Thursday, 21 July 2016

Wabi Sabi and the Art of Imperfection

Last week I touched upon the Japanese concept of Wabi Sabi that is the world view based on the idea of transience and imperfection.

Wabi Sabi
Shino glaze Cone 6

I find the nation ofWabi Sabi and the ways in which to achieve it incredibly exciting. It is the idea of letting go and letting the materials talk for themselves. There is an element of chance and the unexpected. When my ceramic pieces are fired in a reduction atmosphere kiln, I can control the results to a certain extent, however it is always difficult to predict exactly how a piece will be fired. Opening the doors of a kiln after firing is always an exciting event to see what has happened.

Wabi Sabi
Shino glaze. I love the pinhole effect
A reduction firing requires the use of a gas kiln, which depletes the oxygen atmosphere which means that the glaze and clay body will trap carbon which can affect the colouring of the glaze and clay. I enjoy working with Shino, a Japanese glaze which can be white although due to the carbon trapping process can also become darker and sometimes metallic.

Detail of the shino glaze

These are some of the results of my most recent Cone 6 reduction firing.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Artist: Susie Brandt + Studio Visit

The super summer visiting artist series at NSCAD continues with Susie Brandt participating in the artist in residence program and also exhibiting at the Anna Leonowen's Gallery.

Susie Brandt

Susie is a textile artist and her exhibition is a work in progress consisting of piles of donated worn clothing and textiles that will be processed using scissors and her hand-crank sewing machine into rope. The exhibition is an interactive experience where the audience is invited to participate in the making of the rope, but cutting up post consumer textile waste and twisting it into rope. 

image from
who participated in one of Susie's projects
at Haystack Mountain School of Craft

About her process, Brandt states, “ropemaking is a basic gesture in textile production. The phenomenon of twisted and plied fibers resulting in a strong flexible line dates to 1700 BC. Because lines of rope can be used for hoisting, fastening, and climbing, rope had transformative effects on pre-industrial communities. Considered Post-industrially, rope offers an entry point into textile issues around locality, labor and waste/re-use.”
I have been very fortunate to meet Susie and she visited my studio to chat about my work and provide feedback. I find it is always helpful to get receive external advice as this provides opportunities to talk about my work which helps to tease out areas that I overlook.

One topic that Susie brought up was the Japanese concept of Wabi Sabi which is the world view based on acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is "imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete". It is a concept derived from the Buddhist teaching of the three marks of existence, specifically impermanence, suffering and emptiness or absence of self-natureCharacteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, asperity (roughness or irregularity), simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy, and appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes.

I was first introduced to the idea of Wabi Sabi by my ceramics teacher (and amazing artist) Ian Jones who taught me to love the imperfections in my ceramics as I was learning. This was incredibly insightful since I have a tendency to be a perfectionist and was attempting to make 'perfect' ceramic pieces.

Having Susie reflect that my pieces also capture the delicate balance of grace and ugliness made me realise just how influential Ian's teachings were. Below are some very recent pieces that I have been working on which reflect the wabi sabi aesthetic.



Thursday, 7 July 2016

Artist: Anna Hepler + Studio Visit

Also last week I was incredibly lucky to spend some studio time with Anna Hepler, who is also exhibiting her work at the Anna Leonowen's Gallery and an Artist in Residence at the Ceramic Studio. Anna is a sculptor and print maker who creates large forms using a variety of media. When it comes to using different materials she believes it is very important to keep an element of unfamiliarity in her work, to keep her work more 'honest' or 'vulnerable'.

Double Hung
Anna Hepler

Anna's work is incredibly inspiring and there is a great interview which talks about her creative processes.

Whilst the work in the Anna Leonowen's Gallery are explorations in ceramics, she is continuing to explore the 'slumped' form, like in the image above.

List of Works

I have found the visiting artist studio visits incredibly insightful and helpful to give critical comment and feedback about my work as an external 'eye' provides clarity and a new way of looking at things.

We have been experiencing thick summer sea fogs recently - this is a view from my studio window.
It generally looks like this...

I think I may need to upscale these wire sculptures if I want to create more of a dramatic impact! 


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