Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Master Mold Maker

March 1, 2010
Picked up my molds today and later took Jason by the mold maker in the afternoon.  Jason brought his bike and everyday gives a report of his tours through the villages and the countryside  He has been studying French in preparation for his residency here and usually returns with a story to tell.  In his own work he makes references to the local environment, incorporating imagery relating to local lore.  His excursions have been information gathering expeditions.  He photographs the scenery and tries to glean information regarding stories, legends and folklore. He is working on a cicada in the studio after seeing ceramic cicadas in several of the pottery stores.  He spoke with Eric, a potter whose studio we pass on the way to the Vallauris atelier who told him that cicadas bring luck.  Erik also related the fable we know as the ant and the grasshopper, although here the cicada is in the grasshoppe'sr role. Jason has a small carving of a cicada he wants to mold and then cast several .  The modeleur, Martial Quere,  is a pleasant chatty guy, top of the line, best mold maker in France he says as he gestures to a certificate framed above his work bench.  Dale Dorosh, the man who runs the artists' residency, later confirms that he is indeed an excellent mold maker.  He is lively and we all practice our language skills, using gesture, sketches and humor.


Sunday Februray 28
Carnival in Vallauris. 

A parade and kids in costume today,  a belated Mardi Gras celebration but very child centric.  The kids were tossing confetti everywhere and squirting plastic string at their friends as well as at anyone passing. The parade featured three marching bands, the first dressed in prison stripes. Tres amusent... There were a few floats all decked in the yellow mimosa blossoms which grow every where here this time of year. There was a huge tortoise float followed by a hare and then a float with a big chicken and a smiling paper mache girl.  There were jugglers and a guy who did handstands.  It was refreshing to see children totally ecstatic, running with their friends.  The costumes: a lot of pirates and princesses with a few Spidermen and face painted clowns.  I tried to upload a short video of the parade but the internet is not co-operating.  I'll try to post it later.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Meet the Artists

Friday February 26
We did our presentations today, each of the residents showing images and talking about our work.  I began with a slide show and talk of how my work has progressed over the last few years.  Since clay is not my primary medium, this will be a challenge for me.  Since founding  440 Gallery with Shanee Epstein five years ago my work has taken a few twists and turns,  specifically into quilt forms.

This will be an opportunity to focus on where I want apply my energies.

Jason Walker followed with a slide show of his ceramic work.  Jason lives in Washington state  and is currently represented by Ferrin Gallery in Massachusetts. He received a fellowship for the residency here from NCECA  (National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts). His work is about the intersection between nature and technology.  He is an excellent draftsman  as well as a skilled ceramicist.   

Nancy Aleo then shared a slide show  of her own work as well as actually paintings in a large hand made portfolio.  Nancy teaches at Mass College of Art and Design and is  the president of the Board of Trustees of the Attleboro Arts Museum.  She is an accomplished potter but she will be primarily painting and drawing.  Her work is  based on synesthesia and her  paintings are of sounds she sees as certain colors and shapes.  Her work is also nature based and she is anxious to explore nearby parks and beaches for inspiration. She has spent a great deal of time in Mexico and her imagery reflects that culture as well as spirituality.  This the sound of rain on a metal gutter:

 This is one of her Vision Scrolls: Rising:

Dawn Whitehand has just finished her Phd in ceramics and she showed work done for her recently completed thesis.  Dawn's work is also deeply rooted in nature. The ceramic pieces, hand polished  organic shapes, many of them pit fired on her own property, were installed in a natural setting among a circle of trees.

There were also pieces installed in water.  The philosophical structure of the work is feminist and embraces an intuitive,  female, earth-based energy. Apart from the thesis work, there was an ephemeral piece created for a site specific area on the shore of an ecologically threatened lake.  These were three large forms, unfired, that she then placed in the water to dissolve.

Very inspiring to see everyone's work.

The French Turkish connection

Thursday Feb 25

Took a walk this morning before breakfast to get my bearings. Saw them setting up the fruit and vegetable market in the square. Passed by the studio and chatted briefly with Eric, a potter near the atelier we were introduced to when we arrived.  My French keeps sliding into Turkish.  There is a sizable Muslim population here. I dropped by a halal store looking for tahini but again found none and the man arranging meats in the glassed counter said he didn't know anywhere I could buy some.  I bought a can of halvah with nuts instead but it's too sweet and dry.  Made a simple breakfast of fruit and yogurt and the walnuts I shelled yesterday. The bread is heavenly here and the fruits from the daily farmers market are fresh and at the peak of ripeness.  I have the last few ends of bread with tapenade and coffee with heated milk.

 My first day in the studio.  I was alone as everyone else still had jet lag and they were still getting their bearings in the new locale.  Having spent the last few weeks as a tourist, I am anxious to get started working.  The studio is a bit airless and cool when the door is closed.  Takes awhile for the clay to dry.  Found a little heater to warm it up.  Made a fat little fertility fetish just to get started.  The other residents are all deeply schooled in pottery and I feel adrift, not really in my element. Then again, not really sure what my element is.  Vallauris also accepts artists for whom ceramics is not their main medium and I am in that category.  My work with clay has been in portraiture and figurative work so I am unfamiliar with a lot of the technical clay talk all around me.

Went by a local museum, Magnelli Municipal Museum, a Ceramic Museum with a special exhibit by the Turkish artist Alev Ebuzziya Siesbye.  She makes bowls.  Just bowls. Like Steinway just makes pianos.  Even with my limited knowledge of technique, it was obvious that these were perfect vessels.  The shapes, the glazes, the design elements were rich but restrained, almost to the point of austerity.   There was also a short video  showing the artist in her studio at every step of the way.  There is a huge poster of Alev joyously tossing a large pot in the air but as the film makes clear, her process is dead serious, as scientific as it is aesthetic.
Tomorrow we are all to meet to do informal presentations of our work.


Tuesday Feb 23.
Arrived in Vallauris today.  Dale Dorosh, the founder of A.I.R. Vallauris and an intern Andrea, met me and another Nancy  from Boston at the airport in Nice.  He drove us the 20 minutes or so to the center of Vallauris and our new old digs for the next six weeks.  Up a narrow flight of stairs, leaving shoes and donning slippers, we were escorted to our tiny convent like bedrooms.  I share a bath and common area outside my room with Dawn, another resident who arrived yesterday from Australia. 

Finally met up with the fourth resident, Jason, who arrived later from Seattle.  Dale had prepared a light but very filling repast of fresh breads and cheeses, salmon, ham, tapenade, tomatoes and wine.  We ate and got to know each other a bit before cleaning up and heading back to our respective quarters.  Dawn went to meet her partner and young son who are staying nearby.  A convenient arrangement as he is working on his own project, leaving her time with the residency but providing company on occasional outings.  Dale will meet us tomorrow for a tour of the town and the studio and an excursion to get clay and other supplies.

Wednesday Feb 24
A quick walking tour of the surrounding neighborhood, including a  few museums.  Then off in the van to buy clay and some art materials. 


Back in the studio we divied up the space.  There are two studios with several work stations. No actual work yet though. 

A nice lunch in a restaurent on an upper floor which looked out over roofs and the street below.  All of us trying out our rudimentary French. Jason Walker seems the most game, striking up conversations with strangers and  asking for a doggie bag ("une boite", we learned from the waitress) when we were unsure of the protocol of asking at all.  Dawn Whitehand, the Australian, is a flaming red head with a ready wit and a strong feminist streak.  Nancy Aleo teaches at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. She has Mediterranean features, a ready smile and hair that falls to her waist. She has already received a marriage proposal from the man on the first floor.  

Back in the kitchen we chatted, talked a bit about our work.  Shared a pot of popcorn in the evening. Nancy and I closed down the kitchen after working at our respective laptops  at the kitchen table.  In bed by 12:30, read til 1 or 2.