Paper cutting

Hi all! My new ceramics studio is not quite done yet, so I decided to try some paper cutting this weekend. I did a little youtube crash course and learned how to cut really pretty paper snowflakes. (We’re supposed to get our first snow of the season tonight.) I now know two things:

1) I need sharper scissors. Ha!

2) This was really fun and I definitely want to figure out how to transfer this process to porcelain. These snowflakes would be so beautiful in translucent porcelain, hanging in your window or on your tree!

I think this could be a fun class to host later this winter. Add a little wine into the mix… Fold, Sip, Snip? What do you think? It’s incredibly satisfying to open the snowflakes at the end, fold by fold by fold. I’m not sure what gets me more – the surprise involved, or the final symmetry of the patterns. Symmetry makes me happy inside… ♡

Shiny paper proved too difficult for my phone to photograph nicely today, sorry!

Printing Your Own Laser Ceramic Decals

04_10_decal

Recently one of my good friends, Bethany, has been helping me figure out how to make, apply, and fire decals to my ceramics. She’s been using this process for a long time and has been very helpful and patient as I pester her. Check out (and buy!) her work here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/stanleychesteralbert. Thank you, Bethany!

The neat thing about this process is being able to print any black and white image you want (as long as you own the rights to it or it is in the public domain, of course). So, it would be easy to customize a mug, say, with a person’s photo or name or maybe even a phrase they are known for saying. Mine might read: “Where are you and what are you doing?” I like to open emails that way. Anyway, the photos I used as decals above are some I took on my phone and manipulated using Photoshop. The heart on the cup is a string of text I made on one of the other Adobe programs.

Last week, someone posted on a ceramics message board questions very similar to ones I had when first starting this process. I’ve decided to compile what I’ve learned so far into this post. Maybe it can help you. Links to a couple of other good resources are listed at the bottom of the post.

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What I am using for this process

Printer: HP 1022. I bought mine used on Amazon. Bethany finds hers on Craigslist.

Laser cartridge: 12A (Brand new – there are questions about new vs. old cartridges on forums with some saying new ones don’t work. Mine is working fine.)

Paper: BelDecal laser waterslide paper, white backing, clear film. When I called, they gave me a firing program that was totally absurd – it involved my firing an empty kiln to cone 017, then opening the hot kiln, sticking my work in, closing the lid, and soaking it for an hour. Sorry, not happening. I’ll list my firing program below. As always, TEST TEST TEST. Just because this works for me doesn’t mean it will work for you, your clay/glazes, kiln, etc. Tinkering might be necessary.

Glazes:

Porcelain cup = Shaner’s Clear with colorants (cone 10).

Tiles = Deb’s Clear (cone 04).

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Firing cycle (all in Fahrenheit, * denotes degrees):

Apply decals to a clean, already glaze-fired surface. Smooth out all bubbles. Dry at least 24 hours.

5 segments–

1) 200*/220* HOLD 20 minutes [lid cracked 1/2 inch, peeps out]

2) 100*/500* HOLD 15 minutes

[somewhere in the 600* range, close lid]

3) 180*/1000* NO HOLD

[somewhere in the 900-1200* range, put peeps in]

4) 125*/1200* NO HOLD

5) [for earthenware] 200*/1770* HOLD 15 minutes 

OR, 5) [for high fired ware] 200*/1945* HOLD 15 minutes

Approximately 11-12 hour cycle. Very stinky around 400 degrees. Vent if possible, or vacate the area during the firing. TEST TEST TEST.

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Here is my first decal test page, and one of the original photos. You’ll notice that though the decals print jet black, they fire brown. That is because you are burning out basically everything in the decal/toner except the iron oxide, which ends up being brown. To make the decals permanent, you need to apply them to a glazed surface. If you fire to the right temp for your particular glazes (this might be different than mine), the iron will sink into the glaze and become permanent. Cram as much as you can onto the page – you only need enough room to cut around them, and the paper isn’t cheap!

laser_decal

Laser decals on a porcelain cup and earthenware tiles. Ghosting on the tiles is from firing an original layer of decals to cone 04 (same temperature as the glaze maturation) and then refiring to cone 08 with a new decal in an offset position.

 

More resources:

http://lindaarbuckle.com/handouts/laser-decals-for-ceramics.pdf

http://rothshank.com/justins-work/decal-resources/

Prairie: Traces gallery talk

Howdy. For those of you who missed it, here is the text from my gallery talk about Prairie: Traces, my latest piece. Yes, I am one of those people who writes out their entire speech! I’ll copy/paste it as it was written (to be delivered in person) so you can get the full experience. Hee hee!

If you want to see the piece first, please visit my vimeo page: https://vimeo.com/141752197. I’ve also posted a photo strip at the bottom of this entry.

If you would be so kind as to leave a comment or hit the “like” button below, I’d be forever grateful, as it will help with my final report for my grant. Thank you!

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Thank you for coming tonight. My name is Amy Uthus and I’m a local artist. I earned a BA from North Dakota State University in art and English in 2007. I attended graduate school at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, and I earned my Master of Fine Arts in ceramics in 2012.

I’ve shown widely across the United States and I’m grateful to Ted and Shari and the Wesley House for the opportunity to show Prairie: Traces here this fall!

I currently maintain an independent studio practice, making things and selling them, as well as teaching and doing private commissions. I have prior experience at a variety of studios; I was the Artist-in-Residence and Education Coordinator at RDG Dahlquist Art Studio here in Des Moines from 2012-2014. I’ve also been an International Student Resident at the International Ceramics Studio (Hungary), and an Artist-In-Residence at Guldagergaard International Ceramics Research Center (Denmark).

In 2014, I was awarded an Alumni Achievement Award for early career success from the North Dakota State University Alumni Association. Prairie: Traces was made possible in part by a grant from the Iowa Arts Council, a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Prairie: Traces is made of porcelain and steel. Porcelain is a white clay that is translucent when it’s thin. As you can see in the photos and in the actual piece here, light passes through the porcelain. Natural sunlight creates a different effect than halogen lighting. Sunlight creates a really crisp, focused circle, as well as the parabola of light across the top of the panels. Halogen lighting creates a fuzzier, wider circle and no parabola of light across the top. The piece was designed with natural light in mind. Ideally, this piece would sit in front of a large south-facing window.

However, we don’t have a south-facing window here, so I’m showing it with halogen lighting. The movement of the light is the same, though. I have the lamp hooked up to a telescope star tracker. The star tracker is a machine that rotates the light at the same speed of the earth’s rotation on its axis. Normally this machine would be used for astrophotography – you would attach a camera to it instead of a light, and then use it to follow the stars, taking really long exposures of things in outer space without getting streaks and blurs. So, if you watch the light tonight, it will travel slowly across the piece from left to right, just as it would facing south in the sunshine.

One of the most frequent questions I hear basically boils down to, “Why did you make this?” There are several ways I could answer that question. I’ll discuss the two reasons that seem the most important to me – the prairie, and time.

This piece contrasts unyielding steel and fragile porcelain while harnessing and focusing the natural elements of light and time. The fragility of porcelain and the unforgiving hardness of steel remind us of life on the prairie: a delicate, subtle beauty belying incredible natural dangers. By distilling light and time into a single entity, we are reminded of the major roles each play in life on the Plains.

Traces’ connection to the land is familiar to Iowans, who live surrounded by growth and sky. The shapes of the porcelain panels are reminiscent of aerial views of farmland, and the texture of the panels references flowing river water.

I photographed this piece out on the prairie. It’s the largest piece I’ve ever made, but in the photographs scale is tricky to decipher because the space is so open. I love vast spaces. They’re comforting to me deep inside. I assume other prairie-raised people feel the same, and one of my goals with this piece was to allow people in the heart of the city to escape to the plains momentarily, without ever leaving town.

I had the opportunity to study abroad in grad school. During that time, I met up with a friend from high school who was currently living in Germany, in Istanbul for a few days. One of the most compelling things I saw there was the impact of human touch upon the architecture.

This subject has made its way into a few different pieces now, but I keep revisiting it because it was so fascinating to me, a girl from ND, where we’re lucky if a building is one hundred years old. Some of the buildings in Istanbul are 1500 years old!

When you have a structure that’s that old, some parts of it are naturally going to start to fall into some sort of decay, no matter how good the upkeep is. What was curious to me, though, were the places where people have inadvertently caused the erosion. In those places, the degeneration of the building’s original form didn’t seem like a loss.

For example, when you pass a marble column and absently let your hand trail around its corner, you don’t usually think you’re leaving a mark.  But if thousands or hundreds of thousands of people over one and a half millennia do the exact same thing when they walk past that exact same column, all of those casual caresses add up.  The stone corner becomes soft, rounded and smoothed into a new shape by nothing stronger than human skin. We don’t usually think about a random touch here or there affecting anything.

When you stop to think about it, how many little actions do you do each day, that you think don’t have any effect on anything in the future? I know I routinely spend moments of my time on things that I think don’t, or can’t possibly, matter 5 minutes from now. But what about 5 days from now, or 5 years from now? Or 500 years from now? It’s hard to say if any of my absentminded or unconscious actions will be present in the future in any way, shape, or form. My second goal with Prairie: Traces was to get people to stop and think about time. To think about how we spend our time, and how our actions can unexpectedly affect the future. I decided to do this by making time visible, through the circle of light traversing across the porcelain.

Does anyone have any questions?

Prairie: Traces by Amy Uthus Porcelain, steel, sunlight, time. 7' x 7' x 24".

Prairie: Traces
by Amy Uthus
Porcelain, steel, sunlight, time.
7′ x 7′ x 24″.

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Please respond below. I like to hear responses to my work and ideas, even if they are different than my original intent. Thank you!

This Friday in Des Moines – Public Art Reception for Prairie: Traces

Prairie: Traces by Amy Uthus Porcelain, steel, sunlight, time. 7' x 7' x 24".

Prairie: Traces
by Amy Uthus
Porcelain, steel, sunlight, time.
7′ x 7′ x 24″

You’re Invited!

Please join me this Friday, from 6-7:30PM, at the Wesley House – Drake University, for the unveiling of Prairie: Traces, my latest artwork. Standing seven feet high and nearly seven feet wide, the piece contrasts unyielding steel and fragile porcelain while harnessing and focusing the natural elements of light and time. A twist on the ancient sundial, I’m really excited about how it works and am thrilled to be able to share it with the Des Moines community.

The fragility of porcelain and the unforgiving hardness of steel remind us of life on the prairie: a delicate, subtle beauty belying incredible natural dangers. Distilling light and time into a single entity, we are unconsciously reminded of the roles each play in life on the Plains. Traces’ connection to the land is familiar to Iowans, who live surrounded by growth and sky.

You and your friends are invited to experience Prairie: Traces in person. Here are the details…
Wesley House Gallery
2718 University Ave.,
Des Moines, IA 50311
October 9-November 5
Opening reception: Friday, Oct. 9 from 6-7:30pm,
Artist talk: Thursday, Oct. 22 at 8:30pm
.
All events are free and open to the public.

This project is funded in part by the Iowa Arts Council, a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

To see a video of Prairie: Traces in action, please visit this link to vimeo.

Studio News

Hello hello!

A quick update on how I’ve been occupied lately… (lots of photos at the end)…

Much of my time has been devoted to a project for a lovely local woman, Katie Geraty, and her company, Stone Bone Wood Cloth. For the past year and a half, Katie has hired me to design and fabricate prototypes of small porcelain bowls for her. The bowls are finally ready to launch, along with two other products (custom tassels and bracelets), and… not to be conceited, they are quite beautiful. 😉

Katie launched a Kickstarter campaign yesterday to get her business off and running. Click here to visit her page. It would be awesome if you were willing to help support her endeavor, because by supporting her you will be supporting local artists (me included!). She doesn’t mention this in the Kickstarter page, but did you know Katie was told she could have these bowls manufactured in China for pennies on the dollar? She chose instead to hire me to produce them, and she is paying me a very fair wage to do so. I don’t know about you, but that’s the kind of business practice I can get behind. Creating these vessels for Katie has allowed me to keep pluggin’ away in my studio, and I’m grateful to her for the opportunity!

Here’s a synopsis of Stone Bone Wood Cloth:

“Our mission is to create beautiful objects, hand-made from stone, bone, wood or cloth that are as unique and individual as each of us; objects that remind us of who we are, or want to be. 

None of us really needs or wants more stuff…unless it has some personal meaning or resonance. At the SBWC website individuals will be able to go into a “workshop” and co-create an object that has personal meaning. Co-create means taking a base product – a vessel or a tassel – and adding elements that make it uniquely your own.”

Check our her page and make a donation today! If you’re not familiar with Kickstarter: You can remain anonymous during the donation process if you’d like. Donors can also choose from various rewards (bowls are some of the choices) and no donations are collected unless the project is fully funded within 31 days.

Some photos (of making the vessels, teaching, and other studio happenings). Click on any circle to open a photo viewer.

New Work!

Howdy!

I’ve been working hard on photographing a backlog of work from this summer. Here are a couple of finished images. I’m going to post a link on my facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Amy-Uthus-Artist/101902445002) when they’re all uploaded to my portfolio site. If you haven’t already “liked” my facebook page, doing so is the fastest way to stay up-to-date on all the latest news… and there are some big changes on the horizon!

Slip cast Dixie cup (sagger-fired porcelain), charred wood. 2014.

“Dixie”. Slip cast paper cup (sagger-fired porcelain), charred wood. 2014. Not yet for sale (is going to be entered in upcoming competitions.)

Untitled. Slip cast, sagger-fired porcelain and charred wood. 2014. $250.

Untitled. Slip cast, sagger-fired porcelain and charred wood. 2014. Not yet for sale.

"Impetus". Translucent porcelain boat (1 5/8"x 3/4"x 1/2"), charred wood. 2014. Not yet for sale.

“Impetus”. Translucent porcelain boat (1 5/8″x 3/4″x 1/2″), charred wood. 2014. Not yet for sale.

I was really hoping to get all the pictures done today, but I realized (after shooting all the pics, of course) that I had my white balance set incorrectly. So. I have to reshoot a bunch of them tomorrow morning, when the natural light comes back to my east-facing apartment. That means I get to live with this setup in my apartment for another night. Yippee!! 🙂

Stuff EVERYWHERE. Ugh. Clutter makes me feel like a crazy person!

Stuff EVERYWHERE. Ugh. Clutter makes me feel like a crazy person!

NDSU Alumni Awards

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted on this blog! I apologize… life has been busy 🙂 Here’s a bit about a recent happening:

NDSU’s Alumni Association recently presented five alumni with various achievement awards. I’m honored to have been selected as the recipient of the 2014 Horizon Award, which recognizes a graduate of the past 15 years for early career accomplishments or exceptional service to their community. Garry Higdem, Sandy Fiechtner, Darrell F. Strobel, Ph.D, and Gary W. Boehler, R.Ph were presented with various awards at the ceremony on May 1st as well. They’re an impressive lot and it was a bit intimidating to be on stage with them!

The ceremony was held over lunch. The food was delicious. Here’s a picture of some of the people at my table:

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My family! A couple of my aunts and one of my uncles came also. And two of my favorite professors from my time at NDSU were there too, Dave Swenson and Betsy Birmingham. My family was on time, even though they got a late start that morning and told me they’d be late (they had a three hour drive). I think it’s because my sister was driving and she was going well over 80. I’m glad they made it safely, but I’m glad they were on time, too, as tables were assigned and ours was front and center. Ha!

Here’s another picture, of all the awardees:

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It was fun to meet everybody. Click here to read about the awards and each person who was recognized. The emcee did a great job introducing us, and the Alumni Center made video introductions of everyone too. Here is a link to the video about me. And, because my grandma has requested it, here is the text of my speech:

“I’m honored to have been selected for the 2014 Horizon Award. I’d like to thank Dr. Elizabeth Birmingham for nominating me. I’d also like to thank David Swenson and Dr. Kris Groberg for their letters of support, and Jakelle and everyone else at the Alumni Center for all of their hard work putting this event together.

Inspiration, commitment to excellence, challenge, risk taking.

When I think about NDSU, these are a few of the words that come to mind. I’d like to take a moment to talk about two people who I feel exemplify these terms.

Betsy Birmingham.

Betsy was one of my favorite professors at NDSU. Her classes were an incredible amount of work. Strangely, though, it wasn’t necessarily that she assigned gobs of work, it was that she inspired us to go… not just the extra mile, but maybe the extra marathon.

Betsy has a unique energy I haven’t seen in any other person, that seems specifically engineered to inspire her students to strive for excellence in all of their work. I’ve decided there’s something about her that’s a little bit magical.

I didn’t see it when I was her student, though I knew I liked her classes quite a bit. But now that I teach, I look back on how she taught us in sheer amazement. How did she get us so involved? So engaged? Her classes were consistently both thought-provoking and fun, a feat I’ve found difficult to replicate in my own classes.

As I teach, I attempt to channel some of Betsy’s magic. She is one of the biggest role models I have in my teaching practice.

Dave Swenson.

Dave ended up being another of my favorite professors at NDSU. I say “ended up” because I was a little scared of him at first! Dave challenged me right from the get-go. I remember telling him I wanted to be an art major, after taking his ceramics class one time. He told me he’d sign off on it if I agreed to take the class every semester, including summers, until I graduated. I think this was a nice way of telling me I needed a lot of practice!

Dave pushed me to figure things out on my own, and I still remember how frightened but proud I felt when he had me learn how to use the kilns and start firing my own work. He challenged me to take risks, learn from my mistakes, troubleshoot, and problem solve.  As a result, he started my studio practice on a foundation of self-sufficiency, a skill vital to any artist.

As the years have passed and I’ve spent time in other studios and watched other artists work, I’ve become more and more grateful to Dave for teaching me this skill. Feeling confident in my abilities to “figure things out” has paved the way for me take uncomfortable risks with my work and career. These risks have paid off in the form of new pieces, residencies, and teaching opportunities, to name a few.

My degree and education from NDSU has been a great launchpad. Betsy and Dave exemplify the generous spirit I’ve found across the board here. I regret that there isn’t time to tell you about Kris Groberg, Bill Cosgrove, Mark Aune, Kent Kapplinger, and several others individually as well. Each of these people was an integral part of my experience at NDSU. I owe much of my success to these people and their commitment to excellence, and willingness to inspire and challenge their students.

I can only hope to be able to pay it forward to another young person someday in the future.

I’d like to conclude by thanking my family for their unending support, especially my parents, Eric and Jackie. I’m blessed to be your daughter.

Thank you.”