Thursday, May 11, 2017

May Clay Club Recap: PechaKucha-inspired presentations at Sweet Betsy Farm

Thanks to Karen Speer for hosting May Clay Club at the beautiful Sweet Betsy Farm! Karen and her husband Ed are beekeepers, and Karen gave a tour of the property, including the the chickens and bees, the Honey House, and Karen’s studio. The farm is super easy to get to from I-40 near Marion and yet somehow secluded and quiet.

Rachel Smith, Karen and I participated in giving PechaKucha-inspired presentations. PechaKucha presentations are supposed to consist of 20 images, each of which is discussed for just 20 seconds, for a total of six minutes and 40 seconds. As planned, we didn’t adhere strictly to these rules; the only requirements were that presentations be related to ceramics and last 5-7 minutes. Our topics and styles were all different. I enjoyed the process of doing a presentation like this - it was an interesting exercise to keep it short.

Rachel talked about her journey in pottery, starting with a pair of mugs she and her husband got when they married 43 years ago. She brought a small sample of her pottery collection, ranging from a small Alex Matisse pot from right here in Western North Carolina, to pieces from as far away as New Zealand, Italy and Portugal. Every time she uses those cups and mugs and dishes she is reminded of where she got them and who made them, as well as where and how they were made. She talked about getting to see and meet some of the potters who made those pieces and how being a potter enhanced those conversations and experiences, and also influenced her own journey as a potter to where she is now with her Reems Creek Pottery.

I talked about the Tarot Garden. This is a sculpture garden in Italy that was created by Niki de Saint Phalle (1930-2002). The garden is located in an old quarry and has more than 20 sculptures and structures based on the cards in a tarot deck. Niki de Saint Phalle started having the idea for her garden in the 1950s and was inspired by places like Park Güell in Barcelona, the Palais Idéal in France, Watts Tower in Los Angeles and the Monster Garden in Italy. She wanted to use ceramic mosaic in the garden but she didn’t know how to make ceramics. Venera Finocchiaro, a ceramic artist, ended up working on the garden because a friend of her brother was working at the garden and mentioned that they needed a ceramist. Finocchiaro first went to the garden to teach some of the assistants how to make the ceramic pieces. She later ended up working herself on the garden, even living inside the Empress (seen in the second photo below) along with Niki de Saint Phalle for several years.

Karen titled her talk “Creativity is cumulative: the cross pollination of skills.” She talked about her journey in creativity in school, work and hobbies. She has ended up with a wide-ranging knowledge, and with skills in areas like color theory, inks/painting/drawing, working with resist materials, and design. Recently she took a workshop in Pysanka, the traditional Ukranian egg decorating process. This process uses wax resist, similar to how wax resist is used in ceramics. She was inspired to transfer this technique to her pottery, and she is now experimenting with it. She said this process is definitely different on clay, and can be quite challenging, but it has inspired her work and led her to incorporating it with other techniques, like with the wooden batik stamps from India that she had already been using. Her results are lovely, and she’s just in the early stages of incorporating these techniques!

Thanks to Rachel and Karen for preparing and presenting their presentations, to Karen and Ed (and their sweet dog Sapphire) for hosting us, and to everyone who came!

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