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: Amazing Sculptures From The FIA

My boyfriend and I visited an interesting sculpture exhibit at the Flint Institute of Art this summer titled Form, Function, and Fantasy. The exhibit was divided into 3 rooms, each embodying one of the aforementioned themes. I captured my absolute favorite pieces from the exhibit, and wanted to share them with you. I know I discovered many new favorite artists in the process. I think all of the pictures I took were from the “fantasy” section, which for me is honestly not surprising. We accidentally went through the exhibit backwards, viewing fantasy first which may also have had something to do with it. Let’s be real, in art as in life, everything’s a letdown after that ;).

Irina Zaytceva – Twins

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I was actually drawn to make a trip out to this exhibit based on this image I saw on the FIA website. I love the melding of old world artistry with fairy tale mermaids. The bold red coral shapes growing off of it give this piece add an element of abstract and modernity to the piece as well, bringing one more dimension to the mix. I am personally so much more of a drawing and painting person than a sculpture person, so I think I loved the fact that the surface of this 3D form was used as a canvas for 2D art as well, incorporating both types of design.

Richard Notkin – Heart Teapot: Ironclad Hostage II

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As a tea enthusiast, I absolutely adore looking at uniquely designed teapots. My absolute favorite thing about days off is my cup of tea right after I wake up in the morning, no joke, usually accompanied by doing some sketching, reading a book or the news. I am such an old person at heart at a mere 28 years on this earth. In all seriousness though, the design of this teapot inspired sculpture is flawless. Combining industrial elements with anatomy and figuring out how to transform the shape of a human heart into a vessel for tea somehow could not have been an easy task. You don’t even notice it’s a teapot at first, it just looks like an interesting sculpture. The fact that it hides its more mundane function is rather interesting.

Sergei Isupov – Zombie Fish

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I love the tall, thin forms, the monochromatic color scheme, and the detail that makes this piece look like a pen and ink illustration from a children’s scary story picture book come to life in 3-dimensional form. Very fun and inventive.

Krisaya Luenganantakul – Happy House #1

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As I read more about this artist, I discovered she has a whole series of these lovely, whimsical houses in vibrant colors and with floating, dreamlike, organic detail. The project is titled “Homemade – a project where the womb, the home, and the female are interpreted under a new light.” This project discusses the idea that oftentimes feminine traits are associated with weakness and fragility. However, patience, tenderness, forgiveness, and love are strengths that have made them universal protectors and caretakers for every family over time. And, important nurturing that determines the growth  and well-being of all humans takes place in both the womb and the home, centered around the female. It is interesting and different to see a project about female empowerment that is based on the value of women’s more traditional roles. I was originally drawn by the visuals, but found the idea behind the design very thought provoking as well.  

Michael Lucero – Hunter (Reclamation Series)

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There is no way I could not be drawn to this piece by color alone. I absolutely love pops of bold red amongst neutral tones, and use this color scheme in my own work often as well. There are a lot of interesting details the longer you look at it, and the contrast between the style of the head and body is staggering. Yet, when you look at the piece as a whole it is unified. I myself was working on sketches for a series incorporating faces being covered in various winged things, so of course I was first drawn to the most noticeable visual element of the moth over the figure’s face.

Akio Takamori – Karako With Striped Kimono

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I found this sculpture to be so incredibly calming to look at. The soft, round forms, harmonious pale colors, and flowing watercolor-like drips along with the neutral, solemn face were very peaceful to me. I think if this was in my house and I could just look at it whenever I got tense, I would never lose my temper.

Sunkoo Yuh – Horn Blower

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I loved the dripping glaze application in this piece because again, it reminded me of watercolor. I also loved the totem quality it had to it,the many figures and faces stacking atop one another. Each is such a distinctive, unique character in the composition.

Sara Lisch – Lion’s Journey

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This was another piece that reminded me of a children’s book illustration come to life. I love the muted color scheme, and the stylized features of the human and animals. There is definitely a story here, and it is left to the viewer to imagine where they are all headed to.

I’d encourage you to visit the links to see more of these artists’ work. All of their pieces are just as fantastic as these. I am forever in awe of 3D artists. The best sculpture I ever made was this cardboard, modeling clay, and found object punk-diorama time-based piece pictured below.

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It was a final project for my intro to 3D class in college, a time-based assignment meaning a piece that would somehow change over time as part of it’s presentation, not lasting in its original form. Basically, the so-so sculpted clay girl in the center was all white and pristine at the beginning, and then everyone in the class got to take turns sticking the different objects to her, dumping paint on her, and otherwise altering her form. It dealt with how perceptions shape identity, and was all anti-conformity, anti-media, and all that good stuff – very much what I was thinking about at that time of my life. Of course, my best sculpture would be ephemeral. What rotten luck. At least I’ll always have the pictures.