Many Ways…Converging Paths
Article by workshop attendee, Jacquita Beddo, about the NMPCA workshop held September 12-14 at Ghost Ranch.
As I think about the Gallimaufry workshop it’s hard to explain how much it meant to me. I met some great people, was inspired by some great teachers, and felt nourished and supported to become a better artist. According to our own New Mexico Potters and Clay Artists website, “Gallimaufry” means a jumble or medley, whose etymology is the combination of French words meaning “to amuse oneself” and “to gorge oneself.” The weekend lived up to all of those ideas and more. It was a smorgasbord of information ideas and fun. The thing that was so surprising was all of the hands on experience packed into this one weekend.
Marc Hudson was first up with his “Introduction to Extruding”. Who would have thought that extruding would have such an appeal? I honestly couldn’t get my head around the idea of adding extruded forms to clay pieces before the workshop. The most I could envision was handles for functional ware. I often tell people that I never learned to throw because I didn’t want to make round things, I didn’t see all the possibilities. We were to bring a leather hard piece to the workshop. I didn’t have an idea of what to bring even after looking at his website. I’m not a functional potter so I was sure I would be bored, but it was anything but boring. After Marc extruded a rectangle someone in the workshop said “Do you know how many hours I spent making a rectangle out of slabs to bring?” Exuberant oos and aahs filled the air as interesting shapes poured from the extruder and each of us set our minds ticking away with what we could do with an extruder. I have to confess that after the workshop I’m building my own extruder so I can continue to play. We could have easily had a workshop playing with each of the dies that Marc brought.
Next up was Phil Green explaining how he makes Raku Clocks. He discussed in length the design process, so we could get a handle on all the design elements it takes to create his beautiful clocks. He took simple geometric shapes to create a sort of a collage effect with the colors and textures that Raku offers. He also gave us some great practical ways of dealing with the clock face. Then we got to have more hands on fun. Everyone got to work on their own clock, choosing glazes as design elements. A big bonus too was the very affordable option for spraying glaze, where Phil uses an inexpensive compressor and spraying tool from Harbor Freight. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one filing that info away for use in my own studio.
We topped off Friday night with desserts, conversation, and a little wine thrown in for good measure. There was a mini art show where we got to see what some of those in the group are up to in their own studios.
After breakfast the next morning, Lee Akins presented the Tin Foil Saggar segment. Lee was a marvelous teacher who presented just the right mix of beginner, intermediate, and advanced information. He went into enough background that we understood what we needed, and we’re able to get right into the process. We brought with us bisque pieces that were prepared with Terra Sigillata, which creates a pot that is conducive to the coloration we were shooting for. Once our pieces were prepared and wrapped in tin foil, the kiln was loaded and we were off to the races. It’s so valuable to see things happen and get a feel for the actual materials we were talking about. It was quite a blow to discover I can’t do this in an electric kiln, so of course I was dying to go home right away and start building my own gas kiln.
That evening we met back at the Raku kiln. There wasn’t a way for everyone to participate but we still got a feel for the process and gained some practical experience. I hadn’t done Raku for over 20 years so I was content to watch the proceedings and was more than impressed by Barbara Campbell’s experienced leadership.
The next morning, Sharbani Das Gupta gave an intriguing demonstration of image transfer onto clay called Photolithography. She explained how to process an image to prepare it before you even print it on a laser printer or Xerox it. It needs to be printed in a process that uses toner in order to work. Then she demonstrated with the materials and the results were exciting. The first image worked great, as demonstrations always seem to go we learned a bit of what you might want to avoid. The second image didn’t transfer that well. After that demonstration she did a delightful talk with a slideshow about her year of residency in China.
After a bite of lunch, Jody Folwell, a renowned Santa Clara potter who is well respected in the art world, was our next presenter. Jody brings with her a matter of fact and “down to earth” approach. Her segment was on how to work with Micaceous Clay. She was gracious enough to bring some micaeous clay that she had dug and processed herself. The process and years invested in the clay made each little round ball of clay quite precious. Getting the hands on experience was great. We made a small animal that we would later get to fire outdoors in cow dung.
On the final morning Tomas Wolff got us going with a collaborative project which turned out to be a refreshing experience, adding a new layer to the weekend. Tomas has done a number of community arts projects and proved quite adept at getting us all to interrelate in new ways. Throughout the weekend, we had formed groups, spending time with others having similar interests. Tomas used an “ice breaker” and arranged us into new groups that had us cooperating with different people than before. The projects were a tremendous amount of fun. I felt like I got to know new things about people in the group and it’s not surprising that I now really feel part of the New Mexico Potters and Clay Artists.
You would have thought that things couldn’t have got any better but we topped the whole weekend off reaping the benefits of the whole weekend. Jody went through preparing and firing the micaceous pieces. We got to discover the prizes that had been cooling from the Saggar firing and finished off those pieces. Then Phil came back and helped us put together the workings for our raku clocks. I came home with treasures, resources, friends all over the state, and most of all new processes that will make me a better artist
Thank you all who were involved in putting this all together. It was extraordinary.