I'm so proud to say that diversified technology company, 3M, are supporting both my and Andy's art and community work by providing 3M 4251 Maintenance Free
Gas/Vapour and Particulate Respirators for those involved in our
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It's a busy, busy spring here in my studio. I'm working on a new sculpture for a 3 woman show in the USA next May. Pshaw! I hear you cry, that's ages away, but although it's technically a year, it's not too far off, when you consider it takes me 3 solid months' to make a piece and I hope to preview show it here in Dublin in October, so really it's full steam ahead!
I've got the base cape made and am pinning textural ideas to it. (First time in a decade that I've cut a pattern, but it worked surprisingly well.)
The piece explores the ancestral goddess in us all. She is the women that have come before you (think about it, there was always a woman before you!)
She's a shamanic creature, mixed with the animals that have evolved and brought us to the place where we are. I've got the base skull sculpted.
And the tusks and antler maquettes are all underway for casting.
I've spun much of the yarn I need, dyeing some commercially-bought yarn I had in my stash,
but it's all dyed with mushrooms and traditional plant dyes that would have had me burned at the stake as a witch in times gone by.
Chakras at the ready, girls...
And then there's the life-encrustment for the cape that seems to be growing from my crochet hook.
I've been invited to take part in a craft beer and beer stein competition that opens this Saturday in Washington DC. It's judged by Bill DeBruin, editor of DCBeer.com and Kathy Woodrell from the Library of Congress.
Tooth and Ale, this large supping cup needs 2 hands to hold it. It's carved using a scallop shell and deer rib from porcelain paper clay. This is the unfired piece.
It's partner black clay cup has 3 teeth inside. (Again unfired and unglazed.)
These porcelain companion drinking cups, Come Drink In The Woods With Me, are just that, made for sharing a drink in the woods.
And my two ancient drinking horns are bisque-fired, hand-dug clay from the hills above Belfast Lough. Carved with a scallop shell, they must be soaked in ice-cold water to make them sing. After 20 mins, they'll have sung you the song of the ancient earth, then they can be filled with craft beer and caroused.
But beware: Surgeon General's warning, drinking from my ancient vessels, can fill you with a deep inner urge to take to a boat bare breasted and travel to damp lands!
Andy and I can't believe it's nearly a month since our Clay Safari in the USA.
Here we are at home, the grey rain lashing against our window panes, and our thoughts turn to the warmth of the people we worked with in Maryland and the experiences we shared.
Oh for the warmth of my crucible.
It's a piece I built especially for the last night. I handbuilt it from black clay that I reclaimed from the dump pile. Spending a cold fall day, out on the loading dock, sun on my back, consumed by the flow, feverishly slapping and winding the clay, oblivious to the weak Sunday sun setting behind me, until I realised I was freezing and could no longer feel my hands or nose. On our final night, everyone in the studios took fake money, attached wishes and hopes and burnt them in the crucible.... then we went to sing mad karaoke!
Inspired and in love with woodfiring, we are hoping to bring the process here. Our vision is a Northern Irish version of the wonderful woodfire kiln we were lucky enough to fire in at Baltimore Clayworks. (pic above) Our friend Andy Cooke already has the structure built on his land. Watch this space for a HUGE project we are embarking on to bring the guys with knowledge to our shores....
Wonder what woodfiring is? Well, raw, bisque fired clay is put into the massive kiln and fed constantly - and I mean about every 10 mins, with wood for 3 DAYS! The temperature is extreme. The ash in the kiln makes a glaze, and your raw surface becomes lustrous, sexy and totally unpredicatable. It's exhilarating.
Andy placed simple block shapes around the kiln to see how they would turn out. I created 7 antlers. One for each of the 6-year phases that my body has regenerated through. And one for the body I will begin on my 42nd birthday in June.
These 2 pieces are the only ones we returned home with. Everything else we created during the 3 months either went into collections or was exchanged with other artists we'd worked with for pieces.
Some of our work remains in a show at Handmade in America, in Asheville; namely my flocked antler vase (you view it with 3D glasses to make the flocked pattern dance before your eyes).
It has a butt hole under the tail. Just in case you decide to put flowers in it, it will pee all over your furniture!
And Andy's porcelain 'Vernon; Count Rainier'.
And Andy spent his last two days, doing what he knows and loves best, creating a fabulous graffiti wall with fellow artist Matt Gifford.
Once finished, people chose their squares to have cut out, to take home.
And so you can see, with our Kickstarter and Arts Council backing, not only have we returned home with an expanded knowledge, but the desire to share it with our fellow artists here and to create facilities that will have an impact on ceramicists here for many years to come.
From the bottome ouf our hearts, THANK YOU. x
I can't tell you how excited I am that our Open Studio was such a success. Especially as the work that sold was work that came from my gut.
These pieces were the result of frantic, frenetic days of flow-making that I had no will over. They feel ancient to me, like I've known them all my lives. They reflect the part of me that is quintessentially English. It's as if I had to come to America to discover my English roots.
My piece, "Herald The Feast/Beast" 20" x 16" x 1"
A white hart carved into a slab of ceramic 'meat'.
"Curse Ye, Who Feed Upon The Hart." 16" x 16" x 10"
A white hart, porcelain antler in a carved ceramic 'meat' bowl. The bowl is a feasting bowl and has an imprint of the footprint of a 'Pimperne Roundhouse', an ancient building that existed in the village where I was born.
And my wall piece, which if only it were portable, would have sold.
6ft x 4ft x 1ft, reclaimed clay, porcelain antlers, vines.
But it is a happening. An ephemeral piece that will return to a clay pile in 5 days, when we leave.
This body of work comes as a direct result of being at Red Dirt and discovering my true, gut voice and having the confidence to let it flow. I'm honoured to have had the time here. It will inform my prcatice, my life and my humanity for many years to come. The learning curve has been exponential. The time, invaluable. Thank you to all those who helped make it happen, spent time with me, and gave me the space to grow.
Sorry for the lax updates, but a little gal named Sandy came a hammering through the East Coast and it's sort of messed up the schedule a little. Not that we are complaining, there are folks out there who lost their homes, their towns and even their lives. We just had a little interruption to our travel plans and some unexpected snow!
So this Sunday, 11th Nov, sees our Red Dirt open studio. It's a day for collectors, museum curators and other such peeps to wander through our working spaces and hopefully inspire commissions and buyers to add us to their collections. Fingers crossed.
Here's a little hint of what I've been up to........ we are just so grateful to all our Kickstarter backers, as through their generosity I realised that in the last six weeks we have learnt.....
MIG, TIG and Stick welding. Plaster & Rubber mold making. Impression taking.
Glass slumping, fritt casting. Clay reclamation,
working with different clay bodies, (This is a sneak of my 'meat carvings' I'm creating large clay steaks and drawing in them with clay or carving them. The fat is porcelain.)
mason staining, underglaze painting techniques,
low and hi firing. Blow torching on wood. Porcelain carving techniques.
Oh, the list goes on..... But the most crucial thing I've learnt? NOT to bash apart pianos with sledgehammers - they can kill you with 200 tonnes of strung pressure. I've never come so close to wiping out an entire studio of people. Stupidity and a slegehammer are a dangerous mix! : )
SO once the show is up and staged, we will take pictures and share it all with you, our lovely backers,
Inga n Andy
HOT AND STICKY It was the oddest feeling in the world to leave our lovely home on a frosty morning and a few handfuls of hours later, find ourselves sitting on the porch in Maryland (pronounced more like Maralyn), sipping ice-cold drink, swatting off mosquitos, and sweating like we'd run a marathon in an aran sweater.
Fortnight one of our dual-facility residency at Red Dirt and Flux Studios has seen temperatures up to the high 80sF - that's in the 30sC to us metric folk, with a humidity of 70% today. So much for fall and all those winter woollies we packed!
Although we gave ourselves a few days to start spinning the right way and stop falling asleep at random hours; to orientate ourselves, buy bikes and stop being eaten alive (yeah - like there's any chance of that last one, this is a swamp you know!); we have dived headfirst into the art world of the Greater DC area.
HOT AND SMOKEY. Mount Rainier, Hyattsville and Riverdale Park, which are the areas surrounding the studios and our house, are awash with artists. We've visited painters, sculptors, woodworkers, glass artists, metalworkers, ceramicists, installation artists, and many many other creatives - in fact so many that our heads are spinning. Each and every one brings a new influence to the mediums that we are using, opening up new avenues for us to explore.
Amazing projects such as Community Forklift, where renovators and contractors drop off unused building supplies and reclamation salvage to be sold on to artists and members of the public, are providing a bounty of items for our work. A fairy godmother dumpster outside a stage and prop warehouse provided the wood for Andy to make us a work table and also some amazing flexi mirror off cuts. Resting in the corner of our studio space after a hard day collecting antique plaster work and humping wood, lazily watching the evening sun filter through our open loading bay doors, we marvelled at the creative light effects as they bounced off the flexi glass, we were enchanted by the dust dancing in the air on a nearby chair..... until we realised that it wasn't dust.... the sun was bouncing off the mirror, hitting the chrome arm of a swivel chair, intensifying its beam and setting light to the upholstery of said chair. Only a few days into our residency, we were just a few seconds away from burning the studios down!
SO HOT IT BURNS! So you might think that in all this heat, we are taking it easy, hanging out in a/c cooled buildings with our hands in cool clay, but that would be too easy! You're forgetting that kilns are involved. And visits to glass studios where the a/c is turned off, the 7 glass furnaces are open and people are running as fast as they can to get shows up and ready.
But most of all, we haven't told you about our welding course arranged through the Washington Sculptors Group. Yep, in this heat, we've been learning to plasma cut, use oxycetelene torches and stick weld at a delicate 2800 degrees in order to make armatures and larger sculptures. Oh, and then there's getting sunburn from the high UV levels given off by MIG and arc welding whilst sparks of molten steel blister the backs of our necks as they spatter in the darkened world beyond our visors.
Inga Hamilton is proud to say that diversified technology company 3M support her art and community work by providing 3M 4251 Maintenance Free Gas/Vapour and Particulate Respirators for those involved in her projects.