4. How did your Project enhance your personal artistic vision and/or advance your creative goals?
My studio work during the project is a good start for talking about the general developments I had in my artistic vision and goals. I started working knowing that I wanted to work with bowls and blobs. That is, I had long been thinking about making bowls, and I had recently been developing work using the blobbing forms of setting plaster. Not liking the look of the blobs, I soon discarded this idea in favor of a broken texture – using the broken edges of plaster as a contrast to smooth and geometric forms. I worked for a while with this broken texture, painstakingly combining parabolic forms with elements including the broken texture, but it was taking too long and I was losing interest.
I decided to do something I had been meaning to try for a long time – breaking my mold, but continuing to cast in it. In this way I would quickly be able to produce unique objects. The process proved consuming – I was enjoying the puzzle-piece approach with trying to remember how to fit the mold back together after disassembling it into upwards of 60 pieces. However, the objects weren’t interesting to me after I had made them. Sure, they provoked enticing comparisons to topography, they successfully integrated “natural” processes as decoration, but aesthetically I found them lacking. I tried it again on a smaller scale, getting similar results. However, in the smaller iteration I also enclosed the mold within a second mold, and tried another project I had been thinking about for a while – casting pieces of the mold to be displayed as objects. These were much more satisfying than earlier attempts that I had made, more carefully considered as forms. Getting restless once again, I moved onto yet another project I’ve been thinking about for a while – making plates with textures in the center.
In general there were a few things I learned about myself. One, I am endlessly restless and all over the place. It takes a great effort for me to do more than 3 versions of any single idea. I managed to extend this up to 5 or six in some cases, but it was a challenge to stay interested. Two, I found that utilitarian function is not important to me. It doesn’t bother me to make things that can’t or won’t be used, but I still do like the connection of making something that people are familiar with and thus willing to touch. Despite this, I found that I was touching my pieces less, and accordingly less interested in having a viewer touch them.
Learning more about the plight of Danish ceramic designers, I found myself becoming less and less interested in making identical objects of design as much as unique objects for observation. After considering several options for displaying my work in the exhibition, I also came to the conclusion that I want to control how the viewer sees the objects I make. Accordingly, I executed a particular installation of my objects rather than simply placing them on a pedestal.
Part of the allure of the plate/discs I spent the last two weeks working on was that they were so easy – after making the plaster positives and negatives, I only had to roll out a thin slab of clay to impress into the surface and I quickly had a naturalistic, unique-looking object. It was somewhat paradoxical to me then to spend much more time on presentation. I built a light box (with much help from Richard Saaby, one of the technicians), wired in light sockets, cut metal rods with a groove so that glass could be slid between them, mounted the discs onto glass… this single piece took the better part of 3 days. But I was really happy with the result. So what then? What have I learned about myself and my work?
I figured out that I don’t want an education in design. That’s not where I see my work going or I see myself wanting to work. I’m much more interested in constantly investigating new ideas and working directly with the material. Fortunately, the day the program ended I was informed that I’ve been accepted to the MFA program at Alfred, an opportunity which promises a fertile environment for working over the next two years.