He made the bricks. He patterned them with real lego bricks. And then he stuck them together to make a robot, which would have fallen apart had I not introduced the ceramic term "crosshatching." He just looked at me with hooded eyes and gave a big sigh.
And yet....it was he, the dreamer of all things lego, who gave me the idea to not only print in the clay with the connecting side of the bricks, but to turn them the other way around so that they made hollow circle marks. I was also thinking about my revelation when I took Denise Kester's workshop: that when you choose a medium-- say printing-- that you should explore what that medium can do and that no other medium can do.
So I was thinking about clay, how it takes the impress of the lego patterns. How it can be carved. How color can be forced into the indentations. And I came up with this new magpie platter, which also has a kind of printed look, but also is very much a celebration of the stamping quality of clay.
This is what my Josephine looks like in the morning. And, yes, the hair stays that way most of the day. It brings to mind Jimmy Fallon as Neil Young singing Willow Smith's hip hop song. (Watch here.) This has slayed me for a few weeks now.
Diane: What do you like to eat?
Diane: Is there anything you don't like to eat?
Josephine: Broccoli. I'm not a meat eater. I'm not a soup eater.
Diane: What is your favorite kind of ice cream?
Diane: Where do you like to go on a trip?
Josephine: Portland. Riding the trolley and riding the train. You can have bagels there. Once we went on a train and we went through a tunnel and then we were at the Zoo! We got to see a sun bear there and we got to see a polar bear but he didn't want to be there.
Who did this? I suspect it was some passing through studentfriend (and, yes, that is a good word. Think "manchild.") Was it you, Eric Boven, commenting on the allure of multiples? Was it you, Jessica Dekker, making fun of me for being pregnant when I could hardly handle one? Was it you, Liz Lucas, right after Josephine was born?
Both my children are wrestling in the bathtub right now after a long day of circus camp, "helping" me clean, Diane's, swim lessons and take out Thai food. I can hear them arguing up there right now. But it is a friendly arguing, and I envy them a bit for because I am an only child I have no idea what it's like to have a sister or brother.
Theo was dreading the circus camp today and Josephine, of her own idea, gave him a big hug. "Just don't worry about it!" she kept telling him.
I love the fact that whoever drew this chicken gave her hair. And that this chicken is striding off with confidence, looking slightly pissed off but slightly courageous. Most importantly, those two little eggs are right there with her.
They were a fun challenge, particularly trying to fit them on a platter without making them too small (are we seeing a giraffe far off in the tundra?) or too boring given the elongated shape of the platter.
Note the cool tree and grass "handles."
And here's how I've been carving them first and painting in the engobe.
Last week, all these things happened: it rained monsoon-style for a whole week, my best friend from college visited, Gus went out of town, the kindergarten-end-of-year madness continued, I went to the the police station to be fingerprinted (more on that later...), and I frantically hired a babysitter so I could take another printing workshop with local artist Denise Kester.
The last workshop I took from Denise was monoprinting.
This one was centered around drawing on tracing paper with conte crayon and then using your drawing with layers of waterbased ink.
It had been such a harried week that I hadn't had a chance to do the drawings I wanted until 9:00 the night before. My dear friend, who was to leave at 5:30 am the next morning, valiantly sat with me. Alas, I hadn't even gotten a few marks down before Theo came downstairs in hysterics, listing every excuse he had as to why he couldn't go to sleep.
I couldn't believe it...and in retrospect it was my fault, for I had let both of them stay up too late and they were really, really tired.
After Theo's best, most dramatic excuse (he claimed the bones in his face were pushing his eyeball out), I wanted to shout, "Hey, I've helped you the whole day...washed, clothed, and fed you, entertained you. And now, please, I just want to do something for myself, I just want to do some drawing, take a couple hours tomorrow to see what printing is like....!" I admit it: I was mad and frustrated. My friend was looking at me with round, worried eyes.
But then I got a grip and took the volcano upstairs to where Josephine was wailing herself. Taking a deep breath, I told them I was going to give them "special medicine" to help their various complaints. I rummaged dramatically around in the bathroom for a long time. I could hear them hiccuping and crying, but listening, wondering what I was doing. Then I returned, and gravely gave Theo three little non-descript arnica beads. Josephine got one arnica bead and a glass of "magic" water. I also brought some lavender oil and told them they could have this special sleep "potion"--only if they wanted it though-- on their pillows.
And you know what? It worked! They calmed down and went to sleep.
Ergo, I made it to the printing workshop, which wasn't without its moments of crazy action. (In fact I was moving so fast, I actually forgot to put paper on one of my plates and, sadly, printed off a beautiful piece on newsprint.) One of the other participants called me "whacky." I'm not sure what to make of that.
But here's what I learned: to treat printing as printing, and explore what you could do with printing that you couldn't do with any other medium. Therefore I really used the idea of multiples and embossing, exploring large patches of ink where you could see the roller marks and ghost shadows.
And here's what I also learned: that parenting is maddening but also a creative act within itself, that you are always turning the wheel, trying to keep cool, trying new techniques, some which work and some which don't, all in the presentness of time.
It is ironic that I am up at 6 a.m. on a gloomy, rainy morning, obsessed with ceramic pillows. You have probably seen ceramic pillows in museums and thought, "How can anyone get a good night's sleep on that?" Or "This piece of pottery is so lovingly made and so intricately decorated it shouldn't be used for a pillow!"
But let me tell you, even a cursory research brings up a whole wealth of information-- like how ceramic pillows are still used in some parts of the world or how ancient Chinese pillows were often decorated as a tiger, because tiger represents yin, darkness, inactivity-- things I should be embracing now.
Still. I have been obsessed with ceramic pillows for some time now, particularly since I discovered the work of one of the most innovative artists on etsy-- stepanka-- who does wonderful inscribed wall pillows like these...
Another great innovator on etsy is Djenya, who makes "bookushions" which are clay pillows to use as bookends. (See first photo in this post.) Who would have dreamed of that?
And then there is artist Charan Sachar of Creative With Clay, who is the reason I am up so early. I have long admired Charan's work too, but only got to reading his blog yesterday and came across a post in which he describes turning his idea for pillow clocks into the most amazing dishes.
I am still a bit muddled on how he does this. (Why does the clay not entirely slump down from the rim?) Nevertheless I am contemplating forming some ceramic pillows in the coming weeks, trying for my own take on them. I think ceramic pillows interest me because the artist takes something so heavy-- clay-- and turns it into something so light. A cloud.
Cows are hard to draw for me. Kind of like owls, which are also difficult. What's going on? Is it the noses? Is it the weird shaped heads?
Anyway, most of these are from photos of local cows that were peering through a fence at me one day. I think their tags are hilarious; I know they are for marking the cows, but I got to thinking how they might be little bumper stickers of who they are. Then I got to thinking about those snippets of language we use to describe ourselves, like "38 SWF" or "Type A."
And then I got to thinking about texting, which I can't do... 1) because I'm not good at it and... 2) I was an English major and still feel the urge spell everything out. I also still use capital letters and punctuation.