Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Adobe in the Southwest

This is my final check in on the NCC Blog from what is now called Santa Fe, New Mexico. Santa Fe is on occupied Tewa (Pueblo) land and sits where a Pueblo village, called Oga Pogeh Owingeh (White Shell Water Place), was before European colonization. I am here working with Cornerstones Community Partnerships, an organization that restores historic adobe buildings around the greater Southwest. Gearing up for projects in summer, we have been hosting community adobe brick-making events. We are inviting the public to make bricks with us to be a part of the restorations in Northern New Mexico. 

Setting up for the event. 

Here are some images of San Rafael Church in La Cueva, NM that Cornerstones restored years ago.

I also recently had the opportunity to travel to some important adobe structures around the Southwest, including Siwañ Wa’a Ki: (O’odham for name for Casa Grande) in Arizona. This Hokoham site was a huge center for trade in the region for over a thousand years before 1450 AD. Macaws from now-called Southern Mexico and Belize were traded through here for turquoise from now-called Arizona and New Mexico. 

Images of Casa Grande in Arizona.

In addition to visiting Arcosanti in Arizona and working with Cornerstones in both California and New Mexico, I have been working on a body of artwork of my own and a publication of my writing. This body of work is in progress, but has included working with earthen materials and researching extractive industries in the US West. Thank you, Issac

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Death Valley Adobe Work

Hello again—this is Issac Logsdon, one of the 2018 Warren MacKenzie Grant Recipients.

This fall I spent five weeks stretching out summer in the Ancestral Lands of the Timbisha Shoshone, now called Death Valley, California. The valley is the lowest, driest, and hottest place in the United States with summer days reaching past 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Working in the park, which was my first project with Cornerstones, our crew restored several sections of a perimeter wall at Cow Creek. This included both rebuilding parts from the foundation up and repairing the original, but weather-worn 1930s wall. This perimeter wall and about a dozen other adobe structures were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, a program created under the 1930s New Deal. Within a few years at the beginning of World War II, the structures were left empty. After a riot at the nearby internment camp called Manzanar, 65 Americans of Japanese Ancestry were interned at Cow Creek in these adobe buildings for nearly three months. 

Adobe building, a method of earthen architecture comprised of sun-baked clay bricks, has been used all over the American Southwest and Northern Mexico for over a thousand years. Learning the processes of adobe felt really intuitive because so much of my knowledge from studio ceramics transferred easily. But not only was I able to reconstruct this history through hands on work, I was also able to speak with a historian at Manzanar and do some archival research about the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Japanese American internees. 

At the end of the five weeks in Death Valley, me and another crew member had the opportunity to restore sections of a 1906 bottle house in the ghost town of Rhyolite. NV. The Bottle House was built by miner Tom Kelly in 1906 using an estimated 50,000 bottles, including wine, whiskey, beer, champagne, and medicine bottles. These bottles were held in place with earthen mortar. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

2018 Warren Mackenzie Advancement Award- Katie Coughlin

Hello! I am writing to tell you about the final parts and probably most significant part of my trip to Ireland. A large part of my research was observing and learning my family history. I can give you a brief synopsis because as it goes- my family is large and connects to many other families in the area- we can almost make up a whole village.

Both of my Grandparents on my Fathers side are from Galway County in Western Ireland. They grew up outside Ballinasloe (known for its farming and horse fair- the oldest continuous fair in Europe, of its kind). My Grandfather, Christy Coughlin was from Kilconnell and my Grandmother, Mae Coughlin née. Keighery was from Aughrim. These two villages lie about 12 kilometers from one another. My grandparents- there was a slight age difference- didn’t know each other growing up but at one point my Grandpa, who had gone to America by himself at the age of 14, came back to Kilconnell with intents to marry an Irish girl and take her to the U.S. He met my Grandmother, they married in Ireland and sailed over to New York.

This is the port that my Grandfather originally left from in Cobh (Cove), in County Cork- not pictured is the Heartbreak Pier, where many Irish immigrants left their country to pursue new life in America.

Christy and Mae Coughlin is the U.S. the year they were married. (1948)

The towns that they are from are extremely small- you will most likely only find a church and a pub that are still used regularly in each. No grocery store, nothing- it was told to me that they didn’t get electricity in Aughrim until the 1950’s. I can not imagine the shock of going to another country- let alone- New York City, that they both faced as young adults traveling so far from home.

When they arrived- they moved into a house that belonged to the Uncle of my Gandfather, James Coughlin. This is the house they raised my Dad and his 9 siblings in. I also lived in this house for three years as a child. I grew up with all my cousins and aunts and uncles constantly around and engaged in my life. My Dad, did not- all his relatives were and are still in Ireland.

I was able to meet in total about 30 of my relatives and still have a few more to encounter. I traveled over the roads going from Aughrim to Kilconnell and back again countless times. I was able to meet a woman, Mary Ryan, who informed me of an incredible amount of family history as she was related to my Grandfather. She was also family friends with Grandmother growing up. Her childhood home, that she still lives in, was the half way resting spot for my Grandfather when he walking or riding his bike over to court my Grandmother.

Mary Ryans home in Aughrim, situated right down the street from St. Catherines Church

Mary Ryans home where my Grandfather would stop for a rest halfway between his home and my Grandmothers. 

Mary Ryan

The houses and properties that my Grandparents were reared in, are still in our family and have been for about 200 years or more. My 1st cousin once removed, Seamus, still farms the land my Grandfather came from. He runs a cattle ranch. My Grandmothers childhood home is still lived in by her brothers wife, Carmel, the last of that generation to still be alive, and the land is rented out to a neighbor farmer for his cattle.

A new homestead on the property that my Grandfather grew up on. This was land inherited by his father when his mother passed away in Childbirth. His mother was given this land by her father because there were no men in the family. 

This barn now stands where the original home was. 

This property is still farmed by my 1st cousin once removed, Seamus Coughlan. He is a cattle rancher and the land has always been used to raise animals. 

My 2nd cousins, Brian, Nile and Emma, children of Seamus and Christina Coughlin, 
who grew up on this land as well. 

The Church, St. Catherine's, where my Grandparents married. The marriage is always held in the parish of the woman.

St. Catherine's, my Grandmas childhood school is now a hall where dances and events are held. 

My Grandmother, Mae and her Mom, Elle.               

The house my Grandmother grew up in. Her father was also raised here. 

Carmel (on the right) now lives in this house, she was the wife of my Grandmothers brother, Martin and raised her three children there. These are three of her grandchildren and my 2nd cousins- 
Neive, Aoiefe and Ashling

This is the view of my Grandmothers barn and house. The property lies where the Battle of Aughrim took place. The bloodiest battle between the Irish Army and the Williamite Army in 1691.

This is my 1st cousin-once removed, Helen, she grew up on this farm as well. A daughter of Martin and Carmel. 

Martin, Anne, Mae (my Grandmother) and Brendan

The way most people heat their homes in Ireland is through a decomposed vegetation called peat. You can find peat in a bog. Some houses come along with a bog plot which is a lucky thing as then you don't have to pay someone else for the fuel to heat your home with. 
This picture is of the road to the Bog of my Grandfathers property.

This is a view of the Bog from far away- a bed of wet grass that ends at a forest.

Coming up closer, we begin to see how the bog is cut.

After being cut, it is laid out to dry and "footed" or turned. 

Here is what the peat looks like after it has been cut and dried- it is now called turf. It is very dry and dense- making it perfect for a slow burn. 

These are 3 of my cousins that live in Gort, in Co. Galway.

My experience of Ireland was one of welcoming and an immediate sense of belonging. I have tons of more photos and family history that I will be sharing in my upcoming presentation at The Ohio State University. The information I learned about my family is extremely important to me. I regret not asking more questions when my Grandparents were alive- as I feel now that I missed a whole generation of insight. One of the key ingredients to the success of this trip was observational research. One can not always describe in words the sensations and feelings of being in a space or with particular people. The need to focus and be present was something I reminded myself of during this whole exploration. I had a constant commitment to look around and really see my surroundings- this is much easier to do when you are traveling on your own. 

As I move forward in my studio practice- these experiences will play a significant role in my work. Some of my main goals are to finish my family tree and dig into new stories with my family on this side of the Atlantic. 

Thank you for traveling along. This was one of the most wonderful, challenging experiences of my life and would not have been possible without the Warren Mackenzie Advancement Award nor the Northern Clay Center. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

WMAA 3 - Kelsie Rudolph

Hello again! For my last post I'd like to go into detail on the construction of a massive table that we made during my last week of work in South Korea. It took 4 and a half days to construct and was a much more detailed process of making than the large chair we had built a few weeks previous. The table was built upside down on large wooden panels that were supported by 2x4's underneath, lifted up off the ground by cinder blocks, and covered with canvas. To begin we cover the canvas in the large slabs, trimming each edge at an angle, scoring, slipping and attaching each seam together. Once the whole board was covered by these attached slabs and the seams and surface are smoothed, we flipped the entire thing over using another supported wooden panel and ratchet straps, followed by smoothing the surface and seams of this side.
 A template for the exact form and size of half of the table is drawn out on a piece of plastic like cloth and placed over the large slab, traced, and cut out. A rim is attached around the edge of the piece. This edge is taller than the final thickness the table will be. Then the bones are put in place to give the large flat table its support and interior structure. It's important that these interior slabs are thinner than any slab on the exterior surfaces for consistency in drying. If they are as thick or thicker than the exterior slabs the piece could bloat or crack due to un even drying / shrinkage. After every bone is in place, we reinforce every single seam with a small coil to give extra support and to prevent cracking. The slab around the edge gets an extra thick coil, after the initial thin coil, as that edge will be trimmed and curved eventually. Here you can see that the bones have been seamed together. Every single bone also gets a whole in it as to let air pass through the entire piece during drying and firing. Now the extra height of that slab on the edge comes into play as it gets rounded over and is supported by the bones in the interior structure.This thin pink and blue foam piece with four wholes in it is a template used to keep the edges exactly the same where the two sides of the table will come together. Each piece will get the four wholes as well, where bolts will hold the two together.
 The next step is to start covering the piece in the large slabs. This involved trimming the edges where the slabs meet the piece, slipping, scoring and seaming each and every seam on the interior. To do this we cut a whole into each square space so we were able to reach inside and coil the new top slabs to the bones.
Here you can see that we had two of these going at once. These will be connected once finished.
 Once the slabs have firmed up a bit more, the circles that we cut out get turned into...smaller circles. Which would eventually be filled with smaller bits of wet clay later on. Here you can see the legs starting to take shape. There was on leg in the center of the table on the piece in the foreground on these images. This will just give the middle more support once it is complete. The rectangular sections left open on the flat edges of each piece are there so that they can get into the piece from underneath on either side to screw in the bolts to hold them together. The indented section will also be filled with epoxy for extra support. The bricks are used to keep pressure on the edges so the piece stays flat.The final tiny holes that need some filling...And here are a few images of the completed piece!

Each piece will fit just right in the kiln. They will fire it to cone 10 to begin with. Then they are able to flip the pieces over, attach them temporarily, and grind the top flat. They will then retire the piece upright to a low temperature. He uses a type of glue to get the glaze to hold to the surface since its already pretty much vitrified. They also use a lot of heat between each coat of glaze to make sure each layer is fully dry, otherwise some crazing and cracking may occur. There is also a lot of frit in the glaze to keep the melting point low. This table will be white and headed to New York some day! If they send me some finished images I'll be sure to tag on an extra post for whoever out there is looking...

This table was by far the highlight of my time in South Korea working with Hun Chung. The precision and planning that he has developed is astounding. Looking forward to developing this kind of technical skill in my own work.

I hope this post makes sense! I know it's difficult to understand all upside down...
Thanks again to Northern Clay Center for making this experience possible!