By the looks of it, it has been over a year since I have posted to my blog. The longer I stay away, the harder it is to get back into it. I am just going to dive right in and write about what I have been doing. I have been creating a studio space to work in. The remodeling of the studio is nearly done. It is a ceramic arts center based on the "Open Studio" concept. This is how it happened.
I took a few courses in ceramics at St Louis Community College and really liked working with clay. The studios there are nice and you can't beat the deal but there is a limit to what one can do in that arrangement. I decided to get my own studio. First requirement: it had to be close to where I live. Second requirement: Large enough to share space. I did not want to work in isolation. This requirement also meant others should feel safe and comfortable coming there. I found a 1960's firehouse for sale in Overland, MO. It was bigger than what I was looking for but my wife, Colleen, looked at it and said "It would be perfect". Besides, a little to much space is better than not quite enough.
I had met artist/Realtor Sheldon Johnson at the Contemporary's Open studios tour. He became my Realtor and did an excellent job. The offer was contingent upon approval of the City for my plans. This took several months.
The first thing they wanted was the name of the business. We tossed around hundreds and finally Colleen came up with "LampLight Studio". I really like this name. Has a nice "ring" to it and fresh enough I could get the domain name for it. Although it doesn't directly connect to ceramics, it signifies an earlier time when pottery was a very important part of life.
Overland has been very helpful throughout the entire process. I would also like to mention how much I like the people of Overland. They are, for the most part, blue collar working class real. This is my background and the way I would like to think of myself if I ever had a job.
Getting financing was a lot tougher than I thought it would be. The Great Recession had just started and the entire financial system was on the brink of collapse. All of the banks were quite skiddish. It is an unconventional business with few operating examples. I had no experience. I created a business plan but didn't have "the numbers". Nine banks turned me down. Regions Bank approved the loan based on an old fashion principal, collateral.
I did a lot of the restoration work myself. Repairs, patching, painting, new floors. New parking lot. Since we back to residential, I put in a new privacy fence. John Schnellman answered my post on Criticalmass and helped me build six large work tables. He now uses the studio to do his ceramics work in.The main pottery studio has 14 foot ceilings. I put in lots of shelves. I partitioned off a kiln room with 14 foot high walls. I set up the glaze room with donated counter tops and built the spray booth made from the showers that I wrecked out of the shower rooms. A small kitchen space was added. Overland provided a good source of help in the local workforce. A lot of handy people live around there.
Since this was a fire house, it had a special emergency wiring system. There were special switches that one could press and every light in the building would turn on, buzzers would sound and the engine room doors would open. This was no longer needed and a bit of a mess. It all had to be cleaned up and new wiring added. Found an excellent electrician, Electrical Concepts, to upgrade the power to 600 amps for the new kilns and pottery wheels. Added air conditioning.
Had trouble getting an estimate for the needed plumbing work: new ADA bathroom and 4 new sinks. We had to tear into the floor to add this. Plumbers would come, laugh and leave. Finally, a local company, Sutter Plumbing, did the work. The owner, Stan Zorosky, is active in the city and knew this studio would be good for Overland.
Getting an estimate for installation of the kilns was also hard. It didn't make sense. In the middle of the Great Recession and I couldn't get a bid. Thomas Brothers Heating did a fine job.
I have six kilns. The large Geil kiln was shipped from California. It cost almost as much to have it unloaded as it did to ship it. I built the little outside soda kiln myself. I had trouble finding plans but Kruger had some in a book and gave me a copy. Building this kiln was a lot of work.
Everything is looking pretty good now but there is still plenty to do. I have to add more shelving to the pottery studio and storage for the glass in the glass studio. There is also outside work to do. We are going to remove the huge overhead doors and frame in the front. The eves need new paint. Gotta put up a sign.
I have been lucky in the process in that nothing went terribly wrong. We had a Grand opening in May with good friends, family, and even a few artists.
I am now in the process of building the business. Getting it up and running is as much work as building it. We just hosted a Girl Scout studio Christmas party. What a fun way to make ends meet. We have two new members with impressive degrees from Alfred and Kansas City. Greg Rasmussen is our new associate. His throwing skills will match anyone in the area. I am moving slowly as I work out the bugs and test the systems. It is also nice to finally have a little time to work on my own art work again.
Eric Hoefer and Peggy Peak at the Fair
I went to dueling art fairs last weekend, the Saint Louis Art Fair and Art Outside. They aren’t really in competition but they do run at the same time. It was cool to find Art Outside promoted on the Saint Louis Art Fair web site. It was also nice to see local craft beers welcome there again. The music included some of Saint Louis’s best blues players, Rich McDonough along with my favorite harp player, Eric McSpadden. Schlafly beer was, of course, available at Art Outside, since they sponsor it. There was an all girl country/folk band there playing the fiddle parts with a clarinet and making it work.
I am very near to reaching a dream I have had for years, my own ceramics studio. Located in Overland, it will operate in an open studio format. It is to be called “LampLight Studio”. Naturally, I took great interest in all of the ceramic work at the fairs. There was quite a bit of it.
At the Saint Louis Art Fair, I had the pleasure of speaking with Eric Hoefer. “Eric Hoefer, originally from upstate New York, received his MFA from Southern Illinois University/Edwardsville in the Summer of 2004. He received a BFA from Syracuse University in 1999.
Eric is primarily a potter who uses utility, and at times, elaborate constructions to create architectonic functional pots. His interest in historical Asian pottery and architecture combine to make compelling formal statements.”
He works in white stoneware using soda fired and also standard reduction firing. The work is both wheel thrown and hand built. Often it is a bit of both. Inspired by Architect Frank Gerhy, some of the work is whimsical. He sometimes focuses on the “negative space”, directing ones attention on the area around the piece. The work is done in earth tones with the glazing working not above or beneath the piece but in unison with it. Where soda is used, it is used lightly. The pieces are meticulously crafted.
Peggy Peak showed an interesting variety of raku and porcelain ceramics at Art Outside. She mixes glazes for Craft Alliance so it is not surprising that she would have such a wonderful variety of beautifully glazed pieces.
This piece has a satin finish. The glaze is called “milstone green”. Peggy found it in an old Ceramics magazine. Although I love “Ohio State White”, it seems to be in the palette of every potter in town. It is good to see some different glazes introduced into the mix. There were a couple of other things I found really nice about Peggy’s work. The variety of types and styles showed a great deal of experience. She has worked through many phases in her career as a studio potter. Also related to her experience is the craftsmanship she exhibits. Not only are the works masterfully crafted, they are artistically refined.
Open Studio Tour #4
This years open studio tour was like all the others - the best one yet. It gave me a chance to go into sections of the city that I often drive by but never have a chance to see. There is an interesting group of studios in south city near the river on Ohio. They are old workshop buildings, some still in use for manufacturing. In one of these studios is Sarah Paulsen, painter. She also had cells from her animation work on display. She shares a studio with Cameron Fuller, installation and illustration. Behind their building is the studio of Kevin Harris and his lady friend. Their building sits on the bluff overlooking the river. Kevin was out but his girlfriend showed me some pretty nice photography that she has done. I am sorry I missed Kevin as he was set up for audio performance work and I w
ould like to have heard his work. In the next building down, Tim Wilson has a custom wood shop on the upper floor. Beneath him, on the lower floor, is the studio of Gary Passanise. This is the most interesting studio I saw on the tour. You enter it by ducking through the doorway.
Which places you in a sort of grand entrance cellar. Walking down a few steps brings you to another doorway to the left. Once again, you are at the top of the stairs but this time you are looking over a cavernous studio with 20 foot ceilings.
While I was in the area, I also stopped by Cherokee street to say hi to Angelo at Cranky Yellow. It was not part of the tour but still an interesting place to see.
The one artist I was interested to see there was Amy VanDonsel
. I have seen her work online and wanted to see it for real. Painter, mostly, but also sculpture. I first caught interest in a digitally manipulated photograph of a painting she did. Her straight paintings are nice as well.
Her studio is a storefront on Cherokee Street. In the living quarters, there is a very interesting tree limb in sculpture attached to the ceiling. She is working on a origami based sculpture. It is such a cool idea, I wish I had thought of it. I get that feeling lot as I walk through so many open studios.
On the third Friday of each month, Third Degree Glass Factory
treats the public to an evening of music and art in midtown. Owners Jim McKelvey and Doug Auer have upscaled an old factory into a showplace for contemporary glass artwork. The main focus is on hot glass. Glass blowing demonstrations are given throughout the evening. Molten blobs of glowing glass are casually moved about the work area. It scares me. I can't look but it is fascinating if you do. My interest last Friday was to see the kiln formed work of Lisa Becker.
Her studio, Art Glass Array
, is in the Crossroads Art
Center in St. Charles. She offers classes on warm glass. I took one last month and really enjoyed it which surprised me because I am not that crazy about glass art. A bit too flashy for me. Her friendly smile and kind lies (telling us how good we were doing) did not mask the genuine nature of her interest. She started in glass doing art glass for architecture. From the honest creativity expressed in her work, I don't think she has been corrupted by the meddling influences of advanced coursework. I may be wrong here.
The titles of these pieces, The Bride, (white) The Groom, reminds us her thoughts are with the concept of family. Understandable, for as my buddies at the mill would say, "She's got a bun in the oven".
To use something as abstract as glass and come across with a solid concept is a pretty good trick. The lace of a veil, the flow for the train and moment of joy. The Groom, dark and stately with strong line. Together in a similar form of unison. The work is displayed precariously on pedestals about the room.
On one side a bluegrass band plays. The music for these evens has always been distinctive. Well worth ones attention. The Third Degree Factory also has classes for warm glass. They offer lamp working lessons and even allow guests to take a short class on it during the evening.
This involves beadmaking with glass over small blow torches. Scary stuff too but not quite so bad. They have been having these open studio events almost since opening. Back then there were just a few people milling around. It has become more and more popular and the place is always packed.
"Wall Waves" James McKelvey
Science continues to report the latest news from the universe: A black hole emits a note 52 octaves below middle c, a star travels 162,000 miles a second. Every day we are tormented with new and incomprehensible details. I have a personal theory which I rely on to deal with the cognitive dissidence from such information. It is an extension of the flat earth society and I call it the "Null Point Universe". It states that if something is unbelievable, then, don't believe it.
I was reminded of this when I met Nick Hutchings at the Lewis Center. He told me his art is inspired by the science of quantum physics and he spent just a minute explaining. I tried to understand but found myself falling back to the safety of the null point. I am attracted to his work on a more basic level. "Nick Hutchings' current work is exploring the connections between the eternal and temporal utilizing the abstract analogies of the tent as a meeting place between them." I like abstract art but feel it richer when there is something identifiable within it. Nick presented a study of nine small paintings, a series, oil on paper, each quite lovely. The subject matter was a tent and each progression in the series abstracted the last. Nick found the midpoint of the series to be most interesting. I agreed. To finish, several larger works were done using this midpoint as a basis."Kelda Martensen
is a print and book artist whose works on paper address cultural memory and natural wonder through use of architecture, landscape and domestic space." Interestingly enough, her work is inspired by the unknown. "True experience and unexplainable events are my starting off point." She has gained substance through travel and poured it into her work. "Escape from Cape Town" 58 x 145 inches, is a paired set of prints. Collagraph, digital print, monotype, woodblock, collage, graphite drawing. The strong graphic composition is nuanced by subtle use of color. There is one section of collage with particular interest. It is a photoimage of a row of buildings. Somewhat faded, the coloring of each building is a different, soft pastel. Alone, it is
very different from the rest but yet fits in so well.
This open studios event for the graduate program is one of the best in town. Some of the artist here will set root and effect the direction of art in Saint Louis for generations to come. I saw a nice painting by Anne Lindberg leaving with new owners and there was many affordable prints for sale. Not to be missed.
The Art Pottery tradition was started around the turn of the last century and focused on graceful decorative ceramic ware. Tim Eberhardt
has embraced this tradition in a quest to rediscover this lost art form. Although it is usually thought of as a decorative vase, Art Pottery includes other objects of ornamentation such as architectural and decorative tiles.
Likewise, the main body of Tim's work is focused on the vase and decorative jar but has included ceramic tile. He has currently placed his distinctive collection of ceramic tile work on display at Meramec Community College in the cases by the ceramic department. These tiles provide a good idea of the vast body of his work in that they offer a similar style. The subject matter is drawn from nature, often flowers but also scenic fields and other landscapes. The different slant to glazes provides insight to the broad scope of his approach. From a satin glow with muted tones to a higher gloss and brighter colors, his work goes beyond the traditional method. He adds a personal element of creative style by infusing the work with a painterly touch.
Here, he has drawn a self-portrait on a tile with his pots on a shelf in the background. With all of the different elements tied into this piece, the thing which I find most interesting is the expression of his eyes. What the hell is he thinking here? Also on show is a collection of architectural art tiles from an earlier period.
We should take the weekend as it comes. With a rough idea of what's going on, I like to start a plan in the morning and see how much I can squeeze into the day. Last weekend it was Art East and opportunity to visit some open studios.
I selected three and threw our bikes on the van for good measure. There are a number of nice trails through rural Illinois in that area.
My first stop was at Lane's End Pottery
, the studio of Charity Davis-Woodard. Actually, there are two studios there. Her husband, Bob, is a metal worker. They sit back in the woods and their front yard is more like a woodland garden accented with sculptures of iron and clay. I have been admiring Charity's work for some time and wrote
about it earlier in this blog. Combining creative design with the organic beauty from a wood fired process elevates her craft to art. My wife, Colleen, and I selected this piece to commemorate thirty one years of martial bliss.
Since we were in Edwardsville
, we stopped by to see old friends, Collette and Sam, at Springers
Creek Winery, a most eclectic space.
Running short on time, I decided to skip the planned stop at Snail Scott's
and head to Susan Bostwick's
. However, I got lost and came upon Snail Scott's anyway. Got lucky. Her studio is in a large
pole barn in farm country. Plenty of room to spread out and she needs it.
Snail Scott is an incredibly gifted sculptor with an amazing conceptual visual imagination. Using elements of human form in conjunction with mechanical artifacts, her work offers meaning, depth, grace and beauty. Man and machine, all rolled up into one neatly refined piece. Of course, having an artistic concept still requires masterful craftsmanship to bring it to fruition. This is where the "incredibly gifted" part comes in. Her hand is as good as her mind. Most of the work is base on very life like human forms. It is from this realistic starting point that the surrealistic effect takes hold. Using a variety of materials, clay, metal, paint, cloth she is able to fabricate just about any idea. She can make clay look like metal if it suits her purpose. When I look at a piece of art, i like to figure out what it is and how it is done but with her work you don't really know what you are looking at. Some of the work is cast bronze. Most is ceramic. Some is instillation. Some paintings. She also teaches. Got to love that name, Snale
We skipped the third stop to allow time for our bike ride. We chose Heritage Trail in Glen Carbon. The map gave the trail head as Miners Park. In Miners Park, I was excited to find a marble plaque stating my Great Grandfather Viessman
had once held that property. It was a place where I picked tomatoes as a boy.