Navigating Whiteout Conditions: 2013 Distinguished Lecture

Navigating Whiteout Conditions: 2013 Distinguished Lecture

If you missed Namita Gupta Wiggers Distinguished Lecture: Navigating Whiteout Conditions, at the 2013 NCECA Conference in Houston, do not fret.  For you are in luck, because you can now download and listen to this lecture as an NCECA Podcast!  Click here for the full, uncut one hour lecture.  An abstract of this lecture  also appears on page 99 of the NCECA Journal, vol. 34.  You can purchase a copy in the NCECA store.  The journal includes excerpts from all conference programming and many full-color images from Emerging Artists, Demonstrators, the NCECA shows, and many of the presenters.

Namita Gupta Wiggers is Director and Chief Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Craft in partnership with Pacific Northwest College of Art, Portland, OR, where she has directed the curatorial program since 2004.

Interviewing NCECA 2013 Emerging Artist Lindsay Pichaske

Interviewing NCECA 2013 Emerging Artist Lindsay Pichaske

NCECA 2013 Emerging Artist Lindsay Pichaske’s work defies classification, blurring boundaries and existing on the threshold between human and animal.  Her figurative animal sculptures are incredibly detailed and refined.  They are completed with precision and accuracy yet allow a vast space for the viewers experience and interpretation.  Lindsay graciously shared insights into the development of her practice, her motivation and her process.  You can see more of her work at: www.lindsaypichaske.com

You can also view the catalogue of her current exhibit at Foster/White Gallery here.

1. You have shared your childhood fascination with Great Apes, even volunteering in the Great Apes House at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.  Did you also have a childhood love of art? When did your interest in the arts develop?

I did love art as a kid. I loved to draw, in particular. I took art classes after school and went to art camps during the summer. My interests in zoology and art developed simultaneously. I did not work with clay until college, though! I wish I had at an earlier age.

2.  How and when were you first introduced to ceramics?

I studied abroad in Florence, Italy during my junior year at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. There, I took figurative ceramic sculpture and fell in love with clay. The class was very traditional, and we were all crammed in a tiny room and the model would be spun around every few minutes for us to see each angle. But it was such a wonderful place to work figuratively! We would also sit on the steps of the Duomo and sculpt the relief heads that were on its doors.

Because the class was more focused on traditional terra cotta figure sculpting, we did cold surface treatments, and did not learn anything about glazes. I think this influenced me to not feel so attached to the notion that clay has to be glazed.

This experience was what made me enamored of clay. I loved the way I could push my thumb into the chest of the figure and it would look exactly like a sternum, for example. Clay is such a fleshy material and it felt so natural to be sculpting figures with it, as though it were alive.

Lindsay Pichaske in her studio

Lindsay Pichaske in her studio

3.  Was there a specific influential moment or experience in your ceramic education that contributed to your current body of work?

Making “The Mask” in graduate school was the turning point for my current work. Previous to this I had been making human figures interacting with animals, or with surreal body parts. Because “The Mask” was just one solitary animal, the viewer stepped into the role previously occupied by my figure sculptures. I was telling a similar story, but instead of telling it in a narrative way, I was asking viewers to feel it and empathize with this strange beast. The creature also embodied a lot of the dualities I was interested in. It was in between living and dying, inside and outside, and beautiful and grotesque. Rather than illustrating these ideas, though, it embodied them.

4.  You have studied in North Carolina and Colorado, completed a residency in Montana and now reside in Washington, D.C.  Have the places you lived, there specific environments, affected the development of your work?

Living out west affected my work in terms of scale, color, and materials. The sense of vast space in Colorado and Montana is quite different than it is on the east coast, where everything feels a bit more crammed. My work there was larger, which was a reflection of the expansive sense of space of the environment.

"The Matriarch" by Lindsay Pichaske

“The Matriarch” by Lindsay Pichaske

Additionally, the subtle colors in Colorado and Montana influenced my work. When I first moved out west, I remember feeling that there was an absence of color. Rather than bright flowers and lush greens as in North Carolina and DC, these places had ranges of golds, tans and browns. I soon began to appreciate the subtleties of the western landscape, how these gold fields could actually become quite stunning and appear to glow in the Montana sunlight. Pieces like “The Pecking Order” and “The Matriarch” are a reflection of these subtleties in color. The seemingly monochromatic sunflower seeds or sticks actually become quite colorful and are full of variations in color when you really pay attention.

Since moving to DC I am obviously in a more urban and manufactured environment. Rather than natural materials like sticks or feathers, I have been using plastics and pre-made materials, because they are the materials surrounding me.

 

5.  A studio practice can be a solitary life.  How do you stay connected to others and get feedback?

I have my own studio space in a communal studio. So, there are lots of folks around. My studio-mates range from sculptors to new media artists and performance artists, so there is always a refreshing dialog. I also have a few staple friends and colleagues who I call and send in-progress images to for their feedback.

"The Long Thaw" by Lindsay Pichaske

“The Long Thaw” by Lindsay Pichaske

6.  How did you decide or what led you to use non-ceramic materials to finish your pieces?  

I think in part my experience in Italy that I described earlier made me feel unattached to glazes and other ceramic decorating methods. So, from the start, I was taught to treat surfaces with paint, wax, shoe polish, and really anything the instructor could find.

The experience that really spurred me on this path, though, was in graduate school, when I was visiting the cadaver lab at CU Boulder’s campus. I became fascinated by the muscle striations of the bodies once their skin was peeled away. They were like beautiful, regimented pink patterns tattooing the inner body. I had these dumb little potato-shaped clay blobs that I was about to throw away in my studio. At the time, I was really interested in this question of what is the bare minimum something has to have to suggest sentiency or life. One of these blobs had an eyeball carved into it, and I just started wrapping it in pink string. It looked exactly like the musculature on the bodies. And there was my answer to the question! This little eyeball potato suddenly felt alive and pulsing.

I also loved the process of wrapping the form with string. It allowed me to further connect with the piece. I am also a bit obsessive and a worrier. The act of wrapping allowed me to focus my energy and calmed me down. To this day, when I am gluing little intricate materials to a larger surface, the repetitive task is meditative.

"Darwin's Muse" by Lindsay Pichaske

“Darwin’s Muse” by Lindsay Pichaske

 

7.  How do you choose the materials for each piece?  Is it always obvious to you what each piece needs as its “skin”?

For some pieces, I know exactly what I will use. For others I have to do a bit of experimenting and exploring. I usually start with a notion of the texture and color I want for that particular creature. From there I collect tons of different materials and test them out to see how they will arrange themselves across the surface. The material has to undergo some sort of transformation and become something more beautiful and interesting to me as it multiplies on the surface. I have to fall in love with it and be able to learn from it, otherwise I will not be interested enough to spend so much time with it.

 

I thought, for example, that I wanted to use hair on “Darwin’s Muse.” However, when it came out of the kiln and I stepped back, I realized that it was far too alien and threatening a piece to have an additional strange element added. I understood that what it needed was something ornamental and sparkly, so that it would be seductive rather than scary. I had these sequins in my collection of materials for years, and when I tested them saw that they laid in a pattern that referenced jewelry but also fish scales. To me this was perfect, since I was thinking about adornment and evolution simultaneously. Further, because they were translucent, the painted surface underneath showed through. Thus, the range of pinks and whites made it feel as though it were a fleshy but jeweled at the same time.

8. Is the act of making, upsetting roles and blurring boundaries, primarily about your own exploration and understanding or are striving to create a particular experience for the viewer?  

The idea that a creature can be situated in between several states of existence is endlessly fascinating to me. The creatures I make are different manifestations of this overarching idea. While I am more interested in my own connection to these animals and the materials in the making process, I am also aware of the viewer. It is hard for me to separate how I want the animal to exist in the world with the experience for the viewer. The expression, height, and other characteristics of the animal are inherently linked to the viewer’s experience with the work.

9.  When you begin a piece do you always have an image of the final creature in your mind or do they evolve during the making process?

Although I do have an image of the final creature in mind, the animals definitely morph and evolve throughout the making process. The end result is always different than the initial idea. This morphing is actually what I love about working with clay. It feels as though no matter how much I try to impose certain traits and features on the clay, it will, to a degree, behave in its own way. I think if I knew how the animal would turn out, I would not ever complete a piece because it would feel already finished!

I do make maquettes and look at drawings and photographs of the animals I am sculpting. The maquettes are a relatively new thing for me, and are helpful to get the gestures and proportions correct before committing on a larger scale. Then, and I’m working, I look at images of several different species. Thus, the result is usually an animal whose identity can’t quite be pinned down. For example, it might be antelope/deer/sheep, or human/Neanderthal/great ape all at the same time.

Works in progress by Lindsay Pichaske.  Foreground: "Nothing Lasts Forever".  Background: Three wall heads-"Quake", "Cinder" and Quiver".

Works in progress by Lindsay Pichaske.
Foreground: “Nothing Lasts Forever”. Background: Three wall heads-“Quake”, “Cinder” and Quiver”.

10.  What helps keep you motivated and engaged?

I love making. The desire to see the animal ‘come to life’ as it is sculpted and then covered keeps me working. I save the parts that really make the animal feel alive, like hands, face and eyes, until last. Once the face has an expression, or the eyes are painted, I feel like the creature is complete and I can identify with it.

 

Works in progress by Lindsay Pichaske.  Foreground: "Ghost of Snow".  Background: wall heads.

Works in progress by Lindsay Pichaske. Foreground: “Ghost of Snow”. Background: wall heads.

11.  How has the honour of being recognized as an NCECA 2013 Emerging Artist affected you studio practice and life as a maker?

It felt amazing to receive recognition from the ceramics community for my work! It really inspired me to keep plugging away in the studio, and to believe in what I was doing. I also had the wonderful experience of it leading to an article in American Craft magazine, written by senior editor Julie Hanus. This will come out in the August/September issue.

"Ghost of Snow" by Lindsay Pichaske.

“Ghost of Snow” by Lindsay Pichaske.

12.  Where can your work be seen?  What do you have upcoming?

I am represented by Foster/White gallery in Seattle, WA. I have a show there right now, which runs from July 2 through 27th. I will also be exhibiting at SOFA Chicago with Duane Reed Gallery, where I will also have a solo show in the spring of 2014. Finally, I have a solo show at Flashpoint Gallery here in Washington, DC, in January 2014. In this show I will be creating a site-specific string and hair installation.

 

I hope you enjoyed this interview with Lindsay Pichaske and the insights into her process and studio practice.  If you would like to learn more about me and my work please visit: www.kalika.ca

2013 Conference Survey Results

2013 Conference Survey Results

Following the 2013 Houston Conference, NCECA created a survey to investigate perceptions on a variety of topics about the conference and the organization itself.  There were over one thousand respondents, with 730 from conference registrants. The total number of respondents represent just over 20% of the total conference attendance at the conference, making the findings statistically representative of the whole within a 3% margin of error. NCECA’s board reviewed and discussed a complete report of the survey, including eighty pages of charts, graphs and comments, which offered a lot of information to digest and ideas to investigate.  As a member-driven organization, NCECA felt it important to share the findings of the survey with you. Data including a sampling of representative and sometimes conflicting comments have been summarized and synthesized in a 6-minute video below.

In the year ahead, look for follow-up on additional comments, ideas and suggestions from the survey on the blog.  NCECA appreciates the input of everyone who took the survey and we remain open to suggestions for improvement.  If you have any thoughts you would like to share with us, please use the contact form directly below the video, or, just below that, you may leave a public comment here.

Thank you!

 

Interviewing NCECA 2013 Emerging Artist Linda Swanson

Interviewing NCECA 2013 Emerging Artist Linda Swanson

NCECA 2013 Emerging Artist Linda Swanson makes us think about ceramic materials in a new and dynamic way.  Her installation, site specific, fired and unfired work all has an emphasis on time, material and transformation.  Linda generously shared her time and thoughts with me about her current studio practice and the path that has led her there.  I hope you enjoy this interview with Linda Swanson.  You can see more of her work at: www.lindaswansonstudio.com

You first studied Art History, what initially led you to ceramics?

I had always been interested in ceramics, I tend to think this comes from the handmade pottery we had at home when I was growing up. I liked using these pots and the way that they each had a very individual character. In college, I was interested in studying many things and finally settled on Art History during a year abroad in France. I also took many studio arts classes, including ceramics. I thought Art History would give me a foundational knowledge about art that would lead more directly to a career. But when I graduated, I realized that either direction, art history or studio art, would take a great deal more study and dedication. I decided that I would rather work in a studio making ceramics than continue with art historical research. I had learned about the mingei folk art movement in Japan that valued handcrafted utilitarian objects. These were the aspects of ceramics that initially most appealed to me and so I went to Japan to study pottery.

 What inspired you to pursue ceramics after your initial introduction?

At first, I just wanted to become more skilled and this I was able to do in Japan. Then I came back to Los Angeles wanting to become a production potter. For this, I needed to learn more about glazes and firing, so I started taking some classes at Cal State Long Beach. There I began to find out just how much there was to discover in ceramics: glaze material combinations were endless, clay did much more that I knew that it could, and artists were doing incredible things with it. The more I experimented the more I found there was to try. I became fascinated by all of these materials and processes and by discovering what could be done with them.

StudioShot2

Linda Swanson in her studio

You write that you began in ceramics making pottery, do you recall the experience that was the beginning of your current ceramic work?

I took a casting and mold-making course and, having never worked with casting slip, I became really interested in the way that the liquid clay solidified. One day, I happened to mix up a slip incorrectly, and it was much too thick to cast. I tried working with it anyway, and I became mesmerized by how slowly it moved. It seemed that watching the slip slowly flow and puddle affected my own sense of time. I wanted to try to make a piece that fostered a similar experience, so I poured this thick slip over a large standing piece of glass outdoors. As it flowed down and pooled at the bottom the slip formed a base that supported the upright panel. I called the piece “Flows” to contrast the movement of the slip with the imperceptible movement of the glass. Installed outdoors, the temporality of the clay was put in relation to that of the landscape and weather as well. This simple piece explored ways that we perceive material over time and this seems to be at the heart of the way I am still working.

You spoke at NCECA of the impact of a research trip to Iceland.  Was what you experienced different than what initially inspired the trip? 

I had been working for several years exclusively with white porcelain and I wanted to think about bringing color into my work. I received a research fellowship to Iceland to go see colorful geothermal phenomena such as boiling blue mudpots and volcanic vents that spewed yellow sulphur. I found the colors in the landscape quite striking. But what I hadn’t expected about Iceland was how clearly I was able to see the interactions of earth and water that comprise the landscape. Most of Iceland is uninhabited and in many places the land lies bare with relatively little vegetation. In addition to volcanic forces, the earth was dynamically animated and shaped by water in all its forms, in glaciers, waterfalls, geysers, springs and pools. It was these interactions in the landscape that I found to be the most profoundly beautiful and moving.

Califactum Pair by Linda Swanson

Califactum Pair by Linda Swanson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red Eye View by Linda Swanson

Red Eye View by Linda Swanson

How did the trip influence your work?

The trip radically changed the way I worked and ultimately the way that I have come to think about ceramics. I went to find color in the landscape and came back wanting to work with water. When I returned, I experimented a lot with water and all the materials in the studio. I realized that we couldn’t really do ceramics without water, and that it was essential to all ceramic processes from forming to glazing, and in fact to clay itself. Typically in ceramics we try to remove water by drying and firing. Its final removal renders ceramic objects permanent. As I started to add water back in to raw clay and glaze materials, I saw them undergo various changes in form and character and I became less interested in a final lasting form than in the processes of formation and dissolution. 

Time Tanks by Linda Swanson

Time Tanks by Linda Swanson

Constellation by Linda Swanson

Constellation by Linda Swanson

 

Are there other landscapes you are interested in experiencing as a catalyst for your work?

I think that my experience of the landscape in Iceland inspired me to pay more attention to the world that’s around me everyday. In the past several years, I’ve had the chance to live in Western New York, Kansas and Montreal, and each of these places have prompted me to make certain work. In Kansas, I was really surprised to find dramatic shifts in the color of the low rolling plains over the course of the year. When I arrived in the Fall the grass on the plains was a golden amber, and soon they were coated white in snow and ice. In early spring they were charred black by burning, and then burst into bright green with shoots of new grass that soon turned back to yellow under the baking sun. Thinking back on this transformation in the landscape due to a few simple elements changing in multiple ways, I began working on a series of installation pieces that explored the gradual transformation of clays and salts with water under different conditions. In terms of new landscapes to visit, I’m really open to all sorts of places, they all have their unique characteristics. But since I’ve been away from the desert Southwest for a while now, I would love to spend some time back there. I passed through the salt flats in Utah on my way to the East Coast and I’ve been wanting to return to spend some time there and perhaps work on site.

Much of your installation work explores transformation and the effect of time on materials.  The results are often textured and tactile yet are only experienced by viewers visually.  How do you think this relates to how we experience the natural world?  

What I hope this work does is to help enrich our experience and perception of the natural world. It’s not an imitation of an experience of nature but brings to our attention aspects of the world that happen around us all the time and are not necessarily at the forefront of our consciousness. I tend to set up the work at a scale that we can relate to with our body and while the viewer is not touching work, I believe that in a sense one can feel it through seeing it. In the same way we can get a feel for a piece of pottery without actually holding it, especially if we’ve had experience working in clay. I think this is how we normally take in the landscape, and many other aspects of nature, from our experience of being in the world with all of our senses. 

Osmogenesis II by Linda Swanson

Osmogenesis II by Linda Swanson

How do you choose the materials you work with?  Is there a lot of testing and trials that occur before you find transformations you want to investigate further?

I am now fairly familiar with the family of ceramic materials and their tendencies from the experience of working with them. So I make initial choices based on what I think a material will do or what I need it to do. Just like in making a glaze, I then make a series of tests involving lots of trial and error with small batches of material. I see how materials act in different circumstances and over time, and look out for changes that are unusual or intriguing. I then try to figure out how to give these effects or behaviors a presence and duration, and how they might make sense as an experience in the context of a work. This involves another round of trying things out, to find how fast or slow things should happen, how big or small to make them, how light or dark, how high or low, etc. Prior to an exhibition a lot of rehearsing takes place so to speak, like in the performing arts. The caveat is that I am often doing this at a smaller scale than the final work, so I am not really planning everything out completely in advance, but rather getting a good sense of how things will behave and what will happen. The final installation on site is really where everything comes together for the first time, and where the final decisions are made. In this sense the work is always new to me, and the process stays fresh and alive.

 How do you think your site-specific work influences the perception of the sites?

Overall, I hope that the site work gives us the opportunity to pause and become more fully aware of places and what they mean to us. It is often the case that the interpretation of sites happens through the presentation of information such as the historical facts about a particular place. But this does not necessarily help us to experience the nature and relevance of a site. For INFESTATION at the Lachine Canal National Historic Site in Montreal, I laid out 1000 crystalline-glazed ceramic slugs as if they had spontaneously generated out of the former industrial waterway. I wanted to tap into the idea that decay is a precursor for renewal in the city by using the metaphor of the city as a garden. Through this fiction, as a kind of storytelling, there is a reengagement with the site that lets us experience and understand it in a new way.

INFESTATION by Linda Swanson

INFESTATION by Linda Swanson

 

How does your site-specific work evolve?  Does the site inspire the idea or do you choose a place to explore a specific idea?

Working with a site is a relatively new way of working for me and came about from moving to Montreal, spending time walking through the city and becoming interested in public art. It’s the element of surprise that jars us out of our regular way of looking at things that interests me in locating work outside of conventional art spaces. I like the idea of taking an ordinary, overlooked or even undesirable site and figuring out a way that a work might enable us rediscover the place itself. So the location generally comes first and then an idea for the work comes in response. As I become acquainted with a place there is a back and forth between ideas and site that develop in relation to each other. Many things happen intentionally, but of course what is really exciting for me is seeing what happens once the work goes live. The project “Pommes de la terre” took place at an apple orchard in the Quebec countryside. I press-molded three hundred apples out of local clay and fired them in circular pits dug between the trees,  wanting to play with the mystery of how apples were in fact drawn out of the soil of the earth. The day of the event turned out to be cold and rainy and the pit fires drew visitors like a magnet. As people lingered to warm themselves, watch the firings and finally harvest the cooling apples, the social interaction that developed around the work and the shared sense of place and time that followed from it was as wonderful as it was completely unexpected. 

Pommes de la terre by Linda Swanson

Pommes de la terre by Linda Swanson

You have a diverse body of work-fired, unfired, installation and site specific as well as a teaching position at Concordia University.  How do you balance your studio practice, teaching responsibilities and life’s other practical demands?

I’m lucky to live downtown where I teach and also have a studio. Having a short commute saves a good deal of time. Overall, there are times when life is very busy and others when it’s slower and over the course of the year these seem to balance out, although sometimes it can be a challenge. I love teaching and working with students, and when I get deep into a project I can always find the energy for it.

Has teaching influenced your studio practice?

Teaching has allowed me to explore some ideas that I’ve been interested in even before they have come into my work. As I mentioned, when I moved to Montreal I became really interested in the potential of ceramics in public art, but I was not eligible to apply for publicly-funded projects in Canada as a temporary resident. So I took the ideas that I had about ceramics in the public realm and developed a course at Concordia called Urban Clay. In this course each student creates a temporary ceramic art intervention in a public space around the downtown Concordia campus after submitting a proposal for review by the health and safety officers of the school. In teaching this course I learned quite a bit about what happens with small-scale ceramic objects in public and this experience in a sense has helped prepare me to begin making this kind of work. After teaching this course for two years, an opportunity arose to make the “Infestation” project as part of the Urban Occupations Urbaines initiative in conjunction with Parcs Canada. I hope that more opportunities will arise for me to work with public spaces. Overall, teaching keeps me very enthusiastic about new possibilities with ceramics and I am grateful to my students for this.

 Has the honour of being recognized as a NCECA 2013 emerging artist impacted the direction of your work?

The recognition has been very important personally because the positive reception to the work at the NCECA conference has been so encouraging. I’ve subsequently had several invitations to make new installation work. This aspect of my practice is the most difficult to sustain because it requires a space that can handle the process and is both time and material intensive. This honor is giving me the chance to better develop this area of my work. 

Do you have any upcoming installations or site specific work?  

I was invited to create an installation for “FLOW” at the Milwaukee Art Museum for NCECA 2014. The space is quite astounding architecturally, so that the work feels almost like a cross between site and installation work. It’s a really thrilling opportunity to work with such a distinctive interior space.

Where can your work be seen?

I am represented by the Lacoste Gallery in Concord, Massachusetts and will be in a show there in August. Also this summer, I’ll be in the Workhouse Clay National in Lorton, Virginia from July 31- September 8.

I will be interviewing Emerging Artist Lindsay Pichaske soon!  Look for that interview in the coming weeks.  If you would like to find out more about me and my work please visit www.kalika.ca

Friday Fun Fact: Houston Conference Attendance Breakdown

Friday Fun Fact: Houston Conference Attendance Breakdown

Two months ago, 3640 of us met together for EARTH/ENERGY, NCECA’s 47th annual conference in Houston, Texas.  One of the reasons I’ve become so interested in working to develop and analyze post-conference surveys for NCECA is to see what we can learn about demographic shifts in our membership and conference attendees.  Direct feedback that arrives in response to surveys can also provide insights into the interests and attitudes of those people NCECA aspires to serve.

NCECA started in the mid-1960s as a group of “potter teachers,” to quote Robert Turner, NCECA President,1969.  In 1970, our organization began to encourage student memberships, and in the following year, half of new memberships were students.  At the 1972 conference, 77% of the nearly 800 attendees were students.

Survey responses can tell us a great deal about where an organization’s efforts are successful, where they need work and whether they have a degree of relevance to those they are meant to serve. The limitations of what we can learn from surveys are that the information received depends on the quality of questions posed and the size and scope of the respondent population. Based on responses to NCECA’s recent post-conference surveys, one can surmise that our organization today is evolving from a predominantly academic base to one that is significantly comprised of full-and part-time studio artists.  ***Please note, as with any survey, there is a “margin of error” in the generalization of the survey response group to the whole.  Our response group was large enough to provide a 95% accuracy with a margin of error of about 3.5%  (This is generally considered a valid and statistically representative sample).

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But what is the actual composition of the organization now?  In our post-conference survey, we asked members to define themselves into one of a variety of groups.  We do understand this was difficult, as many of us often fit into more than one category.  However, we were able to get a good breakdown into 12 groupings, plus one catchall “other” category.  (Note: The category of “retired” was not a selectable option on the survey instrument, but was provided frequently enough as descriptive open field detail for “other” that it was converted to its own distinction on the chart at left.

demographics.010

In analyzing the survey data, we further consolidated the categories above to a streamlined selection of four basic categories.  It’s interesting to note that based on the survey responses, the combined number of educators and students at our conference is less than the number of those who described themselves primarily as artists.  We also collected demographic data on gender distribution.  Historically, our conference has been largely comprised of men.  Now, however 69% (again, +/- 3.5%) are female.

We also looked at prior conference attendance and found that the largest group of people in Houston to be first-time attendees.  Similarly, the largest group of attendees by years of membership was made up of people who have been members for less than a year.

demographics.015

demographics.014

 

 

 

 

 

As with the survey results from our conference programming section of the survey, the board paid careful attention to these demographics in our efforts to be a member-focused organization.  Full results of the survey will be posted soon.  Stay tuned to the blog for all your NCECA news.

NCECA’s 2013 Emerging Artists

NCECA’s 2013 Emerging Artists

I am a potter living in the remote mountain town of Nelson, BC, Canada where I make functional ceramics with an emphasis on texture, pattern and use.  This year, ss the recipient of the NCECA/Crafthaus  2013 blogger scholarship I am going to have the great privilege of interviewing NCECA’s 2013 Emerging Artists.  It has been a few weeks since attending this years conference in Houston, TX  and I am still feeling renewed by a few days surrounded by other makers, a welcome interruption to the solitude of my studio. On the final morning of the conference many attendees gathered at the convention center to hear Emerging Artists: Brian R. Jones, Linda Swanson, Sunshine Cobb, Lauren Gallaspy, Amber Ginsburg and Lindsay Pichaske, speak about their work.  What seemed apparent to me was that each artists practice exists as a mode of understanding.  The subject of exploration and understanding may differ between them but there was a similarity in their fundamental drive as makers.  I believe this is true of almost all art, both historic and contemporary, the innate human need to understand and communicate.  I feel grateful when artists share the intimate thought processes behind their work and even in the cavernous assembly hall of the convention center I felt moved by their individual experience as artists.

Over the coming months I will be interviewing each of the artists, some by phone or email and hopefully a couple in person with plans for a Montana/Oregon summer road trip in the works.

Following the Emerging Artist lectures in Houston, I made my way to the 2013 NCECA Biennial at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft.  This exhibit was an incredibly diverse group of work with a number of works commenting on social or political issues.  The work was juried by Cristina Cordova, Richard Notkin and Namita Gupta Wiggers.  In his juror statement Richard Notkin writes: “As artists, what can we do?  Our response must be to continue to create works of beauty and works that illuminate and question our foibles and follies, works that both amaze and provoke a response.  The creative endeavors of dedicated artists are capable of touching people in profound ways……Above all, artists need to continue to advance the notion that there is something inherently good in the human spirit through the conceptual depth, the technical skill and occasionally, the sheer joy of or creations”  Overall, I think it is with this feeling, the idea that there is something inherently good in the human spirit and art is essential to the understanding of that goodness, that I returned to my home and studio.

A selection of work from the 2013 NCECA Biennial:

biennial 1

Foreground: Hungarian Bible by Emily Connell

Background: Patermoster by Erica Iman

biennial 2

Detail of Cylinder by Lauren Mabry

biennial 3

Foreground: Inch by Inch (to Laura Potter) by Du Chau

Background: Breadpan by Joseph Pintz

biennial 4

Above and Below: Misfit Cup Liberation Project by Michael J. Strand

biennial 5

Hopefully I will share the first Emerging Artist Interview in May.  You can view more images and words about my experience at the NCECA conference in Houston on Crafthaus.  I would love to hear from you about what you would like to ask NCECA’s 2013 Emerging Artist.

You can find me  here.

Look forward to hearing from you.