Kintsugi – Creative Minds Art History Project

I’ve always loved Kintsugi pottery not just for its striking visual interest but also for the symbolism behind it. Kintsugi means “golden joinery”, and is a practice that started as early as the 15th century in Japan. With Kintsugi, artists fix broken pottery by using a special lacquer mixed with powdered metals to join the pieces back together. Influenced by the Japanese philosophies of wabi-sabi (seeing beauty in imperfection), mottainai (the regret of wasting), and mushin (the acceptance of change), Kintsugi pottery highlights flaws rather than hiding them, showing each piece’s unique history and turning brokenness into beauty. Our experiences, mistakes, scars, and the things that make us different¬†are what build us into who we are, and beauty can be found in all of these things as we move forward.

I knew I wanted to incorporate learning about Kintsugi into my Artshop class, but the question was how? In this class, we typically do different small projects each week, so it would need to be something that could be completed in an hour and a half. Additionally, I have no background in pottery or sculpting (100% 2D artist over here!) and wanted to use supplies our studio already had on hand without depleting our clay class’s supply. A couple of months ago, a group of friends I do crafty girls nights with and I found an idea to make small, marbled ring dishes out of polymer clay on Pinterest. This craft got me thinking … why not make sculpey pottery?

It took some trial and error, but I ended up coming up with something that works using sculpey, a cool whip container and some 4″ diameter and 3-3.5″ diameter oven safe glass storage containers, hot glue, and broken teacups.

The first step was to roll out a sheet of clay to the desired size. Students mashed, twisted, and striped their different colors together and then rolled them out to about 1/2 cm thick. We happened to have acrylic polymer clay rollers, but a rolling pin would work just as well – Just make sure to put a piece of foil or parchment paper over the clay so it doesn’t actually make contact with the rolling pin if you ever want to use it for food again. Next, they cut out a circle by tracing around a template using an xacto knife. We used an empty cool whip container as a template for students who wanted a 4″ diameter bowl, and a 4″ glass container as a template for students who in the end wanted a smaller 3.5″ bowl.

IMG_20190528_150010Once everyone had their flat circle, we placed our chosen glass containers open side down and centered the circle of clay on the base of the container. We then gently guided the sides of the circle  down to form a bowl shape, being careful not to press the clay down too tight (This makes it easier to remove later!), and not to press hard enough to leave fingerprints.

After this, we made a selection of teacup fragments from our stash. We then laid them where we wanted on the surface of our clay bowl shape, and traced around the fragments with an xacto knife, cutting out an empty space into which we could glue the piece once the clay was baked. Some pieces were more curved than others, so this also influenced placement. The holes can be a bit bigger than the piece, because we can fill any gaps with hot glue – You just definitely don’t want the hole to be smaller.

Once the spaces were cut we baked the clay on the oven safe glass containers, still open side down, in the oven per the instructions on the sculpey package (275 degrees for 15 minutes). After letting the hardened clay cool, we were able to use hot glue to fill in our bowl with the teacup pieces. Once the glue has hardened and is painted with metallic gold acrylic, it looks just like the fusing used in traditional pottery!

These make for interesting decorative bowls or catch-alls, and though our process and materials were quite different, it was a fun way to reinforce the history lesson. My hope is that these tiny vessels will sit out somewhere as a reminder for people to love themselves, cracks and all, and remember that no one is ever broken beyond repair.

 

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Artists To Know! Installment 6

Susan Saladino

In her bio on her webpage, Susan Saladino states that her work revolves around her belief that “we as humans have a kinship with all life”. In her series of sculptural figures, the series that first hooked me onto her work, they are made using materials from nature, and are often blindfolded. To Saladino, the blindfolds symbolizes humanity’s turning away from realities they find uncomfortable and would rather not face. She believes that the blindfolds must be removed to make the required changes, and that change must occur, especially as it comes to environmental conservation and animal cruelty. I am completely enamored with tree forms, which is why this series featuring the gowns made of branches caught my eye. This blindfolded woman looking up and away from the red bird she cradles could symbolize a variety of different things to different people, but to me, knowing the artist’s symbolic intent further increases my appreciation for her detailed and ethereal work.

Willy Verginer

Willy Verginer resides in Ortisei, Italy. He has been exhibiting his characteristic sculptures since the early 1990s. His exquisite figures carved out of lime tree wood are earmarked by solid color blocking against pale ivory, often with surreal touches. His sculptures interact, but their eyes never truly meet, and they can often be found with things growing from their hands, objects balanced on or connected to their bodies, or cut off at the torso or limbs and sinking into the floor as if it were made of liquid. The series the sculpture shown above is from is titled “a fior di pelle”, meaning “to flower of skin”. It is meant to describe hypersensitivity and to express the fragility of the youth and the ability to dream. Moving, calm, and eerily realistic, I would love to see some of his work in person someday.

Nicole West

I discovered this artist on pinterest, at first thinking her work was some really unique alternative fashion photography, and later learning oh my gosh, those aren’t photographs of real people but SCULPTURES! Is your mind as blown as mine was? Her gorgeous fantasy sculptures are made using polymer clay, and the perfect understanding of human form is apparent if you observe the perfected muscle tone down to the slight undulating in and out of the shape of the arm and the tiny indent in the elbow in the second photo above. As if the sculpting wasn’t amazing enough, each figure is adorned in luscious, detailed costuming including unique decorative jewelry and beyond fabulous hairstyles. Each has a dewy glow, so that it radiates human warmth and you’d be shocked to touch one and find it hard clay rather than soft, velvety skin.

Christina Robinson

I found Christina Robinson on etsy and was instantly intrigued by her whimsical, stylized figures that have a fun children’s book style cartoonishness to them but with a Tim Burton kind of twist. Really, no direct comparisons can be made though, because Robinson’s style is all her own. She paints as well, using the same playful colors and prominent faces with rather neutral expressiosn that still manage to say so much. Her bold, expressive style is certainly memorable.

Christy Kane

I don’t remember how I first discovered Christy Kane, but it was sometime in late high school. I remember ordering her short story book, a play on children’s morality tales including detailed photographs of her dolls posed to enact the sordid turn of events. Shortly thereafter, this short film came out.

Her dolls make up the true island of misfit toys. I love how they are not meant to be conventionally perfect and beautiful and everything you normally think of when you think of dolls, and I love the attention that is paid to each doll’s individual “story”. Each of them has a life, memories, experiences, likes and dislikes. That is truly giving your art life.

Kirsten Stingle

I discovered Kirsten Stingle on pinterest also. Her sculptures are primarily porcelain, and she uses a straight pin to detail the tiny faces, hands, and feet. Stingle is focused on storytelling, and believes our stories are what connects us to one another and explains who we are. She aims to combat isolation by presenting stories common to the human experience. This is something I value as well, and aim to do with my own work, so I really connect to her concept. I know I can relate to her figures struggling towards figuring out an arch for their life and forming their own identity; I suspect we all can.

I was left completely in awe of these artists. After a failed foray into paper mache in a summer art class (My “princess” turning out none to regal…), followed by a lumpy, bubbled copper ice skater I churned out for a project in junior high (I got a B on it! The calamity! Yes, I was one of those kids, but only in art class ;)) , I kind of shied away from sculpture. Forced to revisit it in college, I thought it would be amusing to share some of my projects of the 3-dimensional variety.

Miniature of the Library of Celcus in Ephesus. I thought it would be fun because I love books ... KILL ME NOW!

Miniature of the Library of Celcus in Ephesus. I thought it would be fun because I love books … KILL ME NOW!

We were supposed to make an abstract sculpture out of these little blob guys (balloons filled with plaster) that portrayed a tension between beauty and repulsion. I called this "Sisters". Alternate title, "A Very Angry Drag Queen" (note the feathers and nails).

We were supposed to make an abstract sculpture out of these little blob guys (balloons filled with plaster) that portrayed a tension between beauty and repulsion. I called this “Sisters”. Alternate title, “A Very Angry Drag Queen” (note the feathers and nails).

Just remember guys, nobody’s perfect ;). Keep working at your art and trying new things and you will find your niche. Don’t let fear of failure stop you from experimenting, taking new classes, learning new things … Many of our projects will not be successes but hell, at least you can have a good laugh about it later, right?