Collage Inspiration for Clay Surfaces – the Fog Has Lifted

Untitled 2005, collage, rubbed texture, photo copies, trace paper, marker

Untitled 2005, collage, rubbed texture, photo copies, vellum, marker

Last week, I was searching through some of my old sketch books for something to use as a screen print experiment and came across some collages that I made for a graphic studio that I took in Landscape Architecture grad school in 2005.  I go back to my stint in grad school a lot because I really pushed myself during that time period and made some interesting work.  In some ways it was $9,000 well spent even if I didn’t graduate from the program.

Untitled 2005, collage, photo copies, vellum, marker

Untitled 2005, collage, photo copies, vellum, marker

The three collages I’ve included in this post caught my eye and as I sat there with them for a moment in silence, I realized that they represent how I want to approach surface decoration on my ceramic work.  After writing a few posts recently about screen printing and making ceramic decals from scratch here and here, I came to the conclusion that I would like to create a layered effect with imagery, texture, glaze and decals on clay.  So when I found these collages, a light went off in my head – just like a cartoon…

Can you see the brain synapses firing away?

Can you see the brain synapses firing away?

Since you can’t really see the layering in the collage on a computer screen as well as you would in person, allow me to explain.  In these collages, I used a variety of graphic textures, text and imagery pulled from newspapers, texture rubs, magazines, and my own mark making.  In two of these, I colored some vellum with a translucent markers used by architecture professionals (brands like Prismacolor or Letraset) and collaged it on top of the black and white imagery which in my mind represents the glaze layer.  What I didn’t add to these collages is a third layer or the ceramic decal – but I could easily simulate this by transferring toner based photo copies with a colorless Chartpak Blender Marker on top of the vellum.

Untitled 2005, collage, photo copies, vellum, conte crayon

Untitled 2005, collage, photo copies, vellum, conte crayon

The collages are not meant to be great art works – they’re more like quick creative exercises to spark design ideas.  It was exciting to me when I rediscovered these, each measuring approximately 7″ x 9″.  They’re playful, not overly thought out, spontaneous and will be a good addition to my studio practices to push my work or at least the surface of my work to become more complex and all mine.  Since first discovering clay in 2002, I have enjoyed the process of  working with wet clay much more than the finishing aspect of ceramics.  Glazing has always been a sometimes painful after thought, and I confess a single dip in the glaze bucket was about as creative as I dared in regards to finishing my work – sometimes even going as far as to use a one color for the interior and another for the exterior.  Hold the phone, keep your pants on!

Minimal and quiet does have its place in ceramics, but it doesn’t really describe me or my personal preferences.  Consequently, it feels sort of hypocritical to cop out and apply a minimalistic look to my ceramic work.  If you were to visit my house, you would be greeted by a riot of color, mismatched heirloom/purchased/thrift store furniture, family photographs, art work – other’s, my daughter’s and mine, my grandmother’s glass and tea cup collection, mementos, along with piles of newspapers, magazines, and books covering the entire surface of the coffee table that reflect my family and a well lived in home.  And, if you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know I’m sometimes scattered, focused, colorful, loud, quiet, opinionated, empathetic, interested in many different ideas and philosophies and I think my work should reflect that as well, much like my home reflects my family.

I wonder if the past few months of mental wrangling, studio avoidance and general gnashing of teeth has been in response to this dialog that’s been going on inside my head.  When I think about it, all of this started when I returned home from my teaching stint at Anderson Ranch Arts Center in August.  I was so inspired by my stay there, that I made the decision then and there to push myself to make better work – I just didn’t know what the answer or path was when I came home.  That dialog has been playing in my head around the clock in the background ever since returning much like a computer security scan works behind the scenes allowing normal use of the computer yet slowing everything down at the same time.  Processing…processing…scan complete!


I’m not ruling out a touch of ADD, left brain deficiency or general off kilterness either.  ;)

Meanwhile, that’s me in the photo above holding a tiny porcelain faceted bottle I made for a miniature swap as part of the Etsy Mud Team this month and was taken by my daughter.  I haven’t been a very active participant in Etsy since early July because I haven’t made any new work in awhile – it’s a wonder I haven’t been kicked out.  If any fellow Etsy Mud Team members are reading this – I’m getting back into the swing of things, pinky promise.

Paul McCartney and Wings are currently serenading me as I write this and the upbeat music blast from the past sounds so apropos for this picture perfect movie moment in my life – cue zoom in for close up.  Smile of contentment on my face.  Fade to future – End on positive note.

C’est tout,