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Process

The Clay

i use a pure white high-fire porcelain made with english kaolin.  the clay is mixed in small 20 lb. batches, starting with a wet, pudding-like slurry that is poured onto plaster bats and later wedged.  mixing such a small quantity allows the clay to remain as clean as possible.  the amount of clay is, by pottery standards, miniscule.   my manhood suffers.  my clay body is formulated to fire dense with as little warping as possible -- it's always a balance.  when i mix clay, i'm a technician, not an artist.

The Piece

I to start, i have a loose idea of a form.  slender, squat, full, deflated, compact, pregnant, concealed, elongated....  i throw 5 or 6 parts, play around, and eventually assemble 2 or 3 of them.  as i push this form around more words will come to mind.   wrapped, squeezed, pinched, soft, snug, loose, erotic, quiet, busy, familiar, bizarre, unexpected.  what influences these words -- mood, state of mind, a glimpse? -- isn’t important to me.  they happen.

II as the piece gets mapped out (i.e., which layers go where) i begin to incorporate textures, motifs.  within a week or so, i know what the finished piece will look like.  my sketchbook is empty.  the next several weeks are spent carving and refining this surface, eventually using a small brush (#2 filbert) as a smoothing tool.  the clay remains leatherhard.  it is spritzed constantly.  buddy misses me.

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III i wrap up the “finished” piece for a month, maybe more.   it’s important the clay dries evenly.  i covet this stage, wishing it was on display now.   leatherhard porcelain is the shit; the color, the sheen, the softness....   later stages are all about trying to regain the life and energy of what was.   it’s rare to capture.

The Fires

I bone dry.   the smooth layers are gently sanded.   i do this with my fingers.   naughty.   the bisque firing goes slow, roughly 2-3 days.   no rush.   once cool, the piece is sprayed with a subtle wash -- sometimes a terra sig, sometimes a straight oxide -- then fired to cone 9 or 10.   reduced porcelain will sand to a much smoother finish.   often i spray a salt solution into the kiln.  small amounts, for surface variation.  like a cupful.  the kiln is small, a fat cat fits cozily.

II depending on the piece, it will be re-fired 2-5 times at lower temperatures with stains, lustres, or occasionally china paints.  i don’t use these materials traditionally.  gold lustre on a teacup rim is for grandma.  i try to be subtle, unless subtle isn’t working.

The Sandpaper

fired porcelain can be sanded.  it’s nice.  start with dense, reduced porcelain, add 220 grit sandpaper (working up to 1500), mix in elbow grease, and you can make unglazed porcelain shine.   it feels much better than glass.  i get a callous on my thumb.

The Additions

I i like hair.  depending on context, it is both commonplace and distasteful.  i use hair in my work for this reason.  it is my own hair.  [sometimes it’s not -- Todd Leech gave me some of his once].  eyebrow hairs have the perfect length and taper.  this process too, is slow; plucking, gluing, and inserting –- one by one -- into fired ‘follicles’.  painful, but the result is a nice, uneasy contrast.   i don’t do it to impress my friends.

II the small “pegs” are from stainless steel rod.  i’m reminded of a button on a tufted sofa.  meagan worked part-time at Blair’s Upholstery.  a mysterious coincidence.  occasionally i fill an orifice with soft rubber.  people are told not to touch, but they do.  perverts.

The End

start to finish, the process takes longer than i’d like.  8 weeks?  10 weeks?  more.  I’m a father now.  I have a real baby.  my work happens at a more unusual pace.  working slowly poses problems:  it’s tough to maintain the early energy of a piece; big ideas are slow to evolve; the temptation to make each piece a masterpiece is unhealthy.  for an artist hoping to make a name, the novel ‘obsessive quality’ has become a true, tall hurdle.  i recognize, however, that each piece informs the next one.   so i trudge through it.  i love the completion.  sometimes i love the result.  i believe i am making the right work.