Research is hard enough, right? It's even harder when your subject matter is fairly recent, newly emerged, and from a discipline that does more making than writing.
After receiving several requests, I've decided to make my reading list(s) public, as a resource to others interested in craftivism, socially engaged craft, and contemporary ceramics. To be fair, I haven't read all of these books, but I've read parts of most of them, and look forward to continued research beyond grad school.
If you're keeping up with my progress on my MA project "Craftivist Clay: Resistance and Activism in Contemporary Ceramics," thanks and stay tuned! I should be able to direct you to a published copy sometime this summer.
If you have other questions, get at me! @maryminimally on twitter and insta, and email@example.com
I consider myself lucky to be a part of the BFA class at the University of Montana. Such talent! Such concept! Such 24/7 hangouts in the studios. The ceramic cohort is especially close to my heart, and Miriam Griffin is no exception! Since her time at the University of Montana, Miriam's work has become EVEN cooler, if that's possible. You can check it out on her website, www.miriamgriffin.com . I would check out ALL of her work, she makes excellent functional work and produces impeccable drawings.
Recently, for a graduate course, I made an infographic about a small pinch pot I received from Miriam in a studio exchange. While some of it is guesstimation (the Bray wouldn't email me back with their grolleg porcelain recipe or ingredients and I wasn't there for the exact firings), it's a pretty sweet look at all of the time, effort, and SCIENCE that goes into a small, crafted object.
(note: this was handdrawn and scanned, so excuse the teeny tiny firing temperatures. PLEASE do not repost without credit (name and link), but feel free to share!)
Let's be real. I don't have enough time to be participating in both academia and craft journalism. I wrote this paper before the NYT piece on "White Hot Ceramics" came out, and before CFile came back with an excellent rebuttal.
Point is, ceramics is #trending, and that's a really great thing. It brings attention, acclaim, and money to the discipline and participates in a contemporary cultural dialogue. GREAT. The problem is, is that the people who are articulating this "trend," both the makers and writers, are doing so with a very limited perspective. This trend, like most trends, ignores the history and depth of studio ceramics in the US and Canada, marginalizing makers who have devoted their lives and talents to making better, more complex pottery than the kind that's being showcase.
I wrote a paper this semester, only to hand it in and see the NYT article a few days later. "Wow," I thought, "This would have been a GREAT source for my paper," and then CFile's rebuttal came soon after and I thought, "Wow, I just said something remarkably similar."
So here's my contribution to the conversation.
You can read the NYT article here and the CFile response here (God bless Garth Clark's scathing rhetoric...)
Craft lends itself to metaphor, to personification. If one of the classic (although not universal) markers of craft is the touch of the hand, the use of the body, it's easy to understand a personal identification with the process and product of human labour and talent. When we talk about clay, so often we talk about the body as vessel, the skin as clay, from dust we came...
To identify strongly with a process of craft takes a great deal of introspection, particularly when so many craft processes result in casual failure. The idea of unraveling, as presented by Stephanie Dansler, rings so true in my anxious, little heart. I fear I'm not much of a knitter, either.
Give it a read here.
To kick things off, to make myself more comfortable with this space, I'm going to start posting my own writings from my first year of graduate school at OCAD. Some formal, some not, but each addressing a specific facet of art, craft, craftivism... basically topics that interest me.
I first saw Zimra Beiner's work, Dark and Still, at the Gardiner Museum in Toronto during the RBC Emerging Artist People's Choice Award 2014 Exhibition (they really need to work on the name). Immediately, I knew, this is my piece. This is the piece I'm going to write about. Do you know what I'm talking about? You'll enter an exhibition space and you'll see it, out of the corner of your eye and you instantly know, that is the piece I will love the most. You'll take your time to get there, because delayed gratification is sweet. You'll pause in front of other works, valid works, beautiful works, though provoking works, but you can feel it pulling at you, feel it humming behind your back. I was genuinely interested in the work of the other "emerging" ceramicists (what does that even mean? ...young. Young is what that means.), particularly the organic and sprawling sculptures of Jess Riva Cooper and the multi-media sculpture by David R. Harper (who, apparently, continues to emerge, as he is one of the five featured artists in the same 2015 exhibition. I'll also be posting, shortly, a quick write up on another piece of his, Better the Devil You Know). The point is, I took my time getting to Dark and Still because I knew I would enjoy it.
At this point, I'm clearly revealing my bias toward a certain kind of ceramic sculpture. Big, bulky, slightly abstracted, free-standing sculpture that is near monochromatic and often shows the hand of the maker. MMM. I love it. It reminds me of Trey Hill's work (again, huge bias as he was my undergrad professor) or some of Jessika Edgar's sculptures.
I wrote a paper for an Academic Writing and Scholarly Practice that examines the notion of Freud's uncanny in relation to ceramics as well as establishing the notion of the "viewer-body" as it relates to ceramic sculpture.
(I think it goes without saying, but don't be a jerk and rip it off, cite me if need be.)
i whispered it. did you hear it, internet? world? mum?
I've started my fair share of blogs in my life, as a person coming of age in the last 25 years, I'm old enough to barely remember the world before the internet was widely available (for the firstworldmiddleclass) and just old enough to take full advantage of it when my hormones were in full flux. If one were to do some digging (don't)(no one will, we all have our internet graveyard), you could find a blogger about lifestyle and ice cream, a myspace, my first online portfolio (angsty paintings! portraits of my friends!), a semi-active poetry blog, and my high school golf scores.
More recently, you can find me as a co-author here, my (update needed and forthcoming) artist website here, my poetry here, and my academic work here.
I don't think it needs saying (we'veallbeenthere) but I'm working to update my online presence, but I can't wait to start this until it's perfect. I need to jump right in.I need to get going.
What is this?
A space for independent and flexible writing about craft, ceramics, art, feminism, and the intersection of each.I will be posting as regularly as I can (no promises) as a means to build a body of writing about my research interests beyond my twitter feed (@maryminimally).It will include links, commentary, think pieces, and the odd academic paper, and artist interviews.
Oh, that! I'm pursuing my M.A. in (pause for the longest title ever) Visual Art, Design, and New Media Art Histories at OCAD University. This is colloquially known as CADN, and I'll probably slip into that occassionally (we're all friends here, right?).My thesis is focused on craftivism (that's a fun word, right?) in contemporary ceramics, whether the work is artistic, design, functional, etc, etc. It's all slippery. Dirt. Activism. You get it.
What should I expect?
Nothing! Everything! Be flexible with me, folks. I'm still very much learning and inprocess as far as being a human goes. I'm a pretty rigorous academic who is working to combine this voice with that. Lots of italics and parenthetical asides.I make up my own compound words.A deep, sparkly-eyed love of clay, art, and social justice.There will be posts that seem like poetry, and papers that sound like that poet's deeply academic, white, old uncle. I'm working on it.
Bear with me.
Bare with me.
I can never choose which one, because this will require patience and some intellectual undressing.
Let's do it.
Mary Callahan Baumstark is a maker, writer, and researcher with an M.A. in Contemporary Art, Design, and New Media Art Histories from OCAD University in Toronto, Ontario. She is interested in trendspotting in contemporary ceramics and organizing socially engaged or activist projects. She is the current Resident Art Historian for the Socially Engaged Craft Collective.