Friday, December 16, 2011

Rules of Engagement

Does clay impose rules? The materials we call “clay body” are so diverse and behave so differently, it makes me wonder. There is stretching and shrinking and drying and cracking. But is the lexicon of clay limited to these and other characteristics?

I had just started my new squeeze routine when I went to Medalta. I spent the months of May and June conceptualizing what I would do with the new “technique” and I was full blast when I got to Medicine Hat. I started with a low-fire, low grog clay and made dozens of irregular shapes molded on plastic bags filled with packing peanuts.

Hand in the Clay

The clay “behaved” perfectly and I later used the pieces in large modular sculptures that fit well into the landscape.

Prairie Tower

I switched later to a higher-fire clay that I could use in the salt and soda kilns at Medalta. It was more heavily grogged and I could squeeze it thicker. I got some interesting results:

Prairie Figure

Mean Mask

When I got back to the studio at BU I tried making similar shapes but the low-fire, low-grog clay we use there fell apart with alarming consistency before it got to the kiln.

As luck would have it we were low on student clay at the beginning of the semester and I found another medium-grog, high fire clay.

Something about the clay inspired me to try something new. Instead of the peaceful shapes I had been making at Medalta I started wrestling with the clay in fast, barely controlled movements, propping it against tightly crumpled newspaper, and letting it dry almost as I found it as it came out of the box. The results are some of my most recent work:

Olmec Baby's Dog Closeup

Phospholipid (Life and Limb)

Rules of engagement? Contemplate the form, engage the clay, find accommodation and uncomfortable satisfaction. Be ready and willing to change.

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