Thursday, December 17, 2015

Delivering the Goods (Jacob Raeder)

Panorama of the kiln room at the EKWC

During my exit interview at the European Ceramic Work Center (EKWC), I was asked if I felt that my residency was a success. My automatic response was of immediate ascent, but then I took a second to think about what I feel comfortable calling 'success.'

As I think many artists can relate to, I struggle with the idea of failure as it relates to experimentation in my work. It's easy to say that we are exploring, discovering, investigating an idea or a process or a material; it's another thing to say, "After my research, it turns out nothing works, nothing was found, my hypothesis was wrong." I came to the EKWC with the ambition that I would fail, that things wouldn't work and I wanted to revel in the mess.

Foaming Glaze
My studio practice is a crooked piece of driftwood. Buffeted and scoured, a gnarled chunk of propositions, thoughts, and wild flights of fancy. But there are objectives. There are choices and plans as well, but when viewed from the inside, difficult to discern the unity of the whole. I listened to Captain Beefheart's Hard Workin' Man from the motion picture Blue Collar on repeat for a week. The next week was Rill Rill with some Deep Thoughts mixed in.

An Objective: Make a Chia Pet

Five o'clock chia shadow
This was about 6 days of growth.

I have been working with chia for a few years off and on. I was mostly working with abstract terracotta forms that originated from the potter's wheel with an interest in the intersection of tactility, topiary, and topography. This was the first figurative sculpture I had made since Linda Swanson's sophomore hand-building class, and I was encouraged to work at in the larger scale by the technical expertise of the staff at the EKWC as well as the capacity of their many kilns. I was able to extensively document the growth with photographs and videos—lots of latent creepiness.

A Side Note:

Truly, I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to go to this world-class ceramics residency, and am thankful to the Northern Clay Center, whose Warren MacKenzie Advancement Award made it possible.

Raku kiln with Robin in the cold

21st century mold-making with Plaster-Master J
Prototyping forms with the 3-axis industrial hot-wire foam cutter. How many mold pieces would they be?

The Sneak Peek:

My crawl glaze testing continued with pretty interesting results, and I was able to hone in on both the look and the flavor of what I was trying to capture with the combination of color and surface

Working with Miquel Hervás Gómez and Elisabeth Klement, the recipe book should be cooked up by mid-January

An Experiment:

With my experimentation with fossils and kidney stones I wanted to test the viability of 'organic minerals' to be used in glazes. I first ground up the materials and passed them through a 120 mesh screen. I had a cone 6 glossy base glaze from Ron Roy and replaced the talc, magnesium, and calcium with the powders. This was one of my last projects at the EKWC and although the results were promising, there is a lot more to explore and test. 

Making glaze from canine kidney stones. Magnesium Phosphate based, not calcium. 

Glaze from fossils

Button tests of new materials.

My three months in the Netherlands flew by. I was fortunate to have spent the time with other creative and ambitious artists and designers, and I learned just as much from their practices as in my own studio. Residencies can be tricky things to navigate; they can be expensive and disruptive, taking you away from your home and forcing you into situations where not everything is under your control. But the EKWC is an amazing place to explore the potential of ceramics, and if I ever get the chance to attend another session, I will be there in a heartbeat. 

A final thank you to the Northern Clay Center for helping make the experience possible, and the best of luck to all the applicants for this year's fellowships, grants, and awards.

-Jacob Raeder

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