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A few months ago we were visited in the studio by the wonderful and amazing Minnesota potter, Linda Christianson.

Linda Christianson threw on our treadle wheel. Photo: Julia Walther.

She taught at Carleton before Kelly Connole got there, and I think she was instrumental in persuading the school to let us build a wood kiln.  She got her undergrad at Hamline with Fred Hagstrom (what!) and she built her first wood kiln at 19.  Frequently I look at movie stars and musicians who are my age and I feel unaccomplished, but in a goofy and unrealistic sense.  Looking at Linda’s history in clay, I definitely feel a real sense that I need to get my butt in gear.

She gave us a really great slide show that was as much about her life and history as it was about her work.  It was so fun to see how she lives and how she has progressed as an artist, a potter, and as a person.  She showed us lots of images that inspire her, which included a drawing by her daughter (she said the loose style and freedom is something children have, but lose when they grow up).  She was so unpretentious and so genuinely sweet that our entire class had a really great time during her visit.

One thing (of many) that I took away from her visit is to always keep working.  Everyday she comes into her studio and throws four cups.  She starts every single day like that.  I like the idea of having a beautiful routine like that, that not only helps add to the quantity of work produced, but warms you up and gets you thinking about the forms you like and want to create on a daily basis.  Moreover, she throws on a treadle wheel, which is so wacky and interesting.  Because you can’t really get it going to normal wheel speed, it creates a natural and beautiful movement in pieces.  The way she works with clay is so unbelievable to see.  Her pieces have a natural feel because of the movement of the treadle wheel, and the fact that she wood fires all of her work adds to that.  I really love that she makes a lot of functional but sort of strange pieces, like oil cans for salad dressing and the like.  She makes casserole dishes, mugs, plates, and pitchers, but none of them are dull.  Every piece she touches has a warm quality that is almost magical.  We have done two wood firings this year at Carleton, and seeing that work and work from previous years I can see that it’s just not my thing.  But Linda Christianson’s work is different for me.  There is just a blush, a hint of wood firing that is so simple and alluring.  I really recommend checking out her work because it’s astounding and absolutely stellar.

For a tiny bit more information about Linda, including a few images of her work and contact information, visit www.minnesotapotters.com/individualpages/lindachristianson.html

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I’ve recently been posting a lot about publications.  Well I just uploaded the GSC’s latest, Bodies, to the internet!

Cover of Bodies, published by the GSC. Photo: Megan Hafner.

From the GSC website:

Our bodies are sites of pleasure, pain, gender, sexuality, joy, shame, and celebration. Our new publication wants to navigate our relationships with our bodies. We want to explore subjects like body positivity, health and illness, fat acceptance, sex, ability, sexual violence, modification, and any other way society shapes the way we view bodies.

It is a really beautiful book made entirely of contributions from the Carleton community.  People contributed poetry, written pieces, drawings and prints (including my print, which I posted about earlier), and their editing and design talents to create a wonderfully cohesive book about so many facets of our human bodies.

You can read more about Bodies and all of the GSC’s other publications here on the website: https://apps.carleton.edu/campus/gsc/publications/

Read it here:
Bodies (Online Book) | Bodies (PDF)

Having nothing to do during senior week, I was poking around on the Foot in the Door 4 website (and by “poking around” I mean “looking for my piece“).  Foot in the door is an exhibit held every 10 years at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts that is part of the Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program.  Anyone in the state of Minnesota can submit a piece so long as it fits in a 10 in. x 10 in. x 10 in. cube and this year they got over 4800 submissions.  They get tons of art from children, professions, students, and every kind of person doing visual art in the state (including a video category they added this year).  The work is displayed salon style in the MIA for a couple of months, which is a really awesome opportunity.  I really love this exhibition and they have a lot of really fun photos on their flickr of events over the course of the show.  They also have images of TONS of the work documented on the website, and it is really fun to click “random” and discover an interesting/stupid/beautiful/ thoughtful/comical/etc. piece of art.

For more info, visit the website: www.artsmia.org/foot-in-the-door-4/maep.html

This post is about neither paper nor clay.  Ha!

It’s about drawing and film.  For my Film Noir class (which was not as great as it might purport to be) we had to take noir photos around Northfield.  Other students in my class posed their friends and traipsed around town/campus looking for good places to shoot.  That sounds miserable to me.  I hate working with people, so I took the assignment to mean take photos around the town but of noir drawings.  So I drew on pavement, a hazardous waste barrel, an brick wall, a sewer grate, and an electrical box.  It was pretty fun.  I used a box of chalk that I found in the drawing studio and had a bunch of fun drawing on stuff around town.  Miraculously, I only got yelled at once.

And, yes, I know the captions are awful, but keep in mind this was a school project, and my very last Carleton project at that, so I was sort of phoning it in.

I just finished working on a project drawing imagery from the book and subsequent movie Wisconsin Death Trip. It’s a loose interpretation of Wisconsin history from about 1890-1900 wherein many, many people seemed to go crazy and did extremely strange and violent things to themselves, their property, their families, strangers, their communities, etc.  It is not scary like the title might suggest, but instead extremely captivating, haunting, and enigmatic.

The main part of this project is doing majolica paintings of some of the people and events from the book on hand built and thrown vessels.  I am largely using the photography of Charles van Schaick, who was a professional photographer working in Black River Falls who took all of the photographs used in the book.  The Wisconsin Historical Society has an entire collection of his photographs which you can view as part of their incredible online image archives.

But I also wanted to include some imagery of the Mendota Asylum, which happens to be a Kirkbride building and the place where many people were committed during this period.  Kirkbride buildings were a bunch of asylums made according to the ideas of Thomas Story Kirkbride, built in many different styles all around the United States, many of which have unfortunately been demolished.  After watching a video in this post about transferring images to clay using a photo-lithographic process at Ceramic Arts Daily, I decided to try it and make some tiles with historic images of Kirkbride asylums.  The first run of tiles (which were quite small) were not very dark, so next time I plan to up the contrast and use slightly larger images.  The second batch turned out much darker and were a lot larger.  It’s definitely a process I want to try out again soon.

Here are some images of my larger pieces before I fired them:

About a week ago in Critical Issues in Contemporary Art, the seminar for junior art majors (yes I know I am a senior), one of my all-time favorite people/professors Fred Hagstrom talked to us about his life, influences, and work.  The best part was definitely a photo of him when he was very young, but the second best thing was a comment he made about being in a funk.  Whenever he gets stuck, he says he just does his best to draw his way out.

That is a piece of advice that I really relate to.  In ceramics I have felt frustrated lately because I don’t really have an outlet for my abilities as an artist (ha, phrasing it like that sounds really pretentious.  Really I mean that I love to draw, and sometimes I’m pretty good at it).  Ceramics is a lot about design, function, form, etc. and I’ve been feeling insecure about  about my capabilities and dejected about my future.  I decided to try drawing my way out, which resulted in my final project.   I’ll post about that as soon as I have slides of my pieces.  Preview: I used majolica and drew imagery from Wisconsin Death Trip (both the book and the movie).

Mostly what I want to do is listen to Aaron Copland music and google image search pictures of Montana.  Wouldn’t you rather be here:

I would definitely rather be here. Lets go to Montana, everyone.

I have been reflecting a lot on post-Carleton stuff lately.  One of the things that is getting me through is looking at the work of Dustin Yager, a Carleton alum from not that long ago.  We met him at NCECA where he had a piece in the La Mesa.  The piece in the show was called “Orgy Basket” — a pristine porcelain basket with simple line drawings of men having sex with other men.  He filled the basket with flowers, which I think is a particularly memorable touch.

Porcelain, 2010; image from ceramicsandtheory.com

Much of Dustin’s work is in series form (with some exceptional titles): “Will You Fake Marry Me?“, the series that the Orgy Basket is from, which includes many other baskets adorned with various masculine/feminine/gay/straight visual indicators; “Rimware“, a porcelain table set with gold lustered rims, on which  are drawn illustrations of various stages of a rim job; and “Cups with Something to Say“, a series of porcelain cups on which he wrote or imprinted phrases often heard in the context of gay/queer culture, but also phrases relating to sexual relationships.  I love how he pairs a very drawing technique with brash and uncomfortable images.  His work is astonishing, and I am very glad to have met him.

Dustin is an artist that I really relate to.  He approaches ceramics as a vehicle to express ideas about culture and form.  He makes beautiful pieces in their own right, but what makes them exceptional is the decorative elements.  He combines drawing, pottery, and commentary seamlessly into his pieces.  They make the viewer uncomfortable, which is something I always appreciate especially because his work deals with queer issues and those are very important to me.  Sometimes I find it frustrating to make ceramic work (particularly thrown work) that isn’t just beautiful and functional.   It’s not that that area of ceramics isn’t valuable and fantastic, but sometimes I find myself aching to make something more meaningful.  It is reassuring to find artists making poignant work combining traditional ceramic forms, substance, and beautiful surfaces.

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