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February 11, 2009

learning ceramics with sara swink

by sven at 7:00 am

evolution series - fired

On Jan 17 & 18 I took a class from local ceramic sculptor Sara Swink titled "Two-Day Creative Process Workshop." Highly recommended!

sprawling collage

Most of our time on the first day of the workshop was devoted to doing intuitive collages. Being familiar with the exercise, wherein you collect images without trying to figure out why they appeal to you, I decided to try a bold new experiment: collaging outward without boundaries.

I'm pleased with the end result... But not quite sure what to do with it now. Sara demonstrated cutting your collage into pieces and making a book with them. I can't quite bring myself to dismember the thing yet.

sculptures on display

The point of collaging is to begin developing a "personal vocabulary" of images. On day two, we started with doodling exercises -- then moved into sculpting ideas from our collages in clay.

At first I was frustrated, because I didn't feel emotionally connected to what I was making. Two thoughts helped: (1) the idea that I could "doodle in clay" rather than trying to translate inherently 2D concepts to 3D; and (2) remembering that cel animators think about their characters in terms of underlying volumes, not just outlines.

first "babi" - wet

Here's the first character I made that I felt happy with. "Babi" (pronounced "baby") is a reference to a drawing I did way back in high school. I'm not sure how to explain what "babis" are... They're generally blobby child-proportioned critters that live in the realm of dreams and the subconscious, hopping from one person's mind to another without anyone being aware.

The "babi" series that's emerged is very pleasing -- I'd like to see these characters turned into stopmo puppets.

moon babi - wet

I was attracted to the "creative process" class for a number of reasons...

I've never done much with water-based clay, and wanted to add ceramics to my skill set. Learning about clay with a sculptor rather than a potter seemed like the way to go.

I'm looking at clay as the sculptor's pencil: the fastest, cheapest way to rough out 3D ideas. I want use this medium for stopmo character development. Drawn sketches are useful, but not as illuminating as maquettes; Super Sculpey maquettes are too expensive to make en masse.

Also, as an artist, I'm very interested in process. This class, with its focus on developing one's "personal vocabulary" of images particularly excited me, because I feel like my analytical tendencies sometimes undermine connection to the content I'm developing.

napoleon complex - wet

Since the weekend class, I've gone back to Sara's studio for two more work sessions. My original seven sculptures -- plus an additional one from the following weekend -- have now been bisque fired. (That's the initial firing you do to make the clay hard and strong... Glazes are added in a second pass.)

bust - fired

For the sake of getting the full ceramics experience, I'm going to go ahead and glaze most of the pieces. This bust I made, however, is going to be painted with acrylics. If I wind up bisque firing clay character sketches in the future, I imagine I'll opt to just paint them, rather than glazing.

The bust was the very first piece I made, and I don't like it much. My second piece was this bat, which I like a good deal more -- but it still didn't really feel like "me" when it came out. It's going to be a wall-hanging with a black-brown glaze.

(Every time I look at the bat, it makes me think of Shu-Ju Wang -- a local book arts friend who's very into our nocturnal, flying companions.)

dancers - fired

Sara has ongoing drop-in classes on Saturdays, where you get individualized attention and can work at your own pace. For a while, it looked like I'd be going directly from my Saturday morning playwriting classes over to Sara's studio....

Unfortunately, I'm feeling very pinched for time now, so ceramics work is going to have to be sporadic for a while. Even so, I'm really glad that I grabbed the opportunity to take the process class when I had it. Very inspiring -- I strongly recommend taking it if you have the opportunity.

glaze waiting to be fired

posted by sven | February 11, 2009 7:00 AM | categories: classes & workshops, sculpture