giovedì 20 gennaio 2011
Appunti americani /American notes
It’s easy to run into weirdos while strolling the sidewalks of Santa Barbara, California. Today I witnessed a typical generation clash on a different ground, between a boomer hippie, who was incidentally dragging a guitar like she was going to Woodstock, and a very young pregnant woman holding a cell phone to her ear. The former yells “Have you had the DNA tested, are you sure it’s yours??
This country blows my mind over and over, its contrasts and overall good mood never cease to surprise me. I can’t help loving Mac Donald’s Bacon Ranch salad (although I am very ashamed), what can I do if I am moved by the dancing fountain at Las Vegas’ Bellagio, what am I supposed to do??
When it comes to ceramics, how can I help being jealous of the numberless possibilities that potters have in the USA? I didn’t find a workshop to attend in January this year, but I had a chance to visit a few galleries exibiting a beautiful selection of ceramic items. Among these, I loved Armstrong’s in Pomona, LA area. It represents the work of some very renowned artists, the porcelain by Tom Coleman, thrown and altered to perfection, those of Elaine Coleman, so elegantly carved, Fong Cho’s tiny teapots, Harrison MacIntosh’s bowls, Christa Assad’s interesting stoneware – I had the opportunity of visiting her studio in Berkeley last year – Mata Ortiz’s traditional pots, and last but not least, my favorite, Steven Hill’s melon pitcher. Steven has worked in Illinois for over thirty years and is celebrated for his graceful, sculptural pitchers, which are thrown, altered, slip-decorated, and single-fired. I read quite a few articles by him, in which he – generous like most American potters – discloses his process, the reasons for the choice of gas single-firing as well as glaze application. Interestingly enough, in 2008 Steve found out that the richness of his glazes owed very little to the reduction and the gas firing, but was mostly the result of spraying and layering the glazes. I am so thrilled by the idea of this artist’s perfecting a process over thirty years and then totally ditching it to incorporate new possibilities. Even more recently, since August 2010, he’s been lowering his firing temperature to cone 6^ (electric). The latter step, which involves totally reformulating the glazes and color palette, is increasingly common with American potters. They are finally confronted with the need for energy conservation and lower emissions and are resorting to lower firing temperatures.
Two years ago I bought a green and purple mug by Steven Hill, and I still get stuck in the contemplation of its shape and of the matt crystals on the surface, as I sip my first coffee in the morning. What a treat.
From Steve Hill's website
I like taking responsibility for creating the magic. I’d rather put the energy into applying glaze, instead of chopping wood and firing kilns.
I never forgot these words from Geoffrey Wheeler’s Emerging Artist presentation at NCECA in 2001. Last December I decided it was time for me to see what I could do with electric firing and the results have challenged my fundamental beliefs about firing!
All pictures are Steven Hill's work.