March 3, 2016

A Little Box of Local Treasures

What does one do with three dimensional art forms that are too small to be sculptures but too large to be jewelry?  Call them art objects, perhaps, and find a suitable way to display or store them.  The small pit fired ceramic sculptures I had made fall into that category.  They could be beads, but as pit fired ceramics they may be a little too delicate to be functional, wearable art.  But they are not quite large enough to make an impression as a sculptural objects.  So what to do with them?
Although art object might be the right technical category for such things, I like to call my small sculptures “art toys.”  They are toys because their size and shapes invite a person to set them up in various configurations and groupings.  Their flattened edges enable the player to turn them on their multiple edges so that they can stand different ways.  One can imagine them as sculptures but if they were to function as such, they would have to be large enough for a viewer to see their multiple aspects by walking around them.  Instead, their aspects are revealed through manipulation.
I recall that as a child my favorite types of toys were things that came in multiples and were housed in  cleverly shaped boxes; a plastic farmhouse filled with small animals, a hollow chicken filled with eggs, a wooden box for wooden blocks.  I do believe that artists sometimes recreate in adult life the things that we were enamored of in our youths.  In this regard, a box full of precious little things holds an attraction for me.  The need to put my smaller art work in to an appropriately designed container was satisfied by making a ceramic lidded vessel for my beads/sculptures/art objects.
 In fashioning this ceramic box, I used the same clay mined from the Edisto that I had used to make my miniature sculptures.  Alluding to what was to be housed within, I made a knob in the shape of these sculptural pieces.  I purposely made everything asymmetrical so that the lid only fits on one way.  I made the surface smooth and polished with terra sigillata thinned out in areas so that the raw, orange clay would show through.  This was  bisque fired then put aside for a month until my recent pit firing.
Both the ceramic box and the little clay objects were local products.  Not only was the clay mined locally, but everything that went in to the pit fire was local as well -down to the very camellia flowers from my front and back yard that were used to smother the fire.  Creating a reduction atmosphere with expended flower blossoms was a new experiment for me.  The results were rounded smoke designs rather than the linear ones created by the previously used Spanish moss.  The effect was satisfying and I will probably try this again.

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