Showing posts from 2016

Eat the children / communicating by clay telegram

Like many, I woke up very early this morning wrestling with a problem.

In my case, I'm struggling with the details of an artwork I'm trying to create.

I have this idea of creating an artwork, that in it's consumption, becomes a bridge between the arts community here in Perth, Western Australia, the most remote city on a continent in the world, and those attending peak art event half way around the world.

But I have my own creative twist:

The artwork enables each members of the audience at the art event to be given the contact details for a corresponding creative person in Western Australian.  This is a multiples to multiples connection.

Over the last 25 years I have been mapping the Western Australian Artist community.  This is not just the names read regularly in the daily newspaper's art pages, but members of the wider local arts and crafts community.  Having given arts and crafts workshops with many members of this community and it's numerous small groups, I kn…

Why do I sculpt in paper?

While I am know for my ceramic paper clay sculptures in the ceramic and arts community, I also work in creating up to 3 tonne compressed paper sculptures. The dry paper sculpturing came out of my frustration with drawing units at university.
As a sculptor/potter I found very frustrating (as many of my clay peers did) with being limited to a flat, unresponsive 2D plane.   Plus a health dose of antidisestablishmentarianism, which grew out of my experiences with an authoritarian father (a product of his time, and probably the only way for him to survive with 5 sons), being rather headstrong myself, and having just finished worked for a political lobby group.   Plus, as a very poor mature age arts student (we couldn’t afford a car for a decade), the piles of paper donated to me by fellow students to make into paper clay, offered a free material to sculpt, if only I could find a way to make it solid.   I begun to cut it into circles on a pottery banding wheel, then bolting it together int…

Engagement with Arts and wider community

Bored with watching TV and after a couple of beers, I'm in no condition to do some more serious paperwork.

Those who know me, know that I collect names and numbers (I also fastidiously document my idea development and making process, but more on that on another day).

The "arts world" collects data on artists in order to rank, or categories them.  Data collected includes auction house sales and prices, Museum collections and exhibitions, number of exhibitions, media stories, etc etc.

As most of the top local galleries here have closed, now I (and many other artists here) have to collect and archive my own records, so we have no one else documenting our work, exhibition catalogues, reviews, sales data and so on.

Anyway, I digress...

Resent I was shocked to discover that 42,300 people had viewed one of my Youtube videos since I had uploaded it 5 years ago.  I had made the video so I could finally stop demonstrating this technique at every workshop (by then every clay manufa…

How did you start?

Its been a busy week for self reflection: Or at least to think about how others see me:

On Sunday my hands were filmed, as well as various other hands making or doing things, for a demo advertisement. Nearly a dozen people crowded in the studio for 2 seconds of final film. Long story.

Today I was interviewed, for online content to assist arts students and emerging artists.  I took the time to try and write out my answers beforehand, to clarify my thinking.

Question 1: What started your passion for art?

I grew up on a farm playing creatively with my 5 siblings and occasional visits from numerous cousin, in the creeks, small forests, hay shed, workshop and a rambling 23 room homestead.  At school art was the only subject that allowed a similar playful experimentation.  This became more important at high school, and the art department became a sanction during a traumatic time in boarding school.  To my knowledge I was the only person to take art as a first and second option in lower hig…

Artist Report Card

My First Critic
I was searching for some bad poetry I had written a long time ago, and came across digital copies of my old school reports:

I was amused to read how some of my teachers had (perhaps too accurately) described me perfectly:

Though I would share, in the hope that it would both be insightful, and inspired you to do the same.

When I was 13:

Art Teacher:                    
A capable + conscientious worker who has settled down very well.
Form Teacher:                  
Doing very well.  
Very alert student.   Methodical in his own way.   Has a great deal of ability.  Keep it up.

The next year...

Art Teacher:                    
A first class effort.  
Graham has made excellent progress in this subject.
New Form Teacher:        
Generally, quiet satisfactory work.


Art Teacher:                    
Graham continues to work well in art.   A law unto himself at times.

... need I say more?

Poem about clay

Ok, this is a blast from the past.

I was required to bring along a poem one evening this week, and the pressure was on with a month's notice and reminders closer to the night.  So I dug deep into the digital files and filtered through dozens of bad poems I wrote a long time ago.

Yes, I know.

Here goes:

Squeeze, fondle bend and tease grasp and freeze tickle and please.
Wrinkle and lapping water steady patience, building mason mind and body, hands and kindness clay, the living flesh.
Season and steady brace and flow test and fire mind, body, expire love and laugh flow within, to the clay.
An expression often a suggestion a statement of directive but balanced and beautiful built into this a tangible relationship.
The pleasing of construction the delight of success the testing of flavour and the seasoning of despair teasing back for more to build harmony between man, water, clay and fire.
what do you think about…

A Winter Morning in the Studio

Early Sunday mornings will find me cycling to, and making, in the studio.

The phone doesn't ring, and I have the place to myself.

Today was particularly productive and enjoyable.

With a kiln full of porcelain paper clay firing out the back, the pressure was now off for a few days.

Ideas for my demonstration at the US warm up Throw down) for the Symposium in just a months time, came rapidly and fluidly.

The winter sun shone in through the window, as I looked out at the green park around the studio.

Munching home made cake from the Friday class, I checked the size restrictions on the Argentinean exhibition, and dashed off an email seeking a variation of conditions (assuming the currently firing is successful, and the assemble work, works).

Student works demanded my attention, so I carried their work around to the kiln room.  I loaded up the kiln, did some quick calculations, then left it ready for me to plug into the computer after the other firing finishes, probably on late Mond…

Disaster, disaster Will Robinson...

Perhaps a little atypical is the high incident of studio disasters I have.

Those clay studios making multiples probably have their fair share of breaks, tears and collapses, during their design development.

For some strange reason I seem to be stuck in this stage, of just losing most of my works at the making, firing and post firing stage, for years and now decades.

Over ambitious?


Slow learner?


I was always seen by others as stubborn.

Using the wrong medium?


I love the fact I'm working with a very fragile medium.  Everyone knows it can break easily, particularly when I keep making thinner and thinner, taller and taller works!

After yet another disaster today I was rethinking why I don't make these structures in steel.

The reality is I like the delicateness of the work.  The danger of it collapsing during the build and then the likelihood of it breaking at any time.

Obviously I'm limiting my consumer audience  to those who have an "art safe" h…

Feelings of both disquiet and gratefulness

Awaking in the middle of the night, I revisited yesterday's feelings of both disquiet and gratefulness.

The former occurred will listening to an artist's talk by Shaun Gladwell at the John Curtin Gallery, and the latter after a coffee with Creative Kids Art Club  Director Jane McKay.

Initially I struggled to become engaged with, and stay awake during Gladwell's talk.  His Self Portrait Spinning and Falling (Paris) (2015), had him spinning on a skateboard in from of his favourite Paris locations.  Having worked with young skateboarders back in 2002 to create skate able sculptures of the City of Vincent (1), neither his ability nor the slow-motion video held any particular significance for me.   Youtube and other social media are full of the physical exploits of people on skateboards and bikes. in some ways the presentation by Gladwell to an audience of less than 20 people, and described by Curator Margaret Moore in her introduction as "mostly friends of the artist"…

"The sky is falling!" ...Henny Penny*

*The title of this post is tongue in cheek.

I started writing this blog after a 23 December 2015 C-File posted about a New York Times article:

"Why Handmade Ceramics Are White Hot" (DEC. 16, 2015)

The NYT article nominated a small group of "Hot" ceramicists.

I suspect that the  C-File editor, writers and some readers took exception with the NYT deciding which ceramic artists are "hot", because by implication, it might imply that  the C-File's own A list was not.

Perhaps a wider perspective will give a more balanced perspective.

One of the detailed explanations for this trend, was written up by Canadian MA student Mary Callahan Baumstark, before the trend spotting journalists at NYT, and Vogue.1

She also highlights its feminist ideological foundation, and the way social media has enable a small number of craftspeople to quickly surpass the localised popularity of the orthodox ceramic community's champions.

I suspect social media has enable the Mass In…