Ever since I was a college student I've viewed January as a chance to do something different. A month where the regular rules for production don't really apply (well, they do, but not like they do in the last quarter of the year) and I try my hand at something new. My college had a 4-1-4 semester system with a Jan term in the middle of the academic year given over to special studies- classes on campus, off-campus internships, travel, or independent study. I took a deep-diving course on everything Winston Churchill, did internships in a small city's Human Relations Council office (this really took me out of my comfort zone and broadened my perspectives on the ongoing struggles for civil rights in the South), worked in a historical museum in Little Rock, and finally did an intensive month of oil painting during which I completed a dozen large paintings in a small, quiet campus, working day and night in the chilly basement studio. The painting study was probably my favorite experience of the Jan Terms- something I now see as a luxury and long to repeat.
After college, I tried to keep my Jan term going- learning how to knit a complicated color work sock, upholstering furniture (which I'll never do again), exploring new ceramic techniques, taking online courses (like The Clayer e-course), reading heavy books (Crime and Punishment, anyone?). I can't even remember all of the Januaries anymore. This year I've been taking a Monday class in watercolor painting, hoping to add to my skills in a more formal way. As part of that course, I've committed to working in watercolors several days a week in my sketchbook and in larger format, and this has led me to revisit an idea that I've had in the past, of treating my ceramic pieces as a canvas for my sketches. Part of this watercolor/sketchbook porcess included a piece I donated to the Memphis Botanic Garden for their annual fundraiser.
I had a lot of fun with this piece- a watercolor and english porcelain tribute to my grand fig tree in our back yard- the first thing about my house that I fell in love with. I knew that I wanted to include porcelain and watercolor on this 10" square canvas and spent a lot of time wrapping my head around how to do so. In the end, I made a watercolor painting which I adhered to the canvas and accented the painting with porcelain. I made small fig tiles, dug up an old plaster mold that I'd made fifteen years ago (I couldn't believe I still had it!) for the deep blue figs, and scoured the back yard for any leaves I could find under the now-bare tree to give texture to leaf tiles.
I've enjoyed learning to treat the cobalt oxide wash as a watercolor and I love how the painted 2-D fig tiles turned out for this piece- something I've been playing with for the last year and will continue. I sewed the tiles on with bookmaker's waxed linen, which was a bit of an adventure in itself.
While I was not able to attend the event (I spent a full day glazing and needed a fat nap by its start time), I really enjoyed the process of stretching my painting and surface skills to create this piece. I'd like to make one sketchbook/watercolor-inspired piece of pottery each month, a more manageable series than one each week, given how rapidly booked my calendar is becoming. At the very least, it is a nice break from production work, even at my limited production scale.
Have a lovely weekend, friends!