Sunday, March 14, 2010

Clay Symposium Part 1- Alwyn O'Brien Workshop

Well the 2010 Clay Symposium may not exactly be NCECA, but it's the next best thing for local British Columbia clay buffs who may not have the cash to get all the way to Philly for a weekend of 'clay shop talk'.  There's a lot to cram into one day when there are numerous workshops going on simultaneously by 9 visiting clay artists.  Despite it's small size, the presenters this year were a really amazing bunch of Ceramic artists- both emerging and established, wheel-throwers, hand-builders, and sculptors- really, there was something for everyone to get inspired by.  Hopefully I can touch on a few of them this week- some will be more in-depth than others as I was volunteering and couldn't make it to all the workshops I had hoped to see.
I was most inspired by emerging artist Alwyn O'Brien, originally from Salt Spring Island, who is just finishing off her Master's Degree at the University of Washington.  Seeing the layers of imagery that she builds up on slabs of clay before forming them into a vessel is like watching a painter at work.  For her small work, she will often just silkscreen using under-glazes that are a little on the thicker side, directly onto the slab.  For her larger work she uses a plaster form that she may have already carved a motif/design right into the slab.  Then she silkscreens onto the plaster.  Painting and pouring underglazes on the top of the silkscreens creates 'backgrounds' of colour, while the foreground becomes the first screens that were laid on.  Scratching delicate lines or using washes of underglaze again builds up a background.  Finally she sprayed/sponged water over the entire slab before putting a rolled piece of porcelain on top and rolled it into the plaster. Leaving it for a few seconds before peeling away, the dramatic moment of the image transferring onto the porcelain was awe-inspiring.  Of course the painter in me is pretty stocked about the possibilities of this type of mono-printing method.  With the absorption of the underglaze into the clay, there isn't the obvious raised lines and brush strokes of actually painting directly onto the clay.  Alwyn then uses these slabs to construct Vessel forms- the photo above is a bisqued example before she even begins to apply glazes.  She still will fire her pieces multiple times with various glazes, decals, and lusters.  Each of her screens and images that she uses comes from her own personal history and interests and it was really wonderful to hear the why's and the how's of her own personal aesthetics in making her work.
Here is more of her work from Prime Gallery in Toronto.

By the way-thanks to everyone who has been gracious in congratulating me on the Canadian House & Home piece! I am still 'patiently' waiting to find a copy, but have been busy packing up orders and responding to emails to bide the time.  And if you are newly visiting my blog- thanks for stopping by and welcome!


Pinecone Camp said...

Who needs Philly? Looks like a great workshop. Alwyn's work looks stunning. Great post Heather!

Anonymous said...

I'm trying to buy some of Ms. O'Brien's pieces, Prime Gallery doesn't return emails or phone messages, any ideas where I might get a few of her pots?!

dahlhaus said...

Hi Vaughn, -she just graduated from the University of Washington grad program this spring and last I heard she was spending the summer in Vancouver. I'll see if I can get some info for you and perhaps an email for you. Perhaps you could email me at with your email and I could pass it along to her.

rorabee said...

I just followed that link to Prime and it was some kind of porn site. Perhaps Prime is defunct?

I have one of Alwyn's vases, made before she went to school in Washington, and it's beautiful; I can see the progress in her style and skill in these newer pieces. What an amazing ceramic artist!

dahlhaus said...

Woah- I guess Prime Gallery no longer has a website. Not sure if it's gone under or what!? Sorry about the link mess up... (ewww)

If you would like more info about Alwyn, you can also google her work- she had an exhibition at the James Harris Gallery in Jan of 2011.