Monday, March 12, 2018

George Timock's Amazing Packing

The NICE students got to attend a demo by George Timock on his fantastically obsessive way of packing and shipping his work. Both his work and the packing were stunning. George was at Northern Clay Center for the opening of Expatriate Ceramics, an exhibition about how experiences abroad shape an artist's work. George spoke his time at the International Ceramic Workshop in Hungary and its impact on him as an artist and teacher.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

McKnight Resident Derek Au

Derek Au has been in residence at NCC since January as a McKnight Resident Artist. He been meeting with NICE artists and talking about his process, his experience working in Jingdezhen for the past decade, and, the open source glaze database that he created. Some of the work he made while in residence is currently on display as part of the Expatriate Ceramics exhibition at Northern Clay Center. It has been amazing to have him working here these past few months!

Tuesday, February 27, 2018


The NICE artists went out to Linda Christianson's for a studio tour and a great conversation around her kitchen table. Linda had sleds waiting at the top of her driveway for us to take down the hill on a perfect February day in snowy Minnesota.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Jeff Oestreich Studio Visit

The NICE students headed out to Jeff Oestreich's on a recent wintery night for a potluck and studio tour. We got to see Jeff's collection of historical pots from three impressive Bartmann jugs he has in the corner of his dining room to a Michael Cardew platter by the door, and we had a lovely dinner with lots of stories and laughter. Jeff currently has the treadle wheel Leach used in his studio and many of us jumped on the opportunity to try it out.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Summary of Research

by Grace Tessein

Over the past nine months the 2017 Warren MacKenzie Advancement Award has enabled me to take multiple research trips to Philadelphia, New York City, and France. These experiences allowed me to further explore topics I was interested in as I transitioned into my final year at Louisiana State University. From these experiences, I have gathered sources that have played a major role in the content and imagery of the body of work I’m making for my thesis exhibition.

While in Philadelphia I visited the Mütter Museum for the first time. The museum is part of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia and its original purpose was for biomedical research. The collection is full of scientific anomalies, gruesome medical tools, and casts of curious body parts. Several displays captured my interest but in particular, Hyrtl’s wall of skulls and the plaster cast of Eng and Chang Bunker have stuck with me. The skulls are quite overwhelming when one first enter’s the first major gallery. The Mutter Museum describes it as follows:

Hyrtl Skull Collection, Mütter Museum, Source: Mütter Museum Website
"The Mütter Museum acquired this collection of 139 human skulls from Viennese anatomist Joseph Hyrtl (1810-1894) in 1874. His work was an attempt to counter the claims of phrenologists, who held that cranial features were evidence of intelligence and personality and that racial differences caused anatomical differences. Hyrtl’s aim in collecting and studying the skulls was to show that cranial anatomy varied widely in the Caucasian population of Europe.

Each skull is mounted on a stand, and many skulls are inscribed with comments about the person’s age, place of origin, and cause of death. " 

What I found most fascinating about this display was the information given on each skull. By giving the skulls a name, a place, and an event, felt emotionally invested in them. Without such information, their identity is lost and so is my compassion to see beyond the rows and rows of skulls. I think the catacombs in Rome or Paris lack this identity and connection to humanity that Hyrtl's achieve. 

The other piece that struck me as important was the plaster cast of Eng and Chang Bunker. They were conjoined twins that were attached at the torso. The plaster cast is from the hip up. The part that I found most compelling was the hair on their heads which was stuck in the plaster. This is what made the cast of the twins feel present; the small part of their bodies accidentally attached to the object in the glass case. The hairs gave them a real place in existence.   

At the Mütter I enjoyed the objects that revealed the identity of the person they belonged to. They are the pieces that connect the present object to the past. In my current body of work, I have been exploring how an object from the past grounds a memory for the present and future. Hair has become a key material in several sculptures I'm currently working on. My hair is the part of my body that will last a very long time after I die. It does not break down the way skin and flesh does; it often remains as true as it was in life. The hair of mummified humans still retains color and style thousands of years later. The Bunker twins' hair will remain in that cast for a very long time. My hair ties me to my past; it is part of my mother, my father, their mothers and fathers, and so on.
Dearest, artist's hair and cotton, 2018

Elements of funerary sculpture and objects from the 18th and 19th century are playing a larger role in the pieces I'm making. The large ceramic coffin I made in the summer while at Tyler School of Art is still being worked on post firing. The interior will be filled with flowers from my late grandmother's garden which will been seen through an opening in the face. They are the memento I keep to place her back in the garden which she no longer tends.
In progress picture of in ceramic coffin

The funerary sculptures and reliquaries I saw while in France are also changing the direction of my work. I have started to examine  presence of the monument as well as the fragment as a means of remembrance. I'm currently sculpting clay structures similar to those found marking tombs in Père Lachaise Cemetery. The structure pictured below will be the base to another sculpture with will act as a reliquary for a collection of objects from my mother.
In progress clay base in my LSU studio
Père Lachaise Cemetery

Over the next few months, I will be working toward my thesis exhibition, Dearest, which will be May 1 - 5th, 2018 at Glassell Gallery in Baton Rouge, LA. Thank you Northern Clay Center for making the Warren MacKenzie Advancement Award and so many other opportunities available to artists.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

2017 Warren MacKenzie Advancement Award- Research in France

Grace Tessein
Louvre Museum

This past month I used a portion of the 2017 Warren MacKenzie Advancement Award to travel to France to research art and architecture related to reliquaries, major historical events, and funerary sculpture/monuments.

The first half of my trip was spent traveling through the Normandy region. The first city I visited was Rouen, in which the Ossuary of Saint-Maclou (Aître Saint-Maclou) is located. I wanted to visit this site because of its strange history. The site was originally used as a mass grave during the Black Death, then as another mass grave for a second plague, a school for poor boys, and recently it was used as a fine arts school. The walls of the half-timbered structure, which were built in the 1500’s, are decorated in carved wooden skulls, shovels and other motifs to illustrate its first uses. In one of the windows behind the dusty glass there is a mummified cat. Being in this space reminded me of the time I spent in Philadelphia this past summer. While preparing a site for new apartments in the Old City neighborhood, a mass grave of plague victims was unearthed. Construction halted to remove the bones. Both places made me think of what really lies beneath the ground I walk on. 

Detail of the Ossuary of Saint-Maclou
 The Ossuary of Saint-Maclou

 Mummified cat at the Ossuary of Saint-Maclou

While in Normandy, I tried to stop in many churches in search of reliquaries. I wanted to see how such precious objects were contained and on display. The body of work that I’m making is examining the preservation of memory through objects. One tiny reliquary I particularly found remarkable was in Bayeux Cathedral. It was behind a wooden door in the church wall and contained Saint Theresa’s “last phalanx of her ear-finger” which is the bone in the tip of your pinky finger. Such a small object was contained in a delicately crafted gold frame. Many of the other wooden doors remained closed.
St. Theresa Reliquary in Bayeux Cathedral

One morning of the trip I traveled to Omaha Beach to walk on the location of the D-Day Invasion. The landscape still bears evidence of those events. It also comes with a peaceful silence that I can’t quite describe. I took a sandwich bag full of sand back with me wondering if some molecule in it was present on June 6, 1944. I feel some urgency to preserve that time, since the people who have lived through it are swiftly disappearing.
Omaha Beach
The second part of my trip was spent in Paris. While there I went to a few amazing museums including the Louvre, the Sèvres Ceramics Museum, and Musée de l'Orangerie. The ceramics collection in the Sèvres was really inspiring for planning new assignments for teaching Beginning Handbuilding at LSU this semester. This vase pictured below was lovely, I look forward to sharing images with my students.

Vase de Beauvais, Manufacture de Sèvres, Simas, Eugène (dècor), Porcelaine dure nouvelle, Sèvres, 1901

Père Lachaise Cemetary was fantastic to see in person. The cemetery is filled with beautifully crafted tombs and bronze sculptures. Some of the figurative sculpture was really compelling; the grasping hands, stone relief, and shrouded figure pictured below were my favorites. It was wonderful to see how death and mourning were depicted in funerary art and sculpture over the past 200 years. 

Père Lachaise Cemetery 

Père Lachaise Cemetery 

Père Lachaise Cemetery 

Overall I feel I am still processing this experience, which was only possible because of the 2017 Warren MacKenzie Advancement Award. So much of what I saw feels relevant and important to the body of work I’m developing and I look forward to sharing how it progresses as I move toward completing my thesis exhibition in May of 2018. I'm sure the two trips, Philadelphia last summer and France this past month, will be key influences for my work after graduate school as well. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

MN NICE Soda Firing

This new class of MN NICE artists is off to an amazing start. The group has already fired several soda kilns together and getting results out quickly