Monday, February 24, 2014

RIP: Carlos Páez Vilaró

Carlos Páez Vilaró - Carnaval -Uruguay
Uruguayan artist Carlos Páez Vilaró died today in his iconic Casapueblo in Punta Ballena (Maldonado), Uruguay, at the age of 90. Páez Vilaró was an abstract painter,  potter, sculptor, muralist, writer, composer, screenwriter, and builder. He was a champion of Afro-Uruguayan candombe music and only nine days before his death participated in the "llamadas," a traditional part of Uruguay's carnival. 

Areal view of Casapueblo
He created murals and sculptures for government and corporate offices, private homes and other buildings in Argentina (2), Brazil (16), Chad (4), Chile (3), Gabon (4), the United States (11) and Uruguay (30). Murals in the US include a 162-meter long work in the tunnel connecting the buildings of the Organization of American States and another one in Georgetown University Hospital. The work of which he was proudest is a nondenominational chapel built in Los Cipreses cemetery in San Isidro (Buenos Aires). He is quoted as saying that it was in the design of this chapel that he was able to bring together all the media in which he worked, making stained glass as well as paintings and even the floors for the chapel. He also said that it was a difficult endeavor because "It is not easy for a man who so loves life, to paint for death."
When I visited Uruguay in March of last year I enjoyed a day outing to Casapueblo. Páez Vilaró built the sprawling compound in stages. It ultimately became not only his home and studio, but also a museum with a permanent exhibit of his works, and a 4-star hotel with magnificent views. Google "Carlos Páez Vilaró" y click on "images" to see his works. I leave you here with some pictures of my visit to Casapueblo and other photos of his work.  
More Painted Pots @ Casapueblo

Painted Pots

The painted pots are reminiscent of Picasso's work pottery work. Indeed, Páez Vilaró and Picasso were friends.

Painted wall @ Casapueblo

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Retire early and follow your dream

Throwing a bowl
There was a really interesting op-ed in Friday's Washington Post by Tara D. Sonenshine, titled Why I'm leaning out. The article discusses the issue of women in their mid-50s and early 60s who, even though they have "strong resumés," have decided to slow down their professional lives, "turning down big jobs for smaller, lower-paid assignments" or retiring early.  Ms Sonenshine asks why "women with extensive job experience and children of a self-sufficient age choose to slow down..."

She concludes that there are three reasons to consider.  First: many professional women are simply tired after years of rushing to meetings, taking chances, and attempting to balance home life and career (the latter is my own observation). Second: women are exhausted from worrying about the "barrage of bad news." She says, "We women of a certain age react to other people's pain and loss as if it were ours, alone, to bear." (I am so glad I'm not alone in getting teary-eyed watching the news!) And third: women want to get more involved in their local communities.

The article does not mention another, I think, compelling reason for both women and men to want to slow down or retire early. That is, the need for self-expression. In our world, few people are able to make a living as musicians, painters, writers, sculptors, dancers. How many people do you know who are frustrated artists, unable to express their creativity?
Carving a yarn bowl on the deck outside the studio

I took early retirement at age 57. I had done well in my career as an economist, and then I switched careers, becoming an editor and doing even better. But I had my pottery "hobby" that was calling me. I dreamed of a day when I could devote myself to it. It's been almost seven years since I retired and I couldn't be happier. It turned out that I was not only good at making pots, but I was also good at building a small business that is operating in the black! I get a lot of positive feedback and validation from my customers and peers, and now have a clientele. In addition, I have time and energy enough to babysit my grandkids, play cards with my mother on Sundays, research our family history, travel, and, yes, make pots. Life is good!

Glynt Pottery Studio

Whether it's making pots or painting, traveling or learning a new language, going fishing or writing that novel... we all have some dream that has to be postponed while we earn enough money to buy the house and put the kids through college. When the opportunity arises to leave the working world behind and devote ourselves to those postponed dreams, is it any wonder we all jump at it?

Monday, February 10, 2014

I owe it all to chocolate and young men!

Beatrice Wood

Getting old is not fun. Now that I'm in my 60s I find that I'm not as strong as I used to be. To my dismay, I now have to open up the boxes of clay and carry each 25 pound bag individually into the studio; I cannot carry a 50 pound box any longer.

I'm not taking this sitting down! My routine includes biweekly visits to the chiropractor to get the kinks out of my spine and ensure that my wrists and elbows are happy. Sporadic visits to a massage therapist, just because it feels so good! Weekly yoga to stay flexible and quiet the chatter in my head. And now I've started weekly weight training classes, which are kicking my butt! I can hold my own w/ the arm exercises (20 years of wedging clay help!), but the legs and abdominals are pathetic. 

I'm going to stick with my routine and add some walking once the weather allows because I want to continue playing in the mud for many years to come. In fact, I am planning an expansion to my studio this spring and I'm also thinking of getting myself a programmable kiln (it's about time!). Who knows? I have an aunt who lived to be 100 and Mom is 87 and keeps going like the Energizer bunny.

"I owe it all to chocolate and young men!" That's what Beatrice Wood said when asked about the secret to her longevity. I've got the young man already (hubby is a year younger!), so I guess I just need to eat more chocolate.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

"Democratizing" Pottery Making

Cups from 3D Systems press release
3D Systems  has just introduced a new 3D printer (called the CeraJet™) that, according to the press release issued in early January will "democratize pottery making ...[and]...  revolutionize ceramic artisanship for the benefit of brands, retailers, designers, shops and hobbyists." The printer quickly produces intricate and detailed ceramic objects that are ready to fire and glaze. Quoting the press release again: "This class of 3D printers and materials infuses the age-old tradition of ceramics with the ability to make previously unimagined complex shapes."

This freaks me out!

I don't mean to behave like a Luddite, don't get me wrong, some of my best friends are machines! And the older I get the more I appreciate them. I'm talking about the pug mill that makes reclaiming clay easier, for example (what did you think I was talking about?). My current favorite tool is Tom Whitaker's ball opener, a neat little invention using nothing more than pvc pipe that saves fingers and wrists from overuse and is easy to make. And, where would I be without my electric wheel and all my other tools?

But, you have to be a potter to use these tools. What I mean is that, at some point, you would have decided that you wanted to learn pottery. Note that I'm saying "learn pottery" not "make pots." And that's the difference that the 3D Systems company is alluding to when they say that this printer will democratize what their press release calls, without a hint of irony, "the ancient artisanal craft of pottery and ceramics." The use of these printers gets rid of "ancient," "artisanal," and "craft" in one fell swoop and just leaves us with the end product. We lose the process, the long apprenticeships, the trial-and-error learning to make that shape you've been thinking about. It seems that now if you can use the software, the sky's the limit as far as form is concerned.

This is great for those people whose interest is in design. They can now bring their idea to fruition w/o "wasting time" trying to figure out how to make it on the wheel or by rolling slabs or pinching clay. And that's a great leap forward for them. For me, though, I make pots because I love the feel of the clay, I crave the solitude of the wheel, I delight in opening a kiln and feeling like it's Christmas morning. And I think that the people who buy handmade pots are looking for exactly that: pots imbued with the spirit of the maker.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

More Texture

Still playing with textures. 

The platter and dishes have a textured slab bottom and a thrown ring for the sides and rim.

This is too much fun!

Keeping fingers crossed so the bottoms don't crack.

Update March 25, 2014: 

Here are the large platters all glazed and finished. I like this a lot and I like the method for making them... So easy!