Monday, March 9, 2015

Workshop at the Ohr....

Over the weekend, I had greatest time teaching a Visiting Artist workshop at the Ohr- O'Keefe Museum in Biloxi, Mississippi.  Built to house and exhibit the collection of pots from, arguably, the most eccentric figure in American Ceramic history, the Ohr- O'Keefe museum is one of the best kept secrets along the Gulf Coast.  The architect Frank Gehry designed the modern structures that were completed just prior to being devastated by Hurricane Katrina, and it took many years before the reconstruction was completed.

In addition to the museum galleries, there is a gorgeous teaching/workspace (it's in the building that's just off to the left in the photo above) that features glass roll up doors that open up in nice weather onto a courtyard and another glaze/kiln area.  Really, you have to see the space to fully appreciate it!  Anywhere else in the country, there would be a years- long waiting list to rent studio space or do a residency in a facility like this one!

The courtyard has a retaining wall the faces the beach and is the perfect place to dry pots or sit and enjoy an early evening beverage after a long day of pottin'.

...student pots enjoying the view!

I was really fortunate to have such a great group of potters show up for 2 days of (mostly) hands- on work with porcelain, which is my material of choice for about 99% of my forms.  We began with a Saturday morning Throwing and Altering demo for a few hours, then everyone wedged up some porcelain and got to work!  After such a cold (by Gulf Coast standards) week or two of weather, we were blessed with warm sun and clear skies that made drying the work much easier.  This is essential in a short workshop like this one, and it was our intention to be able to get everything trimmed and finished by the end of the day on Sunday.  As it turned out, we actually got to squeeze in some throwing time on sunday morning, with a lot of pots drying on the wall outside ready to be trimmed after lunch.

...hard at work experimenting with new forms.

Truly,  these workshops have become my favorite teaching environment, especially when we all get to make work together.  Stacey Johnson, the Director of Education and my host for the weekend, went above and beyond the call of duty to make sure everything went smoothly and everyone was well fed!  We hit it off immediately and, as it turns out, Stacey has a long history with New Orleans and was a student with my former studio mate W. Steve Rucker at Loyola University (also my former place of employment).

...Good stuff happenin' here!

Usually when I do this kind of thing, I mostly focus on my altered bowl forms, as they make for probably a more interesting conversation than some of my other work, and it's the work that I'm most comfortable demonstrating in front of a crowd while still attempting to provide some sort of  dialogue to keep people awake.  I've been on the other side of the wheel too many times watching someone demonstrate their beautiful technique in awkward silence for the better part of three hours and I promised myself that I would try as hard as possible to not be that guy.....sometimes it works.......but, ...........other times... ;) .......well, you still gotta trim!

......getting centered is half the battle!

However,  I must confess that I've been really busy making other types of pots over the past 8 or 9 months that I had to  go into "training" ...'basically take the week prior to make a bunch of altered bowls in my own studio to make sure I remembered the steps before attempting to make them in public (which, as you can imagine, is always a bit trickier)...

As an added bonus, it always rekindles my interest in these forms that, for a while, I was not sure if I would ever want to make again.  Back around 2011, these altered bowls had become so familiar to me and it was practically all that I was producing for the previous 3 or 4 years, so I guess I needed a break!..

Fortunately, the familiar often has enough subtlety to invite you back to reexamine the forms, and I look forward to returning to my studio and making a new series of these altered bowls.

...these were a few "practice bowls" made in my own studio, prior to coming out here.

If there was one tiny set back, it would be that the digital projector and laptop computer setup was not being very cooperative and, as a result, I was unable to give my usual presentation.  Now, depending on who you ask, this could be for the better! ...But, I enjoy doing it and I think it's fun to show images of your artwork to people and talk about the way it's slowly evolved over the years.

So, I'm going to close with a couple of quick shots from my most "Most Recent" work, in the unlikely event that anyone who was there stumbles across this blog post and cares to see what they missed...

And, ...if that happens to be you, let me extend a sincere "Thank You" for spending the weekend with me.  I enjoyed getting to know each one of you and I'm certain our paths will cross again!

Clay is a Small World! fired stoneware and porcelain assemblage, riffing on the "Cup and Saucer" theme.

...thrown and slab built porcelain Bowl and Stand.