Monday, April 26, 2010

Robot Love

A favoriate place of mine, a guilty pleasure is a store. It really is an aweful admission. For all my hippie lovin, pot throwin, gronola cruchin', tendencies one of my favoriate places is a consumer based non-environmentally friendly polyvinal crazy store. Where grown adults shamelessly trade their hard earned dollars for colorful objects pressed into the shapes of figurines. Toys.

Action, or lack of action figures that are desingned by artists in Asia, and North America, produced in China, where labor conditions are poor, to people like me who just cant help themselves. I know this and I still can't stop myself from indulging in happy meal sized figurnes with strange expressions smoking or expressing some kind of emotion through the cannon of colorful plastic typically reserved for childrens toys.

To analyze the act on a rational level is silly. I just like them.

Created by artists and designers the term "designer toys" applies to toys and collectibles that are produced in limited editions (10-2000). Illustraters and graffiti artists are also sometimes involved in the strange amalgomation of toy creation. Illustraters like Jeff Soto work in conjunction with this scene, allong with poster artists like Frank Kozik who designed posters for Neil Young, Nine inch Nails, Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Beck, and The Melvins. Kozik now responsible for for the Smorkin' Labbits series by KidRoBot.

So maybe I'm not the only one who's been sucked into the world of Robot Love.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Serendipity: Tea with Eva and running into an old friend who happens to be an Elephant

Serendipity: making fortunate discoveries by accident.

RULE TEN: "We're breaking all the rules. Even our own rules. And how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for X quantities." (John Cage)

Life's course unfolds. Watching from above one might see our fierce free will navigating through a series of circumstances beyond our control. Basking in this uncertainty can be viewed as a flailing about. OR If we are passionate about opportunity for a series of unexpected/exciting inspirations. These seem to be handed to us from some place larger and wiser than what our current selves could have yet dreamed up. We are attached to the idea of being in control, which is ultimately impossible. Yet being full of intent does seem to matter. Often times connecting the dots and seeing the metaphors in retrospect helps frustrations melt away. Where you are now may not be what its actually about...but you had to be here in order to get THERE. By letting go, taking risk, and being open we can more rapidly grow into ourselves. Learning when to push and when to be pulled we slowly but surely stumble upon our destiny.

A few weeks ago I went to New York to interview my longtime hero, Eva Zeisel. I woke up that morning sick with a cold and a scratchy inaudible voice. I had prepared 103 complex questions for Eva in hopes of understanding every bit of her 103 years of life wisdom in the realm of ceramic industrial design. It was an unseasonably warm and sunny spring day. When I arrived Eva was sitting outside enjoying the sun. I handed her some calla lilies and I introduced myself (with my scratchy inaudible voice). She took my hand in hers and said "oh yes your hands are good, you are good." I was then informed by Eva's daughter that at 103 Eva is still completely sharp and aware but at this point has a very difficult time hearing. I was encouraged to go ahead and attempt to interview Eva even though I could hardly talk and she could hardly hear.
In all honesty once in Eva's presence all my heady interview questions seemed senseless. Within the proximity of Eva's well earned sense of enlightened self-containment, I felt like a yappy puppy chasing its own tail. Nonetheless I nervously yelled my questions into a microphone contraption while Eva patiently attempted to decipher what it was I so desperately wanted to know from her. This turned out to be seemingly frustrating for both of us and we eventually settled in to drinking tea (from some original Eva Zeisel design cups of course). We soaked up the sun, watched the birds and drank from her beautiful cups. After awhile Eva's daughter Jean gave me a tour of Eva's studio which was amazing and informative. When I returned to Eva she had a bad headache and so I was asked to read to her to help distract from the pain. After learning that she would prefer to be read the war memoirs (written about the year she spent in solitary confinement in a Russian prison) over Opera magazine we settled on reading from one of her biographies. This was a fabulous book that answered many of the questions I had for her. As I read to Eva about her own life I got a bit confused as to whether I should refer to her in the first or third person. She listened very carefully, had me repeat certain parts and confirmed each strange and interesting incident to be in fact true. Eventually Eva's headache was forgotten, I had learned very much about Eva's life and life in general, and I realized that I had missed my bus. I decided there was time to catch the next one and continued to read until the sun had drifted out of the sky and it was time to take Eva back inside to sit by the fire. At this point Eva kissed my hand goodbye and told me to come again. Jean drove me to the bus stop where I waited to catch a bus back into the city so I could catch another bus back to philly where I would then fly back (it had taken a lot of navigating to find my way to Eva that day).
Somehow I missed that next bus and waited for the next one which was going to get me into the city just in time to catch my philly bus. This bus however managed to hit a car as we pulled into rush hour traffic. I arrived ten minutes late and missed my next bus. So I ended up stuck near Madison Square Gardens waiting for the 1am bus. Frustrated and all tired out I wandered a few blocks and was reminded that although I was stranded at night I was in New York after all and this was exciting.
Sure enough the streets were packed with people and they were all oddly caring around circus souvenirs. Being a circus lover I decided to follow the glow sticks and ended up in a back alley where I met a man lurking about. He explained to me that the circus was over but he and a few other circus groupies were waiting there because they were breaking things down and soon would bring out the animals. He knew this because he had grown up in the circus during WWII so often came to watch the old behind the scenes action. I too, knew a thing about behind the scenes circus life and upon closer inspection realized it was this very circus I was familiar with.

One of my more exciting memories of childhood is from the time I got to meet Barnum and Bailey's Circus when they came through Seattle. I was a poor hippy kid who rarely was allowed to interact with "society," but my Dad had the idea to trade them some garden vegetables so we could go watch the circus. Gunther the Lion Tamer's wife took a liking to me and brought me back stage to meet the acrobats and clowns. The evening was topped off with being introduced to the elephants and allowed to ride on one. This night has remained a strong memory not only because of the glamor of the rind stone jewels on Gunther's wife's feather head dress but because it was the first time I was able to realize the kindness of strangers.
So here I was in New York in a parking lot at midnight with a ragtag gang of circus groupies who also wanted to say hello to the elephants. There was the old man who had been a circus kid, an airline security guard from Jersey, two fellows from the Bronx, a woman who told me her email was gypsywanderer and a little boy from Morocco who didn't speak English,kept singing clicky songs to himself (but shared his roasted peanuts with me). Each of these people also had spontaneously let themselves be led/gravitated to this parking lot for what turns out was "The Secret March of the Elephants."
Each year the Barnum and Bailey Circus comes to town and performs at Madison Square Gardens and the only way to get the elephants there is by train but Penn station now only has escalators. Thus it is necessary for them to board the train in Queens, which means the Elephants must secretly march through the streets of Manhattan at midnight.
And so at the end of this very long and complicated day of journeying very far to meet with a very old hero I was able to randomly come across another very old, longtime hero that happens to be an elephant. It turns out the same elephant I had ridden on as a child still was with this circus. At around midnight this elephant walked out into the parking lot, (gave me a little nod?), joined its trunk with the tail of another elephant and took off into the busy streets of Manhattan, New York...
Eva Zeisel views her work as a "playful search for beauty" and the objects she designs as gifts. When I asked her if she had a particular individual in mind while designing or humanity in general she responded "there is no difference." Going to meet Eva (I now see) I had some undertones and motivations that were not the most pure and positive. I was in awe of her many accomplishments and fame and wanted to come in contact with her greatness before the rarity of its existence would be taken away from this world. I approached her that day with 103 questions thats underlying grief and desperation basically all wanted to know "How will this world (and modern ceramic design) go on without Eva Zeisel"?! Leaving Eva and the elephant that day I was reminded that this playfulness, this search and all that is beautiful do not belong to one particular person,thing, place or time...but are constantly there for all of us to tap into. It is the responsability of each of us to engage and actively create goodness. This force can not be forced, but if we stay passionate, sincere and open...serendipity can lead us there.
Thank you Eva and thank you circus Elephant...
with awe, gratitude, and love,

Monday, April 12, 2010

Semester Ramblings

1. If the meaning of life is to live, and the meaning of art is to make then the world suddenly appears much simpler than many make it out to be. Though then the question is asked weather or not one has lead a good life. Or has made good art. It is a question of weather a life simply lived is valuable by the act of existing, or if the act of creating is of any worth by simply making. The general consensus is that one has to actually do something in order to avoid uselessness. But that is not very hard to do.

It seems that life and art can be quantified in terms of Joy, Impact, and Reflection.

fig. 1 a plant that has lead a good life by enjoying growing J

* Joy can be quantified through struggle as well as ease; Impact relates to the self as well as others ; Reflection refers to observation as well as transformation

2. I don’t know how many cappuccinos I’ve had this semester—but I think I finally kicked the habit once spring rolled around. I am now addicted to just stopping by CafĂ© Nerman out of habit. Just to get hot water for my tea, and to steal milk and sugar from them. It’s ironic that I almost asked them how to spell steal. Steel Steal. Milk.

3. Note to self: It is important to make money.

4. Note to self: though we think we lack money we live a decadent life at this school, and in this art world. It is still hard work, this living thing. And this art thing.

5. Note to self: Summer is almost here.

Monday, April 5, 2010

why clay?

After working with clay for four years, the answer "i like to touch things" does not seem sufficient for this annoying question. Its time for an intellectual response.

This low-tier material deserve much more recognition. Yes, clay is abundant, and clay from every region has its own unique attributes. For example, China possess the best clay body for teapot called the "Purple Sand". This porous clay preserve the rich taste, while dense enough to maintain heat, flavor and color of tea overnight. Herend porcelain is another example of regional only material. Paint is the same whereever you go, so is bronze and aluminum. What other material can capture the essence of a region more direct than clay?

It is said that clay is at the bottom of the art-hiarchy, and i beg to differ. Clay can be made to look like anything. Lets make clay painting for example. Clay canvas can be manipulated and incorporated into the drawing. Real shadows can be used in conjunction with painted shadows, which created more depth. Impasto can be used much better with colored slip than regular paint. Can painters paint with glass? How about texture? Clay has much more variation of surfaces. Painting is the top of the art hiarchy? what a foolish remark, those who quote it shows their lack of insight. Painting cant even be utilitarin. Lets compare ceramic sculpture vs mix media sculpture. "bronze" bowl on top of a wooden foot? Both components can be thrown on the wheel and "bronze lustered" + painted on. What can other medias do that clay cant?

Ceramicists should take pride in their media, because conquering the process is respectable. Clay is definately a powerful materials. Mountains are made through collision of two slabs. Scorched earth is created through rapid drying and lack of compression. Lava rocks are made out of dried out reclaims. Because of clays complex process, it has much more possibility thus making it a more versatile material than any other media. A world without painting, photography, or animation wouldnt be much different, but without clay?

Monday, March 29, 2010

The [Exciting] Museum Life

When visiting museums as a child, and even into my adolescence, I always had these grand expectations about what happened "behind the scenes". I imagined underground hallways, tunnels, and rooms and rooms full of art work that was not on display...

So when I started my internship at the Nelson-Atkins Museum I thought, "Great! I can finally see what happens when the museum in closed." Well, ha. Meetings and tours. That's what happens when the museum is closed. I actually work off-site at One Main Park, on the 5th floor, with other museum employees, enjoying our cubicles. While I thought I would be IN the museum, constantly surrounded by ever-changing exhibits and kindergartners holding hands, it has been a really interesting experience.

Besides meeting some really nice museum personnel, I've been able to walk around the museum while it was closed, enjoying each room in total privacy. Not having to trip over elementary school field trips is a luxury in my eyes. I've also been able to see the stacks, the enormous library collection underneath the museum. Temperature controled, badge access only's pretty fun. It plays into my childhood fantasy of the "exclusive" side of the museum.

I'm really looking forward to visiting "the caves" next. The off-site storage of all the artwork not currently on display. I have an image in my mind of what it looks like, but maybe I've just seen too many movies...

Valet Log: Deep Sector 7 (lucky #7)

"If I was smarter I would have motivated my self more as a child to be something more glamorous." Said Andrew, when asked why he was soaking wet. I have a job that forces me to run in and out of most of the good and bad elements.

But, honestly growing up my dream job was to become a garbage man. I mostly wanted to ride on the rear of the truck while someone else drove really fast. But, my motivations never carried me to the waste management. Just to junk management. Going in to this job I imagined that would be driving at least a Porsche right? Wrong... Most gambling addicts don't have it in there budget to buy a Porsche or gasoline for the cars they do have. I can face the facts better then most. But, my co-workers on the other hand tend to get down trodden about the situation.

It's a well known fact between all of us that most people don't tip. So, my fellow comrades find other ways of making the work place a little more entertaining. Mostly involves daring stunts like driving through the parking garage in reverse and occasionally chasing geese around the parking lot. It's all done to kill time. In a way replace the tip that we should have gotten. The tip that makes up the majority of our hourly wage. The smiles that form on their faces when they tell you about the nasty car they just parked is the tip i take home. The weird smells and that the funny cars that I drive and the stories I hear. The stupid jokes and crazy conversations. These things are all food for thought and that is what keeps me coming back.

The things you see are like nothing you will see anywhere else. I guess you could say I'm addicted to documenting people who are addicted to gambling.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

What Is Art For? Reflections on Ellen Dissanayake

"What Is Art For?" "Homo Aestheticus"and "Art and Intimacy" are three books that Ellen Dissanayake has published. Her work has been described as burning a new path in the way art is critically addressed and defined. "Although human ethologists have speculated about the origin and evolutionary function of many kinds of human behavior, art, which is after all a universal characteristic or "behavior" of humankind has not yet received much serious biologically based attention." Ellen Dissanayake gives art some serious biologically based attention in her books while addressing subjects varying from what does art do for people, the evolution of the behavior of art and the importance of feeling.

At a recent lecture held at UCM, Ellen gave a brief introductory to the underlying anthropological philosophies used in her three books. Ellen broke down the information into three categories and them elaborated on each one. The major themes included;
1. Social and material lives for modern(industrialized) and premodern(non industrialized) life
2. Making and Material and its importance
3. Everyone is an Artist

According to Ellen, premodern life on the human timeline stretches back much farther than the short time that is considered modern life for current industrialized humans. With this shift in life styles there has also been a shift in the way our social lives have been treated, and in her opinion many base needs that were once met have become neglected.

Premodern life was described as;
1. hunter gatherer society - no food storage
2. small intimate groups - 10-20
3. kin organization - everyone is considered family(biologically or not)
4. shared ideas - group mentality same ideas/goals
5. assigned identities - everyone had a position they had to fill
6. ritual ceremonies pervaded life
7. everything made with hands

Modern life was described as;
1. earn money buy things/accumulation is available
2. societies of strangers
3. Nation states
4. pluralistic culture - no one mind set
5. create own identity - you don't necessarily have a position that has to be filled
6. scientific explanation - instead of mythological
7. push buttons or non physical creation
8. nature at a distance - no direct relation/AC Central Heat
9. elitist idea of Art

Ellen then went on to describe five emotional needs premodern life provided that modern life neglects
1. mutuality - one love with another / baby to mother / lovers
2. belonging - an identity within a group
3. Meaning - for what you do and who you are
4. Competence - being able/ watching and doing (incompetence - computer illiterate people = helplessness)
5. Elaboration - showing that you really care about something / embellishment   

Making and Materiality was the second subject that Ellen addressed in her lecture. She began it with the basic history of the liberation of the first humans hands for locomotion and their ability to be used in a creative manner. This was then developed into the pleasure of creating something new with your hands, body, and mind. This pleasure is something that has been neglected in everyday Modern life. Art was then proposed as the process of transformation. Linked back to the earliest example of culture or transformation and the example used by Bill Reid in his Book "The Raw and The Cooked", the act of processing food or cooking food was considered the earliest sign of culture or art. A more recent example was given with Herbert Cole's appropriation of the title with "The Raw the Cooked and the Gourmet." The idea that culture or art is created by the transformation based on aesthetic and high culture or art is the refinement or Elaboration of that transformation. Ellen then proposed that the term art be gotten rid of in total and that "ordinary and extraordinary" be instated in its place.

This statement transitioned the lecture into her final theme We Are All Artists. We all have the capability to make the extraordinary and to acknowledge things that are extraordinary therefor we are all artists. Through our most basic ceremonies and rituals we all make extraordinary events and objects. Whether it is the super bowl or the symbolic items we keep secret in our safest places, everyone has the capability to embellish and create symbolic significance.

As a whole this lecture made since to me in its most basic principles but i wasn't completely satisfied with the information. I will ask you the same question i asked her to see if i can gain some more clarity with this information. If we are all Artists and we can all make the ordinary extraordinary, what role do you think the Museum spaces and gallery spaces have in the definition, presentation and path of art and the artist?

Sunday, February 28, 2010

The mind's eye wears many sunglasses

The studious nature of the creative mind can surprise the average person. Yes, we are not average, that’s what makes us individuals and artists. I have been talking with friends and family and have come to the conclusion that I am crazy. Not clinically insane, just crazy. Defining studious tendencies can take many different forms; the most dominant in my eyes is the inability to shut off the creative switch in our brains, which coincidentally enough is tied to the power switch. No matter what’s happening in our lives or where we are, at least from my experiences, we cannot stop the urge to create. Perfect example: recently there was a social gathering at one of my friends’ house, there were cans and bottles of many different designs sitting empty on a table. I observed a buddy of mine looking intensely at this table with what was essentially garbage that was ultimately headed for the recycle bin. He sat there for a few minutes staring at these cans and bottles until finally he rose from his seat and began walking to the table. He then started stacking the cans and bottles in a way that made them look less like garbage and more like a composition. Resourceful and creative, the artists mind is something that not many average people can understand. That’s not to say there is an elitism or exclusivity happening in our society. Far from that, we are all capable of being creative; every one of us on this planet, but there is a group that can’t turn it off. I guess that’s the reason we keep a sketchbook, or journal, or camera, some sort of form that allows us our outlet wherever we go. So being studious doesn’t necessarily mean being in a certain place for a certain amount of time doing a set amount of work. To me it means being prepared for that time when you do find yourself in a place that allows you to create. Crazy? Perhaps, but it’s totally acceptable and should be embraced.

what happens when you give
a bunch of students a paint brush and
a few gallons of paint in a skate park?

Sunday, February 21, 2010


I remember when I was six,
the air was cold and smelt like cotton.
I could hardly move I was so bundled up
but we were going sledding on the hill

my hill.

I felt like queen on that hill.
Overseer of the neighborhood.
I said it was an old Indian burial mound
but really the only thing buried in that hilltop was chickens.

From the peak, I could count ALL three of our brown cows.

It was mine to the taking, that hill.
I owned it with my sleds, wagons, and kites...


I was scared.

Scared to sled down the one steep side into the pasture's fence.
But I got pressured to go there- THERE- the forbidden side

It was exhilarating and terrifying.
I could not feel the bitter wind kiss my face.
I could not feel the jostle of frozen lumps beneath my sled.
Only speed.
I could feel only speed.

Then a jolt of pain and warmth spread over my face.
Through squints the whiteness contained garnet red.

I could hear muffled yells...It sounded like my name
I could hardly move I was so bundled up.
The air was cold and smelt like cotton,
I remember when I was six.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Sculpting an Illustration

In my illustration elective this semester I have been finding a lot of new and interesting artists.
Chris Sickels is an independent 3-D illustrator who created Red Nose Studio. He uses his experience as a self-taught mixed media sculptor to create three dimensional illustrations that can then be photographed for publication. These pieces are made on the miniature scale using cardboard, scrap fabric, paints, and other found objects.

I was excited to discover such a unique combination of techniques. I really enjoy the idea of using sculpting in other ways, rather than just placing work on a pedestal. These images are not only powerful but also subtle in their presentation. They take on both two and three dimensional qualities when combined into a single scene. This type of work also allows someone who sculpts to have the same job opportunities as a freelance illustrator. With the right equipment, any clay sculpture could also be turned into an illustration for print. The power behind these images is strengthened by a very believable backdrop, created through painting, and set making. This illusion of space bridges the gap between the two dimensional and three-dimensional arts.
These same skills have also been applied by animators to create full length stop motion animations, like Peter and the Wolf.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Sergi Isupov at the Daum

Last semester a group of us from KCAI went to State Fair in Sadila Missouri to see Sergi Isupov give a two day lecture and demo. In the video clip above Sergi talks about an opening of an exhibition that he and his mother attended. Sergi was very entertaining and shared many of his experiences. He also works really fast, you can see his process here. To see more of Sergi's work check out the Ferrin Gallery.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Dr. Seuss told me to do it

It might be difficult to understand how I got to where I am now. It might be as far from ceramics as you can get without stepping out of the realm of art. Its my fist experience as an artist commissioned to do a piece, but this piece was something I had done on a smaller scale. I’m talking about the theater. It all started my junior year of high school. I was waiting for classes to start when a friend of mina approached me with a proposal. His theater group needed a mural done and fast, there would be compensation. Of course the thought of money intrigued me so I accepted the offer without thinking about what I had to do. He came up to me the day after with instructions on how to get to his theater. When I got there the troupe was rehearsing their lines on the stage and the band members were going over their music. The director approached me and said “you’re the artist right?” to which I gladly responded “yes”. So he led me into the scenic shop where all the equipment was, and in the back of this warehouse-like place there was a giant 12 foot tall book made of foam with 3 pages in it also made of foam. The director began to explain what had to be done. As he told me the details I began to regret agreeing to this deal but I had already committed so I guess I had to do it. I had to paint 4 murals one for each page spread of the giant book. The play was Seussical the Musical and I had to recreate 4 different scenes from the Dr. Seuss stories and only 2 weeks to do it. Thankfully I had a crew to help me but they were as skilled in art as a blind man running a gauntlet. The book still had wet paint when the play opened for the first night of performances. Soon after my high school drama teacher (who was married to my ceramics teacher) drafted me into her drama program where I built many sets, it’s because of her and her husband that I am here. They taught me how to speak to college reps and fill out paperwork, and it’s because of them that I stuck to art as a focus in my life.

Monday, November 2, 2009


Altering pots is my thing. I throw them, trim them, and then soak it down before i do the altering. I roughly shape my vessel through altering when the clay is wet. When i alter i press and pull in broad motions. When i dart, i make sure the lines are straight, or curve at the same angles when i cut. it is import to dart at a wet stage, and build support underneath after i slip and score them back together. When my clay reaches leather hard, i begin adding on slabs and define the edges; taper in or out, round or sharp edges, thick edge to thin, most of my playing and problem solving takes place in the leather hard stage. My favorite tool is the rasp; i use it to obtain continuous curves, metal ribs to sharpen the edges, and then rubber ribs to clean up the surfaces.

Slide show

Sunday, November 1, 2009


In studio I have been working with mono-printing in clay. I start out with a blank plaster slab and add various under-glazes and slips. I then use a glaze pencil to add drawing elements. I also add oxides and pieces of clay to add more depth. Finally I pour slip over the plaster slab and wait for it become leather hard. In result all the components are printed on to the dried slip layer. Here is a slide show of the entire process.