Just a quick and happy update to say that ceramic artist Kelly Cox is doing just fine, according to friends who've communicated with her on Facebook. Apparently the island she and her husband were on was far enough away from both the earthquake and the resulting Tsunami to leave them unscathed.
Facebook and Twitter are alive this morning with reports of the massive earthquake and Tsunami that has hit Japan, killing at least 1,000 people.
It turns out two major groups representing the Minnesota arts scene are currently in Japan; a delegation of 23 people from the Walker Art Center and the cast of Ordway's "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" which includes more than 20 Minnesota performers.
Both groups were in Tokyo when the earthquake hit, not far from the epicenter of the 8.9 earthquake. But according to representatives of both groups, everyone has been accounted for and is safe.
The Walker Art Center tour is a standard patron tour, including board members, donors, and some staff, headed by Director Olga Viso. The cast of "Joseph" is in Japan for what was to be a two-week tour.
Not yet accounted for is local ceramic artist Kelly Cox, who is backpacking on an island off the coast of Japan.
Have any news of Minnesota artists in Japan? Let us know and we'll update accordingly.(1 Comments)
Scraffito and blunging may suggest the inventive vocabulary created by Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, but they're actually terms you might overhear in a conversation among real-life potters.
Today we continue our series explaining unusual words and phrases in the arts by looking at the language of the ceramic arts, sometimes referred to as pottery.
According to ceramic artist Kip O'Krongly, the question of whether it's called "ceramics" or "pottery" arises because ceramics is a functional art form, putting it in a category that straddles art and craft.
A display of some of ceramic artist Kip O'Krongly's work
In expressing herself through her work, O'Krongly embraces both the functional and artistic aspects of ceramics. Acknowledging that people use ceramics on a daily basis, often at mealtimes, O'Krongly infuses her work with images of topics that interest her; specifically, food production, transportation and energy. "There is this really intimate relationship with pots that maybe we don't have with other art forms," she asserts. "The dinner table is a great place for conversation, so I'm hoping that with people using these bowls, cups and dishes, it's a way to start conversations and to ask questions about these social issues."
The Northern Clay Center is on Franklin Avenue in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis.
O'Krongly recently wrapped up a show at the Northern Clay Center (where she has her studio and also teaches classes) as well as a show in Tennessee. She's looking forward to deeper exploration of traditional ceramics methods in Cambridge, England, this summer. Just last week, O'Krongly spent some time describing the colorful terminology in her chosen art form.
This is a method of covering a clay surface with a contrasting color of thin clay, then drawing through that thin layer. "It looks like there is a pencil drawing on the surface," O'Krongly explains, "but it's actually scratching away the lighter color to reveal the darker color beneath it."
Much of O'Krongly's work exhibits the scraffito technique.
The layer of thin clay that is applied in scraffito is called slip. Slip is simply clay and usually other materials suspended in water.
The act of mixing slip is called blunging. The tool that's used is called a blunger. "I don't know why it's called blunging," O'Krongly laughs. "I guess it could relate to 'bludgeon' because you are really beating the heck out of it when you do that!"
O'Krongly brandishes the blunger.
Glaze is the glassy substance that is fused onto the surface of ceramics to form a hard coating. O'Krongly says that a glaze mixture -- which includes silica, alumina, water and other materials -- has a tendency to want to settle out, so artists alter the chemistry of the mixture using a process called flocculating. "What we use to flocculate is Epsom salts, which makes the clay particles stay in suspension," she explains. "When you're glazing you want all of the materials to be evenly distributed on your work.
Mixing glaze that's been flocculated with Epsom salts.
In a ceramics studio, reclaim is also a noun. Simply put, reclaim is recycled clay; the excess clay that runs off a potter's wheel can be gathered and reused. "We throw all this sloppy, juicy clay into big buckets and then I mix it up with dry materials until it's back to the consistency of clay again," O'Krongly says. "The reclaim tends to be one of the nicer clays. It gets better with time."
Used clay breaks down in buckets like this; it's mixed with dry materials to form reclaim.
A pug mill is the device that extrudes reclaim into neat blocks. The blocks of reclaim can then be bagged, stacked and stored.
A digital pyrometer can accurately give the temperature within a kiln at a given moment, but it can't measure elapsed time. That's why witness cones are vital. Witness cones are series of spiky clay pieces that are placed inside a kiln. "When you're thinking about temperature, you also have to think about how long the clay has been at that temperature," O'Krongly explains. "Witness cones measure both the time and the temperature when they start to curl over and bend."
Witness cones melt after certain times and temperatures have been reached. A set of witness cones is called a 'cone pack'.
Witness cones need to be occasionally visible, so kilns have what are called spy holes. To keep heat from escaping, the spy holes are covered with peeps; peeps are removed when ceramic artists want to have a peep at witness cones. "I always think of the marshmallow peeps," O'Krongly smiles, "but these peeps are usually made of high-temperature ceramic material, often porcelain or brick."
A visible flame surges from the kiln when the peep is removed.
An undesired effect that can happen when firing glazed earthenware is that the clay underneath the glaze shrinks faster than the glaze itself, causing the glaze to flake off the piece; this is called shivering. "Glaze is essentially glass, so you really don't want glass in your cup of coffee in the morning," O'Krongly says. "Shivering is probably the worst fault."
Crazing is the opposite of shivering in that the glaze shrinks more than the clay, creating a network of cracks that permeate the surface of the object. What's interesting about crazing (versus shivering) is that sometimes it's a desired effect. "Some people love that look and will actually stain the crazed lines with black ink or something to really bring them out," O'Krongly says. "They can be very beautiful."
The texture on this bowl is the result of crazing.
No circus performer would want anything to do with these. Clay objects that are placed in a kiln must not come in contact with one another or with the kiln walls. Objects are carefully stacked on platforms, and the bricks that separate the platforms are called stilts.
Stilts separate platforms of earthenware objects loaded in the kiln.
This is an adjective that's used to describe clay that is solid at first, but becomes really soft when it's manipulated. "A lot of people will take a block of clay and drop it on the floor a number of times and then it's much softer than if they had just taken it right out of the bag," O'Krongly says. "That's thixotropic. I love that word!"
Next Tuesday, visit State of the Arts for words from architecture.
Posted at 9:57 AM on March 15, 2011
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: News and reviews
Weisman staff unbox cool vintage finds with their archive project
Exhibition staff are creating a new archival system for the museum, processing and organizing around 180 boxes of materials, some of which dates back to the 1930s.
- Jessica Armbruster, City Pages
'Wah Do Dem' screens at the Trylon on Tuesday
A story about young love gone sour resulting in some extraordinary missteps while on a cruise to Jamaica.
- Shelby Meyers, City Pages
Trylon Premiere Tuesdays: Wah Do Dem
Thoroughly defined by self-indulgent ennui, Max's character verges on insufferable, but such traits prove a remarkably assured set-up for Wah Do Dem's slow building but solidly invigorating tale of personal discovery.
- Brad Richason, Examiner.com
Schubert Club and Music in the Park Combined organizations double number of internationally acclaimed musicians next season
After 129 years, the Schubert Club is undergoing a growth spurt.
- Rob Hubbard, Pioneer Press
Middle Brother, Dawes, and Deer Tick at First Avenue, 3/14/11
Sometimes writing a review of a show seems futile; like words won't do it the justice it deserves aside from "You had to be there." Monday night's three-parter at First Avenue was one of those shows.
- Pat O'Brien, City Pages
Minneapolis Convention Center enters the concert market
The Convention Center is dipping its toes into the music world starting with a May 2 performance by iconic singer and songwriter Paul Simon.
- Andrea Swensson, City Pages
Studies in character and compassion
Nathan Jackson's lyrical drama charts a new course for working-class characters.
- Star Tribune (no credit given!)
A whimsical tour of the Twin Cities
Review: Kevin Kling's stories, songs and digressions make for a funny, if patchy, history of Minneapolis and St. Paul.
- QUINTON SKINNER, Star Tribune
David Hyde Pierce: A convivial conversation at the Guthrie
Sunday night, the Guthrie Theater brought David Hyde Pierce to the theater for a discussion with artistic director Joe Dowling.
- Max Sparber, MinnPost.com
Children's Theatre Company's 2011-12 season brings Mercy Watson to the stage
The Children's Theatre Company kicks off its 46th season with the world premiere of a play based on Minneapolis author Kate DiCamillo's beloved series of books about a toast-loving pig, "Mercy Watson to the Rescue!"
- Pioneer Press
On March 27 MN Original will present a music special featuring local songstress Dessa. She performed an evening of new music in collaboration with other Minnesotans as part of the 416 Club Series at the Cedar Cultural Center, and MN Original recorded the results. This video clip is just a teaser... tune in later this month for the full show, which includes some amazing music made with Mankwe Ndosi.
The Minnesota State Arts Board is conducting a census to find out just how many Minnesotans are "engaged in creative expression."
Starting last week, the state agency has been encouraging people to fill out an online survey indicating whether they are an artist, work in the arts, or help facilitate or promote creative expression. The state legislature directed the State Arts Board and the state's eleven regional arts councils to conduct the census to help measure the influence of arts in the state.
Brian Strub, communications & government relations director with the MN State Arts Board, explains the parameters this way:
We are asking participation from anyone state wide who, professionally or personally, sings, acts, dances, writes, draws, paints, sculpts, illustrates, photographs, films, knits, weaves, directs, plays an instrument, composes, shares stories, designs, or any other form of creative expression; and any agency, business, facility, or organization that produces, presents, or promotes creative expression. I've been telling people, "If you're creative, be proud. Be counted."
Strub says the MN Arts Count will continue through the end of April. You can participate in the survey here.(1 Comments)