Some Cups

Here is a sampling of some new cups from Francine. Similar imagery on each of them. It is great to see how the images not only encircle each cup but also relate to each other in a large group. These three cups do not have the applied colorful glazes. They are made using her traditional sgrafitto and slip-painting technique.

Photo by John Polak

I am not certain of it was on purpose or not but it is interesting to see three totally different polka dotted objects on three different cups

Two New Vases

I made a visit to John Polak yesterday and had two new imaginary Vases photographed. There are some changes, some evolution in these pieces. One of those pictured here is a lot more symmetrical, front and back views looking almost the same and the other has a great amount of difference between its sides.

This may be the tallest Vase I’ve made. Maybe 30”. It is very geometric and fluid at the same time

This new vase is a little smaller than the other on this page. I used oil paint and waxed the surface. I like the results and may do it again on other pieces when it is appropriate. However it is interesting to see a highly shiny piece next to a matte surfaced one. Side by side, they enhance each other.

Both images were photographed by John Polak. Always a pleasure to see him do his magic on these difficult pieces.

"Colorful Birds and Laundry" Triptych

Francine continues to explore the birds and laundry theme in her work. This triptych , a complex exploration of patterns, textures and painted glaze, maintains a skillful balance of humor and social observations.

Each porcelain unit is 11” x 11” and the triptych, depending on its arrangement , is @ 34” in width.

China Visit

I had two pieces accepted into the 1st Session of World Teapot Art Exhibition. We were invited to this event as well as to visit the Imperial Kilns in Jingdezhen. It will be a ten day tour. Everything is planned to visit artists’ studios, galleries and museums, all pertaining to ceramics. It is difficult to know what to expect but we are eager to see China for the first time. A chance of a lifetime.

Almost as soon as we return, we will pack up our art supplies and bags to visit Chateau Orquevaux in France.

1st Session of World Ceramic Teapot Art Exhibition

Bisque Firing

We just fired a large bisque containing the three new pieces I recently made as well as a large amount of Fran’s work. One of my pieces didn’t fit into the kiln so it was fired in a smaller kiln. Everything came out fine - sometimes, even though the pieces are dry and one fires correctly and slowly, the unexpected crack or explosion takes place. But everything came out fine (hooray). Here is a picture of how odd the pieces looked in the kiln, bunched up against each other. Considering that these pieces are meant to be seen frontally, these pieces look very strange when seen from this side angle.


And another one .....

The last piece posted had many alternative ending solutions. I think I have at least three possible variations that could be successfully used in completing this piece. It will be a lot of fun to play with the possibilities when all of the separate pieces come out of the kiln. Maybe I will not choose one as the only solution but instead will allow the piece to have many different potentials.

In the intervening time another piece was completed. This one again proved to be a real head-scratcher. I think there are more disparate elements in this piece. Trying to resolve all of the parts was more difficult but, in the end, the parts became one whole, connected and satisfying piece.

This piece is as large as the previous. It also has a very different look from one side or the other. I am trying to make the edges as sculpturally interesting as the front and back sides of the piece and, while they never will be able to be taken for a major view of the piece, they do help the piece to work more “in the round”.

Next Day's Progress

Here is a similarly formatted and documented set of shots showing the latest vase in progress. Yesterday’s posting was almost the same but today’s images show the difference that clean up and fine tuning can make. The top of the piece, the mouth, is new and different from yesterday’s but the same handles were incorporated in a different location. I am becoming more convinced that this piece should not have a flower i but I will make one to see. The original drawing shows a very delicate, wispy flower that would be impossible to make out of clay. I am reminded of Val Cushing’s making more than one lids for his covered jars because he always challenged himself to have more than one solution to finish his covered pieces. It may be interesting to have one of these pieces capable of having two different “looks”.

Work in Progress

I continue to work on the imaginary vase series. The latest images shows a front and back view of a work in progress. This particular vase tried to recreate the loopy handles that are so easy to draw but are very difficult to create in clay. Gravity and the nature of the material (its inclination to sag if over-extended or too wet) make these elements difficult. This is a first attempt and I hope that I would get better at anticipating problems and increasing my dexterity as I continue trying to solve this problem.

I’ve included a randomly chosen drawing of an assembly of vases to show how handles can be elaborate in a drawing. Trying to recreate them in a sculpture (out of clay) can be difficult.

I am including these images just to record a before and after situation, where the unrefined features of this vase can be looked at in comparison to the finished version.

I realized, as I got to the top that this piece, that perhaps I do not have to sculpt a “flower” to complete this form. So much sculptural information is happening that a flower may trivialize the sculptural focus of the vase. I also am toying with the idea of closing the top of the vase, not permitting a flower to be inserted. I don’t know if these are pivotal or major issues but many possibilities exist in the making of these pieces. Each decision made at an early stage directs one to different decisions later on.

I continue to rethink the title of this series. “Imaginary Vase” hardly seems appropriate when they do exist and no longer are imagined but real. Perhaps the time has come to call them what they are - sculptural vases. Another choice is to give an individual name for each piece. This one in particular reminds me of particular cultural pieces that have multiple handles like Jomon or African pieces and even some elaborate Baroque vases.

Assembly #8  ink, white pencil on paper 28” x 22”

Assembly #8 ink, white pencil on paper 28” x 22”

A New Vase

I have been working on the latest addition to the Imaginary Vase series.

Each Vase is another step forward but each vase also gives me more information than I can possibly use for another ten vases. This particular piece began with a firm plan, but when I was halfway through I couldn’t realize the drawing i had made for it and, after I cut it down to “begin again” a couple of times, I decided to go back to an older way of working - let the piece discover itself during the building process.

It was a lot of trial and error, to include the top element. This may be the fourth version of the flower element. Now that it is finished, I can state that I think it is strong and successful. It is “flat” but is a lot more three dimensional that any of its predecessors. The “side views” are complex and integrated into the whole viewing experience a lot more than any of the others in this series.

Now comes the harder part - how to finish it? it looks very hard edge and I am tempted to use cover coats or similar to re-state in color what exists in form but that probably would be garish and is a very dated and boring idea at best. Using a pencil on the surface of the piece was beneficial. Maybe this will be helpful in the glazing part of the finishing process.

I don’t know why but this very non-photo appropriate site was good enough for an accurate representation of what the piece looks like.

Hard at Work (Despite the Heat)

Francine has started to work on a number of large ambitious plates in the studio. The images included show the initial stages of carving the black slip off of the porcelain forms. The empty spaces in the interior of the large plate will be filled with her imagery, perhaps similar to the smaller rectilinear plate shown in the other image.

Another "Silhouette/Shadow" drawing

It has been a while since I posted anything - the many interruptions of summer. Studio activity has been been regular but broken up. I also had a very nice ceramic piece, another in the imaginary vase series but an odd accident happened that broke part of the piece so I have spent some time revisiting and repairing/replacing the broken part.

None of that relates to this drawing. It continues the theme of exploring silhouettes, backgrounds, positive/negative relationships while still using the vessel theme. This piece is a little bigger than the first in this series - 29” x 23”. It is made using marker, ink, white marker on Bristol paper. There is a complexity beginning here that could be explored even further so that the vessel concept will be left far behind in favor of design/abstract forms. We will see what develops. I suspect that the next focus for me will be in ceramics and I will try to make another in the series of Imaginary Vases.

New Drawing

I’ve been making this type of format, studies of vessel shapes, for some time, accumulating a collection of many different variations of this theme. This new drawing tries to do more activation of the background than what usually occurs. A framing device is placed behind each vessel and this device creates some interesting background shapes. Without overstating the obvious, a lot of very interesting shapes and layers are created. There are a couple of areas when a hatched series of lines is created that make an interesting spatial transition.

I have found it interesting that, especially when seen in photographs, that the white background shapes, each being different and strong, are the first things that one sees in looking at the drawing. After the initial glance, the vessels become evident. The vessels, as in all of the series, try to be unique without any repetition of their shapes. There is a lot of lateral and diagonal movement in the drawing through the background shapes, even though the vessels are fairly still and stolid.

The drawing is 28” x 20”. Media are markers and pencil. I didn’t erase a lot of the exploratory pencil drawing in this piece. In some of these drawings, the aim is to make a very clean, un-aided by pencil, spontaneous creation of the vessel shapes. In this drawing, the aim is to be a little looser and hint a little about the process. The Title “4 x 8” is a lazy, handy way of documenting the number of objects in the grid.

Again, this, like so many of my pieces, would be interesting to see as wallpaper or as other types of patterned utilitarian papers.

Another Small Suite

An interesting problem associated with waste blocks is that, after they are completed, the finished blocks have been so reduced that very little recognizable information remains to print. They definitely have very little reference to the finished print. I have been using the finished blocks as starting information for large prints, arbitrarily overlapping these images on sheets of paper that produce interesting, almost abstract, textures and patterns. Some unifying paper stencil image then gets printed on top of this information to produce a final image.

This small series is called “Huddled Masses”. Its name derives from the crowd of superimposed faces. I didn’t make this series as a response to the current border situation in Mexico but current events obviously can influence the directions and intent of any artwork. Had I tried to make a specific Border artwork, I’m certain that it would be heavy handed. This group of prints definitely is more formal and less charged with any specific reference to any particular current event. The formal elements in these prints support the concept of waves of humanity.

The prints vary in size but could generally be called 30” x 22”. The background papers vary in color and the prints vary in the way they are visually framed on the page. Maybe a Suite is the wrong word for these prints, because of many dissimilarities, but they also share a lot of information.


I recently finished a commission, set of face cups. These are relatively small, handleless cups that have a face on each side. They are @ 3” high and 1.5 inches across. They are handbuilt, high fired porcelain. They are glazed black on the interior and have spots of color on each of the features. Each piece is unique and fun to use.

Suite of prints

As usual, I am not regular about taking photos of work and documenting pieces. I have a number of backlogged prints that will shortly be added to this blog. The first is a suite of mono / trace prints called “Doubles”.

The theme for these prints is a juxtaposition of two imagined vases/vessels. The paper is grey, @ 22” x 18”. The color scheme is limited (black, red and blue). My focus was to make unique images of vases, without repeating any, focusing on the negative space between the two vases. The technique I use is similar throughout - stencils, drawing etc. There are instances of an “orange peel” effect on some of the pieces that have more passes through the press.

The satisfying part about looking at the suite of prints is that one can see the variations of images, shapes, spaces and techniques. Every element found in each print relates to all of the other pieces in the suite. The technique of trace printing allows “ghosts” of earlier prints - most specifically in the backgrounds - to appear in later prints, creating another reason why each print in the suite holds together.

New Print

I recently made a series of prints that utilized random printings of old linocut blocks that become unified with one large superimposed image. Here is one from the series, “Somebody’s Portrait”. The piece is 19” x 26”. The red color is trace print, the rest of the images are the lino blocks and a paper stencil. Some transparant white in was also applied before the black stencil.


A Trip to the Fuller Museum

Fran and I made a road-trip to the Fuller Museum in Brockton yesterday to see the “Fertile Ground” show. Before seeing the show itself we looked at an incredible contemporary Basket exhibit and a really good exhibit that featured a number of Latin American Craft artists. The Fertile Ground exhibit was really great. I left feeling very proud to have be associated with such a talented group of people. There was a great variety of sizes and firing approaches, temperatures, firing techniques, types of clay and processes. Everyone’s work was of very high quality.

An added benefit of the trip was talking to a number of viewers who were admiring our work as well as talking to two docents who had seen anad remembered the “On the Line” piece we had created for the Fuller. We also talked to a former student of mine from UMass, Sage Brousseau, who has been working at the Fuller in their education department for the past six years.

Everything about this little trip was very positive.

The photos show the gallery in which our work was displayed. We were very happy to see that each of our works faced each other. I also was happy about the size of my work. I thought that in order for my idea of the imaginary vase to work, it has to be of a specific size. The size they are seemed about right.

New Print

Here is a new linocut/ stencil print. I haven’t officially signed and titled it yet. Having just brought it home from Zea Mays, I am not certain that It is completed but this is what irt looks like at the moment. It is a small edition of only six prints.

The big change here is using a horizontal format. It is 30” x 22”.

Another change is all of the white space and relatively clean paper. Almost looks like a silkscreen. Perhaps because of all of the space, there is a lot of depth in this one.


Random Image

Fran sent me this image, looking into the studio, by the main entrance.

We always move stuff around and set work up in arbitrary juxtapositions. its a way of dealing with finished work and still maintaining sufficient working space in the studio. These three vases are definitely an odd combination but they seem to be getting along well enough to let them stay there for a while. They kind of wound up there after the Pottery trail.

Because this pedestal is the first thing that people see when they enter the studio, it may be a good thing to set up new work there, fresh out of the kiln, to showcase new work. it is a fairly narrow pedestal so a lot of work wouldn’t fit but it may be nice to try it out.

In Progress

I had a brief hiatus from making prints at Zea Mays. Our trip to Vancouver, preparations for the Pottery Trail, the Fuller exhibit and stuff in general got in the way. But I have returned and am trying to use my many hours up. I have begun working on two works at the same time: a large print that combines paper stencils and linocuts and a small blockheads linocut. The linocut was made from an older print. I am modifying the block to create an entirely different print. The picture included is of the linocut in progress.

Clay projects also have started. i just began an imaginary vase. This one has been difficult to start, already cut down a couple of times. We shall see that happens today in the studio.