Finishing Touches & Troubleshooting

As I began setting up my installation in the empty gallery around the corner from my office over the last few days I was expecting to get some images that would reflect the final product – minus a few finishing touches I might stumble upon. While I did get some great images and was able to navigate through and determine finishing touches, I also ended up with some troubleshooting as well.

In my previous post I didn’t yet have the rods to hold the turned gears resolved. Shortly after, I discovered a steel rod that was the right size that would hold the pieces without sagging. I also began glaze firing the clay pieces.

Now for the unit as a whole (day 1):



I came into the gallery full of excitement to set the remaining pieces into place. I had taken down the top shelf overnight to take the extra board home to spray paint it. I discovered the previous day that the two spindles needed a little bit of a lift so that their base was visible from both sides of the unit – otherwise one side would look more like the “back.” As I sat things back into place and reached to grab the clay pieces I would add into the mix for photos today, one of the supports holding the top shelf gave way. Thankfully, the steel rods caught it and nothing broke below it.

With that in mind – I set up the top shelves on a table so that I could still get some images before working to fix the frame:

As I set things up the first day in preparation to pull some pieces out of the kiln I realized that I was missing an opportunity by layering replicas of the larger spindles on the bottom shelf. It is a little redundant when I’ve also done that at the top – although a different size/shape. I realized I was missing an opportunity to bring in more of a metaphorical meaning to the piece.

I’ve worked to fill the unit with multiples upon multiples of objects – all with a very specific purpose except this shelf – which really served to fill the gap of an area that isn’t very visible unless you are far away from it. What is visible is the shelf and anything low. So why not bring in the idea of “absence” in a more literal way.

When an object has been sitting on a surface for a long time, and then you remove it, you wind up with a ring of color that is more saturated – where light has faded the area around it. Or you wind up with dust/debris in all but that spot where the object was sitting. As I put the clay thread on the spindles above that shelf, I ended up with a bit of debris falling down – the contrast was interesting. It was part of the burnout from the literal thread. This got me thinking…so I did some experimenting. My experiment as shown below is likely a bit “theatrical” but it serves to get a quick shot or two to see how the idea might work. Now I need to figure out the most fitting way to do this for the final piece.

And one final piece to resolve.

In hindsight, I should have tried a black or brown underglaze. A combination of the two might be fitting. The underglaze gives a matte surface that doesn’t really resemble clay or glaze for that matter. Thankfully – I can resurface the pieces fired with the red terra sig. before attaching them to the rods. They are critical to filling up the boxes.

Parting thought:

I have tended to work on this project one unit at a time. I’m wary of getting attached to a specific way that the two would interact since the space I am given in the gallery may dictate whether it is appropriate to have one or two units. It no longer seems fitting to have two simply side by side. Does that really serve a purpose? Other than my own nagging drive to “go big.” But – if I have enough floor space and two could sit facing one another – allowing the viewer to stand between them – a unit at their back if they are facing the other…then this brings the scale of the factory into play.


Exhibition Catalog

Our exhibition catalog is undergoing the final edits before being sent to the printer.

The PDF version offers better readability than the jpeg graphic:

399CADMBR16 – MFA in VA Grad Catalog June 2016 (1) 5

Tieing Up Loose Ends

Over the last week and a half I’ve split my focus between finalizing the joinery for the units of the wooden structure that will hold my objects and making the objects themselves. Although I ran into a few snags – I’m nearly to my goal of having the first wooden structure wrapped up by the end of the weekend. The second structure will likely be complete – or at least nearly there – within the weekend as well. It is much easier to duplicate what has worked than it is at times to figure out the solution to the problem at hand.

Simultaneously I have been working on production of objects with the goal to fire the majority of them by the end of the weekend. The main restrictions being how much will fit in one load and how quickly some will dry vs. others. One strategy I’ll employ to quickly get a second load into the kiln to follow the first, which has been effective in the past, is to have the second load in the kiln room during the first firing. The dry heat and lack of humidity in that space will ensure the next load is ready-to-go. While the snags with the wooden structure were relatively quick to resolve, I have a few lingering questions to resolve with the clay objects.

In the gallery, I also found myself captivated by the simplicity of a couple of spindles on a pedestal. An idea to keep in mind for two shows I have coming up in the fall.


Finalizing Forms

After the results from the cheese-cloth soaked in slip, I wanted to see what would happen if I soaked 100% cotton yard in slip and then wrapped it around spindles to achieve a form. I am very pleased with the results!

A final note on forms – the use of plaster molds for the spindles themselves are not coming out as hoped. They offer a nice “relic” looking form – but can’t stand in for the wooden parts. I’ll use those sparingly and instead – will also turn clay spindles on the wood lathe. Essentially – this will allow me to create my clay spindles exactly the same way the original wooden forms were produced. There is an interesting symmetry there! In my case – the use of lathe will also help me speed up production in comparison to the molds since I have more experience with the lathe.


Thinking Through Display

Last month I thought I had my mode of display all figured out. Units that would contain objects would stack on site and also serve as shipping crates. Unfortunately – if I kept my intended scale – all those units wouldn’t fit into my SUV assembled. I needed to figure out how to flatten everything for travel. It just so happened I was also packing to prepare for a move – and an alternate idea struck as I packed up books on a foldable bookcase. While the bookcase shown below is narrow – I knew they also made wider ones. So I went back to the drawing board to figure out how I could combine the old with the new to achieve the same results.

So then – I set out to figure out how to make a modified version. The frame was somewhat simple after purchasing some new tools. With this design – wood pieces fit into one another rather than relying on screws which were causing some cracks in the previous test piece. I wanted to ensure the height remained at or above 75inches. The width could remain 3ft. I had to compromise on the depth – keeping my 16 in boards but omitting the 24in boards for stability. The images below are an early mock up – the frame is assembled and I’m working through exactly where the shelves should be placed. After realizing the solid shelves would obstruct the view of some of the lower objects, I’m modifying the levels so some can offer a glimpse “through” the board to the level below.

Note: As the wooden display units are finalized – the use of a router to adjust the blunt edges of the wood will likely be needed. At this time I am planning to paint the units black or a steel grey in order to futher assist them in looking like pieces of machinery rather than a “shelf.” Dowels or screws will also need to be hidden in the boards to help the spindles stand without the risk of falling over like bowling pins.

Bits and Pieces

In my earlier post, I shared plan for the overall structure for the installation. As I’ve been looking for materials and finalizing the scale, I’ve continued to work on the smaller components – particularly the clay pieces that will be intermixed with the textile spindles.

These are three of the more organic forms that stand-in for thread. I wanted to make the more narrow clay thread cylinders strategically out of balance and imperfect.

Note: Althought these images are unfired at the moment – those included in the installation will primarily be fired. I’m having to re-adjust firing schedules due to the fumes from the organic material. I’ll be firing these at a time that no one else is in the building. The fumes smell like smoke (although there is no actual smoke) so I want to avoid causing concern amongst others in the space or having the fire department called. I am aiming to do a kiln load of these the first weekend in April. 

I have also been working on spindles replicated in clay. The first mold resulted in an imperfect form (below) but it somehow seems to fit. (Although needs slight refinement.) During the NCECA conference I took notes on three other potential molding methods that I’ll be trying this week.


A third component will be the larger spindles, stacked on their side. For those, I’ll use the press molds I made last semester that resuled in the form below. I’m planning to use this surface as one to print on. This will give the viewer a glimpse of textile propaganda and quotes from workers. My next step will be testing surface treatments to best carry the print. I want it to be subtle but effective.

Lastly, I’ll make use of the pieces turned on the wood lathe to stand in for metal gears.

wall piece glaze sample

I’ll use a combination of the raw and glazed forms. I think the glazed forms will give a nice contrast to all of the clay and wood already incorporated into the installation.



NCECA 2016 – Gallery Visits


I had the opportunity to see several dozen exhibits in sites ranging  from the convention hall to local galleries and museums. I’ve chosen a select few images out of several hundred that most relate to some lessons I can take away that most impact my thesis project.








Installation Planning

I’m finding as I work on writing my thesis alongside working in the studio that it is easy for me to get ahead of myself with one side of the project or the other. Knowing that I want this installation to be very large in scale, I realize that while I’m developing the “small parts” that will make up the whole, I need to be very intentional about determining the configuration of the larger components so that they will all truly work together.

After looking at some scraps being thrown away – I realized that I like the scale of a 75in height piece. It is taller than me and would be taller than most. I want something people can look up at, into, and down at. Knowing this has to be taken apart and packaged for transport, I realize the segments need to be manageable. For ease of production, if I can use some materials in the size they are manufactured, that will speed up the process.

Below is one page from my sketchbook to give a sense of where I’m heading. This would be 75 inches tall and composed of “shelves” that are 2ft by 3ft. Each shelf would have different types of objects. This would form a stacking component that would be reminiscent of textile machinery and also an altarpiece or cabinet of curiosity. There would be multiple “stacks” of this size.

The thesis title “work = worship” needs to have a clear connotation in this piece. The sense of loss and a sense of reverence for the past. Two contrasting things in some ways.

While attending NCECA, the national clay conference, there was a question related to shipping large works during one of the demonstrations. That got me thinking about using the imagagery of a shipping crate around a segment or two of these “stacks.” That gives a clear signal something is being moved (ie textile industry, in this case).

Building up on that – how then do I signal also a reverence for what is left behind? Perhaps covering part of it with cloth or plastic – as if it was being covered up to protect it. Maybe this is a segment partially covered that one can look into. Maybe we can step into this segment. Maybe we have to view the whole thing through the plastic?


I also think it is important at this stage to share some of the imagery I’m looking at from textile mills that are inspiring the configuration. My piece doesn’t mirror any one piece of equipment but instead combines several. Many of these are screenshots I’ve been saving on my phone.


Articles/Exhibits of Interest

I’ve come acrosss some interesting articles related to exhibits that have circulated on Facebook in the past month. I post them here to keep them front of mind as I enter into my thesis project. It is easy to get stuck in the bubble of my own studio – articles like these help me to look outward and give a sense of the way others are talking about their own work (or in some cases reviewing the work of others.)

Take Stock:

Some interesting shows covered in this article. “Collection of Suppressed Voices” is particularly intriguing to me at the moment, as is “Ritual and Setting.”

For more on “Collection of Suppressed Voices”:

For more on “Ritual and Setting:”


The article below relates back to the exhibit I also posted images from at the Peabody Essex:

Studio: Experimentation

After returning from Boston I entered into a round of experimentation in the studio. I needed to think through forms that would lend themselves to a delicacy – evoking loss and decay.

While these compositions don’t reflect an exact form that I plan to use in my next installation, they allowed me a glimpse of processes that will be useful.