In the image above you can see I am working on a large scale piece. As part of my contract I chose to weave on a large scale. The final measurements of this piece is approximately 8'x4'x2'. Within this contract I have been able to successfully determine what I need to do in order to weave on a large scale and how my process has changed since I have picked weaving back up. This sculpture is made with Crepe Myrtle branch, a variety of reed, ceramic hoops, and sea grass. This has been an incredible experience challenging what I think I am capable of accomplishing, not overthinking, and simply work and let that work evolve to the final form.
Above is an image of a new weaving composition. The technique used is called random weave. Essentially this technique is an advanced version of the traditional over-under weave. It differs because traditionally the weave would appear static and consistent, but in this case the material is allowed to express motion and each strand of reed relies on the other strands in order to make a stronger form. This method of weaving is very much like that of birds nests. Knowing this, I am trying to act like a bird would as far as choosing materials, what is available, and what is necessary for strength and durability. I have also decided to leave this sculpture outside so that the weaving materials may respond to the elements.
Growing as a sculpture artist, weaving on branches is a rather "simple" procedure. The obvious goal of any sculpture is to activate space in ways that are compelling and intuitive. With the addition of branches into my work the activation of space has already been established by its growth. The work that I make engages and envelops the branch. This method conforms to the established flow in a way that mimics hives or nests of different animals who use branches in an intimate way. Like those animals that depend on the structure of the branch and the materials harvested, I too depend on the materials to carry out my goal. This is a glimpse of my inspiration and how I respond to it.
Today was a successful day for harvesting branches! Apparently many people thought it would be good to trim or even cut some trees down, leaving bundles of brush and limbs on the side of the road for someone else to collect. This is my version of using "reclaimed wood", which is currently a popular theme in many design industries. At the end of the day I was able to collect an assortment of 40 to 50 branches varying in size, length, and construction. With such a variety I will be able to test many fusions to ceramic forms.
There is a personal barrier when it comes to working within the tradition of a craft as it collides with your ever growing creative nature. For me, this all started when I chose to learn the craft of traditional basket weaving for three years. Feels like a lifetime ago. As I return to this tradition I have seen the changes in how I am approaching weaving itself. This capacity to communicate through artistic expression as all been possible because of ceramics.
Not so long after those years of weaving, I declared myself as a ceramics concentration major. If I could live this life over I would have still made that decision. Working with ceramics I am constantly being challenged by the very material. It beckons me to learn from it and in a very soft voice, that many either can't hear or choose not to, it says "help me grow from the tradition I was born into. I wish not to abandon my roots, however if am a a descendant I deserve my own voice".
Growing in the language of ceramics I looked back to those traditional weaving years and asked myself, could the materials I use for baskets be saying the exact same thing? Turns out that voice was right. I have come to this conclusion over and over again by looking at some "unfinished" baskets in my room. I use the term unfinished because coming from someone who has been traditionally trained, it takes every bit of nerve to not tidy up the ends, pack down the rows, to stain or not to stain. Today, when I saw this "unfinished" basket I almost laughed at myself because there is so much beauty, growth, change and capacity within this piece. It has the relationship, the bridge between tradition and artistic interpretation. One is neither greater nor lesser, but they are unified within their occupied space.
The piece has spoken for itself. Hands off!
Here is an update for what I have been working on.
Recently I have decided to explore adding texture to pieces I know very well such as Sencha Chawan, Yunomi, and Matcha Chawan. This texture is resolved by adding a thick slip to a piece in the process of being thrown. After adding the slip, heat is applied to the surface of the slip until it starts to crack and become brittle. Then you have to belly out the piece by pressing from the interior-out without touching the surface, so that the texture you added will survive and not become muddled. I am pleased with the results from this last firing of the semester and has me visualizing how I can push these forms further.
In the image above you can see Sencha Chawan nesting within a strip of bark. This was an idea from early on in the semester and it is nice to not only see that idea resolved, but that the two mediums work very nicely with one another. Further investigations of these hybrids will be conducted because although things are slowly working out it is my firm belief I am merely scratching the surface for what can be done in regards to branches, weaving, and ceramics.
What you see above is a ceramic bowl that has undergone the Naked Raku Process. I made the glazes from recipes found in an Alternative Ceramic Firing book. Two glazes are used to create this crackled surface. One of the glazes is a slip and the other is a transparent mixture. This process is something I will most certainly continue into the next year and will likely be featured in my senior show in April.
This piece "What Happens Now?" was made for a local art show and sale. It was my very first art show and I had many doubts about how the work would be received. The process that I conducted was experimental and new. When I started weaving in a traditional way with the branches I soon found out that was not going to work. This piece was hard in many ways, but the hardest was allowing the work to teach me about form, narrative, and journey. Traditional concepts of weaving that were taught to me had to now be taken with a grain of salt and willingness to simply discover the form
Another way this piece pushed me was the title. I am always so bad at giving things titles, but it deserved something more than a label simply saying Untitled. You see this piece was made for World Aids day and I was wanting to let the piece start a dialogue so that, if I am not present, the piece could start the conversation. This idea of using a question for a title is something I will consider using in the future. The average person will look at a piece in an art show for 15-30 seconds. Having that in mind is how the title came to be.
Overall, the piece was a success. The information I received through the branches, ceramic, and reed was incredible. When mixing multiple mediums together is something quite special. It's like seeing a dance among two unlikely people who (despite appearances) can create a marvelous sway. That's one of the many joys of working in art in this way.
Working in a three dimensional medium one must always consider how they must activate space. Because I have decided to work with organic natural materials I always look to nature for my source information. Sometimes the work that comes out of the studio is directly inspired by nature (like the image above) and sometimes it is indirect exposure that takes hold of my work (such as a basket, piece of ceramic, or even a hybrid of the two. Activating space need not be something that is shy or timid. You're activating space! Engage with the material. It's kind of like a dance. You have material in both hands and as you move and work with the material it begins to engage with your movements and vice versa.
The piece above is a hanging installation piece. I hung a piece of string from a tall tree branch and attached both ends to a single branch so that it would hang in space midair. That was the beginning. Multiple branches were added to that first lone branch. It hanged from the tree for several days. Over those several days I was able to accumulate more branches and add or take away from the the piece that was hanging. After the piece looked satisfied with the form it had taken I began to weave around and through the branches. Thus, creating a network of thin lines that consisted of being fluid, organic, and at times metric. Working on the piece mid air was an incredible process that I will soon return to. Seeing a piece instantly activate space is exciting, especially when it is only a start of what it will soon become.
On 10/3/18 I departed from the spoils of air conditioning and embarked on a journey in the woods. Assignment: gather materials for further weaving processes. Before I began I started to mentally prepare myself for what was going to happen and preparing myself to learn from a new material and different environment. Also reminding myself to stay true to only harvest what nature has cast aside and not harm a living specimen for the sole purpose of making art.
As a result from the process not only do I have a greater respect for those who harvest this material but also to the material itself. Cane/bamboo is a strong and durable fiber that when slit can be flexible and still maintain it's strength. Being able to work with it, even for a little while, has brought some interesting ideas for future pieces and the exhibition of future pieces. It has also inspired me to think large scale and the possibilities of how activating space should not be a shy and timid pursuit. This material alone when grown develops an exquisite and narrow forest.
Having a history of hiking through forests takes me back to so many memories and journeys. Looking at me now, I see that a lot has changed and some things haven't. I'm still hiking in the woods, taking my thoughts with me, and letting the physical journey help analyze the internal journey I have before and ahead of me. This is a mere glimpse into my art process and what I see and feel as an artist.