Sunday, June 3, 2007

Mel's Turn

Helllooooo ladies,

This is my very first time posting to a blog, and hopefully I'll do it right. I am under the impression that I don't have to erase Martina's stuff to put mine up, and I hope very much that it will work.

Before I start, I wanted to let you know that I just rewrote my artist statement today, and could use any help or advice. I had a short, friendly version, but want to work towards something to use for grad school applications. Any ideas? Also, I wanted to apologize for the poor photo quality. This is just me in the basement with my lame camera, often with one hand on the lamp and the other on the camera, the tripod between my legs. I hope they work well enough to serve the purpose and don't annoy you too much. And I hope you like some of the pots, even though its hard to see what they really look like. I've been focusing on simple forms lately, trying to work out the decoration, and am excited to expand on this. Again, any thoughts are more than welcome. Thanks guys, your words and feedback are very valuable to me right now!

Artist Statement

My current studio work is a response to my search for a connection to my new landscape and environment. In the past, I made pots from local clay and fired with wood and gas. Those pots were descriptive of the land from which they were made. A raw, rocky Maine coastline, a rutted, tangled California mountainside, and a high, bald North Carolina hill bore natural, earth-toned pots, with deep, yet simple surfaces. Presently, I live and work in an area that is relatively void of a feeling of place. The earth in my small, square garden is tinged red, and so I find myself moving back towards earthenware. Uniform bagged clay feels more natural in a town where the commercial has overcome the local, and the landscape is less dramatic and wild. I am drawn to more bright and vibrant colors that reflect the light green of spring leaves against wet, dark trunks along with simple, primary, tones. The imagery reflects my current thoughts on domestication and taming of life, animals, and land.

Each pot is largely informed by its process, a balance between motion and intuition. I have always been influenced and inspired by active time spent with rich earth, whether it be running though mountains or making in the studio. The momentum that builds through throwing simple forms in numbers leaves me feeling as though the clay and motion are endless. With faith in the innate intelligence of the motion of making, my mind and body are free to then change these wheel-thrown forms into more carefree pinched and altered pots, fresh and spontaneous. My vocabulary of form is inspired mostly by traditional British slipware, Bizen ceramics, and the mugs, plates, and bowls I choose from the cupboard every day. My forms aim to be direct and uplifting, both playful and practical. I believe that the most beautiful pots are born of intuition, immersion and risk.

As a painter, decoration and imagery are a central element to my work. I am interested in creating a sense of depth in the surface landscape of the pot, and in painting lighthearted, energetic animals that act as a tangible element to engage the user in that landscape. Animals are comical and accessible, and the humor they bring accents slightly asymmetrical shapes. These characters are sometimes drawn directly from contented or nostalgic times in my past, or might relate to my hopes and dreams for the future. I try to use minimal, gestural, purposeful, living lines to define space and to create a sense of movement in the animals as well as in the pots themselves. Making these pots is a deep, intuitive, and central part of my life, and I love to daydream about the chickens I paint dancing through the kitchens and gathering places of others.


critial ceramics said...

Hi mel, martina here...

first off, considering the description of your photo set up, you did a great job.

I love your current palette of colours - the rich green of the rims offset against the pale softness of blue and yellow, as well as the loose pinching and scratch marks. you are successful in creating a lively line quality and spontanaiety with your animals.

What caught my eye in the way of constructive criticism has a relation to comments heard about my work and current things i'm thinking about in the way of decoration.

i like how the lobster on the first cup bridges the white and terra cotta areas. i would like to see this more. how would the decoration work if it weren't just limited to the face of the plate or the belly of the pitcher (as in the altered jug one)? Also, on the bowls, the relation of outside to inside, or face of plate to other side. i personally love the surprise of a foot ring interior decorated with the same care as the face of the plate. I like how the images are moving around the pots horizontaly, but what about some more movement vertically with them?

Also, and this is a touchy one for me too, the integration of the handle with the overall decoration. they seem to be a solid color with some highlights, but what about a branch traveling from the inside of a cup over and around the handle, or is that too cheesy. sometimes it's hard for me to distinguish between contrived and more intuitive decoration (in my own work and looking critically at others, not yours specifically).

As for your artist statement, i liked the background on your past landscapes, but without your resume to accompany it, i have no idea from reading your statement where you are NOW, only where you've been. I think you did a great job articulating your process, approach and form inspiration. i think that is key to a statement, and something i personally have a hard time with. In your final paragraph, you use the word 'try', which i think may have a similar effect to my use of the word 'fail'.

All in all a good statement. definately on the right track for school. take a step back from it and just make sure that its as concise as you can be and that it really relates to your work - which i think it does. my mistake was writing what i thought they wanted to hear so i think my statement and images may not have matched up.

good luck with school and your work is impressive!

critial ceramics said...

mel, I think I could find you at the luggage carousel at an airport pick up, now that I have seen your work. I would however like to review it at least to more times before responding, so more to follow from me very soon. MONica

Kip said...

Hey Mellio --

It is wonderful to finally see some of your work, it has been ages since I last saw a mel-pot! I hope the following comments will are helpful, let me know if I need to elaborate anywhere.

I really enjoyed a lot of things about these pieces. The first thing that struck me was how the pinched and altered nature of your work blends so well with the gestural drawings. The animals have such a wonderful activity to them, as do the pots themselves -- everything seems well related.

The colors you've chosen and the clay body you're working really help the textures and drawings to stand out -- especially with the green glaze over the white slip. I think your digital images are well done (especially considering your set up!), but I have a feeling there is even more depth to these surfaces in person.

As I looked more at your work, I found the plates and cups to feel the most resolved. You seem very confident in both the decoration and the forming of these pieces. I love the pinched rim of clay on both the cups and plates and how they act as a frame for the drawings. My favorite areas are where little bits of chicken feet and polar bear noses sneak out beyond their defined spaces (some detail shots of those areas would be wonderful).

The pot working least for me is the rounded pitcher. I think the problem lies in the handle -- it feels a bit big for the body of the piece. Pitcher handles always run the risk of looking a bit anemic - perhaps shortening it a bit would help it feel more stable? Would you consider connecting it somehow to the rear of the pitcher form?

The other suggestion I have is with regard to the larger pitchers. I like the way you've treated the surface, but I'm a bit distracted by the throwing lines. I think you can retain your loose throwing qualities and increase the "pop" of your line drawings. I was also thinking a bit about the handles on these pots -- you have such long, graceful animals -- I'd almost like the handle to be a little longer, too. Maybe start an inch or two below the rim? Maybe a little decoration on them somehow as well?

As far as the artist statement goes, I think it's off to a really great start. You may need some semicolons in your first paragraph, but I'm certainly not a grammar expert. I think the best writing advice I've ever gotten (and you probably do this already) is to read something out loud. Wherever you stumble, even if just for a second, change it. Your last two paragraphs seem to flow best. I really like the way you describe your process.

All in all, Mel, this is an impressive body of work. I think you are getting across in your pots a lot about who you are and what you value -- it's great to see.

I hope your drive out to CO goes well, hopefully I'll get a chance to see you.

critial ceramics said...

Mel --

Megan here, finally.

It is hard for me to know where to start with my comments -- after having not seen your pots for so long and then having them be so reminiscent of some things you were doing when you were here -- and so different in other ways. And of course I have contrary opinions from some other commenters so this may just confuse you!!!

Your work looks really strong (as it always does). It makes me want to rip open a bag of clay and start making things, or grab a paintbrush. It is alive and passionate. I also think your artist statement is looking good and contains some vivid and moving writing.

Some specifics on the pots:
My favorites are the tall pitchers, the plate with the chicken who is ready to jump off and tell you what's what, the cups with the chicken on the bottoms (this mirrors Martina's suggestion of using decoration in less predictable ways) and the bowls that are at the bottom. I like the scritchy scratchy on all the of the pieces.

With the bowls on the bottom, I like it that there is a thicker band of bare clay around the rim -- it makes them stronger to me. Also the glaze looks more clear/ less opaque on those rims than on some of the others -- I don't really like the opaqueness so much.

The tall pitchers -- they are a beautiful form and really echo the decoration. I actually really like the strong throwing lines but maybe that is partly nostalgia. I'm not so big on the solid color handles.

A few things other thoughts --
I don't know about the pinchy rim on the cups. I'd be curious how they would look with a pinchy upper section but a somewhat smoother or stronger rim. They don't appeal to me for drinking -- I would have to use one to really know (maybe you should send one so I could research this....)

Like Martina, I like where the decoration leaves proscribed areas -- but I also like how your animals are contained/confined but the limits of the pots. This is particularly true of the rabbit plate. It echoes the line in your artist statement "The imagery reflects my current thoughts on domestication and taming of life, animals, and land." -- which is a thought that intrigues me and that I think you expand on both in the statement and in your work. In some of your pieces, the animals look angry/ contained, on some they are more silly, on some they are just there, hanging out. Why are there animals on your pots and what communicative purpose do you want them to serve?

Again, I think your artist statement is strong. I don't like the last line that much. I would like it more if you ended with the first clause "Making these pots is a deep, intuitive, and central part of my life," and left off the daydreaming. The first statement is so strong and certain, and the frolicking chickens undermines that for me somewhat.

My computer is about to run out of batteries so I'm going to post this. If you have any specific questions, please let me know. Can't wait to see more!!!

critial ceramics said...

I have posted my comments twice already, but they are not appearing, getting frustrated but will write agian today, but later

critial ceramics said...

I have typed these comments twice, sorry if this time they lost there eloquence. #1 I think your artist statement is the strongest of the group so far. You mentioned influences from history, from nature and the way you can see chickens present in your everyday. (I am going to post in such statements to limit retyping)

critial ceramics said...

the lobster cup:i like the way the design is on both bare and glazed clay. I find the surface texture (throwing lines and texture in blue area) a bit distracting. i very much like the handle but wish it attached a bit lower then on the rim. the rooster pitcher: shape i like the least. i would like a stronger foot to keep it from feeling bottom heavey. On all the images i would like to see a strong background, to create a scence/place for the animals but particularly on the rooster pitcher (going to post agian)

critial ceramics said...

the plates: i really like the different surfaces, clear glazed rims, the greenish/blue glazed area, and then the water color painted area. The rooster plate is amazing! that rooster could walk off the plate. the varied line thickness which is so free and relaxed.(something i am struggling with). really like all aspects of this piece (some sort of foot i hope)

critial ceramics said...

The large picthers: i like the colors but nothing wowed me. I like the way the animals had a bit more of a foreground and a back ground. the rabbit, rooster and cow bowls and plates: would like to see something on the backside of the bowls,plates ect., similar to the smaller teacups. design on the inside of the cup, and on the outside. sorry to be the last agian but somehow my comments vanished on saturday and sunday moniCA hobie is extra cute, and well done on the images, i hope my basement work is as succesful