Tuesday, April 5, 2011


I am finally back in town!  Most of last week I was in Tampa for the NCECA conference (the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts).   This year was the first time I had attended, and I had a wonderful time, although the weather was rainy up untill the last day.  There were a million things to see and do, so this post will just highlight some of my favorite pieces and events.

My favorite part by far was the demonstrations. As a relatively new ceramic artist, and especially as someone who does little altering of forms and virtually no handbuilding, it was really interesting and informative to see these artists demonstrate their techniques.  The four artist that demo'ed were Deborah Schwartzkopf, Brian Kakas, Juan Granados, and Esther Shimazu.  Though Juan and Esther were also very interesting, for the above reasons I was particularly interested in Deborah and Brian's demos.

Deborah Schwartzkopf makes some really beautifully altered functional work, and as a functional potter I was particularly interested in her techniques.  As somone who doesn't alter a lot, it is sometimes hard for me to imagine how potters get to their finished products, and it was wonderful to watch Deborah's process.  Watching her demo made me want to get into the studio!

Brian Kakas, on the other hand, is a purely sculptural ceramic artist, who make truely amazing abstracted pieces.  Similarly to Deborah, it was particularly interesting to watch him work because I had absolutely no idea how he arrived at his finished product!  His method is very architectual in my mind; he uses a lot of cross-supports and such, and it was facinating to watch him work.

Of course there were also all sorts of wondeful shows and exhibits inside and outside of the convention center. There was a collection of semi-performance art pieces that were a part of the NCECA Projects Space, called Migration. 

My favorite of these pieces was Of a Reciprocal Nature by Dawn Holder.  She actually sculpted the land out of wet clay, and spread clay around the bases of the wooden pylons, then stuck ceramic grass and mussels into the clay.  It was really interesting to watch it going up in stages, and it was a really beautiful scene when completed (sorry about my terrible quality iphone pictures!).  

Best of all, on the last day of the exhibit she invited passerbys to take some of the grass and mussels (I grabbed a couple, they are really beautiful little pieces, she managed to get the color just perfect).

The main NCECA Gallery was equally exciting, and was full of interesting functional and sculptural work.  I was tempted to buy everything, especially this handsome set by Julia Galloway.  I love the forms themselves, and with the addition of the sort of wrought iron design... just lovely.  The design compliments the form, and there is enough white space to balance it out and keep it from getting too busy.  This is an artist I vow to buy something from at some point!  Preferably this set :)

The K-12 show was really impressive; it is absolutely amazing what some of these kids are making!  There are 12 year olds that can make sculptures better than I have tried to make :)  Seeing this exhibit made me which I had gotten into clay earlier in my life.  My favorite piece was by Adrian Sanchez, these wonderful horned lizards.  I love horny toads and these are so well done!

In addition to the shows within the convention centers, there were several shows that were around Tampa and St. Petersburg that were concurrent with NCECA.  The first I stopped by was at the Clearwater SPC Crossroads Art Gallery, in Clearwater.  This show was intitled Islamic Influences, and had some amazing work in it.  This show was all functional work, and all of the pieces were beautifully done; some were painted, some were altered, and some, like this piece by Steve Roberts, had some really wonderful textures.  As you know, I am all about carving and I love textures, and finding glazes that really interact well on a highly textured surface, and the celedon glaze on this teabowl is amazing. 

The other gallery I stopped by was the Florida Craftsman Gallery in St. Petersburg, which actually had two shows running.  The first was Hot and Humid, which featured a great mix of sculptural pieces and vessels, both functional and otherwise.  My favorite artist from this show was a potter named Judith Berk King, who handbuilds these platters and then paints on their surface.  I love the detail of the skull and the aged quality of the ceramic surface, juxtaposed with the whimsicle aspect of the ice cream cones.   I dont know if the broken bit was originally intentional, but I think it adds to the piece.  I love that you can see the texture of the clay; it really looks and feels like sandstone.

Munemitsu Taguchi was one of the artists that were part of the second show, called Fluid: The New Wave of Celadon Artists.  All of the pieces were great, but this pottery just caught me! It is so clean and simple, and the celedon glaze is just flawless.  The exposed porcelain on the bases is so smooth it is reflective, these things are just wonderful to hold and feel.  I would have bought one of the small cups but they were already sold!  And these pieces also follow along with my NCECA interest in altered forms.
So those are my main highlights of NCECA, for now.  Later this week I will talk about one of the shows I saw that I did not mention here, and I will probably do a Featured Artist post on an NCECA artist at some point.  Until next time!

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