposite, where things become focused and you notice all the tiny details like a scrap of clay hanging on, or crack starting to develop. This is the kind of work that hones my ability to see each pot as an individual and it’s a different level of quality control than what happens on an assembly line, because certain pots take on a personality. It’s like oh- “that’s the one with the snaggletooth or oh that’s the one with the pimple on it’s handle”.




Play is a huge part of my work. In making pots, in drawing, in taking pictures and in thinking about how I get work out into the world.




There’s this incredible sensuality to soft clay that I hope lives on it the finished piece, so that other people can enjoy it and be aware in their own way of play and being present. Soft clay is so much like holding someone’s hand or giving someone a squeeze to say hello.




The thing that photography and ceramics have in common is their ability to preserve the ephemeral. Clay can record a spontaneous moment, just like a picture can. I love the cycle of ceramics. Clay is basically decomposed rock, so in the studio, we record this spontaneous gesture into it, into clay, we fire it and then this piece comes out hard as a rock again and lasts forever. That lovely moment of play is frozen in time.




Most of my work is fairly graphic, so it reads well online. But my white decal pots are different, actually they’re pretty much the opposite. They’re invisible unless you’re up close. And then even when you’re up close, they’re still impossible to read unless you handle the pot. Turning the pot lets the light catch the opalescent drawing. Potters can’t exactly compete with our culture’s addiction now to cell phones these days. And I don’t think we should, but I think it’s part of the dialogue when we’re talking about making hand-held objects. So what makes these pots unusual is that touch and holding them is integral to understanding what they are. There aren’t any shortcuts to that. And this brings us back to this notion of being present. I think of them as slow pots, because slowing down allows us to notice things. When I take pictures, I say, here, look at these beautiful things in life. And when I make pots, I pay attention to all the tiny beautiful details that make a pot what it is. The way my tool furrows through the clay or mashes an edge or how a handle can be crooked to hold a finger. All these things matter because then when I also put a white drawing on a white surface that’s very subtle, I’m asking the user to work harder, to meet me half way, and to be present in that moment.

Thanks Ayumi!