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If you wander the downstairs hall in Boliou, you will probably see Emogene Schilling’s clouds.

They were made for an assignment in our handbuilding class where we were to use a Chinese underglaze decal as part of a piece.  The decal Emogene chose was a cloud motif, which she put on many different ceramic clouds made from low fire white clay and glazed with a clear glaze to cone 05. She made approximately 12 clouds, six of which are hanging in Boliou, fired in two different batches.  The first batch came out really clearly, but the clouds in the second batch ran a little.  When Jhanna and I unloaded that kiln, we could not for the life of us figure out what was different in the second firing than the first.  Regardless, Emogene used this little mystery to her advantage, combining both kinds of clouds in her piece.  I think the contrast of the cloud decal-drawings with the runny decals that look more like real clouds on top of these hovering clay-clouds is really fun and quite successful.  Even though the runny decals would often be considered a mistake, she embraced this temperamental aspect of ceramics and I think the piece is more successful piece than it otherwise would have been.  I am excited to work with her in advanced ceramics this term, but she missed class today because she’s already in Philadelphia just waiting for NCECA!


Spring is a fun time in Boliou.  Over break the smocks in the ceramics studio were laundered.  They reappeared today and were shockingly immaculate.  My smock preference is the weird blue one, because it makes me feel like an alien catcher and provides me with full coverage when throwing, mixing clay, etc.  Here I model:

John also programmed his first solo bisque this afternoon!  Here he thinks hard and tries to figure out if he messed up:

Also, holy cow it’s almost time for NCECA!!  Kelly left today for the cities in preparation for an early flight tomorrow, and the rest of the gang takes off on Wednesday.  Thrilling!

So yesterday I was working on a bust of a friend of mine for my comps.  It was hollowed out (mostly) and that’s when things started to go really wrong.  I hadn’t even tried to put anything together when the shoulders split from the hair.  The hair couldn’t support the weight of itself and started to fall apart and crack and split and get super duper wonky.  It was so sad.  I was in Boliou so late last night trying to figure out what to do.  After a while I just decided to cut off the face, and start again coil build the whole piece (with the old face).   I figure that I’d rather have a piece that is 100% how I want it, and not just the best I can get it under the circumstances.  My first piece looked fine (said with some dissatisfaction), but also kind of wonky.  I didn’t want that again.

For the next one I think I am going to build the head solid, hollow it out, and then coil build the hair.

For posterity, here is a photo (the last photo I have, but not the finished state) of the bust pre-disaster:

R.I.P. Bust of Jinhee

Shalene Valenzuela is totally rad.  She makes ceramic irons, blenders, shoes, pencil sharpeners (The Grind, pictured left), nail polish bottles, pot holders, toasters, and all kinds of other girly shit.  She’s delightful!  She takes these objects and paints on them stereotypes of women’s roles, and sometimes text about the dichotomies women are often placed in.  A lot of her work is a commentary on those dichotomies, which I think are entirely damaging to any true understanding of a person or experience.  I have always loved those 50’s illustrations of women (a la Vogue patterns or something like that) and I really love when people use them to subvert conventional ideas of gender.  I highly recommend checking out her website at

As you can probably tell from my post about Misty Gamble, or my entire life if you know me at all, but I’ve been thinking tons (more) about gender lately.  Mostly about gender representation and presentation because of my comps (which I am tentatively calling Sexual Dimorphism).  So much of femininity is tied up in appearances and presentation.   I put antlers and other animal-gender-signifiers on women initially because I am obsessed with antlers and because antlers are beautiful.  But antlers are associated with aggression, power, and ownership.  They are prized, valued, and hunted — words I normally associated with courtship (can tell I’m in man-hater mode of late?), but also words that I associate with women’s quest to adapt to typically masculine mannerisms in order to succeed.  Antlers are at once masculine and feminine, and I think my point is that nothing is ever as simple as you think.  Every situation, every gender and experience with gender, is more nuanced than you think.

I also like Shalene Valenzuela because she has a blog.  It’s hard to follow, but it’s there.  I really like hearing artists’ ideas about their work and their lives in a vernacular that is less formal than an artist’s statement.  I also really love that she plays up the kitsch factor.  So much of my work (especially in ceramics) is kitschy, and I can’t help but love things that are gaudy and tacky despite my love of simplicity too.  Valenzuela’s work en masse reads like a pantry, which I think is so tremendous.  I would love nothing more than for my future house to be populated with household wared designed by her, with my goofy antler junk on the walls.  That would be some kind of heaven.  I love work that really gains momentum as you add more, and  Valenzuela’s work especially plays into that cluttered 50s advertising aesthetic when you see her pieces together.  Anyways, I love her and her work.  I leave you with probably my favorite piece of hers, the Virgin Mary in a slice of bread:

In anticipation of NCECA in Philadelphia, I’ve been looking up interesting museums in the area.  Whenever I travel, I look up interesting museums on Roadside America, a repository of goofy roadside attractions all over the US.  All kinds of amazing places like Dr. Evermor’s Forevertron near Baraboo, WI or the Future Birthplace of James T. Kirk in Riverside, IA.

Philadelphia has some great ones that I am just itching to see!  The Insectarium, the Saint in a Glass Coffin, the Museum of Mourning Art, and the Mummer’s Museum.  The one that’s highest on my list is the Chemical Heritage Museum and the Mutter Museum which has a plaster cast of conjoined twins, a giant colon, Grover Cleveland’s tumor, John WilkesBoothe’s thorax, a collection of swallowed items that one doctor removed non-surgically, and a soap woman!  I know we’re spending most of our time at the conference (which I am excited about too, by the way) but I definitely want to take some time to myself to explore the gems that Philly has to offer.

I am obsessed with Misty Gamble.

My favorite of her works is the Chanel / Big Hair series.  She makes ceramic sculptures of older-looking women, allsitting in chairs, wearing Chanel suits, and with enormous hair.  They’re beautiful.  Many of her pieces focus on issues of femininity: the Tan Hands series — ceramic hands on a wall, each differently positioned with a ring on a finger; or the Sweet Terror series — 5 sculptures of young girls, each innocent and horrifying in their own way.  In Chanel / Big Hair, Gamble explores the blurred line between youth and age among cosmetically altered high society women.  Their suits are classic and pristine and their hair is extremely well kept, but there’s something strange and terrifying about them.

My favorite piece  by Gamble is a ceramic “stump” (she dicthes the traditional bust or torso and calls them stumps) with a beehive hairdo (pictured at right with the artist).   That’s exactly how I wore my hair to senior prom in high school!  I also love that this particular stump has red hair just like me!  Unfortunately that’s where the similarities end.  The stumps are modeled after dress forms, have skin textured like fabric, and oddly protruding necks.  They are so fascinating.  I love them and I am also jealous of their hair.

On her website she has photos of her working, which I find particularly illuminating.  It is so cool to see artists at work, especially when that artist is coil building enormous hairdos.  I am building some busts of my own for comps.  I tried to coil build one of them, but I think building solid and hollowing out is more suited to my needs.  I had some issues hollowing out the first one (pictured left) and it got kind of wonky when I put it back together again.  It still hasn’t been fired and doesn’t have antlers yet (I am making them separately) but at least it’s something.

For more info on my favorite, Misty Gamble, visit her website at

I watch a lot of TV.  One of the shows I really enjoy this year is Community, Thursdays (I think) at some time (who knows) on NBC.  This week’s episode was called “Beginner Pottery” which the main character, Jeff, calls this term’s blow off class.  Ha!  I didn’t take throwing, but I hear it’s one of the hardest classes offered at Carleton.  Thank goodness our prof Kelly isn’t a loony who hates re-enactments of the pottery scene from the movie Ghost.

Here’s the episode on Hulu if you’re interested in watching:

I read Ceramic Arts Daily daily, and was recently intrigued by this post about making stamps of natural things using plaster molds.  Jhanna and I made a bunch of plaster molds for slip casting last term (and I only used one of my molds, she didn’t use any of hers) so I thought hey plaster’s not so bad and this method allows you to get way more detail than just pressing clay onto an object.  Cool!

So I tried it:

The making the little pinch pots part went very well, but the post-plaster part was not great.  I think part of that was because my selection of green (or once-green) things from outside was not great.  The only one that really turned out (but holy moly did it ever turn out cool) is the feather.  I think once things start to bloom I’ll try more flowers and green things, but I also want to try lace and doilies.  Mostly I just need things to do while clay firms up.  I spend so many hours in Boliou and I just need a break sometimes!!!  ALSO I am always 100% hesitant to bring plaster molds into the ceramics studio, because as you probably know PLASTER IS THE ENEMY OF CLAY.

The ceramics studio in Boliou was recently cleaned (and extremely well.  even Kelly commented that she had never seen it that clean) and the blackboard with the brainstorming for the throwlympics was erased.  So I thought I would update this goofy little blog with a list of potential throwlympics events.

  • Doubles throwing
  • Tallest cylinder
  • Blind throwing?  This is a new addition after I saw this video:
  • Relay race (carrying bags of clay down the hall, centering, some other task to be determined)
  • Largest hand-built vessel
  • Most bowls thrown in X minutes (perhaps a long and short program)
  • Some slab building event?  Maybe build a cube.

There would be electric wheel events and kick wheel events, and while most events will be stoneware I think we’re even going to have some porcelain events too.  I’ll update this post as I think of more events.  As of right now we don’t have a date for the throwlympics, but I have a feeling it will happen over a week or so and it is entirely possible (nay, probable) that many of the bowls will go towards the Carleton Empty Bowls event which is coming up.

You better practice your throwing because competition is going to be fierce.

Hello.  My name is Allie and I am a senior studio art major from Milwaukee, WI.  I can’t even count the number of times I’ve said that in the past 4 years.

Both this blog and this idea of blogging are quite new to me, but I am excited to jump right in.  I plan on using this blog to post about the National Council on Education of the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) conference in Philadelphia in a few weeks as well as posting about the upcoming throwlympics (an exciting ceramics competition, open to the entire campus).   I don’t have a ton to say at this very minute, but I assure you that won’t last long.


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