Tuesday, January 31, 2012

14 Weeks and Counting

The year is 1993 and a major change took place for Ceramic Showcase; the newly built Oregon Convention Center became the new "home" of Ceramic Showcase and to this day continues to be held there.  With the move to the convention center, the show was able to expand, more members could participate and attendance and profits grew.  And the Best of Show winner in 1993 was Dennis Meiners.

Dennis grew up on a wheat farm in Walla Walla, Washington and attended Washington State University where he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.

Best of Show 1993
Dennis Meiners
"The act of making things is a magical privilege for which I have made and will make many sacrifices.  I have found that the objects that result from the act of making are secondary to being in the process of bringing those objects into existence.  Whether the act of making results in a coffee cup, a sculpture, a drawing or a poem, the immersion in the process is a journey through an imaginative landscape where possibility reigns supreme and taking advantage of what is there is a chimerical game.  I have compared this experience to riding a horse at night.  The objective is to trust the horse, not fall off, and be awake to see where I have arrived when the light returns."

Friday, January 27, 2012

15 Weeks and Counting

Well, I just squeaked in - with two days to go - this week's story is ready!  

In 1992 the Oregon Potters Association starting taking on new projects. The OPA launched a project making mural tiles with homeless teenagers in Portland. We also began publishing a well-received annual map to potters holiday studio sales in Oregon. By the end of the year, membership had soared to almost 300 people.

I didn't have much information about Best of Show winner of 1992, Ellen Fager, and it took a considerable amount of time to track her down.  Ellen is no longer a member of the OPA and as I learned, does not reside in the Pacific NW any longer.  Ellen graciously agreed to write her thoughts and I held the presses, anxious to learn more about her and what inspired her work.

Best of Show 1992
Ellen Fager
"I was already making the fish teapots when Ed Thompson and I came to Portland in 1987.  I had always been drawn to ceramic traditions (pre-Columbian Western Mexican, Iron-Age Iranian) in which function and representation are bound together in perpetual negotiation.  After flirting with a variety of creatures, I found in these fish a rich, varied, contemporary (read:saleable) form with which to continue the discussion.  A fish effigy that did not pour or store something would have been of no interest to me; at the same time, I would not have been satisfied with a teapot that was simply a "fish".  This pot is one very particular species among the unglamorous little bottom-fishes living off the northern Pacific coast; anyone with a good guidebook should be able to identify him.  Always a wheel-worker, I built these fishes from thrown sections, and that was important to me, too:  underneath all the extravagant elaboration, there remained a core utilitarian craft.

The year after my fish won Best of Show, Ed and I moved back to San Diego.  Ed went on to considerable renown in the local clay community, but, after a couple more years of struggle, I dropped out.  I had taken the fishes as far as I could go with them, and, with two small children to tend to, I had neither the time nor the focus to develop something new.  As the kids grew, I got involved with other things, and, though old potter-friends would prod me sometimes, I felt no inclination towards the work I used to do.  It is only in the past year, since Ed's death, that I have returned to the studio, and found clay, after all this time, still ready to resume the conversation where I last left off.  Once again, I am throwing, paddling, cutting and pasting, although it is now geometry, rather than the natural world, that is in dialog with use.  Clay is the most wonderful material:  it waits for you; it is humble and expendable; there is no end to the things you can do with it, up to that point where it quietly, steadfastly, asserts its limitations; it accepts the mark of your hand, and in that mark you see yourself and the path you have travelled. 

What could be better than that?"

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

16 Weeks and Counting

Best in Show 1991
Chris Gum
Chris Gum
1952 - 2004

To our great sadness, we have lost our friend and fellow potter, Chris Gum.  Chris had been an OPA member for 23 years.  He had been on the Board of both the OPA and Ceramic Showcase and had often been the voice of reason (sometimes to our chagrin) amidst chaos.  Chris died in his home of unknown natural causes on June 29, 2004.

Chris made beautiful pots, and for many years he dug his clay from local stream banks and collected local feldspars and other materials for his glazes.  His work was very careful and methodical.  Efficiency was never a concern for him, he would rather be true to his work and its process.  Chris's work was well known by potters and art appreciators alike, although Chris never wanted to be a famous person.  Chris chose to move through this world quietly and modestly, doing his share of the work without demanding too much of the spotlight.

Chris had a passion for gardening.  He probably felt that laundry sorting and truck washing were overrated, but he always took exquisite care of his plants.  He was a good listener and never hesitated to express his opinions.

In the late nineties,  Chris avoided attending OPA meetings (why deal with petty bureaucracy?) but he almost always came to Portland to visit his friends (the most important part of this group) on the days we held our meetings and thus we could all spend time with him.  He was a wonderful friend and his sudden death has affected the entire pottery community in Oregon.  We will all miss him terribly.

Thank you to Ellen Currans, Janet Buskirk and Anne Stecker, who provided these words, which were published in the August 2004 OPA member newsletter.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

17 Weeks and Counting

The years are starting to fly by and we are up to 1990.  The OPA and Ceramic Showcase continued to experience growing pains throughout the 90's.  An organization that started out as a small potters cooperative continued to grow and with growth came change.  Although necessary, change was not always well received.  In the end, members came together and realized that no matter how big the organization got, they were still that small cooperative - holding true to the values and ideals that were set forth by the founding members.

In 1990, the Best in Show was awarded to Michael Scrivens.  Michael provided a bit of insight into how he found himself to be a potter.  What he has written is so humble and I hadn't remembered his piece until I uploaded it for this post.  The image that is shown and the way Michael describes the process makes it seem so ordinary but all you have to do is lay eyes on this piece and it is anything but.

Here's what Michael has to say:

"I was introduced to pottery in high school around 1969 and bought my first wheel in 1970 and worked in the basement of my parents home.  I studied some ceramics in college at both Mt. Hood Community College and the University of Oregon - GO DUCKS!

Best in Show 1990
Michael Scrivens
For many years to come I worked primarily with Cone 6 white clay with a "dunk & brush" glaze technique.  In 1989 I decided to do a complete change over and began using a beautiful terra cotta clay body.  I was also developing a technique of spraying and masking glazes and underglazes.  The resulting patterns were at times unpredictable and sometimes images would start to appear.  One of these images was the image of a fish.  The colorful fish image on a black background was chosen as Best of Show for the 1990 Ceramic Showcase as well as Best of Show 1990 Artquake.

Today, now 22 years later, with some breaks away from my pottery career, I'm still using the same beautiful terra cotta clay body and the glazing techniques with my pottery.  I've shifted my focus lately to include a fairly new line of high relief tiles, which have been well received.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

17 Weeks and Counting

The Year is 1989 and both the OPA and Ceramic Showcase were at a crossroads.  The success of Ceramic Showcase became overwhelming and the vision that the OPA had built itself around was being blurred.  No one realized at the time that success would come at a price.  How could the OPA maintain its vision and dedication to its members while being all consumed of time and energy to hosting a successful show?  It was decided that a separate committee would be formed that would take on the challenges of hosting Ceramic Showcase so that the OPA Board could dedicate itself to building the organization and the membership.  Thus, the Ceramic Showcase Steering Committee was born.  Today that committee has grown to sixty-two members, all volunteering countless hours.  It is truly a labor of love and one in which I am proud to say I volunteer wholeheartedly in.  But enough about the organization for now - onto our award winner.

Best in Show 1989 award winner Marianna Crawford writes about her wonderful journey in clay and where is has taken her -

"Even though I have not been working in clay for almost 12 years, people still introduce me as a potter, regardless of what else I've been doing with my life.  I can't say that I mind this.

In 1989, Ceramic Showcase was held at Montgomery Park.  It was the first or second year that I participated in the show.  I was a newcomer.

Before that, I had attended PNCA for a couple of years.  My teacher, Frank Irby - who still teaches there - was tremendously supportive and influential to me.  When it became clear that all I wanted to do was ceramics, he allowed me to use the studio at PNCA to my heart's content.  When this gig reached the end of its feasibility, I rented my first little studio space at Thurman Street Pottery.

Frank helped me see that my work was about the inner space contained by a vessel.  This simple understanding was like a compass that guided my career as a ceramic artist.

While I was at PNCA, a visiting potter from China came to work in the ceramics studio for an extended period.  Apparently he was accustomed to having assistants do his production work.  This, on top of the fact that he did not speak English, and a translator had not been provided, made him a sullen, unapproachable presence in the studio.  However, I became fascinated with the way that he constructed his pieces.  I could see how it was possible to build complex shapes, and my ideas about what I could do with clay suddenly expanded.  Even though my work had little in common with his traditional Chinese vessels, the techniques that I gleaned from him catapulted me forward.

Best in Show 1989
Marianna Crawford
The piece that won the award in 1989 was one of the early pieces that evolved out of this new found inspiration.  Needless to say, winning the award provided yet more wind under my wings.

One of the things that I love about clay as a medium is how it adapts itself to an almost infinite myriad of artistic expression.  We make an impression on the clay, physically and metaphorically, every time we touch it, every time we make contact with it.  My particular personality is inclined towards obsessive perfectionism - I fuss, experiment, try and err and try again, work a piece to the brink of disaster, get exhausted, give up, and eventually have a breakthrough, or come to accept what is there.  As much as I admire and, at times, yearn to be someone whose work is loose, spontaneous and immediate, that is not who I will ever be.  I like to think that everything that goes into my process becomes part of the beauty of the final piece.  Inherent in each of my pieces is how it has been carefully shaped, handled, worked, considered, and loved, really.  Clay has its rules, but it also seems to make room for all the unique and particular ways that we are.

Oregon Potters Association is a little that way too.  It is a generous, democratic, inclusive organization whose members do not withhold their support for one another's success.  Over the years, I have seen the Best in Show award given to newcomers, as well as old-timers.  No particular style or technique is favored.  There are no weird politics about who receives it.  It is given by an honest group of potters to one of their own, out of pure and exuberant love of clay.  For these reasons and more, it remains one of the greatest honors that I have been given in my life, and I am proud to be counted as a potter, still."

Thursday, January 5, 2012

18 Weeks and Counting

This week we are featuring Best in Show award winners from two years.  Earlier in the week we covered 1987 and we now move onto 1988.

Best in Show 1988 was awarded to Dave and Boni Deal.  Dave and Boni are an inspiration who have been collaborating not only in their art but in life.  Here's a bit more about Dave and Boni:

Best in Show 1988
Dave & Boni Deal
"What an honor, having our raku "Cord-wrap" pot voted "Best in Show" by fellow potters at Showcase '88!  Back then, pottery had been our family's livelihood for over a decade, and we were totally into raku, with Dave focusing on LARGE.  This "Cord-wrap" piece is 27 inches wide.

Most of our artwork was then, as now, natured-themed.  This was a natural outcome from meeting in a mountaineering club, and discovering a shared passion for the outdoors and for art.  We eventually settled at our rustic mountainside home where kids were raised amongst pots.  We strive to reflect the glory of our surroundings, God's creations, in our work.

The Deal kids
We are also motivated and inspired by those who purchase our work, our patrons, the angels who support us and keep us going.  We've been blessed by those who have acquired our work over our 30 years of exhibiting at Ceramic Showcase, many who come back and tell us how much they enjoy their pieces.  Thank you!

The work is still evolving, sometimes literally going 'round a circle past the beginning and 'round again, like recent "Batik Raku" pieces that hark back to Boni's fabric batiks of the 1970's.  Dave continually explores clay forms, Boni pursues the imagery, both work on the glazes, and Dave carefully choreographs the final raku firings.

More info about Dave and Boni and dramatic photos of their firings can be found on their website, Dave and Boni Deal.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

18 Weeks and Counting

In this weeks post, two Best in Show award winners will be featured.  We are running short of weeks until we open the doors to Ceramic Showcase 2012.  Look for another addition of "Weeks and Counting" on Thursday.

Maria Simon
Best in Show 1987
The year is 1987 and the Best in Show award winner was Maria Simon.  There was an article written on Maria by Dennis Meiners, OPA Member and Best in Show award winner in 1993 and 2007, for Ceramics Technical entitled "Bas Relief Tableaux".  I've included a bit about how Maria described her process and what drives her to create.

"The first time a person uses clay to make an object and shepherds that object through the drying and firing process, one receives a new take on the meaning of transformation.  If the clayworker is truly aware, he or she notices it is not just the clay that changes, there is a change in oneself also.  Magic happens.  For some of us who persist in the endeavor of clay work, that magic happens again and again; that is why we put ourselves through such a torturous process, and the objects we make leave our hands to transform the experience of others, also again and again, on through the years.

Artists that work in clay are like poets in that neither usually makes large noisy things like symphonies or epic films.  They provide us with discreet things that work quietly and steadily like a beating heart.  Clayworkers and poets typically are not out to knock down walls, or to extend a hand to invite their audience to rise and participate in the dance.  If walls are removed, they are taken down grain by grain.

Maria doesn't use complicated tricks or artifices designed to impress the viewer with what an accomplished craftsperson she is.  Her excellent craftsmanship is unobtrusive.  She is not waving her arms to point to her virtuosity.  Simon is depicting, with elegance and simplicity of form, a psychic and emotional landscape that opens vistas for the viewer.  In her quiet work there is much disquiet and, in the sureness of her pieces, much doubt.

To read the article in its entirety, please visit Maria's website, Maria Simon Studio.