I always enjoy the opportunity to demonstrate my hand building techniques. It is a chance to share my love of the materials along with some funny stories and a trick or two that I use in the studio.
I recently had the opportunity to conduct two workshops at the Bruckner Center for the Promotion of Ceramic Art in Geneva, Switzerland. This was my second time demonstrating overseas, the first was in 1997 at the Icelandic University of Education, Craft Design Division in Reykjavik, Iceland. That was a long time ago but I still remember how surprised I was to see that the materials being used were so different. They were shipped in from England (Iceland has no clay in the ground), the plaster was sandy and required more water and the white earthenware was very smooth. These subtle differences caused me to have to make some changes to my demonstrations quickly.
In order to maintain some sort of control of my materials in Geneva, I mailed a box with my favorite tools ahead of time. I included test tiles, wire, maquettes and molds. I knew the studio was fully stocked with tools but my favorite tool, a tiny Buck knife, was critical to my modeling process. I built the bust of a princely rat using studio porcelain, it was beautifully buttery and from Limoges! Luckily, it was no more finicky than the porcelain I use in the states. The challenges I faced were more a result of the time constraints of 2.5 hour demonstrations. I built thicker than I would have liked and I did a lot of paddling and correcting before demonstration #2.
One other challenge I faced was working with an interpreter. I was lucky because my interpreter, Charlotte Nordin, was a also a ceramic artist who understood all of the technical jargon. It did take some time to get the rhythm of speaking to an audience with an interpreter. I had to keep reminding myself to look at the audience when I was speaking (and when Charlotte was interpreting). The delayed ooh’s and aah’s took some getting used to!
photo credit: Bruckner Foundation for the Promotion of Ceramic Art