Updates

February 2016
Things are slowly falling into place for Collective Confluence at Project Space NCECA 2016! However, as the details are getting ironed out I'm realizing a need for some funding assistance....Kickstarter...IndieGoGo...

December 2015
Anticipation turns to consideration as I wrap up an installation of Collective Confluence at Artisan Gallery's Cooler Space. This was the largest physical space I've covered with unfired clay tile. By the end, the audience participants had created a 15'x30' earthenware slab! For this sculpture the clay will all be reclaimed, but I'm starting to think about some of the fired possibilites for the trampled tile...

September 2015
Quite a break from the updates...life has been..busy..to say the least. GOOD NEWS! I have just been told that I am to be one of three Project Space artists for NCECA Kansas City! Woot! This is really great news and I can't wait to share my participatory installation Collective Confluence at the 50th Anniversary of the national conference. This will be the third installation of this project, but each opportunity offers unique possibilities as well as challenges. Looking forward to this one!

April 2013
The anticipation and excitement for NCECA Houston has come and gone and I am happy to be home. It was great to be part of an exhibition this year and arriving early to set things up created opportunities for some really great conversations with new friends. There was of course time to reconnect with old friends as well, and to see and hear about all their latest accomplishments. I spent a good deal of time thinking about the stories we tell about ourselves from the myriad details that make up our lives. It seems important to tell the right story. I say this not with the intention of making my life sound better than it is, but rather as a self-reminder that reality is shaped by how we frame it and what details we choose to focus on. As I think about how I want my story to sound and dream about what will fill future chapters, it's time to get myself engaged with making NCECA Milwaukee sucessful and with finding/creating a long-term studio home here in Madison.

February 2013
I recently accepted an exciting opportunity presented by Paul Sacaridiz to volunteer as the regional liaison for NCECA planning and related projects in the Madison area. Thats quite a mouthful, and I'm sure it will provide a fair amount of work, but I'm looking forward to the opportunity to positively impact the quality of the conference and the networking opportunities should be highly rewarding as well. So far, as a small group of artist/educators in the area we're working on planning a pre-conference at Adamah in Dodgeville, developing some K12 programming to highlight the excellent efforts of nearby teachers, coordinating a group of Madison-area ceramics exhibitions, and creating a print and web-based map of Wisconsin clay/ceramics resources( galleries, art centers, schools, and artists). This last project has the potential to become an ongoing resource for the area! Very exciting things to come I'm sure!

December 2012
I'm setting up shop in Madison's Midwest Clay Project owned and run by the incredibly talented and thoughtful Jennifer Lapham. MCP is a community studio offering classes, punch cards, and monthly memberships. It's a great environment to be making work in as I get re-aquainted with the Madison art scene. I've been pleasantly surprised to reconnect with an awesome group of artists that are working in the area. Hopefully we can collaborate to have a big impact at NCECA 2014 in Milwaukee.

November 2012
Packing up the studio after an experience at the Roswell Artist-in-Residence Program that will be treasured for a long time to come! I'm sad to be leaving this incredibly supportive and interesting community, but am excited for the next adventure. Snowy Wisconsin here we come!

20 November 2011
Website launch date.

April 2011
Visit the University of Nebraska's Digital Commons to view my Master of Fine Arts thesis in it's entirety.

November 2010
The National Council for the Education of the Ceramic Arts has awarded me a scholarship to attend CRITICAL! Santa Fe, a symposium to discuss contemporary ceramics criticism. I was also fortunate to receive additional support in the form of a travel grant from the UNL's Hixson Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts. As part of my scholarship agreements I presented a public lecture and submitted an essay, which were published on NCECA's website and available for download. The essay follows below:

THE FUTURE OF CERAMICS CRITICISM

If you attended NCECA’s CRITICAL! Santa Fe looking for easy answers to the future of criticism in the field of ceramics you would have been sorely disappointed. Thank goodness for that! What those in attendance found instead was a broad discourse questioning the nature of ceramics, art, and the role of criticism. This multitude of perspectives on a broad range of topics was probably the greatest strength of the symposium. It framed the discourse and will direct the future of the conversation. Yet, I worry that the meandering nature of the symposium could also prove to be its greatest weakness.

The equal recognition of various nuances in perspective can ultimately lead to ineffectual criticism. Effective critics, such as the oft-mentioned modernist critic Clement Greenberg, are able to profoundly shape the field precisely because their message is narrowly defined and staunchly defended. Neither am I suggesting that it was a bad idea, nor a waste of time for CRITICAL Santa Fe to spend time framing the discourse. It is important to know where one stands before striking out in a specific direction. However, for good criticism to result from the symposium, each of us needs to decide where we stand in relation to the discourse and then define and defend our position from that point.

As Tanya Harrod stated, “When it comes to judgment, it may be ceramicists are still having to do quite a bit of writing the script themselves.” Clearly, those of us who gathered in Santa Fe—many of us, no doubt, makers—had a stake in developing a critical perspective of ceramics that is currently unrepresented in the field of art criticism. In an academic system that does not include ceramics in the canon of art history and barely includes it in the discussion of contemporary art, it is left to those interested in the field to self-educate. With very few exceptions this means that the makers of ceramic art end up possessing the background knowledge of the field necessary to engage in criticism of ceramic art.

How to share this perspective is another matter altogether. It became clear at the symposium that nearly any form of criticism is difficult to publish, let alone ceramics criticism. There was a good deal of finger pointing as to why we specifically lack criticism in ceramics. Indeed, there was truth in nearly every claim. As I listened to this process though, I came to believe that the most likely future for criticism is on the internet. In Glen Brown’s prepared remarks, he wrote, “Virtual reality may not displace the experience of real ceramic objects, but it has certainly become a powerful supplement to that experience and it offers the benefit of immediate and equal access to just about everyone.” The existence of several successful galleries whose main presence is virtual instead of physical should serve as proof to this claim.

The fact that the internet is a more democratic environment does indeed mean there are, and will continue to be, ever more critical viewpoints. The fact is, everyone could “e-publish” his/her personal critical position (though, I suspect relatively few actually will). Invariably, this means there will be more criticism—good and bad. Despite an increase in merely observational criticism, any increased participation in the conversation should be received as a positive development. Remember, the conversation as it exists is struggling to survive. Quality, informed electronic criticism will build a reputation for being good, as its printed counterpart has done in the past. In fact, it will likely do so through the exact same process—commanding attention over time.

March 2010
Visit Ceramic Arts Daily to read my essay on Sustainable Studio Ceramics. This essay was published in the March 2010 issue of Ceramics Monthly. I have also provided the full essay below:

In any study of sustainability one is likely to come across the phrase “the triple bottom line”. John Elkington named this concept in his 1994 book Towards the Sustainable Corporation: Win-Win-Win Business Strategies for Sustainable Development. In it, he asserts that in addition to being fiscally sound a sustainable business must be socially and environmentally sound as well. This may sound like a tall order for the studio artist who may already be struggling to run a profitable studio. However, despite the challenges associated with broadening one’s measure of success, the current political, social, and economic landscape is ripe with opportunity for those committed to sustainable development.

It should not be difficult to recognize the mining of raw materials and the firing of kilns as two of the most environmentally costly aspects of making ceramics. The various raw materials commonly used in ceramics have sources that span the globe and often involve large-scale, ecologically destructive mining operations. The local impacts of mining are subsequently compounded with the global impact of shipping the material—sometimes at distances literally halfway around the world. In this regard, efforts can be made to gather materials locally. I am reminded of the model provided by Marguerite Wildenhain at Pond Farm where she gathered what clay and glaze material was present on or near her property. The same could be done in an urban landscape by developing relationships with local construction businesses to mine clay from their excavation refuse. Additionally, as is briefly mentioned in Robin Hopper’s book The Ceramic Spectrum, it is possible to develop glazes from locally found natural materials. Another approach is to use materials that are locally mined on a smaller scale, as I have done with my own clay body in which half of the clay comes from a nearby brick factory. Perhaps one of the easiest conservation methods is to reclaim all clay scraps and reprocess them into new clay. Mining and processing your own clay and glaze materials or finding local sources is certain to be time-consuming, but must be undertaken to some degree if ceramics is ever going to be sustainable. When this occurs, it will be a great opportunity for ceramic artists to gain increasing regional distinction in their work based on what is predominant in their locale.

Firing a kiln, another studio activity with a hefty environmental impact, is obviously an integral part of ceramics. However, steps can be taken to mitigate this impact by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel consumption. One simple way to conserve energy, strongly suggested by Pete Pinnell to his students at the University of Nebraska—Lincoln, is to dry work thoroughly with an electric fan rather than using costly kiln preheats. Another conservation method in line with the Leach/Hamada tradition, championed at UNL by Gail Kendall, encourages students not to fire sub-par work, but rather to reuse the clay in a more satisfactory piece. Developing clay and glazes that favor once-firing would also significantly cut energy consumption. In using an already efficient computerized electric kiln, additional energy savings are likely possible by customizing firing schedules to the clay and glazes used in your studio. Greenhouse gases from electric kilns could be offset entirely by buying wind or solar electricity where available. In regards to atmospheric firing, I worked in a studio that used an Olsen Fast-Fire wood kiln. While the results were not superlative by wood firing standards, it did fire a nice cone 10 reduction. It seems plausible that a quick firing wood kiln or a gas-assisted wood kiln could be adapted for reduction, soda, or salt firing. By using wood from the scraps generated at a lumberyard or millworks (they even delivered them to the studio I worked in), waste from a renewable resource is repurposed while reducing reliance on fossil fuels. If you are fortunate enough to own wooded property or have access to a school forest, it may even be possible to harvest trees in a manner that increases the health of the forest while providing fuel for your kiln. This same forest could offset the emissions produced by firing kilns.

Perhaps because they are so glaring, it is easy to become preoccupied with the environmental impacts of making ceramics. Yet, in terms of sustainability it is important not to overlook the social bottom line. In the words of Laury Hammel and Gun Denhart in their book Growing Local Value, “growing a successful business is about meeting the needs of customers—and, by extension, the needs of an entire community. By turning your business into a good citizen and weaving it into the fabric of your community, you can help ensure your company’s profitability and long-term success. A mutually beneficial relationship of this sort will give your business a competitive edge while simultaneously growing local value.” This could be achieved in a variety of fashions including, but not limited to: working in a community studio, donating work to community-based fundraisers, applying for local commissions, volunteering for career day in local schools, volunteering in art classrooms, selling work within the community, and in turn supporting other local businesses. It is through a local commitment one is likely to develop the relationships necessary to find sources of local clay and kiln fuel in addition to reducing the environmental and economic impacts of sending work great distances.

Any change to your ceramic practice is not sustainable if it becomes economically untenable to make ceramics. A successful sustainable approach must include a combination of practices specific to your resources and needs, and should lead to a simultaneous enrichment of all three aspects of the triple bottom line. As with most things in the studio, a shift to sustainability should be expected to take time, but opportunity abounds. Furthermore, once you start looking I’m sure you will find other artists and businesses already committed to sustainability (perhaps even in your community) whose practices may be adapted to suit your needs.


Support

Thank you for your consideration in supporting my Kickstarter campaign to help me realize my three-day particpatory installation for the 2016 NCECA Project Space!

My funding goal is $1,500 and the campaign ends March 12.