Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Clay Monoprinting in the Wilderness

The Craft School Experience:  Having a total immersion art-making marathon with nationally recognized teachers, in the middle of nowhere.  The best kind of summer camp for adults!  

Peters Valley School of Craft is in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, a breathtakingly beautiful reserve that is relatively close to Philadelphia.  

I went there to spend the long Labor Day weekend making clay monoprints with Mitch Lyons, shown above with Autumn, our Fellow and a recent MFA graduate.   Mitch is the iconic pioneer of clay monoprinting who originated, explored, and developed it. He continues to explore all the time; clay monoprinting continues to develop. All of us who do it learned it from him or from someone who learned it from him. I get a kick out of how he wears his pony roller, the tool that hand presses the print, in a holster on his tool belt. 

He gave several wonderful demonstrations, that opened the door to appreciating the unending possibilities. Here he is using the kind of clay decal that is more often used on pottery. 

He is about to print on black sandpaper. 

The effect of using the leaf is haunting.

He is a big fan of using pastel chalk, which is largely made from clay.  He distributes it by scraping it through a strainer.

We made our own pastels by drying any leftover colored slip.  This made for a fascinating range of colors, far more various than commercially purchased pastels.

Our studio was on the second floor of this house:

We hung our prints to dry from a clothesline on the balcony.

By Monday morning we were all glad it was warm and sunny, after a couple of days of cold and rain.  Can you tell that clay monoprinting makes me happy?

Here is my slab after I pulled that print:

I pretty much stopped taping the edges.  Printing the whole area gives a kind of frame around it that I like.  It looks better too if unframed, and hanging with the wooden strip system I am using for the Pendle Hill show.  

The slabs are works of art in themselves.  This one is from a different series, making use of my mother's landscape design stencils.

We were nine participants and I learned from everyone. There was great synergy. Each person's work was so different and unique.  My new friend Elizabeth has been coming to Peters Valley for 20-something years - a real veteran.  You can see the back of her other snake print through the window.

The floor in the hallway of our studio was beautifully weathered.  We hoped our prints would look as good!

Our final critique / share:

By then we were all eager to hit the road, hoping to avoid the worst of Labor Day traffic.  It wasn't bad though, not like the shore traffic.

It will be a while before I get a chance to hand finish all the work I did, and I'll share it when I do. (First I have to prepare the Pendle Hill pieces for hanging.)  I brought home a batch of extra slip in a covered container, the magical stuff we add pigment to and paint with.  I'm tempted to use this container like a sourdough starter: just add a little bit to every batch I mix up, so a little bit of Peters Valley will infuse all my colors.  

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Awake and in my dreams, making clay monoprints

Hamsa was my last print of the day at Mitch Lyons Open Studio yesterday.  I am grateful I live only an hour and a half away from the guy who discovered, explored, and elaborated clay monoprinting.  It was like a sangha of clay monoprinters, just six of us hanging out with Mitch from 12 - 5 p.m.  

As Rabbi Leib once said, "I did not go to the master (maggid) in order to hear Torah from him, but to see how he unlaces his felt shoes and laces them up again."  Mitch makes a point of saying he doesn't teach at Open Studio.  He just does his own work and laces and unlaces his felt shoes...

Ice Skater was my first print of the day:

It's 'ghost', or the second print from the same 'inking', (though in this case using clay slip to which pigment has been added,) is called T.V.:

The  following prints were done at home in the last weeks, and the sun wasn't quite right to photograph them until today:



These two are an example of how much fun it is to work with two slabs at the same time, as well as hand finishing with water color.

Here is a 'ghost' from one of them, called Oracion:

I've had the South American talisman for many years.  Living in San Diego close to the border for so long the influence was pervasive.  Who knew it would end up on a clay monoprint?  

The one below is also a mixed-media clay monoprint called Bridge Over Troubled Water.  A clay modeling tool has been added, as the 'bridge' from troubled waters to a place of calm.  The shape works well with the design, and at the same time is conceptually a statement about the healing power of creativity and the arts.

"When true simplicity is gained, to bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd," the line from the Shaker song 'Tis the Gift to be Simple, is the inspiration for titling the print above Simplicity.

The print below is called Unexpected Doorway:

Clay monoprinting continues to be an unexpected doorway for me on many levels.  I will continue to enter its portal and explore what's on the other side as long as I am physically able.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Queer Glass Exhibit!

We went to the National Liberty Museum to see the nation's first glass exhibit by members of the LGBTQ+ community, which was a unique experience.  The complete serendipity was visiting the National Liberty Museum itself!  It is a gem of a museum, and a wonderful place to bring children and grandchildren.  

The NLM has had a specialty in glass for a long time, totally apart from the Transparency exhibit.  

"Flame of Liberty", by Dale Chihuly dominates a ground floor room, and reaches into the floor above.

A smaller work hangs from the second story and reaches below.  I overheard one little girl say to another "it's a baby and a mommy reaching for each other."  I'm inclined to agree with her.

Here are some of my favorites from Transparency:

This is by Sarah Gilbert, called Mi Corazon (fused and engraved glass):

 She says, "These two hands are my wife's hand and mine.  There is a metronome in the middle signifying the two beats we live by.  We are opposite but complementary in so many ways - the two  beats working together to create the rhythm of our lives." 

The Golden Egg...An American Dream 

"Created from the purest fiber optic crystal, it is one of 100 glass sculptures on exhibit throughout the National Liberty Museum...a reminder that liberty, like glass, is both strong and fragile."

 This one is extremely powerful:  

 I fell in love with the National Liberty Museum today.

Full disclosure:  I was the founder and coordinator of the Queer Artists Project of the Lesbian and Gay Historical Society of San Diego, (now called Lambda Archives of San Diego,) from the time it started in 1996 until we moved away from San Diego in 2010.  

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Francisco Goya: an artist for the 21st Century

Living from 1746 until 1828, Goya had one foot in the 18th century, one foot in the 19th century, and one foot in the 21st century.  

The etching and aquatint above is called Bury Them and Keep Quiet.  By this time he wasn't giving any indication which side the bodies belonged to.  It didn't matter.  It was wonderful to see Witness: Reality and Imagination in the Prints of Francisco Goya at the Philadelphia Museum of Art today, as part of the group organized by Bill Brookover of Fleisher Art Memorial.  Bill is a printmaker and photographer, who teaches printmaking at Fleisher.  The curator of prints spoke to us, along with Bill's invaluable input.  

It was very special for me to see the actual prints from Goya's The Disasters of War series. I have had a small paperback book of the series, with good plates, since I was in high school. 

This one is called They've Already Got a Seat, (1797-98).  (Ya tienen asiento).  The label says "In the title, the word asiento can be translated as both seat and judgment, suggesting that the women are thinking with their bottoms."  I just like the surrealism of the upside down chairs.  (Sorry, I couldn't avoid my shadow on the glass.)

Ravages of War (Estragos de la Guerra, 1810-14), captures the precise moment of an explosion within a building.  It's amazing how something so horrible is portrayed with such beautiful composition - a cruciform shape. 

The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (El sueno de la razon produce monstruos 1797-98) is one of Goya's most iconic etching and aquatints.  The label tells us that "His contemporaries would have recognized the watchful lynx and ominous bats and owls that swarm around the sleeping artist as symbols of ignorance and evil."  ..."this print epitomizes the prevailing message of the series, a warning of what happens in the world when reason is absent."  Surely a message for our time.

This photo was taken by Linda Dubin Garfield: Bill Brookover, me, Sandi Lovitz, and Edna Santiago, at the Goya prints exhibit.  I definitely plan to join in on any expeditions to print collections Bill has planned for the Fall. 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

"Conversation": a ceramic mixed-media assemblage

They look like real seed pods.  They are ceramic!  I made then from real seed pods.  First the pods are dipped in paper clay slip.  The natural material itself burns out in the kiln, leaving a hollow paper clay cast, which is then coated with oxides and stains, and finally encaustic. It is called "Conversation".  The washboard was the perfect place for the pods to be in conversation with each other.  They are a particularly female shape, and the washboard is a particularly female artifact.  

A previous piece, "Untitled", uses paper clay, oxides, stains, and underglazes, encaustic, found objects (typewriter keys, marbles, glass, cymbals), and wooden box.

This was a first experiment with the technique, which was very exciting. 

I'm not done exploring this process yet!  I have a bunch of ceramic pine cones, and more material to dip as soon as Fall semester starts.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Gratitude: A new story plate

This is my recently finished story plate, titled Gratitude.  The silkscreened image is from a photograph I took when the Philadelphia Museum of Art re-opened its Eastern wing.  

The silkscreened image is actually baked into the clay.  It is not collaged on top of it.  This is in contrast to my earlier story plate, Ambivalence:

In Ambivalence, the vintage photograph and gold lapel pin are collaged on to the plate, with a final layer of encaustic.  

The mylar image of my photograph that was used to make the silk screen is here collaged to a clay monoprint:

I also silkscreened the image of the person meditating on to a clay monoprint:


I like the circle around the person's head, as well as the vine growing in the lace beneath.