Tag Archives: Montana

Ceramics News Briefs International

Web-fed offset press printing newspapers

A web-fed, offset printing press in use to print a newspaper. The plate cylinder, visible at bottom with ink, contains the image in positive form and transfers it to an offset cylinder that then deposits the ink on the page. By Tom T, via Wikimedia Commons

UNITED STATES: Warriors with a difference, Helena Independent Record – Today is Chinese New Year, an appropriate time to begin the week’s briefs with a story about a Chinese artist. Wanxin Zhang builds life-size sculptures of humans with “the coil and slab method from the ground up, hollowing out the clay, cutting the piece into sections, firing the sections multiple times and then gluing them back together.” He has created his own terracotta warriors, however, they are not what you’d expect. Take a look…

ENGLAND: Julia Carter Preston obituary, The Guardian – This is a beautiful and moving tribute to a talented woman who left quite a legacy. She “single-mindedly revived the art of sgraffito...”

UNITED STATES: Scientists team with art designers to restore Año Nuevo Island, a place where animals reign supreme, Silicon Valley Mercury News – A tiny sanctuary for seals, sea lions and birds became a project for ceramic students at the California College of the Arts. They began constructing ” bird condos — bird bunkers” and last year, 33 pairs of rhinoceros auklets into their new ceramic homes.

MEXICO: 1,300 Year Old Kiln Used by Ancient Zapotecs Discovered in Mexico, Hispanically Speaking News – Found in an archaeological zone in Oaxaca, the kiln is a “link between the pre-Columbian pottery tradition and the artisanal ceramics currently made in the community of Santa Maria Atzompa, establishing the connection between today’s inhabitants and their ancestors.”

UNITED STATES: We need to recognize the folk art talent in our own backyard, Barrow Journal – This is a sweet little story. It’s a love story, in a way, a love story about a community, a locale. in it, reporter Mike Buffington writes about artisans in northeastern Georgia, where he lives. He writes about them person by person, town by town, and county by county. About halfway through the story, he begins talking about the people who make traditional pottery. It’s worth a read; take a boo…

 

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Auntie Del’s Czech porcelain soup tureen

My great-aunt was an elfin creature and most probably fey, like my mom. She had a tinkling laugh that went up and down the scale. Our family is fond of our Irish heritage and Auntie Del and her sister Dorie, my grandma, were the standard bearers. How many urchins of similar stripe must have lived in Butte, Montana during its heydey? I remember a story about them chucking stones at the butler as they ran past the Clark mansion. Children of first generation Irish immigrants living in one of the biggest mining boom towns in the U.S. Big. Big immigrant population, big vaudeville acts, Big Money, big disparity between rich and poor. Auntie Del was the frailer of the two and she was taken to Missoula, where she lived with her grandparents. I got to know Auntie Del when we moved to the Garden City when I was in 5th grade. She and her family lived in a lovely heritage house on the south side of the Clark Fork River. Later, when I was a teenager, we lived in Spokane, and visited mom’s family often, three state borders away. It was all sort of novel, since my developmental years were spent far away from any family. It was during those years that attention was called to Auntie Del’s antiques. I remember mom pointing out her aunt’s hat pins. Long things that would have adorned the hats of women at the turn of the century. The heads were highly decorated, fearsome things. Her daughter, my cousin Kelley, had an exquisite mineral collection. I think it was on the landing of the staircase, in a cabinet. Gorgeous stuff! I got to know Auntie Del better when I stayed at my grandma’s in the 80s for a spell, recuperating from a serious illness. She was the best storyteller and loved to reminisce. She was like a tiny bird, very perky, with the most amazing blue eyes that literally sparkled, no cliché. I got to spend even more time around her in the 90s when I attended grad school in Missoula at the U of M. I had seen her living in three different places at that point, down by the river, out in Orchard Homes, off 3rd Street, not that far from the family home, and then at an assisted living facility up on the northeast side of town, up the Rattlesnake. One of the things Auntie Del collected were pig figurines and she had some of them in her room. Cute pigs, realistic pigs, you name it…she just loved little piggies. I have one of them now…a little bronze sow with piglets that I keep on the bookcase next to my bed. Even when Auntie Del was poorly, she was always happy to see me and I miss her terribly. She passed away years ago now and not being able to attend her funeral is one of my great sorrows. This summer, though, I was able to see her son, my cousin Charlie, when Mark and I took mom to Montana for vacation. Charlie and my mom resemble her, so it was as if Auntie Del was at the table, too, during lunch. Mom and Charlie swapped stories, we hooted and had loads of fun. Yesterday, I started putting china and crystal in the new china cabinet. One of the things I couldn’t wait to place in it was Auntie Del’s soup tureen. It was given to me back in 1999. I met Kel and my cousin Sam at a storage facility in Missoula. There, we loaded an antique record player into my car. Auntie Del had wanted my brother Alan to have it. I think there was a stack of 78 records, too. At that same time, Kelley gave me the soup tureen you see in the photos. It was one of my aunt’s many antiques… I had never seen it before, it wasn’t part of my history in any way, but it is a beautiful piece. Over the years, it has really bothered me that it was stuck in a dark cupboard where I could never see it. Not anymore, though. Auntie Del lives on and her lovely Czechoslovakian soup tureen does, too. And it is now most definitely part of my history. I have yet to use it but, by George, I’m going to and tout de suite!

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“Pottery artist learned his life-skills in Butte”

This story ran in the August 25, 2001 edition of Butte’s newspaper, The Montana Standard. It’s an excellent story that ran about the time  Autio’s solo exhibition, “Rudy,” opened. For more information about the Archie Bray Foundation, click here.

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“Pottery artist learned his life-skills in Butte”

by Montana Lee Newspapers

MISSOULA — Before Rudy Autio, pottery in America was coffee mugs, soup crocks, potato-chip bowls. “I was never attracted to the craft,” he says, “because I thought it was something you’d find in dime stores.”

Fifty years later, Ceramics Monthly magazine hails him as one of the most significant artists in the medium ever, listing him and longtime friend Peter Voulkos among 13 “living potters and ceramic artists who have had the greatest impact on contemporary ceramics.” Continue reading

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Are potters and ceramists down-to-earth?

My Great-Aunt Della Kelley at a Kelley Ranch near Avon Montana. Source: Kelley Schott

Potters and ceramists are… Of course, the first thing that comes to my mind is ‘down-to-earth.’ It is a cliché, yes, but is it true? Think about the people you’ve known that you met or know because of clay…. Classmates, friends, colleagues. Can we honestly say they are down-to-earth? What does this idiom mean, anyway, aside from our long-held assumptions? I drummed up a couple of sources, answers.com, about.com, and an English language site for ESL students:

Me and my brother Dave at the remains of the Kelley Ranch in Lower Orchard Homes, Missoula, Montana.

“1. Realistic; sensible. 2 a. Not pretentious or affected; straightforward. 2 b. Not overly ornate; simple in style.” Answers.com

“Definition: Not arrogant; simple and practical. Explanation: Used when talking about people who appear to be very natural and kind.” About.com

“Means: to be balanced and reasonable; Use: to refer to people’s characters; Circumstances: It is often a compliment used when you talk about someone you know; Note: Often used with ‘very’. Can be used as an adjective – She’s a very down to earth person.” English Idioms

My brother, Steve, and I on April, my Aunt Susie's horse. Taken in 1961 at my grandma's in Missoula, Montana.

Well, judging by these definitions and descriptions, someone  down-to-earth is practical and unaffected. Do potters and ceramists have these characteristics? When I think about the people I know who are involved with ceramics, I recognize that some are wonderfully flamboyant. Broad gestures, much verbal expressiveness, joie de vivre, even theatricality, but not affectation or pretense. Likewise, I don’t think most people would describe me as someone

Standing my ground. Me, on right, with my Grandma, Aunt Susie, and doe at the National Bison Range, Montana

who puts on airs. It’s in the eye of the beholder, though, isn’t it? When I think of farmers and ranchers, I can’t imagine a group that is literally more down-to-earth. By the very nature of their cyclical lifestyles, they must be innately practical or learn to be. After all, cows and goats need milking, eggs must be gathered, and crops need tending and harvesting. Rural folk don’t have the conveniences of the city, either: mass transit, cultural diversions, or umpteen choices. (However, the Internet, online shopping, and streaming movies has changed that!) Still, they are often the salt of the earth, in addition to being down-to-earth. I see connections between them and potters and ceramists. Mud, dirt, clay. Working the soil to grow something, wedging clay to create something. Animal husbandry requires earth (unless you’re a poor battery hen).

Me at Great-Grandpa Steck's 90th birthday celebration in Clinton, Montana

A close connection to the soil and its power to ground, to keep one tied to the earth and not in the etheric realms. We glaze with ground minerals…rocks. We make glazes with various things of the earth. Painters work with minerals, too, ground up and made into paint, but the raw, earth element is more removed. (Of course, one can paint and sculpt or pot both; they are not mutually exclusive.) So, I guess I’ve talked myself into it. Yes, potters and ceramists are a down-to-earth lot. Whether one’s personality is that way is debatable, but it seems likely that some characteristics of down-to-earthedness may be found among us as a group or sub-group. In 1949, Aldo Leopold wrote, in A Sand County Almanac, “Land, then, is not merely soil; it is a fountain of energy flowing through a circuit of soils, plants, and animals.” That same circuit of energy moves from our hands to the soil and back when we work with clay.

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