Saturday, August 18, 2012

Concrete and graffiti: grad ring 2012

Convocation seems a long time ago now, my Jewellery + Metals Program class-mates alphabetically woven into the long line of bright smiling faces being ejected from under-graduate life, out into the world. I didn’t graduate with them, but a little piece of me crossed the stage in the very specific form of a grad ring commission...

concrete & graffiti. Sterling silver, quartz. 2012.

I delivered it on the morning of convocation, down in the basement as the grads lined up. We joked: “With this ring, I thee graduate…”. Super-tired from finishing the piece at 3am, and with just a cruel 20 minutes for pictures, it all melted away in the pleasure of watching my friend open the box, sort of squeal (yes, she did), and take out her grad gift to herself, the piece of jewellery that she had chosen to honour her achievement.

concrete & graffiti. Sterling silver, quartz. 2012.

Inspired by the ACAD stairwells, this ring was made from concrete-textured sterling silver, with a minimalist approach to the design: it was all about the form, and intense surface marking. My goal was to design a ring that was reminiscent of the typical hollow North-American grad ring, but to subvert the form, give it a makeover, and most especially figure out how to personalise it to my grad’s predilection for big sumptuous jewellery—setting her choice of an asymmetric, 25 carat, faceted quartz. Yum.

And the graffiti? Future versions will likely sport some enamel, but this ring still had remnants of red sharpie from my technical work on the stone-setting. I really liked the marks, just makes me want to use sharpies on lots of other metal work…

More on the ring design: My solution was a twist on the classic Tiffany modular or slotted card setting, creating 6 prongs to support the stone on 4 of 6 sides. The pavilion (bottom of the stone) has unequal angles on every side too, so each arm of the setting is tailored. I had wanted to work on this style for the longest time - this was my baptism of fire. Loved it.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

letting go, and why vessels are awesome.

It's wonderful to be able to make what you love. Period. It just is. But apparently there are problems too—like the separation anxiety I'm having as I send new pieces off to an exhibition or show, I'm finding it really hard to let go.

Chalice Series vessels, left to right: "Ich Dien (I Serve)", "Chalice #3", "Chalice #2 (Just Another Vessel". Handbuilt Southern Ice porcelain, underglaze, translucent glaze with encapsulated stains, ash glaze. Fired to cone 10 in oxidation. 2012.

Three of the new "Chalice Series" vessels I fired and glazed over New Year are now moving out into two summer shows: "Chalice #2, Just Another Vessel" will be part of the Alberta Craft Council summer exhibition "Shift. A Transformative State Of Mind" which opens July 14 in Edmonton; "Chalice #3" and "Ich Dien (I Serve)" will be available in Calgary at the Ruberto-Ostberg Gallery Show "Connections", opening this Friday June 15. These are handbuilt, labour-intensive pieces: they are slow art, inspired by ancient and ritualistic vessels—though the technology in that ultra-white porcelain, the fabulously stained glazes, and my computer-controlled kiln couldn't be more 21st century. I hope they find new homes because that will mean they have become meaningful to someone else.

We have a long history of needing and cherishing vessels, and I'm very happy to join the procession of potters, extending forward, who will continue to be inspired by the possibilities and provoked by the necessity of containing: food, flowers, ideas, love… Long live the vessel.

I remain mindful of a quote by the art historian and curator Edith Cargill:

“Show me someone who thinks the vessel is dead and right around coffee time I’ll show you a f###### hypocrite!”

P.S. As if by magic, or the Albert Craft Council newsletter, a link to a fabulous exhibition catalogue of ceramics for the table just appeared: "TableSpace" was presented at Alfred University in New York, Fall 2011. The introductory essay offers much to digest about the continued importance of functional ceramic vessels. And lots of really nice pictures. Congratulations to Alberta potter Sam Uhlick who was part of the show.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

hot under the collar

There's a fairly long line-up of stuff that gets me hot under the collar… This is also the title of a sure to be excellent upcoming show featuring contemporary necklaces that I, sadly, won't be in. So I decided to have a solo show and post a picture of my current favourite new necklace: "For The Girl Who Has Everything: A Snack".

"For The Girl Who Has Everything: A Snack". Sterling silver, stainless steel,
gluten free cookie, brass, cubic zirconia. Constructed. 2012.

There is at least one reason I won't be in the show: I didn't enter. And there's a reason I didn't enter… That would be the $30 fee to have my entries reviewed for potential inclusion. Simply put, I have hemorrhaged far too much cash recently entering shows—the same amount would have bought me a considerable amount of raw metal and gemstones, a run of business and post-cards, or even the best part of the airfare to go see the show!

It's not that I'm against spending money on self-promotion and marketing, like everyone else I just need to be choosy about how much, and what I spend my money on. I would really like to be able to answer the question "cui bono?" every time I have to reach for my credit card: if a show of fabulous contemporary work will boost foot traffic at a location, why am I paying so much to be even considered as a participant? What about just charging those invited to be there? How are all those application fees used? The answers of course have many facets, and I will continue to enter what I can afford. But I would really like to scrutinize the money flow to ensure that I feel good about what I am paying for—maybe organizers could let us know their policy information as part of the proposal?

I look forward to hearing what other people think about this.

Monday, February 27, 2012

...there's plenty of wood and canvas in the typical couch

I think I'm an artist… But I make jewellery and ceramics. I recently made a piece in metals that looks and functions like a picture. And you can wear it if you so choose… A Still Life With Gin And Oranges was provoked into being by the selection criteria published by a big Canadian emerging artists art fair, who excluded anything "decorative" or that could be used. Their potentially apartheid approach to anything clay or textile was overcome by including sculpture in their definition of art (so just to be clear: 3D work must be neither useful nor decorative to be art. Anything 2D is art). 

And so I give thanks to ARTINFO for this thoughtful piece on the art fair. I note that the red leather sofa (mentioned lower down in the article) would have been specifically excluded at my fair, because it was, well, useful - and because the organizers also specifically excluded furniture. 

A Still Life With Gin And Oranges - picture, pendant, art?
Chased and constructed from patinated brass, sterling 
silver, bronze, and some gold. Christine Pedersen. 2011.
Another recent event (reported by ARTINFO) made me gasp in astonishment. I know, must be some really AWESOME piece of art—wrong—it was this quote: "…So I went to the Frieze Art Fair in London, saw this piece and was like, "Oh my god, that’s amazing. I really want to buy that." And the dealer said, “Oh no, well we’re actually waiting for a more prestigious collector to buy that.” - that was Daniel Radcliffe on his initial attempt to buy a painting by Jim Hodges. Fortunately the painter was a fan of Harry Potter, and Daniel got the art that he LIKED. I wonder if the gallery owner committed a major foot in mouth for so openly attempting to position a sale that would make other-people-that-buy-this-kind-of-art estimate the artist more highly? And of course doing their commission no harm in the process. 

From the majority of ARTINFO's excellent art info, and the well positioned art fair that much of my work was excluded from, one might infer that "art" is probably painting. I am also led to conclude that this definition is worth protecting for some reason… Dare I say that it comes down to simple economics? If consumers get the idea that other forms of creativity are also art, and are increasingly tempted to buy them, then painting could lose some market share. And it can't just be about materials—after all, there's plenty of wood and canvas in the typical couch.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

a blank canvas: New Year, new opportunities, and an age old dilemma

I did something slightly nuts over New Year... I fired 3 kiln-loads of porcelain, wanting some very specific pieces glazed and ready to ponder their metalwork and gemstone additions. It added up to very late nights and early mornings - with not nearly as much whisky as I would have liked (but I can always catch up on that).

I was finally flirting with the first pieces in a long anticipated body of work. I think I know what they might be like when they’re finished - I’ve seen them in the movies my brain runs long after my hands have stopped working, they seem fabulous - so colourful, lush, ancient looking.

Blank porcelain bisque, and glaze samples
But first, I had to overcome a situation many potters fear: the room full of bisque. Clean, white, totally blank. The pots look like the pieces that I made, and yet they don’t. Strangers - all of them - sitting around in my tiny studio, intimidating me every time I passed.

I had set them out around the room, and then spent at least 5 days staring at them, trying to sketch colours, feeling increasingly nauseous as the time passed, Christmas break becoming New Year… Knowing that each firing was a minimum 48 hour process, no time to spare. Especially as we enjoyed a crazy unseasonal warm spell, likely my only firing window until March.

Not sure how I started the glazing, and then it was just a frenzy: careful notes turning into some semi-conscious mindbody relationship with buckets of glaze and paint brushes! I just went at those blank pots, barely able to wait until they were dry to do another coat, dripping extra colours and overglazes.

They all got fired. But then I had to leave them packed away in boxes for another handful of days, strangers again: some surprises, disappointments, complete unknowns. A few instant love affairs with pieces that came from the kiln screaming their joy in their shiny new look.

And now I am interviewing a herd of pots on the dining room table, asking them about metalwork and gemstones, trying to figure out what they might like to become next. They've already sat there for a week of 2012, the 'canvas' now not quite so blank - more pictures to come as the work develops.

Close-up of the glazed surface of a hand built porcelain bowl