Thursday, April 16, 2009

Why Ceramics?

Pottery Vs. Ceramics
I was recently asked about the difference between pottery and ceramics. In my opinion, there is little difference except in application. Pottery is the physical thing, the functional produce of potters. Ceramics suggests more formal training, a higher use, a lovely work of art, and is also the produce of potters. However, this question was in regards to the cheerful ceramic clowns, bears, unicorns, and generally mass produced items made with clay slip and molds. In my opinion, those are not 'ceramics', though the label is loosely applied; those are 'figurines' or 'novelties' or 'tacky'. When I say "ceramics" and "pottery", I am usually referring to the hand-made pieces produced by individuals who have some type of experience with clay. The terms also apply to the work that was originally produced for farmers over a hundred years ago. Ceramics, and pottery, has evolved to a general broad acceptance amongst art collectors and general folk looking for something they can hold, daily creations that brighten their lives and enhance the mundane function of drinking morning coffee, eating a bowl of cereal, or pouring a cup of tea.

The Value of Ceramics, or, What Does Pottery Mean to Me?
Well, in Georgia, clay is already a part of everyday living. It gets stuck to our tires, plays havoc with our landscaping, and stains our skin and clothes in local man-made lakes or rivers. It gives the water around here that lovely color, and creates soft slippery pools for our bare feet. What is the value of local pottery? More than any monetary value you could place on it, local pottery is usually made with--wait for it--local clay. Each cup, plate, or hand-made ceramic sculpture you see at a local pottery show is literally a piece of Georgia. No matter the shape, no matter the glaze, this piece was once a part of the Georgia geography and has been formed and solidified into a shape that no longer suggests its geographical history. Georgia is hidden in each cup, and cradled by your hands each time you pick it up. We take from the land; the land nourishes us. I wonder if the potters of a hundred years gone felt the sense of connection with the land that you usually associate with those who work in agriculture.

What is the Appeal of Going to Pottery Shows
Fired Works, a Regional Ceramics Show and Sale (aka, Macon Art’s large pottery show) features 58 artists this year. The appeal, other than having the unique opportunity to see large amounts of artwork from each of these artists, is to remember they all start with the same basic material: clay. You find the same shapes throughout cultural history: the pot, the plate, the bowl, the cup. Cultures around the world found this malleable material and molded it into the same shapes, found the same purpose. It was used to create play things, to mold images of gods, and to capture the likeness of everyday people. The age old process has not changed, nor will it, since it was discovered. Historically speaking, this is the oldest true art form still in use today.

Fired Works: A Regional Ceramics Exhibit and Sale
We're on the cusp of Fired Works, and encourage you to see what all the fuss is about. We boast the largest collective ceramics show in the state: 58 ceramic artists agreed to participate, and we've shoved tables against the walls to make space for over 2,000 ceramic pieces. Fifty seven of our artists live in Georgia, and 12 of them are new to the event this year. Many participating potters do this as a full time job, but several are college professors, art teachers, and retirees. Young and old, our artists have found the same creative medium that connects them, and Macon Arts has that on display. This is art you can touch, hold, carry, cherish, and use everyday. Getting a hand-made ceramic piece connects you with the earth, with the history, and enriches your daily mundane with something unique.

Fired Works: A Regional Exhibit and Sale
April 18th through April 26th,
Daily Hours are 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Daily Tickets are $5, and you'll be able to use your stub to return throughout the week.

Our Preview Party is Friday, April 17th, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tickets are $25, and include appetizers, fresh grilled burgers, dessert, wine and beer, and live entertainment. You also have the first opportunity to browse and shop the show.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Familiar "Faces"

For those of you who receive Macon Arts Ovations magazine, this image is quite familiar. Mark Knott, a ceramic artist out of Suwanee, GA, gained the cover of Ovations with his beautiful lidded jar. His colors are also familiar around Macon, for those who remember last year's Macon Magazine, which featured one of his teapots on the cover.

Mark Knott

My work is a reflection of my history, a confluence of my life experiences.

My ceramic lineage traces back to Kansas City and Ken Ferguson. Ken instilled a powerful work ethic combined with individual artistic growth. My time at Kansas City allowed me to build a strong ceramic foundation and a deep personal well.

My work at present is grounded in the historical ceramic tradition of functional pottery.

The forms that interest me most reflect my love of the ocean; boats, water, continual movement, and repetitive patterns. These forms are softened by an ever changing color pallet and the atmosphere of my soda kiln. In contrast to the looseness of my forms are the inherent vertical influences of grain silos and water towers.

I use both stoneware and porcelain in my work. Decorative issues are addressed by various slips, which add depth and texture to the work. The work is then dealt with individually and multiple glazes are applied by cut sponge stamps, brushes, and dipping and/or pouring. The glazes are allowed to interact creating secondary patterning. The work is then soda fired to cone 6, or approximately 2250 F. Soda kilns tend to enhance and brighten the glazes and is sometimes referred to as the kinder, gentler little sister of salt firing. In my case, the soft blues, turquoises, and yellows, in contrast with the clay bodies and slips complement each other in a vibrant, striking manner.

While I do not want remove myself from the historical aspects of ceramics, I find it necessary to pursue new ideas and at times look beyond the functionality of work.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Collaborations: A Ceramic Collage

Collaborations: A Ceramic Collage is a Fired Works event that is taking place at Macon Arts. The Macon Arts gallery has featured monthly shows, and the show closest to Fired Works always centers on ceramic work.

This year, Diane Mead curates the show, and came up with the concept of ceramic collaborations. She loosely based this idea on the Surrealists' game of "The Exquisite Corpse"; a game of folded paper played by several people, who compose a drawing without anyone seeing the preceding collaboration or collaborations. Obviously, such an "Exquisite Corpse" can hardly be achieved with ceramics! However, each artist mailed or traded pieces after the initial firing, and their corresponding partner finished each piece in their personal style.

I had the joy of meeting one participating artist last Friday; Ken Horvath dropped off his collaborative work with Fired Works artist Eileen Braun. He has yet to see Eileen's applications on his forms, but looks forward to seeing them on First Friday.

Participating artists in "Collaborations" include Heather Davis, Diane Mead, John Britt, Susan Feagin, Ken Horvath, Eileen Braun, Joy Raynor, Meg Campbell, and Roger Jamison. Please join us for the first of several Fired Works events during the opening reception for "Collaborations". First Friday, April 3rd, from 5 to 8 p.m. Light refreshments and wine will be served.

Call Macon Arts for more information: (478) 743-6940

While you're at it, check out John Britt's Blog about the up-coming Collaborations show.

Serving Art: new artist Shelia Bradley

Ceramic artist Shelia Bradley has been considered for previous Fired Works; we're quite happy that she is finally able to participate this year. Her work is quite vibrant, and she lets her love of cooking inspire her work. Read her artist statement below:

Shelia Bradley

Loving art and being an artist all my life has caused me to be led down many diverse paths, from graphic designer to chef. The sum of these experiences has served me well and left me with the belief that all art, no matter what we are drawn to as the observer, or what we decide to touch as the artist, comes from a place locked deep inside all of us. It is a soulful search to make a connection, a longing for a moment of clarity, a complete and reconciled thought, a state of joy that delivers us from the antagonists in life and the complexities and inconvenience of being human.

My connection and love affair began when I was a child as I played with clay for many hours at the waters edge, on the riverbank in North Carolina. Those cherished memories followed me into young adulthood when I was compelled to take a pottery class. I remember crying and being overcome with the feeling that I had, at last, come home.

Since 2005, I have devoted all of my creative energy into exploring the world of clay. The focus of my work revolves around and is inspired by my love of food and the joy that comes from preparing it. I am completely absorbed with the opportunity to create a functional pot based on the food I would like to see in it. I have become aware that the elements of cooking and making a pot are one in the same, for me. Although I am admittedly attached to the outcome, I am profoundly in love with the process.

I work, for the most part, on the wheel turning out functional pieces. I like the smooth, bright surface of porcelain like clay body. I glaze fire for stoneware in gas reduction to cone 10. I enjoy creating a certain attitude about the piece beyond its shape. The variety of shapes and the mixed bag of surface decoration that I use excite me like having a bounty of fresh herbs and exotic spices at my fingertips. I have many favorites and cannot limit myself. Some would say that I am indulgent, and that could be true, but I cannot live in a world without daring to experience the joy of exploration. My fondest hope is that I can invite hands to touch, persuade eyes to see and compel the user to enjoy every aspect of the piece, to have the piece become a part of someone’s life through daily use.

I have attended several Craft Schools on work study, including Penland in North Carolina, Arrowmont and Shakerag in Tennessee. I have been a continual student at Good Dirt Studio in Athens Ga., and regularly attend many workshops and seminars. I am an instructor at Good Dirt and have taught adult education classes at Gainesville State College in Gainesville Ga. I work from my studio at home in Bishop Ga., producing work for a number of galleries and pottery shows.

Bragging Rights (article in the 11th Hour)

Georgia’s main resources; cotton, peanuts, peaches, and clay? Georgia is by far the leading clay producing state in America; as well as stoneware and earthenware, natural kaolin is one of Georgia’s leading products. Kaolin is used not only by local potters, but by industries that make bathroom fixtures, tiles, and chinaware. It is also used in the paper industry, as commercial filler and paint pigment, and in pharmaceuticals.

There are natural deposits of some of the best kaolin right in middle Georgia. Native Americans discovered this natural resource, and used it for their clay ware. In the late 1700’s, European immigrants applied their craft techniques to the native clay. A few tons of southern kaolin were shipped overseas to Thomas Wedgewood, who praised the clay quality but deemed it too expensive to transport back to England.

Americans had no problem with the southern kaolin, and pottery became so widespread in the 1820s and 1840s that several pottery making centers sprang up in the south, known as “Jugtowns”. Peak years for Georgia potters was during the Civil War; they supplied the Confederate army with nearly all its storage vessels.

The Great Depression and increased production of cheaper glass and metal containers had the largest negative impact on Georgia potters. Unable to sell their wares to poor farmers, those potters who did not close their doors had to discover new ways to keep the tradition alive. One way potters began to appeal to a more diverse clientele was to add an artistic element to traditional forms: thus, the rise of the “face jug”. Oddly enough, many art collectors pay thousands of dollars for work was once produced for farmers.

Ceramic artists today use their “homegrown” Georgia clay and commercial clay (made with Georgia kaolin) to create an eclectic variety of ceramic pieces, ranging from the sculptural to the functional, to the functional with a little bit of “funk” added.

Regional ceramic artists keep the potter’s community alive; artist A.J. Argentina, who manages the Roswell Clay Collective, led a Mardi Gras “Clay Olympics” this year, which involved potters and the community in such competitions as ‘blind-folded wheel throwing’. In Crawford County, artist Shelby West organizes a kiln firing, open to the public, in a huge community kiln he helped build. Roger Jamison has an anagama kiln (Japanese for “cave kiln”) in his backyard, and has at least two annual firings. His kiln can hold up to 600 pieces of pottery, and about 20 artists come to his Juliette home to help keep the fires stoked ‘round the clock for 5 days.

Sooyeon KimNumerous art festivals and gatherings educate the public on the variety of ceramic work that is readily available, and give ceramic artists a chance to meet and exchange ideas. “Perspectives” at the Oconee Cultural Arts Foundation in Watkinsville, is an annual ceramics show featuring 50 Georgia ceramic artists. It includes an exhibit that mixes the contemporary with the traditional, last year with a display of Georgia face jugs next to a large modern piece by artist Sooyeon Kim. The Georgia Jugfest and Old Knoxville Days, held in Crawford County every year, is a gathering of many traditional folk potters, including artists Mark and Coni Merritt, who own the Lizella Clay Co. The Merritts also have a small annual Pottery Festival each fall which features artists from the region, including Triny Cline of Byrd Mountain Pottery.

Macon has its own pottery festival. “Fired Works: A Regional Ceramics Show and Sale,” which features work by over 50 regional artists, including those mentioned in this article. Fired Works will be taking place later this month at the Round Building in Central City Park. Though the show itself is in its fifth year, and Macon Arts is proud to sponsor it, the history of ceramics in Georgia runs as deep as the kaolin fault-line; now that’s something to brag about.

"Fired Works: A Regional Ceramics Show and Sale" will be taking place this month, April 18th through April 26th.

Featured Pictures in this article: 1. Collaborative piece, thrown by Roger Jamison, glazed by Diane Mead. Part of Macon Arts' April show: Collaborations. Opening reception April 3rd, 5-8 p.m. 2. Artist A.J. Argentina throwing blindfolded as part of the "Clay Olympics", photograph by Michael Phillips. 3. Part of "Teapot Conversation", piece by Sooyeon Kim, one of the featured works in the "Perspectives" exhibit.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

New Artists this year: A.J. Argentina

I first saw A.J. Argentina's work on-line, beautiful large pieces that incorporated negative space and architectural elements, each one dominating its environment, drawing the viewer to peer closer at the lines and weight of the material. It is absolutely fascinating; his functional pottery was nothing less when I viewed it in person at OCAF's Perspectives Pottery Show in August, 2008. Macon Arts was quite pleased when he agreed to participate in Fired Works.

A.J. is an instructor and manager of Roswell Art Center West, part of the Roswell Visual Arts program. Until you get to meet him at the Fired Works Preview Party, learn more about his artistic process in the following artist statement:

A. J. Argentina
Artist Statement

As a potter, I work within a functional format and am informed by the rich history of ceramics. At its best, my work reflects upon these vast traditions and adds an interesting layer. I strive for my pieces to transcend their utilitarian boundaries and to function equally as sculptural elements. I am interested in composition, surface, and craftsmanship as well as utility, and for the combination of these elements to create a dialogue between maker, user, and object.

Form remains primary in my exploration of functional wares, but I am constantly excited about finding balance between form, function, and surface. My inquisitiveness leads each pot I make to inform the next. The new and exciting information I gain from each kiln load influences the subtle changes in the next group of wares. Even in the earliest stages of my process, both form and surface are considered. My pots, organic in form, and are contrasted with the movement of subtle lines and folds. The lines, folds and curves that compose my wares are informed by the potential surfaces that a simple pallet of slips, glazes, and soda firing can create.

Soda firing can create surfaces that are dramatic and complex, yet simple and pleasing. Working with only a few flashing slips, allows for the firing process to paint the wares with blushes of color and a variety of tactile surfaces. The volatile soda fumes accentuate edges, lines, and change in form, often giving dramatically different surfaces to each side of the wares.

The formal combination of balance, line, volume, proportion, and surface allow for an infinite number of conclusions. My goal is to find a resolution that has a strong visual presence and emotive impact on the user. In the end, whether my wares are held or is sitting on a shelf, I would like their presence to be felt.

Join us at the Fired Works Preview Party, April 17th, from 6-9 p.m. Reserve your tickets today by calling 478.743.6940.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

On the Look-out: Fired Works Brochure

We are finalizing the Fired Works brochure, soon to be off to the printers, then to a mailbox near you!

Take note of the images on the brochure; you'll see ceramic art by Rick Berman, Vanessa Grubbs, Barry Gregg, Judy Shreve, Geoff Pickett, Cheri Wranosky, Bridget Fox, Jim Peckam, A.J. Argentina, Shelia Bradley, Sooyeon Kim, and Lora Rust.

If you're interested in receiving a Fired Works brochure, and find you're not already on our mailing list, please e-mail to be added!

Ceramics by Judy Shreve