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I know it’s been a while since I have posted about clay, but you forgive me, right?seletti_desktructure_warehouse_1_web_dr

I am obsessed with this: the Deskructure Desktop Organizer by designer Hector Serrano. It’s an industrial porcelain landscape for your desk junk! I love these kinds of buildings (’cause I’m a good Milwaukee girl) so I am totally smitten with this piece. There are more (a boat, a London-esque city), but the one that most appeals to me is the factory. Milwaukee was once part of the Manufacturing Belt, which has since deteriorated into the periperhy of the Rust Belt. Most of the factories have closed, but the city is still littered with incredible industrial buildings. They’ve been converted to apartments, shops, offices, etc. but they still have the look of severity and purpose that a factory or warehouse has.

I live quite close to the Milwaukee Forge (see below!), which celebrated its 100th birthday this past summer. It is such a delight to walk past and look in to see all that complex industrial machinery. It’s one of the few places that isn’t post-industrial but industrial-industrial. This ceramic organizer reminds me so much of all the component parts of the forge. If only the organizer lit up at night with big open windows in the summertime because then it would be perfect.

Milwaukee Forge

Via: Swiss Miss (whom I lovelovelove).

2013 Reading Challenge

2013 Reading Challenge
Allie has
completed her goal of reading 200 books in 2013!
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When heading up to Minnesota a while ago, my mom and I made a stop we had been planning since I started at Carleton (but for many reasons had put off until almost a year after I graduated): visiting the Forevertron.  It’s located in North Freedom, WI, about five or six miles south of Baraboo, near the old Badger munitions plant and sharing land with Delaney’s Surplus.

Some facts about the Forevertron:

  • It’s the largest scrap metal sculpture in the world, certified by the Guinness book of world records. [Update: I think it was usurped in 2001 by a stupid sculpture of stupid geese ]
  • It was built by Tom Every as the character Dr. Evermor — a Victorian scientist who sought to launch himself “into the heavens on a magnetic lightning force beam.”
  • It is the coolest place I have ever been in my life.

I cannot stress enough how this place is the coolest place I have ever been in my life.  Every single piece of the sculpture is precious and exceptional.  Much of the scrap metal used to create the sculpture is very old and very decorative, and it is all combined beautifully to create something far greater than my imagination could fathom.  I am and have always been a huge fan of roadside attractions, folk art, and odd museums, especially in Wisconsin.  There is something really special about roadside attractions that I can’t quite put my finger on.  The whole place blends history and art, machinery and fantasy , and you find yourself immersed in that world.  This place is special.  I find it funny to me is that at first glance it looks almost steampunk.  What’s funny is that it’s not so much steampunk as it is just steam.

It comes down to this: I want to live there.  My experience there reminded me of that scene in Harriet the Spy where they visit Golly’s friend Mrs. W. who has a garden full of junk creations.  There’s a mobile of glass soda bottles (with soda in them), instruments made out of old kitchen stuff, sculptures made out of old instruments, all kinds of fun things for Harriet, Sport, and Janie to explore.  The Forevertron is a real life, genuine version of that.  You could explore for ages and still only know a small part of the place.  I want to live somewhere like that!  It might be my own creation or someone else’s, but I ache to live someplace where there is wonder and excitement and creativity and lots of stuff.  So if anyone wants to build me a giant machine, give me a holler

If you want to know more about this amazing place, I highly suggest reading the article from the Folk Art Messenger but mostly I suggest visiting it yourself.

Dr. Evermor’s Forevertron [Folk Art Messenger]
An Interview with Tom Every (Doc Evermor) [The Bottlecap]
The Forevertron
[Roadside America]
The Forevertron [PBS’ Off the Road]
The Forevertron [Wikipedia]
The aforementioned clip from Harriet the Spy [On youtube]

On our way home from the farmhouse, my mom and I drove through Phillips, WI.  For a while now I have been itching to see Fred Smith’s Concrete Park and it was right on our route home.  My mom loves roadside attractions too, so it didn’t even take that much convincing to get her to stop.

Fred Smith was a lumberjack and with two other men started the Rock Garden Taven in 1936 (which is coincidentally where my great-uncle Bill Fenzl used to drink).  Once Fred retired he managed the bar full time and started making sculptures of miners, horses, Indians, cowboys, and soldiers.  He used beer bottles from the tavern to adorn the statues, adding color and sparkle.  Throughout the park there were also placards with text.  The original paper that Smith had written on had deteriorated, but the caretakers of the park reproduced an imaged of the text exactly as it originally appeared but printed on a durable plastic.  On one side was a little paragraph about some of the sculptures and often some area history, and on the other side were images of Mr. Smith and co. taken around the park.  And usually when there was a sculptural placard there was often a nearby statue pointing to it!

I had been eager to visit this park for a really long time and it did not disappoint.  Unfortunately it was really muggy on the day we went, and it was raining a little so there were mosquitoes everywhere.  Other than the bugs, the experience was a total delight.  There’s something about folk/outsider art that is a lot more interesting to me than most stuff in museums.  Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about why I love it, and I think it has to do with the truly unique vision artists like Fred Smith have.  They aren’t making art for critics or galleries, they are making art for themselves, their friends, and their community.  Sometimes folk artists are described as simple and uneducated, which might be true for some but I think that totally undervalues the contributions of unconventional artists.  I relate more to the aesthetic sensibilities of outsider art, and I find the pretensions of high art irritating.  Going to places like the Concrete Park is always super fun but I also get so many ideas for my own work (even though I know I’ll never create anything as amazing as a Concrete Park).

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:

Insty

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