Fasting is an act of separation from something that will direct ones focus, heart, and soul in a direction desired. Through this 5 weeks contract I am fasting from clay and directing my focus and energy on basket weaving. Although this is a hard thing to do I realize that it is necessary. Through the journey of weaving I am imprinting myself that will in some way impact the composure of my ceramics. There is no desired product from this journey, but a desired passion of new discovery into what is possible. So far this fast is exciting and truly rewarding!
P.S. Here is an image of a piece recently made, however it is not yet finished!
Tonight I return to an old process that was introduced to me almost two years ago: firing a Raku Kiln. This type of firing originated in Japan over 500 years ago. The vessels that come out of this process don't serve a utilitarian purpose as the pots cannot hold water for very long and the glazes for raku are lead based. Raku is a hands-on process that relies on your convictions to be fierce when it comes to plucking the pots out of their burning furnace and releasing them into a bed of paper for them to rest.
Because it is a hands-on, this firing method is highly experiential. Like weaving a basket, raku firing needs constant care and attention to receive the desired effect. The heat of the baking pots flares across the face like a warm South Carolina breeze in summer. Depositing the pot to disintegrate the nest of papers produces a billowing flame comparable only to an Autumn bonfire. Movement by movement and step by step, you see the pots maturing in a seemingly magical way. What most perceive as magic, however, is actually a scientific resolution. The reaction of clay to glaze, glaze to heat, heat to cooling, and glaze to reduction and oxidation is something that is most rewarding to witness in the process of one's own work.
Even tonight, as I once again witness this process, I am still inspired to continue my endeavors of alternatives firing processes. The last of my raku pots for the night are cooling down and I am starting to clean up shop here in the studio. Reflecting on this process is really exciting. The works coming out of this are but a mere stepping stone along the path I am choosing to take. It will be a long journey, that much I can tell you. But this process is another aspect of life. There are no guarantees and it is not something you can control. That is all a part of embracing who you are and remaining open to what lies ahead.
So remember when I said I was working on exploring the unknown? Well, as shown in the image above that is exactly what I am doing. This is a new test piece I am trying out that incorporates both the raw and refined material of fiber. Spending more and more time with this kind of process is giving a sense of reassurance as I work with these two materials and being an advocate for both of their raw characteristics.
This is a tedious experiment, because the wood is from a dead branch and I am constantly saturating it with water, because the reed has to stay moist during the weaving process. Once I reached this point in the weaving I realized something really nice. The form that it is starting to develop is something resembling a hive! Although my hands control the shaping process it was not my direct intent to create this specific form. When you work with natural materials you begin to understand the language that they "speak" and the actions they approve of you taking when using them as a medium.
A hive is a wonderful way to show, express, and exhibit duality. Bees, Wasps, and any other organism that builds these bulbous structures typically build it into an aspect of the natural landscape. After that building is accomplished the cohabitation between organisms begins. I feel as though I am receiving my own experiential moment between building something that does not destroy the place of origin, but compliments and uses it to develop an appreciation for both structures.
Hey there! So I am excited to announce that the weaving is not only continuing, but it is flourishing. It has been beyond helpful to have been traditionally trained in basket weaving for years before embarking in new ways of weaving and exploring the medium. Like most art mediums once you spend time on learning the basics and refine those practices you then have the tools to explore the uncharted. Having done that back in High School now has become the time to explore. Starting this journey has given me a peace and reassurance that I am where I need to be and this is what I need to be doing.
What you see in the picture above is me weaving with smoked round reed on a branch. This is something completely new to me! There is something quite beautiful about well balanced duality. A coexistence that metaphors my life and process of growth. Although this work is leaning towards the non-objective it also has a personal experience woven into each row that resonates some form of intricate beauty when the basket is finalized. The reed used is a material that has been refined for the purpose of weaving. The branch however had been broken from its source by some natural occurrence and rescued from decay.
Having a straight piece of raw nature that has been cast away and not robbed from its source for selfish purposes is a quiet action. Before the weaving begins you spend time with the branch to see the character, growth, and the breadth within to find what the branch is wanting to evolve into. There is an adventure knowing that these pieces of wood can find new life into a piece of art before decomposing into the earth from which it was once birthed. Hurricane Florence will be coming soon and there is a high chance that here in Anderson and Greenville will get quite a storm out of it. My eyes will be on the look out for branches falling and breaking in hopes that the pieces discarded can be used for this process of weaving. Well, it's time to take advantage of this bright sunny day and go weave some more.
Yesterday in Class I watched Craft in America episode Nature. Through the lenses of different artists you hear perspectives on how they not only view nature but place it in the grand scheme of things with their art. "You're going to make what you surround yourself with" says Miranda Belarde-Lewis in reference to her brief discussion of Apache Philosopher Viola Cordova. This quote resonated with me because I can speak first hand that what you allow yourself to be exposed to can play a part in what your subconscious imbibes. A question raised in the episode was that "Is it (nature) the limit or is it everything?". This question will vary from person to person based on the views and roles that we hold with nature. If nature is the limit, does that mean the limit to design has been reached? If nature is the limit, does that mean the limit to beauty has been reached? I cannot answer these questions for anyone but only for myself. How I talk about nature is to show my inspiration from what has already been done that is regulating my process.
Personally not only do I pull nature as inspiration but also the industrialized refined products of nature. Through balance of both I can see change, rhythm of progression, growth or even loss of detail or character within the parts of nature being extracted to create "refined" material. Perhaps this is my way of asking myself do the raw materials I use have impurities? Or does the idea of impurities imply that I see a fault in using raw material? These questions have inspired me to continue working with nature medium to expose the balance or imbalance of nature versus industry.
When the weather is as nice as it has been today I just have to immerse myself in it. So, I made a little make shift studio of two small tables, a slab of wood, and some old canvas. This set up that allowed me to be surrounded by nature during the working process. If I had access to do that all the time I would feel rather spoiled! Something feels so honest about engaging with a natural medium in a natural environment.
Today's focus has been working with clay by creating some kind of form of base to incorporate the basket weaving into. My approach is to develop a variety of bases through clay body, form, shape, glaze application, and firing methods. Having a range of selection to choose from will help determine what feels right and what works.
There has also been something on my mind that I would like to share and hopefully offer up some encouragement. As an art major it is crucial to make work and is stressed by superiors to dedicate yourself to the studio. Well, here's some food for thought. The studio does not have to be located in the basement of an Arts building, in your apartment (God forbid your bedroom), or even outside on some small tables to work, like what I did today. The take away on what has been advised to me is that the studio space is not just an actual physical space where you create work (although having a space to work is vital as an artist). Studio space or even studio practice has everything to do with your mindset. Who's to say that thinking, researching, or even meditating on art is not part of building a studio practice. clocking in and clocking out does not have to be an entirely a physical concept. Clocking in to work could be saying to yourself "I'm going to think about art for the next blank amount of hours. Taking time to read, write, sketch, blog, and/or talk about art is a part of my studio practice that is a consistent renewal of energy for the physical process of making art. Hopefully other people are able to connect to this and if not maybe I have given something for you to think about.
Today I went back to an old medium and method. Basket weaving. For a while now I have been wanting to go back to this material, but it never felt like the right time to do so until now. Currently I have been playing around with reed and cane along with random additions of branches and a wooden frame. I am not sure where this is going but that is a part of experimenting, embracing the unknown.
A professor once told me 'What's the point of creating something exactly like the way you imagined it? Where's the journey? Where's the growth? Is it simply for the enjoyment of others to look at?" The unknown is a scary thing and often times causes a sense of apprehension to take the next step. Embracing the unknown is learning to let go of complete control. Letting go doesn't mean giving up it means giving yourself a chance to experience something new and learning from it. I am definitely still working on that (in multiple areas of my life). So here is me taking one step at a time into the unknown.