Friday, January 27, 2012

Traveling dragons

            Sometimes I feel a little bit like the dragons from my thesis are pets, especially when I’m going to take them somewhere. I have to pack them into their box so that they will be safe on the trip. I’m glad they aren’t real dragons, because I wouldn’t be able to pack them in flammable stuff like a cardboard box.

             On the other hand, it would be nice if they’d listen when I say, “Ok, guys! Get in your carrier now!”

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Traveling dragons, traveling thesis

            Having worked on my thesis for an entire year, you might think that I am tired of that project. In a way, I am. I am tired of making enormous swirl-covered trees. I am tired of having to finish the dragon I’m working on by next week or not have enough dragons for the project. I’m tired of having to write fifty pages as fast as I can.
           But I’m not tired of the work I made. If you think about it, I spent about 11 months making this project happen, and then two weeks watching it do what it was supposed to do. I had two weeks, during which I was madly attempting to catch up on all the other work I was also supposed to be doing, to sit near my display and watch the fish and consider where I was going to put the dragons next. And then I had to take it apart.
            This is kind of the way a lot of things in the arts are. A musician practices for hours and hours and days and days, in order to be prepared for a one-hour performance. Most exhibitions are a couple to a few weeks in length, but many sculptural pieces took the artist months to create. So what to do?
            Well, I feel like my thesis is not done. I am taking it with me. For now, that means the dragons sit on my living room table, and sometimes they get to play in the snow. The tree trunk is currently buckled into the backseat of my car. It truly goes everywhere with me, so that I don’t have to carry it up the steps to the apartment. The other tree pieces are sitting in the spare bedroom, as though they are guests.
            It’s kind of like my thesis has a second life. My dragons are now part of my daily world. While this means that they are taken out of the context that I made for them, it makes me reflect on the ways that they fit into this world and this context.
            Starting tomorrow, I’m going to begin having weekly Traveling Dragons posts. What would the world be like if there were tiny dragons living here too? 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Dragons in the snow

            It snowed all day yesterday, so today I went out and had some adventures in the snow before it melts. I took some of the dragons from my thesis and the camera, thinking I could take some awesome pictures of dragons frolicking in the snow for you.
            Well, I had great fun piling up snow into mountains and putting the dragons in carefully composed arrangements and I took lots of pictures. And then, Mr. Riverdragon said, “Can I have the camera? I wanna take pictures too!”
            So I said, “Ok, but you can only take one picture because I want to take a lot of pictures myself because they are my dragons.”
            Mr. Riverdragon took the camera and snapped a picture, and then handed the camera back to me. We went back in when our fingers got cold, and then while sipping my cocoa, I looked at the pictures.
            This is the one Mr. Riverdragon took. 

            This is the best of the ones I took.

I guess I need to learn how to take pictures of snow – or let Mr. Riverdragon do the photography! 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday Critique: Mushroom Serving Bowl

            This is a serving bowl. It is 8 inches wide and 4 inches tall. It is made of porcelain fired to cone 10 in reduction at Simon’s Rock. The inside is glazed with Gustin’s Shino and the outside was covered with black slip and then carved. 

            I am very fond of the shape of this bowl. I find that the curve fits well in my hands, which makes it inviting to hold. The form of the bowl implies that it is meant to contain what is inside of it, with the rim curving inward protectively. It holds a large volume of food, which makes it a good candidate to hold soup or salad. 

            The rim of this bowl is a simple rounded rim. It echoes the shape of the body of the bowl and of the foot of the bowl without drawing attention to itself in terms of shape. However, the glaze does not end in an even line around the rim, and varies in thickness and therefore in texture and color from one place to another. This, I think, draws unwanted attention and would look better if it were either more even or more intentionally drippy. 

            The foot of this bowl is low and rounded. The angle of the foot echoes the angle of the body of the bowl. Because the foot is short, it brings the bowl close to the table and makes it seem more humble. The foot also gives this bowl an appearance of weight and stability. 

            The outside surface of the bowl is not glazed. The black slip has the texture of bare clay, which is what it is. I did smooth it very carefully with a rib, so the surface is not rough, but it is not glassy the way the glaze on the inside is. I like this contrast of textures because it makes the object appeal to more of the senses. Something with different textures in different areas asks to be touched and examined more closely. You see the different textures – the black slip as matte and the glaze as glossy and reflective – but then when you hold the piece you have a new understanding through touch of what those surfaces are like. The inside surface is slippery while the outside surface is easier to grip. You can also feel the rougher areas where the carvings are, which adds another layer of depth to the surface. 
            Why did I choose to carve mushrooms on this bowl? One reason is that mushrooms are kind of cool things. But that isn’t the actual reason there are mushrooms on this bowl.
            I was talking with a friend, and we were thinking of interesting things besides dragons that I might want to put on my pots. It occurred to us that fairy circles are pretty magical things, and also that they are nice and round. Like the outside or inside of a bowl. 

            One of the things that I think is really awesome about fairy circles is that all of the mushrooms are attached by their roots (mycelia). They are all part of the same organism. So when I make mushroom bowls, I put all the roots there, too. I like the idea of decoration that extends to all parts of the ceramic object. There is an aspect of discovery to examining this bowl. The viewer probably does not expect so much decoration on the bottom of an object, which is usually a place that gets little attention. It gives the viewer a reason to turn the bowl upside down (not with food in it! Don’t try this at the table!), and to look at it more closely than they might otherwise. 

            I think that in the case of this particular bowl, the mushrooms would be more effective if they were a little higher on the body of the bowl. When you look at the bowl from the angle you would when it is being used as a serving dish, the mushrooms are only partly visible. I think with this bowl shape the mushrooms could be placed about an inch higher, and that this would be more effective. 

            There is a small dragon on this bowl. Maybe it is a fairy dragon, since it is small enough to hang out on mushroom caps. I added the dragon to the fairy circle because it seems to me that fairy circles attract magical creatures, and it would have been sad not to include such a creature here. Tiny dragons are just the sort of thing I imagine to inhabit fairy circles hidden in some clearing in the woods. 
            This particular bowl is not part of a set, but I intend to make sets of dishes with fairy circles and dragons. I am thinking that some dishes would be better if the fairy circle is on the inside rather than the outside, such as plates, but that cups and serving bowls might work better with the fairy circle on the outside. The carvings are time consuming (so many roots!), but a lot of fun to do.