Friday, March 25, 2011

NCECA and The Sunshine State

Lately, there are three reasons why I'm glad I live in Florida:

1.) It's been warm, sunny, and gorgeous since mid-February (think blue skies, azaleas, camellias, jasmine, Japanese magnolias, etc)

2.) No state income tax (and April 18 is quickly approaching)

3.) The Sunshine State is hosting its first NCECA Conference (National Council on Education of Ceramic Arts) and I'm going to be one of the 5000+ ceramic people descending on Tampa/St Petersburg next week!

Tampa/St. Pete is just 1.5 hours from us and where my sister-in-law calls home, so we'll be able to stay with family. That's right. I'll have Cooper in tow. (Thank you ergo baby carrier!) My Little Man is just 5 months old, so it would be tough to travel far for a conference. And even tougher to leave him at home for 4 days. (That's a lot of milk to pump!)

I am definitely looking forward to seeing folks and talking clay, cones, and kilns again! That part of my brain feels a bit rusty after of months of conversations that focus on diaper changes and spit up.

As a Florida resident and UF Alum, I do wish I would have been able to take advantage of more of the NCECA exhibition opportunities that came my way. But I had to make my peace with that back when I was pregnant and deciding on maternity leave. I know Cooper isn't built of clay, glass, or steel, but I still believe he's the best thing I've ever made!

So, come on down to The Sunshine State! We hope to see you at NCECA next week.

Cheers!
Meagan

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thoughts on Time and Tranistion

Here we are. The end of March 2011. The past year has been a blur of inspiration, excitement, and change.

I finished a post-baccalaureate ceramics program at The University of Florida, went to my first NCECA conference in Philadelphia, spent a month in Montana as a resident at the Clay Studio of Missoula, taught a workshop at Arrowmont, took a class with Michael Sherrill at Penland, oh, and had a baby!!

(Ceramic Wall Mosaic at Penland School of Crafts)

My head is spinning! I feel like I have hardly had a moment to process some of the ideas that started forming last March. March of 2010.

I still have boxes of work from traveling and teaching I haven’t even unpacked. (And if you know me, that totally goes against my ultra-organized way of life. Those packed boxes are driving me crazy!)

(Test tiles I made while at The Clay Studio of Missoula that are still waiting to be unpacked!)

The bottom line is that my experiences from the past 365+ days have me itching to make some changes in my work.

What changes? I’m not exactly sure yet. Do I switch to cone 6? Try a new clay body – porcelain or white earthenware? What new, exciting glaze recipes can I find? Do I continue to make wall sculpture? Slabs or extruded forms? How can I incorporate more cast glass? Oh, oh, and that mold making, resin-casting technique John Byrd demoed at Penland still has me thinking.

I imagine the changes I make will be gradual. As a new mother, the world I lived in for 30 years is now different. My perspective and experiences are forever altered. Even time has new meaning.

So, as I slowly sort through these ideas, I also wonder what I will be thinking next Spring as I watch the azaleas bloom, Cooper toddling alongside.

(Photo by my wonderful father-in-law during Cooper's first beach trip.)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Clay Damp Boxes - My new best friend

Anyone who has worked with clay knows there is a lot of process involved. Certain things need to be done at certain times. But what do you do if your time and the clay’s time aren’t in sync?

Well, I’ve used Damp Boxes and kept clay wet for up to a year in these babies. And I’m finding this method is perfect for the brief intervals of time I’m able to sneak out to the studio. It’s a cheep and easy solution.

In a nutshell, it works because of the way plaster absorbs water. If plaster is dryer than clay, it will draw moisture from the clay. If the plaster has been soaked I water, then it keeps the clay from drying out and maintains a humid atmosphere within the box.

I cut these circles out in early October before Cooper was born. When I finally got around to turning them into Minis, it was the end of January but the clay was still perfect to work with!

Here’s how to make a Damp Box:

  1. Fill bottom of plastic tubs with 1 -1 ½” of mixed plaster. Plaster mixing guidelines here.
  1. Allow plaster to set/dry.
  1. Add water. How much?? Depends on the size of the box. I add water till there is 1/8” of water and then wait till that is absorbed. With a new damp box, it could take several rounds of adding water and letting it absorb. My damp boxes are 7 years old, so I occasionally add more water to “recharge” them. Basically, you want it to be wet without having pools of water on top.
I've also heard of people using styrofoam coolers or old refrigerators to help control the drying process. What about you?

Meagan

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Mixed Media Wall Commission - progress report

Moving right along with that large mixed-media wall commission.

Thanks to two 30-minute naps and one long nap (probably brought about by today's visit to the pediatrician for more shots. boo for the shots. yay for the long nap!)

The 23 ceramic forms are complete and hung for a quick layout review. (Well, the ones that would fit on my design wall are hung at least)
Now, I'll be moving on to making the cast glass and steel pieces. That's what's gonna go where those circles are drawn.
I might have started 2 months ago, but I'm making progress none-the-less. And, afterall, slow but steady wins the race!

Cheers!
Meagan

Hey - Want to see other posts of this project. Check here and here.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The 30-Minute Challenge

The Challenge, should you choose to accept it – set a timer for 30 minutes and GET TO WORK!

Focus. Forget Facebook. Ignore email. Avoid the dishes and laundry. You will be surprised just how much you can get done when you get to doin’ it!

This is how my days go. Cooper (aka our 5-month old Cat-Nap-King) is content to sleep for 30 minutes 3-5 times a day. I used to think that a 30-minute blurp of time was hardly worth going out to the studio. Now, not-so-much. Those 1800 seconds are precious, precious time!

So, give it a try. Maybe you have kids and have experienced the child enforced 30-minute Challenge first hand. Or maybe you just need that extra little boost to get things going.

I’d love to hear about what you were able to accomplish in half an hour.

Is your timer going?

Meagan