Friday, December 2, 2011

Dirt, Sand and Metal

 Detail of Petals and Ponies, one of the festooned Dancing HorseTM tiles still available in my Etsy store.

I believe all art is about the elementsthe elemental state of nature, the elemental sentience of existence, the elemental essence residing in all life, and the elemental ties that bind us together. The inner core. The base ingredients. Art is about life itself.

This is one of the reasons why working in ceramics is so appealing. What can be more elemental than dirt, water and fire? Mix it with imagination, dedication and passion and we rouse what is elemental within us. Art is forged in the gut. It's good for the soul.

Along with its elemental simplicity, clay also represents an ever fascinating, dichotomous blend of lowtech and hitech, serendipity and mastery, partnership and submission, function and art, timelessness and regeneration, of old and new. Ceramics evolve, yet remain true to its base elements.  

I believe the the same can be said for the work of any dedicated artist, no matter what type of art they create. Indeed, it's a philosophy I apply to all my work, and just as much to my giftware.

This fourpiece Prancing PoniesTM set, River n' Rock, was one of the many popular magnet sets offered. Each one is about 2x2" and based on a shape of either a circle or square. New upcoming designs will incorporate the triangle and oval to make the whole collection synch with the Dancing HorsesTM. Next time I may festoon these little guys, too. Tiny tiles + tiny beads = big fun!

Speaking of which, it was a madhouse here these past two weeks with beading, packaging, photographing and uploading. Why? Well, for Fuchsia Freakday, of course! Last Friday I opened my Etsy store for a big ceramic giftware sale, featuring my Dancing HorseTM tiles and Prancing PoniesTM magnets.

Offered was the usual undressed Dancing HorseTM tile, this one being AC-1 ("AC" meaning "Artist Choice"). This was my favorite tile from the entire fire, using an oxide that was rubbed off to reveal the design. I was very tempted to keep it.

In particular, there were some unique features about this sale that one could regard as landmark. For starters, this was the first time I offered my Dancing HorsesTM festooned with beadery. Mud and glass together at last! I've been a lifelong worshipper of glass beads. Hey, they're wearable bits of art glass! I've collected quite a gleaming mass over the years, like some sort of devout Bowerbird, especially during my PMC workshop last year at Shipwreck Beads

So it was a thrill to finally combine two loves into one shiny pile of giddiness. Learning how to make my own glass beads is actually on my fiveyear "to do" list so I can incorporate them into my giftware and (future) jewelry. My friends Jonathan and Joy sell their gorgeous handcrafted beads and beaded creations on Etsyhow cool is that?! With inspiration like that, who can resist?

Also new to this sale was the offering of undressed tiles with different hole configurations, this one having three holes. Collectors are encouraged to festoon their undressed tiles in their own special way and different configurations provide more options for their creativity.

Another landmark feature was a predetermined store "opening," a specific date and time when it would be instantaneously stocked and opened for shopping. Based on the rather stressful situation with my previous porcelain sale, this time around I wanted to hide my items until they were all uploaded, then "unhide" them at the appointed time to open the store. Many thanks go to Amanda for her astute instruction on how to do that, and it worked like a charm! It was a far more pleasant experience for both shoppers and myself. Thanks tons Amanda!

Still, I'm not exactly a deadline kinda artist. I'm much more free and fluid and free-flowing and...and...oh heck...OK, I'm prone to distraction. From too many ideas and too many ongoing projects. I've become a reallife Jeremy Hilary Boob

But I can say this: having an opening deadline wasn't only really exciting, it was a healthy exercise in time management. Or to put it more accurately: it was a mad rush! Midnight oil was burned by the barrel and early morning coffee was chugged by the potful. Sometimes ya gotta bust yer artistic gut to clean out the creative gears!

Another landmark aspect of Fuchsia Freakday was the debut of the Prancing PoniesTM magnets. I really love a cool, unusual, handcrafted magnet as my decorator crab-like fridge, metal shelves, and file cabinets testify. They're a delirious blend of function and art in a tiny package, and they're a super means to test new glazes to boot. So I was tickled to see the huge response to themthey were snapped up like acorns by a rampaging squirrel army! The sets were particularly popular, so that tells me I'm on the right track.

After all the hard work and preparation then, I'm delighted to report that the sale was a wild success! Thank you! It was so successful, in fact, that I plan to make Fuchsia Freakday an annual event to coincide with Black Friday. Next year, I'm even going to incorporate an exclusive, dayspecific item! Spice it up a little. There are still some items available, and being handcrafted, unique pieces of art, they make novel gifts and stocking-stuffers for the discriminating horse lover.

Here's one of the two-hole festooned pieces, Whirligig. Not only is it fun to come up with beading patterns, but titles, too! And this glaze is one of my very favorites - consistent, easy to apply, pools well and has a rich, smokey lavender color. If you look closely, it also creates a 3D effect with the swirls. So cool!

I'll be actively expanding my giftware items in 2012, introducing new designs, new lines and new items (including jewelry and mosaics). So amid the ongoing chaos from porcelain ornament production, I'm also finalizing loads more stamp and tilepressing designs, along with creating more basreliefs. Like I saidJeremy Hilary Boob.

A Cool Cocktail, one of the three-hole festooned pieces off to a new home.

The thing is, though, many of these new tile designs were actually done last year. Well, at least the equine figures were. That's the easy part. It's the logistical production part that's hard. For instance, what will be the flourish or theme? How will the designs work together but stand alone, too? Will I use a stamp or tile press? That's a pivotal decision because it predetermines the design, production and nature of the final piece. Then what size? What shape? What clay? What will be the target price point and how will production be designed to meet that? Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, how will all this limit or expand various other applications of the design? It may not seem like it, but this process is actually tremendously difficult.

Here's one of the four-hole festooned pieces, Dancing in my Dreams. This piece is still available!

Interestingly enough, though, creating the pieces for Fuchsia Freakday clarified design issues and resolved production problems in roundabout ways, so all those previously stalled designs are now flowing smoothly. At last! Blarg! I can't tell you how good it feels to finally have forward motion on them!

All that Glitters demonstrates that the fun can be doubled when tiles are festooned together!

There's also nothing like a firsttime sale of new pieces to teach you humility. Leading up to the big day, I had all my ducks in a row...or so I thought. All the boxes, promo flyers, listing methods and verbiage, packaging...yada yada yada. All was at the ready! Go me!

I soon discovered that no amount of prep can prepare for the actual play of events. In the scramble to jump through my own selfmade loopholes, for example, I was forced to make many a return trip to my local box supplier, each time thinking, "OK, I have everything I need nowI'm all set!" Aaaaaand each time returning for something I never imagined I would need, with Mike (the owner) quipping, "You forgot something again didn't you!"

It doesn't stop there! We can add more! Here's Bouquet.
Now some of you have asked how I come up with my ideas and, well, going back to the elementals, they're born from an alchemy of imagination and spirit, with a bit of whimsy and style thrown in for good measure. But, essentially, the bottom line is this: What kind of horsey gift would I want to give or receive? From that perspective, coming up with ideas is really quite easy. When we create from the heart, isn't anything?

Finding a rich, pretty golden yellow Cone 5 glaze that also pools well has been quite a quest, but I finally found one! Here's The Bright Side, one of the four-hole festooned pieces that sold on Fuchsia Freakday.

But giftware designs are also guided by specific goals necessary to create a coherent line. I put quite a bit of thought into each one to build something cohesive, continuous and versatile; to be able to evolve, yet stay true to its core. For that reason, these ten goals guide each new design:

These "Ten Commandments" make giftware a load of challenging fun to concoct, on every creative front. I mean, not only is the process a logistical puzzle, but designing these pieces asks me to see the subject with totally new eyes.

Giftware thus opens the door for expressing the subject in so many different ways, and that keeps my body of work fresher while becoming an addiction of perpetual inspiration that pulls from multiple outlets, not just realism. All this congeals into a positive feedback loop that informs the rest of my work in ways not possible by other means.

I'm Finally Warm, in response not only to the color of this piece, but to the space heater now residing in my office. It's still available in my store!

Just as importantly, giftware spreads the accessibility of my art while also revealing a side of me otherwise not so obvious. So while my sculpture work is a dialogue between me and the subject, my giftware is a dialogue that includes the collector, tooand that's a really cool conversation!

Here's the grand-daddy of them all - a "four up," Rosemary & Thyme, inspired by the wonderful British series I was watching at the time. 

I can also say that Fuchsia Freakday is my rebuttal to Black Friday. I mean, geez, "Black Friday?" I get the point, but it sounds so dreary! I have such a blast creating these pieces that I figure my version needed a bit more pep. I also choose to offer handcrafted, one–of–a–kind pieces made right here in the good ol' U.S. of A. with heirloom methods, in contrast to the typical items shoveled out by the crateful on Black Friday. And you don't even have to park your car!

The Dance, my favorite of the festooned pieces, and one of my most favorite things I've ever created. I held it back from the sale, at first tempted to keep it, but then realized it needed to live with a certain someone special I had in mind.

So all in all, this sale has been a joy, a reaffirmation, and a learning experience. Speaking through an elemental language is gratifying in more ways than one. It's a blessing that teaches new lessons and inspires new ideas, permeating the studio with the wisdom of core ideals to invigorate and reawaken. Yeah, I'll be busy next year. Just the way I like it.

"Ad hoc, ad loc and quid pro quo. So little time—so much to know!" ~ Jeremy Hilary Boob

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