Monday, February 27, 2012


The red indicates the original size.  Clay shrinks as it dries and fires.
    Wishy-washy is a perfect term to describe me.  I'll attempt to plan events with my friends or for my babies, and when someone asks me to make a decision- I can't.  I trouble over what others think of me too much to actually make a determination.  I don't want to step on toes; I don't wish to offend.  To take the position of a leader is to make decisions that you'll be blamed for if, in the end, it is the wrong outcome.  This is why I do not understand power-hungry people.  Why on earth would you want that responsibility?

Also, the curved underneath happened during the drying process.
      So, I have to call some shots on this mural, regardless.  The prototype for the most-problematic dimension has warped in the drying process, and has shrunk tremendously.  The red paper underneath the sample indicates the original scale.  As far as sizing goes, I think I have to make HUNDREDS of clay shims to tack in between the boxes.  To overcome the warpage issue, I've cut down this particular measurement in half, but now I'm really curious about the other proportions, and how they'll shrink.  Do I seriously have to do a prototype of EACH SIZE?!  What I want to do is just jump in with the big dimensions because I LIKE the substantial look .  I should, however, shrink all of the large sizes down to half the original.  But, I always say, "Go big, or go home."

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


     I know that when Louise Nevelson made art, she didn't have much of a plan beforehand.  She found her objects, and started throwing things together to find the patterns and order at a later time.  She was also one person, who didn't need to communicate or collaborate with 70 other people.  So, as I mark off each shadowbox dimension, painstakingly confirming that each angle is, in fact, 90 degrees, I ponder over what Louise would have thought about this preparation.  I think she would pronounce the process as stifling.  That is exactly how I feel- stifled, muffled, gagged, and suppressed.  This is not fun work.
     I always tell my kids that I am an anti-measurer.  What am I doing now?  Calculating each box with precision so that the end result will sort of, kind of fit together.  HOWEVER, the inexact nature of working with 70 rookies of clay and the shrinkage of each box will lead to constant irregularities.  I don't know how to feel about this: I'm indifferent at this point.  A couple of my students and I were talking about dumpster diving at a furniture shop to get a good border for the outside to hide the irregularities.  I cannot decide.  That call can be made later on.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Weezy for Dummies

Louise Nevelson, Rain Garden II, 1977

     Upon first viewing Louise Nevelson, I was always searching for a place for my eyeball to rest and relax.  I thought of the pieces as muddled and crowded, and I longed for a little space to breath.  I believe it was my husband who told me to look at Nevelson when I threw out the idea of doing a three-dimensional mural.  When perusing her images, I was under-impressed at first.  Louise Nevelson forces you to work for the appreciation of what she does, and to be perfectly honest, I am a lazy artviewer.  There was some sort of statistic a while back that the average Joe or Jane spends 2 seconds per artwork at a museum.  2 seconds!  No wonder Louise said, "Hey, you've got to take a closer look."  These pieces are not for the lackadasical viewer that simply wishes to hang back and enjoy the view.  These artworks challenge you to inspect and find that space to make yourself relax into viewing it.
     The above work, Rain Garden II, is what I consider to be the basic crowd-pleaser Nevelson that everyone should start with.  The work gives you a little bit of organization, which our eye is always searching for.  Movement is the name of the game with this piece.  The repetitious circles make the eye bounce from one box to the next, so that we see the artwork as one overall piece, as opposed to 22 separate boxes.  The curves are like directional arrows taking your eye on a path to the next box.  This was the first Louise that I started to enjoy, and now that I see it again, over and over, I discover that I want to keep learning about it.  I want to know what objects she makes her art out of.  With this pixellated image (the only one available, apparently), I've discovered many furniture parts and spindles from stair railings.  I believe the circles are the decorative trim to door frames. My most favorite objects in her other pieces are the wooden thread spools.  For whatever reason, I save a wooden thread spool whenever I come across one.  I like the antiquated look of them, and how they remind me of a time when no plastic existed.  I think I like Louise for the same reason that I like the thread spools.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

No Surprises

Clay.  What a truly dynamic medium.  I've been muddy for years, and it still surprises me.


So, to only truly predict what will happen in the firing process...

Photos courtesy Jenna Gaston
...we'll have to make a prototype.  

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Take a Load Off Fanny

     Every ceramicist is a pyro.  I'm sure anyone can take joy out of the simple light of a candle, or watch the flames lick up the side of a log in a wintertime fire to have a quiet fascination over the power of it all.  But, for the ceramicist, fire has a function like no other, and we've come up with crazy ways of raising temperatures to the above 2000 degree mark.  These electric kilns are like glorified toaster ovens (though do NOT call it an oven in my presence... it's a kiln, darlin's).  The first caveman that ever threw a pot into a fire was a brilliant man, even if he had a significantly smaller brain than us.  Those guys discovered the vitreous quality that clay becomes after the silica melts in clay and said, "Hey!  I could use this to hold water!"  Ever since then, potters have dug holes in the ground, torched clay in makeshift water heaters with propane, or even built kilns the size of a VW van and gassed them up.  This makes me nostalgic for a good anagama firing- I haven't been to one in over a decade.
     Each of the shadowboxes will need to be fired in one of these two kilns in the backroom of ceramics central.  I could list the issues involved with this process till I'm blue in the face, but that would be counter-productive.  Let's just say that my major worry for the shadowboxes in the firing process will be warpage.  These shadowboxes are proposed to be about 12 to 15 inches of slab, which means that they'll take a wide space in the kiln.  No good.  Wide, flat projects tend to be sensitive to hot and cold spots in the kiln.  When one spot of the box will raise to one temperature, the clay will expand and shrink at a different rate than the other.  If we get any curvy boxes as a result, they'll be unusable.  How do we predict this?  You'll see tomorrow.  Keep reading.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Working with What We've Got

I just love blogs.  The unfortunate thing is that I'm realizing that this is a whole different artform that I have to become acclamated to.  I want to delve more deeply into Louise's life and work, but I also want to tell more of the mural, and where it's going to go.  I debated all night as to what to do next, and since this blog is to document what the process of this mural is, I have to start with what we have so far.  So, I am giving you a cliched before shot of the wall that we plan on using.  I have to admit that I am a bit embarrassed, though, to show such meager pictures, for that is one of the reasons why I adore blogs like smitten kitchen so very much.  The PICTURES!  Alas, I have tried to jazz up this image of this hallway in photoshop to be up to par with that of other blogs, and I can not do it.

There you go.  A blank white wall.  I just read on another blog, the Coletterie, that as we age, we aspire more towards simplicity.  I completely agree, however this is a bit too simple.  It ventures from simple into white bread with no nutritional value.  We need to add a bit of spice to it, don't you think?
So, here is a layout of our future mural.  Can you see the Louise Nevelson influence at all?

Each squared off portion would be a shadowbox containing many design elements within.

A detail shot.  The DuBois will eventually be a hidden image.

Monday, February 13, 2012

New beginnings.

Around the art department, we've been calling it the Louise Nevelson Project, which is what this blog should be named instead of the Shadowbox Mural.  However, this is a blog to educate the masses, and Louise Nevelson, outside of art circles is not commonly known.

     To be blunt, she was one audacious woman.  I just love older people for the reason that they can do exactly what they want, without a care for what others think.  She created quite the persona in her later life, with her kerchiefs and her false eyelashes, and perhaps one day I'll be old enough to discard my concern for other's opinions to emulate the look. 
     So why is this truly the Louise Nevelson Project?  Her artwork is the inspiration for a mural which is hopefully going to come to fruition within the next couple of months.  Upon first impression, I never really thought much about her wall pieces.  In fact, I thought that it seemed a bit too similar to an episode of Hoarders , but when I force myself to look, no, to truly STUDY, they feel like small habitats to me.  The pieces are millions of tiny nooks to curl up into, to hide in the shadows and ignore the outside world for a bit.  She worked under Hans Hofmann, whose major influence was to work with a limited palette.  She calls black the "total" color, the color that is all colors.  To see a piece in front of you is an experience like no other; the black wraps around you creating a cocoon of coziness. 
How do you feel?

Louise Nevelson, Sky Cathedral, 1958
I'm not a feminist. I'm an artist who happens to be a woman. – Louise Nevelson