The Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, VA is a great reimagined space. A former munitions factory, it is now a colleciton of studios and galleries and classrooms.
I saw some remarkable works, among them this handbuilt series of small vessels with an insect in various stages of its life cycle in each section:
There were lots of painting studios – I was most taken by the large abstracts by one of the summer artists-in-residence:
Each gallery had unique displays as well as eclectic selections of artworks in all media:
Each artist has a gallery/studio space – the building has three floors with many studios, but it never seems crowded. It must be inspiring to work in such an airy light-filled place by the water:
In Bethesda this morning visiting Victoria, my long-time (since 1970) friend. It’s always great to see her and her family. We’re here for a day or two before going to their shore house in Rehoboth Beach DE. She lives in a condominium in downtown Bethesda – I’m looking out from the sixth story down to Old Georgetown Road.
This morning we’re going to The Torpedo Factory Art Center. A former torpedo factory, this world-renowned art center is located just outside Washington, D.C. – I expect to photograph, note and steal many creative ideas from all of their great studios, shops and small galleries.
San Antonio is graced with beautiful old cemeteries – it’s one of the oldest cities in the Americas. I don’t have to look far for compelling faces to use as celebratory face molds for my Scent Shard sculptures. I took a trip to San Fernando Cemetery by the Missions today and came away with some beautiful press molds that are going to be ready to use after they are fired. I also took a lot of photos and could have take lots more. There were families picnicking on relatives’ graves and lots of really funny gaudy bright arrangements everywhere. Shops around San Fernando sell these. Some have cartoon characters like Bugs Bunny festooned with polyester flowers. But the sculptures and monuments are unrivaled.
The first photo shows me reaching up to take a face mold from a tall angel statue – I use only white clay to leave the stone unblemished, and the process takes just a few gentle seconds. The other two photos show monuments that I thought were particularly lovely.
It works! The little Skutt kiln that I bough on Craig’s List, brand new, has been wired, test fired and welcomed home to its own little tented firing pavillion outside my garden gate. The wiring cost half as much as the kiln itself, but the total cost was still less than half of what it would have cost from a retail clay supplier.
By the way, Clay World, which took over Hood Clay, my supplier in the 80’s, is a wonderful place for potters. I can get in as much trouble there as I can in any art store. They have beautiful carved wooden stamps, tools, books – oh. my.
The Scent Shards page is growing and expanding on my own website – check out the videos. No matter what happens, this is the most fun I’ve had in a long time. See the little kiln’s new home in these photos. There’s a shelf above the kiln with the Kiln Gods that my grandsons made to ensure a good firing, and there’s a drying rack for unfired pieces – it’s a wonderful space.
I had what stores call a “soft opening” when I posted my first Scent Shard sculptures on the ETSY gallery site this morning, and darned if one didn’t sell right off the bat. I was absolutely delighted. Two more sets sold to a friend, so I’m working away getting ready for my Etsy art showcase next Thursday. Also, Carole at La Vida Gallery wants to carry them, and lots of other people have shown interest. We’ll see how far it goes, but right now, I’m having a good time working with clay and I look forward to firing my own kiln next week. Here is a link to one of the Scent Shards on ETSY, and here is another link to a short YouTube video that I did this afternoon, totally unrehearsed but enjoyable, as I described the process of making the molds and then pressing the sculptures.
So stop and smell the shards!
I have a new project under construction – I’m working on an idea using some of the gravestone press molds that I took from cemeteries in Texas and Key West several years ago. This is one of those inspirations that sprang up almost ready-made. More about that later, but working with clay feels just like coming back to drawing did – natural and instinctive. I’m using a Longhorn Red clay body and firing to cone 05. I even have kiln time lined up with Inspire Art Center. Stay tuned – if this works out, you’ll see another dimension of my work on Etsy, debuting on July 21 in the Art Showcase.I’m excited!!
I love this poem preface – and I added a picture of my grandson, Patrick, to remind me that what I should do is so worth doing.
This is what you shall do
“This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.”
“This is what you shall do…” by Walt Whitman, from the preface of Leaves of Grass. Public domain.
With more than a little fear and trepidation, I joined a Saturday morning group of artists who meet at Inspire, pool money for a model’s fee, and spend two hours in intensive life drawing. I had not done this in decades. It was an amazing experience – liberating and confirming. I can still draw! Obviously my work is rough and my proportions are sometimes badly rendered. but it was great to be “back to the drawing board.” Here’s one of my early studies of Morgan, our amazing model.
I’ll be back next month!