"The Starving Artist Myth"

from PM Shore

It seems that almost every time someone talks about artists as a group, they invariably refer to us as “starving artists.” To me, this has become a pejorative phrase. It brings to mind garish television ads for copy-art in cheap frames to “fit above the couch.” It is demeaning and devalues true original art.

Perhaps, if we had gotten degrees in science or business or our incredible talents lay in the world of sports or popular entertainment, the remuneration for our efforts would be greater. But, athletic careers are often short and those engaged in business or science are often at the command of others, working in a competitive, corporate, and unfulfilling environment.

Most artists are driven to do art and as such, many also choose to live an “artful lifestyle.” We may have less – but, what we have is beautiful and loved. Instead of commuting, we take walks in the park, take time to read, get up with the sun to study the light. We don’t have closets full of clothes, but those that we have are comfortable, appealing, and sometimes designed or woven by a friend.

The walls of our homes are covered with art. Our rooms are filled with happy, relaxed friends we admire. We may not have a lot of money in the bank, but we’re not in debt either. (Who’s going to give us a loan?)

Art enhances our lives and with the support of an enlightened community many of us do well. Others of us may live on a tight budget, but with the joy of creating and doing what you love . . . starving artists? Not hardly.

Many artists live to and produce their best work at an advanced age. Not many wish to retire. At times we can be sought out, admired, praised, and honored. Our work brings pleasure and joy to many. Come join us in our studios and see first hand the rich and varied lives we lead.



"Creating Interesting Glaze Surfaces in an Electric Kiln"

from Jacquie Walton

Because electric pottery kilns are relatively inexpensive and simple to install, electric firing has become one of the most common firing methods today.

Unfortunately, glazes fired in electric kilns can be uninteresting because they lack surface variations in color and texture – unless you get creative.

After four years of experimenting with electric firing, I’ve figured out how to achieve interesting colors and textures in my glazes. Here’s how I do it.


I create highlights of the same color by formulating semi-transparent glazes and varying the glaze thickness. I vary the glaze thickness in a couple of ways. When I dip a pot in a semi-transparent type of glaze, the glaze naturally becomes thinner on the edges of sharp contours.

Later, after the glaze dries, I vary the glaze thickness by rubbing off some of the glaze.

Example of highlighting:

Layering and combining different glazes

Because highlighting doesn’t work for opaque glazes, I had to develop a different technique to achieve an interesting glaze surface with these types of glazes.

For opaque glazes, I dip a pot in one glaze color and create variegation by spraying a second glaze layer of a contrasting color or shade on top of the dipped glaze. I sometimes layer up to four different color glazes at a time.

If the dipped glaze layer is more fluid than the sprayed glazes, the sprayed colors tend to blend seamlessly into the underlying layer. This technique can result in a lovely “ombre” effect.

Example of the ombre effect:

If the glaze layers are thick rather than fluid, the colors tend to “sit on top” of each other. This technique can result in a spotted effect.

Example of the spotted effect:

Adding a speckling agent

Speckling agents include coloring oxides that contain particulate matter that speckles the glaze surface. Examples of these oxides include granular manganese, illmenite, and rutile. When I spray glazes, I often add granular illmenite to create small brown speckles on the glaze surface.

Example of speckling:

Controlling the cooling cycle

Because my vases are inspired by the pottery of the Arts & Crafts Movement, being able to create matte glazes is critical to my work.

Matteness occurs when small crystals grow in the glaze while the kiln cools.  The cooling rate, that is, how fast the kiln loses heat, can dramatically change the surface of the glaze.

For example, both of the pots shown below were glazed with my Olive Green glaze. The pot on the left was cooled more slowly than the pot on the right. The result is that the pot on the right is significantly glossier than the pot on the left.

"Light Comes Down From the Sky"

from Stanley Peterson

Whew! Just wrote the big check to the roofing company. They put in 2 skylights on my studio roof last week. Now the place looks like a ”Gallery” ready for PDX Open Studios. I just like to go out there now and see how all my sculptures look with the ambient light filtering down through the clouds. On clear days the shadows are really intense but those days are less frequent than our shades of bluish grey.

I’m reminded of my all time favorite Museum, the Metropolitan in NYC. Seeing those wonderful collections standing on pedestals with very high ceilings which are capped with huge filtered skylights. The Rockefeller Wing, in particular, was remodeled a few years ago to accommodate the tall standing wood poles carved in New Guinea. Some are over 30 feet and depict male and female figures with alligators, birds, fish, etc. They are spirits of the afterlife and reach up into the skylights of uptown Manhattan.

My wood sculptures remain intimate and mostly a scale which can be handheld. However they look bigger and more transformative now under my new skylights in NE Portland. Come check them out during the 2013 Portland Open Studio tour. I’ll be carving while we chat and the airfare is complimentary.

"Why I Paint"

from Christine Zachary

As always, I spend a lot of time wondering about the meaning of life, the meaning of art, the meaning.

In particular, I have come to a plateau in my life where some of my friends are dying off, where I feel I am aging. And for us all, there is the peculiar feeling of impermanence which pervades everything. That we are just some speck in the vast universe sometimes makes my efforts at art or anything else seem trivial or meaningless. Of course these thoughts have been reflected or said by many. Plato speaks of the world of reality as looking at the shadows on the wall of a cave.  Pindar calls life the dream of a shadow.  skias onar anthropos.

Recently I asked myself again what in the world I was doing. Should I be out “saving the world,” which seems on a mad road of waste and destruction? Should I make some big political statement about what things are like?  Should I be spending all my time hanging out with friends? Or praying all the time? None of these seem an answer, so I return to being rather quiet, leading a solitary life for the most part, and painting.

I personally think that the value of art for me is not a political or a conceptual statement, but something deeper, and in this sense I think it is important for me to look in that direction of what is deeper and that something I hope to be revealed as I work. I’m always looking for something. I think it important to try to listen to that fire behind the shadow on Plato’s wall, to wake from the dream or at least be awake while dreaming.

This has made me realize that the important thing is to try to emulate the Japanese poet Basho who says how reluctant the bee is to emerge from deep within the peony, and his parallel to Plato too: that existence is a rope bridge around which existence twines. To me art is the rope bridge.  To be like Basho and follow his zen journey of wandering is to look at the peony and in that joy perhaps be able to share it a moment with others.  Today: so much anger, fear, suffering. Can a color or an image make any difference? Can cleaning the kitchen make a difference? I hope so.  And in an odd way I am convinced what I do is important.

The brink has always been here, but we can only be happy. It is truly a choice. None of us need that “15 minutes of fame” as much as we need a lifetime of wisdom.

The Impermanent Nature of Things
oil on panel

"If at First You Don't Succeed…"

by Sara Swink

I just got word that two of my ceramic sculptures will be featured in two upcoming Lark Crafts books. Some months ago I had submitted images for “500 Figures in Clay Volume 2.”  Last week I got an email that one of them, “Domestic Production,” which is the piece pictured in this year’s tour guide, caught the eye of editors working on a new book, “Ceramic Sculpture: Making Faces.” The second piece “Tiger Buddha” will appear in “500 Figures 2,” which comes out in February 2014.

This was a sweet victory because I had submitted work for volume one of 500 Figures about 10 years ago and didn’t make the cut. Woo hoo!

“Domestic Production” was created in 2012. The cow-woman is coil-built with wheel-thrown bowls on the top, and finished with brushed-on oxides, underglazes and glazes, fired to cone 5, or about 2200 degrees F. It stands 26 inches tall.

Thematically, it deals with walking the line between domesticity and instinct. The idea came from a collage on paper that included an image of a cow from a National Geographic article about the history of domesticated animals, juxtaposed with some pictures of black and white sgraffito-decorated bowls from a craft publication. I was intrigued by the combination, and for days sketched cows with bowls in various configurations. One day the cow became a woman and, aha, the idea for the piece was born. This theme of the domestic versus the instinctual is something I’ve come back to again and again….where do we draw the line, how domestic is too domestic for a woman, for a society, for the planet? The black and white piebald pattern of the cow makes it a target for predators. To me this is a metaphor for the dangers of domestication. How have we sacrificed our instinctual nature to ensure survival? How much can we get away with?

“Tiger Buddha” was also created in 2012. It stands 18 inches tall. It was inspired by a photo of a child in one of my daughter’s special ed classes; she is an early intervention specialist with preschool-age kids. The child was obese at age 4, and though he had a low IQ, he looked like a radiant little being. My daughter said he was always happy and very sweet. While I was making the piece, I got the idea to give him a tiger hat because when I was a kid we had a friend with the same name as this child, but who went by the nickname Tiger. It was my way of protecting his anonymity. My partner, Harold (Oxley, also in Portland Open Studios), does all my photography, and he named the photo file Tiger Buddha. I thought it was a perfect title for the piece.

Both pieces will be on display at my studio during Portland Open Studios.