Thursday, July 14, 2016

Done in Denmark

A Blog from Brady McLearen

2016 Jerome Ceramic Artist Project Grant Recipient


With the support of the 2016 Jerome Ceramic Artist Project Grant awarded by Northern Clay Center, I accepted an invitation to a six-week artist-in-residence program at Guldagergaard International Research Center in Skælskør, Denmark. This opportunity provided me with deep exposure to an international network of artists, an introduction to unique tools and clay making processes, and inspiration from beautiful new surroundings.  

The site is located about an hour southwest of Copenhagen by train. The living space, gallery, kiln yard, and ceramic studio are all planted apart from each other within a public park. The walk to and from the facility buildings has you immersed with the local community in the park. Everyday we would cross paths with the morning walkers and well trained dogs, young and grey haired bikers, teenagers on revving mopeds, duck families from the pond, and hunters controlling the blackbird population, often referred to (by us residents) as, "The Gunmen". Dinner duties alternate and each night one of the residents prepares a meal for everyone staying in the house. We would all sit down at seven to eat together. In the summer, the sun is up until 23:00 and artists have access to the studio 24/7. The small town of Skælskør is a beautiful quaint town with an unbeatable bakery, few shops, a pleasant harbor, and a relaxing beach 3km away...and a kilometer is 1000 meters, and a meter is 100cm, and water boils at 100 C, and bisque is at 1000 C. Love it.


Time in the studio was spent involving myself with processes that I'm usually not involved with. The center has a spacious plaster room with a plaster lathe, as well as a plaster wheel on which templates are used on the partially hardened plaster. Working so closely with plaster was as educational as it was difficult. I was searching for how to be expressive with the time-based, transformative material. I created multiple-part molds for slipcasting techniques-- something I have had little experience with. Besides working with the white hard dust, I spent time designing patterns in a CAD program called Rhino and operating the 3D clay printer. A few weeks practicing and watching online tutorials gave me a good foundation to hit the ground running for the 3-day workshop that I took towards the end of my residency. These three days (and Henrik Troelsen's fabulous English, extensive knowledge, and extreme patience) were so informative and helpful. Contrary to my preconceptions, the CAD programs and 3D printing machine requires an extreme amount of work, patience, and babysitting. Similar to working with the white, chalky, brittle, hair-pulling plaster,  the time I was allowed with the 3D printer, not only introduced me how to use the tool, but more so, how to understand how my approach to using the tool can be unique in order to create meaning within the work that is produced.

Artist Statement 
My sculptural ceramic studio work is an experimental investigation of the formal languages and frequencies that we find in the natural existence of the universe. From this viewpoint, I focus on how humankind has harvested materials and ideas within reach in order to control and make sense of this wild place in which we exist. I use clay along with other materials to question the meanings embedded within fundamental three-dimensional forms. Certain designs within our observable universe came before us--we did not invent them.

Thanks to the Jerome Foundation, Northern Clay Center, and everyone at Guldagergaard.

—Brady McLearen

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