Wednesday, November 30, 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 know many of them well. They have paid me to learn about and make art in a workshop or class, and so indirectly they funded my occupation as an artist, put food and drink on my table.

I wish to connect these people directly to approximately three thousand people who will be attending the opening of the exhibition I'm in, on the other side of the world.

As a committed "clayalotic" since childhood, it seems only natural to use the humble material of clay as the vehicle to make this communication happen.  So I propose to make individual ceramic porcelain vessels which will be used to make a huge sculpture.  At the exhibition opening night the sculpture will be progressively dismantled into these individual ceramic porcelain vessels, which will be filled with wine and given to each of the audience members to drink from, and keep.

The audience members will be free to keep these porcelain vessels, take them to other exhibition openings that night, to take them home, and perhaps to use them again elsewhere, or at the least to take it home as a keepsake of the evening.

There is a worm in this story:  Each individual ceramic porcelain vessel will have on it contact details for individual Western Australian artists or crafts people who have helped or supported me during the last 25 years.  They may be a professional or recreational artist, an art educator, or administrator.

This project then becomes both a mantra of thanks to the many who have helped me, but also an open invitation to create communication between individual people involved in the arts in two different places on earth.  A clay bridge.

I hope that at least who have taken home the thousands of individual ceramic porcelain vessels, will be tempted to use the details on their vessel, to contact the other person.  Even if it is to say "hi" I got this at an exhibition.  Perhaps to ask how their details got on the vessel?  Or do they make art?  Where do they live? and so on...

In these days of billions of flickering images, a small physical object may become the vehicle for building personal contact, through a share interest in looking at and making art.

The viewer considers about were the art came from, how it was made.  The Western Australian gets to hear about the art world, on the other side of the world.  Clay pen pals?

Even if only one or two of these connects leads on to an on going conversation and relationship, my work will have been done.


Monday, October 31, 2016

Why do I sculpt in paper?

A  4 tonne sculpture in the foyer of the High Court of Australia in Canberra, Australia
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 into lumps, while at the same time came up with the idea of bolting them together into a paper tower. 
 After that, and over the next decade I slowly developed ways to compress it and carve it afterwards   (Gallery and explanations here).

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

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 40,000 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 manufacturer in Australia makes all their clays into paper clay). The video was there just in case someone occasionally asked me how to do it.

These videos, plus images on social media and my website saved my bacon once when I permanently lost my laptop en route to giving artist talks and workshops overseas.

So... I originally started this blog today with the intention of taking a stocktake of my other online digital profile.

To keep it simple I've collect the results for only the last month (no paid advertising)

Sessions: 2,021
Users: 1,566  
Page views: 12,037
Ave. pages per session 5.96 pages
Avg. session duration: 02:07 minutes
Trend: hasn't changed much over the last 5-6 years.

30 pageviews,
21 new likes,
1365 reached,
1008 engaged with post
Trend: no idea
65 plays  
372 loads
1 new like
Trend: no idea
2,735 minutes watched,
ave duration 1:46 minutes ,
5 new likes,
6 new shares,
13 new subscribers
Trend: no idea

impressions: 13,080 impressions, 9,210 viewers
Repins: 60 saves,  30 clicks through to website
number of time most popular image pinned? 2000+
Trend: no idea

Instagram (all time, not month):            
59 posts,  
160 following   
Trend: no idea

Tweets: 7  
 Tweet impressions: 1,582  
Profile visits: 88
Mentions:1   Followers: 167
Trend: no idea

120 images viewed
Trend: no idea

This blog:             
Pageviews: 447
Trend: no idea

Ok, so that's the numbers, but what do they mean?

What's happened for you on these different social media?

Your comments are welcomed.

I may come back and add more, after a few sleeps....

Postscript:  I read somewhere that "likes" are like nodding to someone as you walk down the street,.  Walking through this city I probably would actually see a hundred faces within a very small period of time.  Would I remember them, or anything about them a day later?  Probably not.

I also find myself nodding sometimes to people I thought I knew (often realising afterwards that I didn't) , often in neighbourhoods I feel more at home, or small towns.

I was asked at a workshop this week by participant if they could take a selfie with me.  They asked if this happened a lot.  Without thinking I said that not very often in Australia.  For a shy person like myself, it's nice to slip along in my own world.  Prior to large events I find myself spending more time alone, almost to "charge my psychic batteries" so I can become a "temporary extrovert".  It's certainly become easier to speak publicly on something I know a lot about.  But it's taken two decades to become comfortable speaking in public on my area of expertise.  

The real advantage of the digital revolution is that introverts like myself can present our work without having to physical face people.


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

How did you start?

A vase made in 1989, that gained my entry into ECU. 
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 high school (never sure if my parents were aware this happened!).

However, in the last few years at school, I got the clear message that you can’t make a living from art, so did not take it in my final year.  However I did return to art after that, training as an art specialist at Teachers Collage, and at one stage lived across the road from the ceramic studio, with after hours access.  When I arrived in WA I continued to make and draw, attending community ceramics classes at Applecross and Perth Modern.

It was not until 1990, while travelling through US and Europe that I meet clay artists who survived full time from their making.  This inspiring me to make the decision to become a ceramic artist in late 1991, regardless of getting into a tertiary course (which I eventually did).

What started your own passion for art?

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

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

Poem (1983)
Clay (1983)

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 clay?

Monday, May 16, 2016

A Winter Morning in the Studio

Unpacking the class set of 3D pens.

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 Monday.

I then checked the conditions for a Japanese exhibition, and then reviewed a short Instagram movie of a prototype I had made in the residency at Perth College.  Based on this and ideas floating around me for the last week, I jotted down some notes and made a quick drawing for my next version of the spiral.

A quick phone call to organise a walk later this morning, I now had time to unpack 5 boxes that had been sitting unopened in the studio for the last week.  These were a class set of 3Doodlers for an upcoming workshop.  I bought my first 3Doodler on Kickstart back in early 2013.  It was unproven technology, and I gambled a hundred bucks on the guys who developed it in a shed.

I first blogged a comparison between the 3D printer I had been hacking and the 3Doodler 3D printing pen in December 2013.  The 3D pen was a 3D printing head redesigned as a pen you drew in the air.  No computer coding, or computer needed, and so much fun.

Unpacking a set of the second edition of the pen was a bit like Christmas.  All shiny and new and plug and play.

Alas, time ran out, so I packed it all away again, except for one pen and material I left out on the desk ready for early Monday morning.

A quick photo to try to capture the morning.

Then climb on the bike, and back up the hill in the sunlight...


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