Look! I Made a Mug

Actually, I made two, and snatched them out of the studio before the Fleisher Art Memorial open Ceramics studio closed in response to the latest Coronavirus surge. We had been working in the studio since September with added precautions, masks, a limited number of people, and social distancing. But safety is more important.

I decided to try making a hand-built mug where the handle and walls of the mug were all one piece, and I would add a bottom. In pottery as in jewelry designing, making paper models saves a lot of time and materials. So I made a paper template for the mug.

Mug template with bottom
Mug in the making.
Underglaze painting on greenware.
Mugs after bisque fire. I covered them with a clear satin glaze.

And the scraps from the foot rings inspired me to make a covered jar with a fancy lid. I’ll do some cold finishing on this one.

Electricity from the Mind of Mildred Greenberg

Last week’s post which included a link to a film about the artist Judy Chicago got me thinking.  If being an artist is challenging, being a woman artist is even more so.   I saw a great exhibit at the Tate Modern a couple of years ago on the Guerilla Girls and one of my favorite parts of the show was their Advantages of Being a Woman Artist Poster.  You can get a look at it here.  And Jane Dunnewold has produced another excellent video, this one on Women Abstract Expressionists.  You can watch that here.

I was not familiar with the work of Mildred Greenberg although I had known her daughter, Susan for many years and at one time we had even worked in the same office.  Ancient history.   We fell out of touch and the years passed.  Then we got reacquainted, this time through my husband.   And before the Coronavirus shut everything down,  Susan invited us to the opening of a retrospective of her mother’s work presented by InLiquid, a Philadelphia Arts organization, ELECTRICITY: From the Mind of Mildred Greenberg.

Electricity

Mildred Elfman Greenberg hailed from Philadelphia and much of her early work was produced  for the W.P.A.s  Federal Art Project during the Depression.  Her bio from the British Museum, one of the many museums that have her work in their collection reads as follows.   Painter and printmaker. Born as Elfman to Russian immigrant father and American mother in Philadelphia, where lived most of her life. Married Samuel Greenberg. Graduated from Moore Institute of art and Design in 1934; WPA 1940. No work between end WWII and 1974.  That’s thirty years without making art.  I believe at this time that the family had relocated from Philadelphia to California.  It’s my understanding that Greenberg resumed her art career after moving back to Philadelphia in the 1970’s.

Geometric Figures
Student work
Work produced for the WPA
Work produced for the WPA

Later work

You can read more about Mildred Elfman Greenberg here.

New Videos

It’s election night and I don’t want to think about anything and I don’t know how I will feel tomorrow. So I decided to share two inspirational but non political offerings I found on you tube. The first is a video on the artist Judy Chicago by another artist I respect highly, Jane Dunnwold. I could go on with commentary, but there’s been too much of that lately. Just treat yourself and watch the video.

I’ve been enjoying the claying challenges put forth from the Southern Connecticut Polymer Clay Guild even though I haven’t made a cane in the past few weeks they’ve turned me on to some great tutorial sites. But I found one I really like and it’s too good not to share: Clay Zoo. The videos are subtitled and easy to follow. Take a look.

Saturday Night in Our Market

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I have an Italian last name and live in South Philadelphia. So everyone thinks I was born and raised here. Not so. My Mother’s family (and me with it) hails from the Midwest and her Scots-Irish ancestors reached these shores in the early 1600’s. But everyone’s gotta come from somewhere and that’s why when my Mother’s relatives were bragging about their DAR memberships, my Father would proudly announce that he could trace his family “all the way back to the banana boat in New York Harbor.”

The Sicilian half of my family got most of my attention during my childhood, maybe because they were louder than the W.A.S.P. half. My mother would go around saying things like “That’s just not done,” and dispensing other mots of wisdom that I did not begin to comprehend until I reached adulthood. The Sicilian food was better anyway.

The 9th Street Market in South Philadelphia  is commonly called “The Italian Market.” It was predominantly Italian at one time, but starting in the 70’s, there was an influx of immigrants from Southeast Asia. People began arriving from Mexico and Central America about 20 years ago. The market and the surrounding neighborhood is a heady mix of restaurants, cuisines, cultures, ethnic groceries, shops, bakeries and more.

What does that have to do with Cavalleria Rusticana? It started when my friend Doris asked me to join her and another friend for a musical program called Honoring Our Ancestors, presented by the Our Market program and Orchestra 2001,  and held in the 9th Street Market this past weekend.

Orchestra 2001 presented a great program of music from Central and South America, Asia, and Italy.  The last work was  Intermezzo from Cavaleria Rusticana, which is the quintessential Sicilian opera.  The story goes like this:  Mama loves boy more than anything.  Boy doesn’t listen to his Mama.  Boy breaks Mama’s heart.   Boy dies.  We all cry to some of the most beautiful operatic music you will ever hear.  Listen and see if you agree.

Nerikomi In Progress

Now that I have a kiln that can fire to cone 8, I can finally experiment with colored porcelain and Nerikomi on my own schedule without having to wait forever to see how a pot comes out. I am using mason stains to color 257 porcelain which I bisque fire at Fleisher Art Memorial, and then fire it a second time at home, unglazed, to cone 6 . This porcelain was made to be fired to cone 8-10, but it gives very nice results at cone 6 which is how they fire it at The Clay Studio where I first started using it. I only take my kiln to cone 6 to preserve the firing elements. I’m learning as I go by watching videos and reading what I can on the Internet. Most of the books on the subject cost a small fortune and I haven’t found any in my local library. No matter. I’m having fun and that’s the only thing that counts.

How’s this for inspiration? I love the spiral motif and never saw it in a plant before-not like this anyway. Anyone know what this plant is called?

Gray, black and white spirals sliced like jellyrolls
Holes plugged with white clay
This will be the top of the bowl
Bottom of bowl over a form
Inside of bowl inside the form.

When the bowl gets leather hard, I will smooth it with a metal rib. It is extremely fragile when it’s bone dry, so I try to do most of the work at the leather hard stage. After it’s bisque fired, I’ll sand it with wet/dry sandpaper and then fire to cone 6. After that? I plan to experiment with paste wax. This will be a decorative bowl.

Exquisite Copse

Exquisite corpse  is a way of assembling a collection of works that are related in some way.  There is no curator.  Instead, each collaborator adds a work in sequence, either by following a rule (e.g. must be green)  or by being allowed to see only the end of what the previous person contributed.  The Broken Telephone Project a 2013 collaboration of polymer artists, is one example of this form. There are others.

The Da Vinci Art Alliance’s latest sculpture exhibition, Exquisite Copse, is in keeping with the genre of a collection of works,  and is also a play on words being situated in a park with a small group of trees which is precisely what a copse is.  The sculptures are  currently on display at Palumbo Park in South Philadelphia.  Part of Da Vinci Fest, the exhibit runs through November 6, 2020.  

No More October Surprises

You probably have heard that women love surprises, but no. We hate surprises, because they always come with some kind of a shock. I am craving easy these days. That’s why I enjoy my neighbors sidewalk displays. I have been writing for years about Bob’s urban garden where the bananas grow in South Philadelphia. Our new neighbors on the other side have decided to decorate too with pumpkins, gourds and cool looking autumn plants. I don’t have to do a thing. Not even wash my bay window because Bob’s trees and plants obscure the dirt from the view of any passers by. One of the enjoyable things about living in South Philadelphia. Now if I can just stop those nasty surprises, we’ll all feel better. Until then, enjoy some pictures.

In Her Memory

Thrown platter, white earthenware, black underglaze painting

Marjorie Waxman created this platter in the pottery and ceramics studio at Fleisher Art Memorial.

Transitions: Mary Federici

South Jersey Clayathon started in 2005 as a small weekend get together for a group of people from different walks of life united by their love of polymer clay. It has grown to one of the preeminent polymer events in the US, last year attended by 130 people. I have been going to Clayathon since the beginning and am involved with the plans to take the event to a virtual platform in 2021 because of the pandemic.

You don’t attend an annual event all those years without making friendships. So we were all devastated to learn of the death of Mary Federici on September 20th. She never missed a Clayathon.

Hamming it up at the first Clayathon. Arlene Groch is in the front, Emily Squires Levine is left. Mary is at the rear.
Mary at Clayathon 2019

Mary was always good for a laugh. A typical story: one year when she was dating a plumber, she brought a length of heavy pipe to Clayathon that she used to whack the hell out of hard bricks of polymer to soften them for conditioning. “My persuader,” she called it.

We will all miss her.

Clay Cutter Magic from the Mind of Robin Milne

This has been another one hell of a week. I won’t go into details, but humor always helps. As I opened up the web browser on my newly-repaired computer to write this post, one of those real provocative headlines you see on the Internet shot across the screen. You know the kind I’m talking about: Stuff like “If You Have One of These in Your Kitchen, There’s a Ninety Percent Chance You Are a Narcissist,” or “The Ten Things Your Dog Does Not Want You to Know,” or “Scientists are Begging Seniors to Wash This One Body Part.” The headline that I saw was “Seven Things You Should Never Do With a Magic Eraser.” Only seven? I can think of lots more.

Let’s see, you should never insert a Magic Eraser into your Blue Ray drive. You should never give a Magic Eraser to a panhandler on the street and expect a thank you. Don’t think you can cut a pocket in a Magic Eraser and stuff it with falafel. Ok, maybe you can, but that doesn’t mean you should. And finally, (do I really need to tell you this?) don’t roll them into tubes, shove them up your nose, and go food shopping. I could list more things you should never do with a Magic Eraser, but I’ll stop here. I think you get the picture.

Besides, I digress. This week’s post is about one of my friends, Robin Milne, who I am convinced comes from a family of geniuses. Robin is a talented artist in several mediums including polymer clay. Her latest project is developing a line of 3D printed, high-quality clay cutters (although you could use them for cookies, too) . 3D printing has always intrigued me, so I asked Robin how she got into it.

Robin’s Canes

My father got me a small 3D printer 5 years ago for my birthday. One of the first things I made was a cutter in the shape of M.C. Escher’s tessellating lizard. I wanted to use that cutter to make a sample of all the polymer veneers I made and connect them all together. Once I had learned how to use the printer, I upgraded to a bigger, higher quality printer and started designing. I made a stamp with my gym’s logo to mark the attendance sheet that I had been to class. That led me to start making initial stamps for artists to mark their polymer clay pieces. A year and a half ago, I upgraded to an even better printer that can print larger items. Since then, I’ve been learning and printing and designing all kinds of things. I brought 3D prints of about 10 different cutters styles sets to Clayathon this past February and almost sold out.

“People were really happy with them and I got requests for new shapes. When I got home I stocked up again, printing as many as I could to take to the next retreat but then Covid happened. Since I can’t take the cutters to a retreat, I have been taking requests and making customs cutters and mailing them out. I have a lot more cutters I want to design and I also plan to make texture sheets and rollers. I have always loved clay tools and now I can make my own.”

The good news is that Robin opened an online shop! You can buy her beautifully designed and reasonably priced cutters , here. Support the arts and small business! Robin’s adding new designs all the time. I’m looking forward to seeing what she comes up with next.