Clay and keyboards

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I see working online as an intresting form of marketing, as well as a desire to share what is going on in one’s own workshop. Deciding how much time and when to work on the keyboard, searching, reading and surfing requires self-discipline! Ayumi Horie tells us about the difficult balance between work with clay and working on a computer. Thanks to Oregon college of art and craft library as well as Ceramic arts.

Oregon College of Art and Craft Library

 

CM: One of the other things you have become known for beyond, but related to, your work is your effectiveness at marketing your work through digital media. How did you become an early adopter of technology in our field, and how have you seen that change over time?

AH: When I got out of grad school I was at a crossroads. On one hand, I could teach in academia, and on the other, I could make work. I chose to primarily make work. To my good fortune, the internet was growing quickly and I was interested in it on an artistic level and as
a marketing tool. Artistically, it felt very much like ceramics, where niggling and loss of control existed in the same process. I was also interested right from the beginning in reaching out to people directly. I’ve always been very shy, and being online was a…

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Marheinekeplatz, the sun and a cup

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Berlin is dancing in the sun today, all bodies rejoice, a warm day, finally!

I missed the feeling, I am smiling on my way to Marheinekeplatz, in the Bergmann kiez. Every saturday you will find the Trödelmarkt, showing you every kind of clothes, furniture, batteries, books, jewellery and some marmelade jars. A nice market, the kind that makes you confused because you really can’t tell any longer if you wanted that blue shelf, if it really fits in your kitchen, it’s cheap and beautiful and you may not find another like this around, what shall I do? Everyone knows the feeling, right?

I just stroll around, this sun made my day, I won’t spend money on objects.

Of course the story it’s not at its end, rather at its proper beginning: there it is, the stand of two potters, a man and a woman, and their beautiful vessels. This is dangerous! The colors are so lively, so blank! I don’t get how they can manage to have such a glaze that seems on earthenware when the material is clearly stoneware, but the result is shining, as the whole day.

The potter explains, and I guess, my brain quickly translating the sounds into something that makes sense to me – my German is, after all, still unstable as a pudding! He explains that this is actually a sort of stoneware (it will resist both the oven and the microwave) burnt att a lower temperature, as you can tell by the typical cracks on the surface and the vitality of reds and blues.

Now, behind the traces of a potter’s fingers lies a whole world of knowledge. Can you guess how much such a cup, studied in its peculiar form and colors, thrown on the potter’s wheel and then burned two times (at least) is going to cost me?

Like a pizza and a drink you take home after a long day’s work. In less than half an hour the taste of tomatoes and mozzarella and some crumbles on the table are the only traces left. Ten euro, like a t-shirt you already know won’t last long but by then you’re going to buy a new one. Ten euro is the price of the cup that is going to keep my morning coffee warm through the years.

Isn’t it more than worth the price?

Hedwig Bollhagen building Berlin. Keramik Museum p. III

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The last room, past another yard, shows the architectural ceramics of Hedwig Bollhagen (1907-2001). The last day of this exhibition is scheduled for the 13th August. Mostly known for her functional ware, she worked at important projects in this field as well – a couple of examples, the Nikolaikirche, the Märkische Museum and the Rotes Rathaus in Berlin (the red City hall), they all bear her signature! Sketches, proofs, documents are shown in order to comprehend the amount of work that architectural ceramics means. There is also an excerpt from a documentary on this eclectic ceramist, available to buy at the museum entrance. What mostly took my attention was, there on the floor, in the corner, a huge plaster mould. This was used by her to give form to an eagle to be placed up on several spots of the Rotes Rathaus facade. It’s in front of me, totally within reach, as I was creeping into her workshop. You can clearly see how the plaster was made, the little hole left from an air bubble when the form was done, the clay that marks the inside of the form with a darker shaded nuance. It’s fascinating how such details can make one smile, isn’t it?

When I thought I was done, I went greeting the woman working there and, just a 150 meters from the old burgher’s house, I found a gallery/shop displaying beautiful stoneware dishes and cups in different stiles and forms. The geometrical decorations in black and shining dark green called me in. The nice woman working there explained that everything showed there was made by hand by different ceramists, as intended by the original patterns and forms of Hedwig Bollhagen – the circle comes to a close! That’s how she made herself a name, then. I quite understand the reason why, the pieces are beautiful; and the talk was giving. I went out from the Bollhagen-Shop happy and at peace.

Today I got myself to see some “whole” vessels, vessels bearing the life and passion of a person, and I got to talk to people that surely love, know and respect ceramics as much as me, we, do. What more than this? Just pay a visit to this tiny museum when you’re in Berlin. It is a good way to support the association that started the place in 1990 as well as to earn yourself a nice time.

Further information:

Keramik Museum Berlin, Schustehrusstr. 13
Opening hours: Fr-Mo 13-17 pm

Galerie Theis, Schustehrusstr. 15 and Bollhagen-Shop, Wilmersdorfer Straße 9
Opening hours: Tu-Sat 14-18 pm

The lively earth of Lotte Reimers. Keramik Museum p. II

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If you just step out into the beautifully kept yard you will find yourself following the arrow that says: “kabinett”. The exhibition lasts until the 28th of May, and I guess by that time the garden will be in bloom. I may come for a further visit… Here you can admire the powerful and massive work of Lotte Reimers (1932-), celebrating her 80 years birthday 2012. I intend the term “massive” more in a metaphorical way here, as her vessels are not that huge. Her forms are accurate, geometrical, precise, but the borders of those bottles from the 90’s are not rounded off, are still exploding as she didn’t care to give them a proper and elegant form. As if she had just cut the surface and let it dry as it is. The clay is pulsating, the glazes are matt, earthy, made by her with natural materials as ash and they trickle, are thrown, given to the vessel with strength and extreme attention. You can clearly see her working in front of you, yet you cannot really estimate how much is controlled and how much is left to her powerful gestures. I guess this is what makes a piece of work so special: the moment you can feel the person beyond the piece, with all the potter’s complexity and facets, traceable somehow into the materia you’re looking at by giving the clay an energy vibration. Do not forget then to have a look at her little black and white portrait at the wall, and at her lively eyes.

The old burgher’s house and Berlin: Keramik Museum p.I

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Welcome to Charlottenburg, the western district of Berlin!

Red, yellow, blue are the colors and forms of the Richard-Wagner-Platz U-7 station, where you will probably get off. It may rain, it may snow, you are already in a good mood. Some hundred meters away you get to this beautiful house, a former dance school and burgher’s house, which dates back to 1712, and you know that you are at the Keramik Museum-step in!

Three the current exhibitions, placed in different areas of the building.

The day you are going to read these lines is probably going to be too late to see the first exhibition, the one dedicated to Gerda and Heiner Hans, since it should end the 12th March. Nonetheless, you may like to know something about them. Gerda Körting (1911-2000), born in Italy, moved to Germany and married Heiner Hans. Both potters, are important names in the German history of ceramics. The first room shows some pieces of Gerda. Her style leaves place to imperfections, as in order for you to feel the clay you are looking at. The glazes are thick and with pinholes. Quite different is the style of Heiner Hans (1911-1991), represented by his surgical precision and an interesting variety of glazes- always astonishingly perfect and smooth, from the elegance of the crackle glaze of the ’60s to a crystalline discretion. The colors are mainly on a natural bone white scale and some blues; his well-known owls are also shown, colored by a natural matt brown glaze. Personally, I felt in love with the beautiful carved set in clear white and cobalt, that would fit perfectly somewhere on a table near the sea, with some cold water and a warm breeze. Or is it maybe because it’s still winter, that I get these visions?

Red colours at the Töpferei Schwarz-part II

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Some like to prepare it on their own. They buy all ingredients, as if they were to bake a cake, but instead of flour they have minerals and they have oxides, and maybe a mask on their mouth since there is nothing more dangerous to the potter than the dust flying and settling over their lungs. They are going to very carefully weigh the quantities, following receipts that are maybe secret, maybe well known, maybe readjusted and new to the world. They are going to pour water on their mixture, and leave it. They are then going to mix and pay attention, as no lump has to be found. Just like your own good besciamella. Eveything has to be filtered a couple of time at least. Back and forth, from a bucket to another. Let it rest.

As home-baked cakes, these glazes may not always turn out perfect, may behave a little stranger than the already-prepared. Some others choose to buy this kind of glazes from the retailer. And there is a colour that you’re always going to recognize as being bought: the red colour on a high-fired vessel. You can recognize the brilliant and intense red, its fugitive nature, its movement on the vessel as you could still see it moving into the oven, the yellow nuances that become sometimes stronger, while sometimes they do force red to be almost orange. It’s a beautiful colour, a beautiful blank sensation. You won’t ever get, as far as I know, such a result when you’re at your workshop, weighing your ingredients and playing with your stills. At least, not with a electric oven. The red colour is a difficult colour. Often expensive, often capricious, often just won’t resist to such high temperatures as those you need when you burn stoneware, the harder and often pale clay that gets compact at 1100 C and then, won’t let out a single drop of water or wine out of its body.

That’s why looking at a vessel means looking at a chemical manifesto. It means oxides and silica embracing the clay, dancing on the surface and crystallizing after more than thousand degrees are reached, then calming down and freezing in the beauty of your coffee cup. Fascinating, isn’t it?

Red colours at the Töpferei Schwarz-part I

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I took my umbrella with me and descended the underground. The rain began pouring on me a couple of seconds after I’ve been waiting at the traffic light for my green turn. And then the Töpferei Schwarz. Let’s enter and see…

And I saw a nice shop with wooden shelves and everywhere teacups, teacups with a plane dish and a smaller dish and the nice teapot lifted by a pedestal, beer mugs, and lamps. Some candles where dancing and hanging and the atmosphere was warm. A nice man asked me if I needed some help and disappeared in the back of the shop. As far as I’ve seen, does potters work in their own shop, we’re not talking the gallery language, but still, do you have an idea of the amount of dust that is developed by a single second of you with clay in your hand? You won’t work at home, unless you have a huge home or do not see dust, as to say. Though seemed the place very clean to my eyes. And a young woman with dreads was working with him as assistant.

Seeing ceramics is not enough, you have to look at the texture, feel the glaze. I asked the owner and potter something like, do you know somebody making professional plaster moulds, do you know a good retailer? Do you work on your own, is everything you sell here your own production? He answered me gently and gave me some advices to enter the German world of pottery.

Seeing the colours, feeling the material, is to me like coming in a small shop filled with sweets, a color shop for the painter, the Italian countryside for a cook, and I felt like I was already missing all of this. After this day I’ve also been to some Christmas markets and there I noticed that often already prepared glazes are used. Do you know the glaze, the vitreous cover to your pottery?

Moving again-living tools in my box

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Everybody knows what moving into a new apartment means, isn’t?

Choosing, throwing, wrapping, packing, unpacking, moving, breaking your bones, chaos, unpacking.

What if, this time, you’re moving from a country to another, and you look by train at your old favourite city disappearing, house after house, recognizing every single street corner, then it’s only sky left, black, because it’s a deep night, and so many stars you would believe being at the edge of the world? Which, in fact, is not long from reality, since the city you’re leaving behind is Stockholm, the capital of Sweden and not too far away from the Arctic Circle.

What if you’re also living behind your pottery tools, your plaster molds, your clay, your bottles, the ones you’ve just taken out from the oven and that were finally beautiful?

Because if working with clay is a challenge, but also a need both for your mind and for your body, did you realize, back then, how naked it would feel, in the new city?

As it happens here, is the new city fantastic enough, and if you follow my path you’re actually searching for a job, an apartment, and some old traces of the German language in your head.

Don’t ask me why I’m actually here, then, starting a site where we’re going to talk about how a coffee cup gets into life as about cobalt, stock cubes and nice little shops that are terribly clean, even though there, in the back, some potters are working with the earth. Just keep curious and fall in love with clay!