Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Battle: Surface Vs. Form

First off, here are a few pics (photo credit: Scott) from the Earth Matters exhibition at NCECA - only a month after the show - ha!    It was exciting to have work in a well attended exhibit like that, and really got me thinking about my ceramics and the direction of my clay ideas...
 
I applied for one of the Jerome artist grants offered by the Northern Clay Center earlier this year.  I didn't get the grant - boo - but I did have the opportunity to sit down with one of the jurors, Cary Esser (who was also a McKnight resident at NCC, and is an AMAZING lady!), to talk about my proposal and my work.  I was excited to talk with Cary, because I greatly respect her opinion, and I was eager for feedback from someone rooted in the academic clay world.  At the crux of our conversation was the issue of form.  She, along with the other two jurors, felt that while my surfaces contain a strong concept, my forms do not.  I totally agree with this assessment of my pieces.  The form is a place where I just make and enjoy the material.  The surface is a place for me to think hard and set up ideas and a narrative.  While there is part of me that would like a more definite place to pull from formally, there is another part that worries my work will lose accessibility if I increase the complexity of the pots.  So, finally, here is my question:  Are there ways to pull the concept of my surfaces into the forms while keeping the pieces functional and approachable?  I think the successful marriage of surface and form is an issue for a lot of folks, especially those who put imagery on their pots.  I've had a few ideas about how to balance concept and functionality, but I'd love to hear what any of you out there have to say (and maybe how you have resolved/not resolved this in your own work)!



10 comments:

Ron said...

Nice shots of the exhibition and sorry you didn't get that grant.
I have mixed feelings about making the forms more complex. I'm not entirely sure what she may have meant by that, but I see pots by Kevin Snipes having pretty complex forms and very definite content in the imagery. He puts them together wonderfully. I could never do that. I'm a functional pottery first and foremost. I do want my imagery and form to marry but I'm not willing to spend that much more time on my forms. It's just my background. I have no MFA either, I come from a different place.
But take someone like Ron Meyers. His forms are complex in a completely different way than Snipes. Ron's pots aren't intellectually made. As he puts it they are 'guttural'. And complex, with integrated, amazing energy and imagery.
These are just my impulsive thoughts after reading your post. I hope others will comment too. It's a good question to be asking.

Shannon Garson said...

I don't think the forms have to increase in complexity so much as the images merge seamlessly into the forms or push against the forms in an interesting way. I look at lot at the three-dimensionality of the domestic form and ask myself questions like: "Does drawing within the interior edge add to the strength of the piece?" "How do the boundaries created by form push and pull within the two -dimensional surface of the drawing?" "Why am I limiting the drawing to this particular space on the surface of the pot?"

I love your drawings and I think the use of terracotta and slip is very interesting when juxtaposed with the techno/industrial subject matter. The slip-ware has references to pre-industrial ceramics and invokes concepts about "handmade" ware while the drawings are of familiar post-industrial subject, containing these two warring concepts within a domestic vessel has really fascinating possibilities.

Ron said...

I didn't mean that my forms are just A Background to work on. I was talking about my background in pottery.

Anyhow,I like what Shannon has to say and think those are good things to ask and work towards.

Kip said...

Thanks for the comments! This is definitely helpful... I agree, Ron, that as the forms increase in complexity it becomes harder and harder to survive as a functional potter. I think what Cary was getting at was specifically concept. Her question was how do the forms alone relate to my concept of energy and food production? And that's where I'm not really sure I have an answer. I've thought about trying to take components of the things I illustrate (such as tractor hubcaps) and use those as formal inspiration. I'm still feeling a little lost though! I should definitely revisit some other artists who do a lot of deco work - I think your comparison between Ron Meyers and Kevin Snipes is really interesting...

I really like the questions you pose, Shannon. I think those three things are all great to keep in mind as I develop this body of work further. One of the suggestions Cary had was to wrap my imagery around the rims and see how that changes the feeling of the work. I think that fits in well with your ideas about where the imagery goes within the form.

Thanks so much for your input!

Emily Dyer said...

Hi Kip! I totally relate to this struggle with the form and decorative surface. I feel like as my illustrations become more complex and expressive, my forms have become more simple in order to make it all work, and I don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing. The images are what I want to spend my time on right now, and balancing my time as a working artist and mother to small children means my studio time is pretty constrained. At this point since this is what I depend on for my income, I always need to be aware of how much time goes into the pieces related to what the market will support at the types of venues that I am able to exhibit and sell at. And, I feel strongly about continuing to make work in a functional context. Wish I had the freedom of time and from financial worries to spend as much time as I wanted to on each piece, but it feels like it is always a dance to balance everything! I didn't apply for the Jerome this year since I'm pregnant but have not made the cut the last few years. Thanks for sharing the feedback you got as it is definitely something for many of us to think about as we develop our work! I love the layering of imagery you use and am sure that as you continue to make work, your forms will naturally grow to become more integrated with the surfaces. Maybe one side of the equation needs make a leap in development first before the other can follow?

Ron said...

This came to mind after reading your comment: a long tray (slab built) in the shape of a turbine blade.

ang said...

cool idea from ron i think that may be one solution the form can be very simple but relate in gesture to your imagery...you could make some molds that relate to your imagery - say like the wheel you mentioned and make slump forms from those molds, that would be easy on your time in the long run..
I do feel though that some of the most simple forms work well with stenciled and painted imagery..I look forward to seeing how you resolve this..

Tracey Broome said...

I just don't see what was wrong with what you were making in the first place. I like simple, complicated forms to me take away from imagery too many times. With the strong images you use, is a complicated form really the best canvas? This is what I would be asking myself if it were me: do I want to make functional pots for people to buy and enjoy or make work that gets grants. Sometimes the two things can be very different. Of course I don't have an MFA and just teach classes at a local Artscenter, but I have very good taste in pottery :)
just my humble opinion.....

Marney said...

At the recent NSECA conference I had a critique in which the comments were very similar and I haven't been entirely sure about what to do that. I've been trying to work on the interior of my bowls so that the surface decoration becomes more integrated into the form.I've also had some success turning simple vases into bottle shaped forms. I don't know if I'll continue on with these but it has been interesting. Thanks for this discussion. More to think about!
Marney McDiarmid
www.marneymcdiarmid.com

Anonymous said...

Mo Dickens here from Kansas City. I'm a sports nut and usually peruse comment boards full of bombastic blowhards. What a refreshing change of pace to find Kip's blog and the thoughtful feedback she received. Not surprising, though. My wife, Cary Esser, was very impressed with Kip and everyone else at the Northern Clay Center. So was I...Good luck with the American Pottery Festival this weekend, Kip! Wish we could be there. Your bro in KC,MO