Monday, September 21, 2009

The Meaning of Making Pots

I noticed a strange similarity the other night when browsing youtube videos...

and then i saw this...

It is funny but, as we get older we tend to forget how fun it was to be younger. It seems that in your youth it is totally cool if you are obsessed with mega-man. And its fine if you spent ungodly amounts of time working on 1:34 scale master grade models of Gundum Wing characters what else do you have to do? Third graders don't get homework.

But at some point we grow up and in this grown up state we look back on those days. We see the hour upon hours we used to spend on these things. What did that time teach us. I certainty was not ever the best at doing homework. I look back and think how I really used to just enjoy those things for the pure enjoyment of putting them together.

I started my long time love with models in small lead civil war figurines. My grandfather, who is a huge civil war buff (who's doesn't have a family member like this). Would take me to a small collectibles store near my house where we would purchase small lead soldier figurines. You would buy the figures unpainted and in a assortment of poses. We would take them home and paint them to look as close to the real soldiers in my grandfathers books as possible. We had cavalry and cannon units. Soon we were staging skirmishes and reenacting small battles.

I had gotten excited because we had accumulated about 75 different figurines and I just bought an Abraham Lincoln figure in hopes of reenacting Gettysburg.

This is when a harsh realization happened in my life. My Grandfather explained to me that our almost 75 man collection was not even close to the amount of men involved in Gettysburg. He explained that close to 93,000 men we involved in that battle. He also explained that close to 52,000 men had died in that 3 day battle. Even if it was a great turning point in the war it was a massacre for both sides.

I started to look at my figures in a different light. Each one represented a man and in the real world my 75 men would have had stories. At age 7 I started to really wonder about the world. I still have that Abraham Lincoln figurine, he reminds me of what has happened before me. I look at him some times and have a new respect for life and the future.

It is just another creature that walks the earth. With its shy nature and patches of black fur, it creeps in shadows and stands in solitude. It is nothing more than a vessel. The void with in is where I live, the emptiness inside is what makes me useful. The function is determined by the space with in, the space with in is how I shape who I am. This vessel responds to many names, but my real name is revealed only to a handful few. Persistence is how one discovers what I am. What this vessel has still remains a mystery, its attributes are what I have but does not make me what I am. My unison with my vessel makes me who I am, but tragedy and old age will take away such identity. The day will come when this vessel fulfills its purpose, and it will be the day I stop hiding.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Mom said no to another 'stuffed animal'. That I had enough. But I was the one in the back of our hot cream-colored van, along for the ride to every garage sale in town.

Clowny wasn't my first stuffed toy, or even my last. But she is the most memorable.

Mom picked a 'boring house'. Gaudy old jewels and lace table clothes. Where were the bright plastic toys? The Barbies and board games? I followed my mom around while she oohed and aahed at this woman's 50 year old costume jewelry and Christmas ornaments. And then I found them. The only two items a child would be interested in at this sale. Two stuffed clown dolls. There was a Raggedy Ann doll and an old blue acquaintance. I can't even remember the price, but mom said no. She wasn't being mean, she just knew I had a room full of them at home. The old woman behind the folded card table must have seen my disappointment as I walked down her drive-way, back to the family van.
Then, the lady turned me around and handed me the soft clown doll. She told me she wanted me to have it. I was speechless and so happy.

I've kept this clown doll, since named Clowny (because I felt 'Clowny' is not a boy or a girl), for over 15 years.

How did Clowny become the last toy of my childhood? Why am I still holding on?

The sentimental attachment to certain objects can be almost impossible to separate. Items are constantly moving in and out of our lives, gaining importance, losing interest. In art, we learn detachment. It's a lesson one must learn fast. Things are bound to break, crack, explode, or just disappear.

What happens as we get older, that changes our levels of emotional priority? Look around you. What is the most important object in your life right now? Why?

Where did Clowny come from? Was this the last of this woman's childhood as well? Was she detaching her emotions of one object, to give away?
If I wasn't 7 at the time, I would have thought to ask.


The goal of existence is unknown to all inhabitants of planet earth. It has bewildered philosophers and stupefied intellectuals alike, yet to this day we all try to leave a footprint of our existence behind in order to prove that we were here when this alleged goal or meaning to life is found. For centuries humans have found ways of leaving a mark, it could be something small and humble like a cup or something monumental like the great pyramids but one thing links us all, the yearning to be remembered. I have one piece of history that will not go down in any books, nor will it be hanging in any museum; something really simple that is loaded with sentimental value, a picture of my dad and his dad during a Sunday walk in the streets of Bogota, Colombia. It is the only existing photograph of my father as a child. There are many more pictures of these two people, but none have them together in the same way. When the older of the two passes this picture will take on more depth, it will bring up many questions to the minds of those who see this picture and become, in essence, a mystery and a memoir of a life that no longer exists. And ultimately the inevitable passing of my father will end the story of this photograph and it will be just another picture of a father and a son in everyone else’s eyes, but in mine it will be the precursor to what will become my life, my search for the meaning of existence and my effort to leave a footprint on this floating ball of dirt we call home.

Oak Leaves

Their leaves are forever in my memory. To know I am truly home is to see the oak trees in my backyard. I would awake in my room to the sun that came through the leaves. To lie there and make shapes out of the spaces between them was like finding shapes in the clouds.
I could sit under their shade and be shielded from the Texas sun as I read. In the fall I could make large piles of their red and brown, and leap into them.

Riding my horse on the trails through the woods in winter, I would see no leaves, but only the gnarled branches from which they grow. Twisting, tangling, they create a contrast with a stark white background.
The oldest oaks have an appearance of the most ominous wisdom. When there were hundreds of these ancient oaks around me in a little less than an acre, I could feel only my own staggering insignificance. My dad told me they would all be cut down, unless he could prove to the town board of developers that they were the oldest and largest oaks in North Texas. Native woodlands like the one I stood in with my dad contained trees that are over two hundred years old, untouched by the progress around them. He asked me to stand in front of one of them while he took a picture, my small body was dwarfed by the width of the trunk alone. Its massive, thick branches seemed to connect to every tree around it, so you could never tell where one ended and another began. I helped him wrap string around the trunks, to measure them, noticing the tags on almost every tree, already marked for cutting.
My dad was furious for weeks. Lack of support for his proposal from the others on the board had led to the leveling of that section of woodland.
Every time I come home, one more field is a shopping center, one more group of trees is missing. In anticipation I reach my house, and always find our oaks to be just a little bit taller, and their leaves a little bit greener. It is the oaks and their leaves that make me glad to be home.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Picture Cube

I remember putting this cube together when my grandmother went into the hospital and was diagnosed with lung cancer. The chance that she would recover was very slim so one day I decided to take some photos of the family, past vacations, and the pets to put in this cube. I knew of course these were all things she enjoyed. My brother and I were the only two of her grandchildren who lived close to her and so we spent a great deal of our childhood around her. Her not being around would change every holiday and birthday. This was an unsettling idea that we may never have those times again. I gave her this picture cube so that if this was where it would end she could spend her last days remembering the good times. The day finally came when she died and the whole family was there. I had never witnessed a human death before and I never hope to again. It isn’t gross or anything like that, but to see it is like someone literally pushed the stop button. After this I took the cube as a reminder of her and also a reminder of the important things in life. I realized then that life seems long, but in reality it is very short. The cube reminds me that I should never take family and friends for granted and not to waste the time I have. It has been almost eight years since all this happened, and I still have the cube with me and I will never get rid of it.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Everything/Nothing...really matters

As you can see this cup is ridiculous. Favorite cup!? How ironic. This cup means nothing to me and I think that may be why I like it so much. Like a bad song that plays on the radio that gets stuck in your head. You are annoyed as you find yourself humming it and before you know it you need to hear it one more time and then you buy the album. You know the score. In this day of modern mass production and too much advertising and hype anything of no quality or history whatsoever can become a cherished object. I think I may be going through another existential crisis or something cause I seem to be fed up with objects. What's the point anymore of working your ass off to make a very special sacrifice everything just so you can bring things into this world to counter-balance the senseless meaningless mass production of junk that you see all around you...but then one day you are thirsty and you find this stupid cup at a yard sale and you still somehow manage to find a way to make it matter. It does the job and it does it way better than any of the cups in your fancy famous potters' cup collection (stored away in your storage space full of way too many objects that you think are important to hold on to somehow). Everything is a reaction to a reaction to a reaction and you find that you've dug yourself in to a contradictory grave.
You see I was raised an anti-materialist...but I come from a long lineage of cosmic junk collectors. Call it intuition, what have you, but I can pick up an object and be transported to times and places or the people that once cherished them. Every object has a story or a sentiment. Every object holds power...a memory. Objects oftentimes outlast the people they belonged to. A diary...handpicked for display as part of what defines you...your aesthetics and tastes. It is all the more powerful if you hand make these objects yourself. To be an object maker what better way to leave your mark on this world.
It's with this attitude that I took it upon myself to gather and make many, many objects....screw the freedom that comes with a free floating transcendental way of life... Let there be things, many many things! Security! But then one day you wake up and drink from an ugly mass produced cup that means nothing to you and you feel so free. The world has become a transitory, meaningless and absurd place...why shouldn't the objects in it reflect this?

bartholomew ellijah jameson

there once was a boy named bartholomew ellijah jameson. his parents gave him a strong name so he wouldn't be scared of the dark. his arms and legs were as lanky as his disposition was meek. he always left the bedroom door cracked when he went to bed; his mother would always close it, because his name was bartholomew ellijah jameson. in the time span of 5 years and 27minutes, he had drained the energy of 413 batteries because he fell asleep with his yellow flashlight on. he told his mother it was because he would get so tired playing explorer under the sheets that he would forget to turn it off when the jorney was done. he did not want to tell her the truth because his name was bartholomew ellijah jameson. he had tried to sleep in darkness but the little noises amplified their way into his nightmares. All he could see was the whites of the eyes and glimmers from the drool. when he slept with the flashlight on, he could see the monstors and cyclopses drooling on his bedpost. at least he could sleep at night...

as human beings we are funny people, we let things control us. these things could be anything, the electric bill, your bank account, your car breaking down, having 5 people ask you for more honey mustard at work when you don't care about their food but how you would much rather be in studio making your own work. it's a hard fact that has been difficult to work with. how can i make quality work with all these factors weighing heavily on your mind? somedays i think it is just a day to become completed engrossed in my work can take a quick downward spiral with paperwork. i began to think i can't wait until i get out of school, or until i turn in this paper, but something else always pops up. finding my yellow flashflight to help me stay focused when i get my fragmented studio times has been tough. this year i have been better about learning how to leave what weighs me down at the doorstop of studio.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

pics from Poland

A month in Poland

This summer I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Poland to intern with Marek Cecula (pronounced like 'set-su-a' as i found out). The trip lasted for one month. Mostly I was working with him, Edyta Cieloch and theyre two college interns in their studio and teaching a wheel throwing class at a local community studio which Marek oversaw. Marek and Edyta were excellect, very hospitable, which made for a very easy acclimation into Polish culture. The language barrier was difficult at first, but they helped me order food most of the time until i figured it out.
I learned a lot about how a product design business is run. I learned about outsourcing and the primary role of a designer which is the prototype and how outsourcing keeps the designer thinking about the product and new ideas with out being weighed down by the process of manufacturing. This was an ideal situation that i was able to witness. We worked in a small but very efficient studio and i was able to watch from start to finish the creation of a new product line for 'Modus Design.
I also learned a lot about Marek's conceptual thinking in his fine art installations and products through many long discussions over coffee and Polish pastries. We spoke about the landscape of contemporary ceramics in America vs. that of Europe and how the histories of the material in both places was presented so differently e.g. the Art and Craft studio potter in America vs. the ceramics industry of Europe and how one might go about being progressive in either instance.
I believe that my view of my role as an artist changed while i was there. Where not more than a year ago i still dreamed of owning a pottery studio or at the very best a nice career teaching at a university, I now dream of one day creating a new design for Rosenthal Porcelain or working in a product design collaborative or running a product design company stretching my limits to create in the Bauhaus mentality of making art for everyday life in collaboration with industry.
Beside all this, and most important of all, i made lots and lots of friends who i plan to see in the near future and still keep in contact with. And thanks to all of them my experience of Poland was amazing and I would recommend it to anyone who is will to take a risk for an awesome adventure!