Ceramicist Alana Wilson

Interview by Eric Hsu

Photography by Phillip Huynh

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** Her exhibit “T:  Exploration & Experience of the Teabowl”- with Romy Northover (pictures featured here) goes until  November 26 at FLOATING MOUNTAIN 239 W72nd St, New York NY 10023. Pieces are available for purchase and can be viewed at https://www.floating-mountain.com


`                    Photo Credit: Alana Wilson

Swimming brings one’s body with the water’s buoyancy, yet the process of molding and shaping clay is an anchoring force with hands. Where do you see the cross dialogue between the two activities?

Both are very meditative, predominantly done in solitude and combine physical movement and awareness of the body with a required mental acuity to work through a repetitive process. Both connect with a natural element – earth and water – which I find quite calming and humanly intrinsic. Over time, the wiring between brain and body becomes so ingrained that you can let your mind wander whilst the body is in automatic mode of a learnt technique. Both activities require a sense of technique, which is similarly soft, efficient, streamlined, responsive to the least amount of touch, and both techniques rely on a sense of flow and refining the surface resistance of the body against the elements.


 

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Your work belies the exacting but unpredictable process of overlaying different substances and glazing. What do you find fascinating about the alchemy?

There are endless parallels between the ceramic surfaces and surfaces and textures that exist in nature. Of course, ceramic materials all exist and are derived from natural resources but the process of firing results in a more compacted environment with the kiln’s heat and the firing speed. Scientifically, all of these ceramic results exist somewhere in nature that have occurred through varying means and all natural surfaces and materials will depict a chemical story of creation and destruction, as do the ceramic pieces.

As a child I would get lost in observing rock pools full of geological and marine life, collecting seashells and interesting rocks to study. This childhood fixation has informed my interest in the minute details of elemental decay and natural observation. Over time I have come to recognize stronger analogies between the natural destructive process and environments comparative to those in the medium of ceramics.

Within the ceramic process there are numerous aspects left to chance and susceptible to variation. Different materials will have specific reactions within the firing – how it transforms through heat exposure, how fast it is heated, its melting point, vaporisation point, oxygen content in the material and the atmosphere and its reaction with the other glaze ingredients it is mixed with.


 

 

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In its elemental form, the vessel projects functionality that people have difficulty divorcing when it comes to appreciating ceramics as an art equal to painting or sculpture. How do you hope to have someone see your piece beyond its basic purpose?

I used to look at this viewpoint as a hindrance, always trying to prove something with the vessel. There is an inherent conditioning when dealing with the vessel throughout anthropological, art, and social history. Functionality not only alludes to a use but also to a relationship to the human body and human life. I now embrace the steadfast connotative functionality of my work and prefer it over purely conceptual art (in terms of what I create myself, not necessarily as to what interests me as a viewer).

Having a pre-conditioned utilitarian context allows a certain scale of intimacy for the works to intersect the viewer’s perceptual / experiential process on a different level. Sociologically the viewer forms some sense of connection to it and hold it in a perceptual realm relative to their everyday life as opposed to a more conceptual work, in which they may feel separate from in terms of anthropological connection and conceptual understanding.

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The difficult concept to divorce from the vessel is its ability to hold something, therefore an empty vessel is often perceived as incomplete. I seek to highlight the emptiness and twist the conception to depict the potential to be filled, within which there are various possibilities – both physical and conceptual ‘fillers’. The depiction of the unused or empty vessel allows the viewer to draw their own conclusions based on their individual conditioning. In a sense this conditioning (towards an utilitarian object such as a vessel) is on a different level to the conditioning to comprehend conceptual or abstract art.

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Throughout this consistent questioning within my own work, I have looked at and questioned other forms of art, architecture, design etc and its relativity to humankind. I am interested in its ability to intersect with the everyday life of the everyday person, to not exist only in the vacuum of a white box gallery or as a material commodity, financial investment, or interior decoration. Within my work I aim to honor the history of the vessel and the different historical values – emotional, cultural / historical, technical, conceptual – that all correlate to the final result.

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There is a consistent duality of logic vs reason, cultural vs individual; but in the sense of attempting to draw attention to the importance of humanity and humankind there is the critical requirement for communication, which is community. The viewer’s perception is a moment in time, yet can be long-lasting in terms of their recollection of reality and how it affects them. The majority of viewers would not be aware of their own perceptual process to this extent but I find the relationship between functionality, physicality, conceptual understanding and conditioning an extremely interesting area to observe and study in relation to my work, art and life in general.


Pot Plant, which was curated by John Tebbs for the Garden Edit, and Lilies of Forgiveness, placed your work in relation to ephemeral plant material. Did either exhibits re-center the focus on how florists utilize your ceramics?

As discussed in the above answer, I primarily look for highlighting an emptiness and the potential of completion based on societal conditioning towards and empty vessel. However, I love working with ephemeral plant material as it truly represents natural beauty and its decay, and takes away that sense of ownership or forever-ness that so many people crave. These ideas are constantly embedded within my work, so with the right people who appreciate these ideas I am always keen to collaborate. John Tebbs from The Garden Edit, Simone Gooch of Fjura, and Alia & Ezra from Regime des Fleurs all create beautiful work, utilizing nature as creator and transcending nature as decoration or pure product.


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There is an old Chinese saying ‘滴水穿石’ which translates to ‘dripping water eats away the stone’. It alludes well to how your pieces bear the corrosive effect of water almost to the point of close disintegration. Is it a mediation on the transience of humankind and material goods?

Absolutely. More so an exploration of the innate impermanence of everything and attempting to break down the societal attachment to completed or beautiful things; to encourage an acceptance of the process of continuous transformation and inevitable decay, in all things – physical and otherwise.


The marine environment is unforgiving to terrestrial plant life, but what would be an Alana Wilson ceramic personified as a plant or garden look like? 

This is an interesting question, and each ceramic piece has its own identity in a way … possibly a rockpool or reef, could that be classified as a garden?


Thank you Alana for the interview!

Ceramicist Simone Bodmer-Turner

Interview by Eric Hsu.

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Currently the ceramicist-in-residence at Saipua, Red Hook, Brooklyn, Simone Bodmer-Turner has been turning beautiful singular pieces in earthly tones and with natural imperfections. The irregularities of their shapes and textures give her ceramics an idiosyncratic feel not replicated in commercial, wheel-thrown pieces. Simone’s first forays into ceramics began with jewelry sold through independent boutiques, and her creative evolution into full-sized ceramics felt destined. Her local artist residencies have been based in Massachusetts and upstate New York. Simone has refined her skills in Onishi, Japan and Oaxaca, Mexico where the differing cultural perspectives towards ceramics has influenced her work, as well as the selection of clay and the process of shaping and firing. Simone’s work has a loyal following, and is found in private collections. Her recent show at Saipua, pictures of whom feature here, was successful, and several pieces sold out within the first hour. For more information, please visit her website (www.simonebodmerturner.com) or IG: @simonebodmerturner


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Clay is a metamorphic medium that either can be generous or unforgiving under a creator’s hands. What is it about clay or the processing of shaping ceramics you appreciate over other media?

The romance of using a medium that is created by the intense pressure of the earth compressing rocks, minerals and decaying matter is an act I find endlessly poetic. It was a real kick in the gut to realize that most of the clay I’ve been using for years in city studios from ceramic supply stores are mixed as individual ingredients and are very distant from the original methods of digging and mixing clay. Getting closer to the original practices surrounding the medium is why I’ve traveled all over the world to study from communities who have less industrialized clay traditions.

As someone who moved very quickly to hand building after I was trained – as most who are interested in ceramics are in a city studio – on the wheel, clay really functions as a sculpture body for me. Learning the nuances of a clay body’s capabilities depending on its moisture level and physical composition is a never-ending endeavor to master. Though I feel that clay will certainly be part of my practice for my entire life, I’m itching to try different mediums like stone and concrete.


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The dialogue between functionality and conceptual art seems to be a perennial conflict for ceramicists – the vessel in its elemental form exerts strong psychological hold on us humans as a receptacle for sustenance and seeing it as an art itself is harder to reconcile. At what point does your role as the artist becomes aligned with that as a craftsperson focused on functionality? 

I fit into a strange niche in that I am drawn to historically functional forms – water vessels, wine and sake fermentation vessels, urns, ceremonial vessels – but I don’t work as a potter does, churning out functional ware, but preferably as an artist, creating one piece at a time, never to be exactly the same as the next and whenever inspiration strikes. Which luckily, is often. I’m well aware that this may well work to my detriment, but at the moment it works for me. That is not to say that I haven’t taken on projects or needed to set deadlines for myself which force me to work more like a production potter, but for the most part I work on my own time at multiple pieces at once as they dry in different intervals. Once you get a good groove going it’s a lot like cooking, and a body of work comes together bit by bit all together and each piece often winds up influencing each other in the way they might interact. Though at the moment, I’m making functional vessels, I am very interested in the sculptures of artists like Noguchi, Brancusi, and Calder and potters who have turned to sculpture like Peter Voulkos and Ruth Duckworth. I’d like to be incorporating more modern forms into the more traditional inspiration I’ve been working with.


 

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The Dutch designer Hella Jongerius once said: “Colour is subjective, there is no truth in it. A colour by itself is nothing, and so it gets its character from the colours around it.” Your ceramic work takes on the muted earthly hues (i.e. ashen gray, white, rusty ochres), and they reflect the atmospheric light conditions from morning to evening. Although they are prized for their spare colors, Japanese and Mexican ceramics are well known for their brilliant colors.  Was it a conscious decision to emphasize the form and texture over color for your work?

There’s two parts to the natural hues of my work. My base will always be a creamy, hyper-matte white. It doesn’t detract from the form, and keeps even the most Grecian inspired pieces feeling contemporary. I started using glazes in this spectrum as a stylistic choice but it has also acted as a placeholder while I test and experiment with recipes to get more texture and complexity onto the surface of my pots. After working in many collaborative spaces where the glazes are mixed for you by the staff and set out in buckets for you to essentially pick your color and put on a shelf to go into the kiln, I desperately wanted to understand the chemistry behind the muted creamy substances I was handing my artistic vision over to. Only in the last two years have I committed to mixing all of my own glazes and really understanding the naturally occurring, and, these days, many man-made, components of a glaze. I aspire to get to a point where a glazed piece can come out of the kiln and if I’m not happy with it I know what to tweak without having to scratch the whole batch. Matte white will always be my base, but I’m looking forward to seeing how all the test batches I’ve been working on come out.

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Despite the preponderance of natural motifs in Japanese arts and culture, most people still view Japan as this country ensnared in futuristic, technology vise with little connection to the natural world while holding on its past relics. You have expressed surprise at the depth of the Japanese connection with nature. What were the few specific things that struck you during your time there?

I wouldn’t say that I was surprised to find how connected the Japanese people are to the natural world, as I tend to romanticize everything, but I would say that I was lucky to be in a place and with people where that connection is still deeply ingrained, rather than in a big city like Tokyo which I found very overwhelming commercially. The whole experience of firing the Anagama kiln up in the mountains was fantastic – in the magical sense of the word. We were up in the hills above Onishi amongst the cedars and the vines, staying in a cabin and taking turns stoking the fire through the night. I worked the 3am-9am shift with my dear friend who had flown over to help with the firing and travel around Japan with me. By 3 am most everyone had gone to sleep and it was just Elissa and I sitting in front of the fire telling stories often riddled with sleep deprived nonsensical humor, or often not talking, for hours listening to the deer call to each other through the forest. We would sip sake through the night and make coffee on the camp stove at the first sign of first light, and cook ourselves breakfast before the rest of camp had risen. When the other potters finally arrived to take over our shift, we would soak in the wood fired tub as the mist lifted out of the forest before taking a nap.

The Japanese community from the town and our friends who came to help with the firing just seemed comfortable and at ease living in the woods. Everyone moved confidently from cooking over gas to cooking over fire, foraging in the woods for the perfect stems and branches to decorate the communal table, having tea on a plank suspended from the trees rather than in a more traditional setting. It was an incredibly enchanting moment in time.


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You were a fellow of the Pocoapoco, “a multi-disciplinary, research-based residency in Oaxaca, Mexico offering time for retreat, a platform for creative exploration and space for a collective intelligence”. This fellowship too molded your impressions on ceramics and its place there. What did you take away from Oaxaca that was different from Japan?

Though people imagine Japan is the place to go to train under a master, my work was more independent there, whereas Mexico was the place I worked under a master. Rufina and her sisters had been making pots since they were 6 years old and had learned their craft from their mothers and their grandmothers in Atztompa, a 30 minute drive outside of Oaxaca city center. They were incredibly skilled and had a profound knowledge and intimacy with the clay. Though the cultural experience in Japan was perhaps more formative for me – greatly in part to the fact that I was living there three months longer than I was in Mexico – my time in Oaxaca was incredibly formative stylistically and technically.

The pottery there, and generally in Central and South American, is still made the traditional way through various hand building techniques. Rather than being looked down on for my hand building tendencies, as I’ve experienced in many pottery communities in the developed world that favor the more perfect wheel thrown forms, my style was embraced in its familiarity. I learned many building and burnishing techniques from Rufina and her sisters, but what I really learned was not to be afraid of the clay, to handle it more forcefully in order to coerce it into the desired shape. I remember squirming while Rufina literally beat one side of my pot with her hand to get it symmetrical and took a machete to another pot to carve down imperfections. I took a bunch of jicaras home with me and have been carving and burnishing my pots with them to get a smoother surface than my earlier work. I’ve started working with sculpture body which has a lot of grog, which is similar to the clay bodies they dig and mix in Atzompa. The flexible strength of that clay has made me work less timidly.


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How has becoming the ceramicist-in-residence at Saipua alter your perspective as the work will become complementary to cut flowers and plants?

Working with Sarah and her team of florists has been incredibly informative in terms of building vessels for specific arrangements of plants. Luckily, my work is heavy by default as I prefer to build with a thick coil and like the feel of something substantial which helps eliminate the problem of a pot falling over from the uneven weight of stems. Sarah’s arrangements are bountiful and wild, which often means putting stems in vessels in an nontraditional fashion, which she has been teaching me to build for. I am personally drawn to what can be done in a shallow vessel with a flower frog, and have been experimenting with building them into my pieces. It’s a constant learning and experimental process. Hand building lends itself to building interior walls and lips to assist the ill-balanced, but more interesting and poetic to accommodate the stem or branch. Just getting to handle the flowers and learn about them from Saipua has been incredible. Plus, the crew is some of the most hard working, deeply sweet, and insanely talented individuals I’ve met in any working environment. I’m very grateful to share space and artistic vision with them.

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If a Simone Bodmer-Turner ceramic was transformed into a plant or garden, what would it be?

Hah I’m not sure if it’s exactly “me as a plant” but I am completely, undeniably in love with Pink Smoke Bush. The lightest shade. It’s the most ethereal plant with deep mauve-purple leaves that flowers into this frothy cloud of pinky purple feathers with mint green undertones. I never get tired of it. I want a whole yard full of them.


Thank you Simone for the interview!

 

To Each Their Own

 

which one would you pick?

Have a seat my friends, I would like to play a short and curious game this week with you with a topic  that applies to both art and horticulture.  I am curious about this fever that might affect or plague others as much as it affects myself and a few friends I know, the art of collecting. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure they say and oftentimes it has been the justification for purchasing something shiny and bright that my eyes have rested upon.

There have been periods in my life where I  sought out certain things only to later on move on to something else though not necessarily ceasing the cultivation of the prior collection either.  As a very young child I used to collect stamps because one of my adult family members suggested it, they could have ‘value’ they said, but I grew bored of them. I quickly moved on to stickers because they were brighter and more fun than their serious counterparts, I mean the stamps couldn’t even be used because they would be null and void in value.  Fast forward to when I was about 13 and I started collecting furniture (I still do), acquiring so many pieces that it would be necessary to stack tables on top of tables in my bedroom, eventually stopping because my parents made me. Some habits are hard to die and recently I disbanded a collection of interesting though not always comfortable chairs, selling them off when I moved out of the U.S. It was sad to see them go, but I moved on to other things.jimmy 3 215

Notebooks are another downfall and can always be justified for some reason, such as writing garden notes, or for museum and gallery visits, which eventually hold all my tickets from said places. They are perfect for whipping out and sketching too.  I have stacks, though small pocket sized ones are my favorite. That colorful stack above is one of my favorites, which each notebook consisting of a different paper texture.  (I know, I know, I like paper too so it’s a double whammy). In front of those notebooks is a skull, another (sigh) ongoing collection that is sadly tucked away in boxes in New York. I would like to clarify though that I find skulls and bones to be objects of beauty and are only added to the collection when they are found on the ground in their natural environments.  Often friends come across them too and thus find their way into my collection. Some people get weirded out by that collection but I see it as nothing but beauty and am amazed how each species can be so different. They are perfect specimens to draw and sketch.

It’s not a skull but close enough. Can you spot the antlers?

 

A few years ago, while I was traveling abroad, I started collecting ceramics and pottery from the different countries I visited. Currently this collection includes pieces from the U.S., England, France, Israel, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. This is another easily justifiable collection, since I am a gardener and these sculptural vessels can be appreciated with or without floral arrangements. Are you buying it? By far the best country to collect these pieces were in the Netherlands where there seems to be an abundance of exceptional pieces. Each piece has a memory attached to it and deep down it is the reason why I do it. Now whenever I travel, local ceramics are the prize of choice to take back home. ma

The last collection I have started is slabs of marble and stone for no other purpose except for its beauty. The veins and color of these pieces are astounding and I realize as I type this, they are a more polished version of the stones and gems that I collected as a child. But enough, as I realize now I might sound like a hoarder, and that I am not, though I might have a problem.  Most of my collections are purely collected for the aesthetic reasons or for memories attached, to each their own.  But look at them…..image

Everybody collects something, some for investment and others for enjoyment.  But I want to know what you collect. Maybe it was something that started when you were younger with one piece that motivated you until it snowballed out of control? Is there a collection you are proud of? You might collect plants, art, or something else.  This is where my curiosity comes into play. I would like you to share with us a good snapshot of your prized collection, no matter how large or small it may be. I want to know more about you, the reader. What is your poison?

You can send it by one of two ways:

  1. email  us, using the subject line Collecting and tell us a few words about it. Emails should be sent to:     plinth.et.al(at)gmail.com
  2. or if you are on instagram, just take a shot and upload it, using #plinthetal so it can be found.  In a few weeks I will put together a roundup of some of the collections you, our readers, have built. (with permission of course)   I look forward to seeing who and what is out there.

We are expanding our reaches. Are any of our readers on instagram? If you are there, let us know (james.mc.grath) & (EHSU2003), we would love to follow you and see what you are up to. It could make for some interesting future collaborations.  – James

 

5-10-5: John Pastoriza-Piñol, botanical illustrator

John and I were introduced through a mutual acquaintance when I was living in Australia. Funnily enough I first saw his work exhibited at the RHS London Flower Show a few years ago prior to our meeting. We bonded over our love of the arts and plants, and even caught up during his trips to United States. John has exhibited widely throughout Australia and internationally, including New York and Pittsburgh, Kew and London and Berlin and Madrid and has received numerous awards for botanical art including the American Society of Botanical Art Dianne Bouchier Award for Excellence in 2013. It’s no easy feat to fulfill these artistic obligations while holding down a daytime full-time job in Melbourne, Australia!

A close-up study of a Nymphaea flower and its bud.
A close-up study of a Nymphaea flower and its bud.

Please introduce yourself.

John Pastoriza-Piñol, botanical illustrator

The arts or horticulture?

Both, can’t decide.

How did you parlay your scientific background into a career as a botanical illustrator?

When my interest in plants and gardening led to study botany at Uni, I was given the opportunity to travel to the University of Vigo in Galicia, Spain to complete my doctorate course. I studied the environmental impact of Eucalyptus globulus subsp. globulus in agroecosystems in northwest Spain. This tree, the Tasmanian Blue Gum, is native to Australia and been naturalized widely, including to Galicia. When I returned to Australia, I began studying botanical illustration with the renowned Jenny Phillips and haven’t looked back since.

Botanical illustration is a scientific discipline that portrays accurately the minute details of the plants. For clarity and simplicity, the plants are set against stark negative space, leaving little room to improvise. I can only think of Marianne North and Raymond Booth whose work went to incorporate the subject’s habitats and Robert Thorton who took stylistic liberties to convey a romantic mood in the Temple of Flora. How do you surf between scientific precision and your personal creative touch?

The centuries-old art form of botanical illustration is highly specialised – where plant portraits combine finely observed detail with artistic expression. Today, botanical art is experiencing a resurgence of interest, and artists are adopting more contemporary interpretations, pushing the boundaries. Rich luminous hues and gorgeously exotic and rare botanical specimens define my work, however these are more than mere flower paintings. Closer inspection unearths a certain ambiguity of form and intent towards a dark and complex narrative. The familiarity and pleasure we derive from looking at a depiction of a beautiful plant or flower is somewhat challenged, and I like to urge viewers to look beyond the aesthetic and move into slightly more uneasy territory. While I want to encourage an appreciation for contemporary botanical art and accurate realism, I tend to aim for an exploratory narrative in my choice and composition of subject matter – the unusual and macabre always fascinate me.

Black hellebores tends to John's taste for the unusual and macabre.
Black hellebores tends to John’s taste for the unusual and macabre.

 

Given your full-time daytime job as a college administrator, how do you set aside blocks of time to devote to painting?

I have been teaching intermediate/advanced classes at the Geelong Botanic Gardens since 2005 and I have expanded my teaching circuit to include interstate and international Master Classes, educating my unique approach to the art form. In addition, I have a “day job” at RMIT, a university of technology and design, as coordinator industry Engagement and Events for the college of business, which allows me to use the other hemisphere of my brain! This leaves me with little time to devote to painting but I manage to fit it in.

How do you cajole the horticulturists into giving you the rare plants to paint? It’s hard to part with a rare or unusual plant one has devoted to propagating and growing.

My primarily focus is rare and unusual plants. Re-introducing less commonplace plants and unusual species certainly engages the audience. I find if you ask nicely and you most often you get the whole plant not just the bloom! Most plantsmen are very proud to have their treasure immortalised as a piece of fine art.

John captures beautifully the translucent texture of the Kiaat seed (Pterocarpus angolensis) as well as its spiky seed pod.
John captures beautifully the translucent texture of the Kiaat seed (Pterocarpus angolensis) as well as its spiky seed pod.

 

Watercolor is the primary medium through which plants are depicted in botanical illustration. There is no doubting its ability to impart a special translucence or ‘liveliness’ to plants. Have you explored other media besides watercolor?

Not as yet, I would love to work with glass, maybe in my retirement.

What are your current projects you’re working on?

I am in the process of finalising a new series of works to be exhibited at a show titled (Vignettes: Prefatory, Empirical, Mimesis, Brevity) in 2015 at the Art Gallery of Ballarat. The Art Gallery of Ballarat was established in 1884 and is the oldest and largest gallery in regional Australia.

The exhibition is based on the concept of a vignette, which originally was used to describe a small decorative design or small illustration used on the title page of a book or at the beginning or end of a chapter. These small, pleasing pictures or views would have no definite line at the border and often the design would be a small, graceful literary sketch.

My component, titled Brevity, is based on the French proverb à la Chandeleur, l’hiver se passe ou prend vigueur (winter either wanes or gains strength). This part of the exhibition precariously balances several disparate components of botanical documentation and constructed social identity. The literal and subversive elements coexist uneasily on the same plane, while the rendering remains true to the fundamental principle of objective observation of the natural world.

The obvious harbingers of autumn invoke feelings of reflection, melancholy of the transience of life. The careful choice in thickness of each vellum skin is pivotal to the overall narrative, where the thinner clearer skins denote youthfulness and the thicker skins represent growing older and the aging of the body. The underlying tattoos which emerge from beneath the vellum are instantly recognisable to those familiar with members of certain subcultures. These strangers are identifiable by these visible markers and exercise our curiosity in discovering their ‘story’ – often the justification behind the tattoos.

The entire work is presented as a timeline or chapters from a book starting at late summer to late autumn. The fidelity of the underlying tattoo diminishes as if discarding of the troubles of daily life and suffering of the world. The familiarity and pleasure we derive from looking at a depiction of these images are somewhat challenged. Does the tattoo destroy the beauty of the work or do we learn appreciate its symbolism? They suggestively urge the viewer to look beyond the aesthetic and move into a deeper understanding about the reality of life, the choices we make and in the scars we take to the end.

 

A peony is depicted in its demure, but voluptuous form.
A peony is depicted in its demure, but voluptuous form.

 

What has been the public reaction towards your work in various exhibitions?

Botanical art has been described as the meeting place between the arts and the sciences; however, many contemporary art practitioners describe the genre as ‘pure documentation devoid of any social context’ and therefore not considered as an art form. Contrary to critique, we are witnessing an increasing interest in botanic art with artists and illustrators continuing the centuries-old tradition of accurately and artistically recording plants.

Surprisingly there is a resurgence of realism in contemporary art practice which has inspired many prominent artists to adopt more contemporary interpretations and therefore pushing the boundaries of this art form into mainstream. More established galleries are showing interest in displaying this art, and subsequently there are more opportunities to study and appreciate botanic art.

My works are designed to engage with the audience on an intimate level. In terms of the subject matter, the viewer’s experience is highly subjective and personal as they stimulates curiosity and allows the viewer to more engaged with each work/ group of works and can interpret in their own way bringing into focus the everyday.

What are some of your favorite influences (travel, fashion, etc)?

I do follow fashion and travel often yet these don’t exclusively influence my work.

You spend an inordinate amount of time teaching botanical illustration nationally and internationally. What are the challenges you face in explaining some of the techniques in botanical illustration?

Obviously with the medium of watercolour, patience and time are common challenges. Accuracy is vital, as the smallest exclusion of an integral plant structure may result in an incorrect identification. One of the downsides to this art form is that we are very critical on detail. If a work is not as detailed or as accurate, most viewers are shy to praise and quick to criticise. You must be thick skinned to deal with critique. The flower is always the first component to be completed as nature waits for no man and is always the first part to change/ deteriorate first. The foliage and bulbs/ root structure can take time as these do change too much.

John likes to use pomegranates in his botanical illustration lessons for these fruit have such mystical and cultural qualities.
John likes to use pomegranates in his botanical illustration lessons for these fruit have such mystical and cultural qualities.

 

You seem to favor the pomegranate as a favorite subject for pupils to paint. Why is this fruit a chosen one?

Punica granatum L., pomegranate, is an ancient, mystical, unique fruit borne on a small, long-living tree which is native to the region of Persia and the western Himalayan range, and is now cultivated throughout the Mediterranean region and elsewhere. Pomegranates are considered an emblem of fertility and fecundity, and have a strong affiliation to women. The pomegranate features prominently in myth and religion as a symbol of the seasons of death and rebirth.

If you were marooned on an island, what would be your desert island plant to paint or grow?

I hope that never happens! Most of the plants I like wouldn’t grow there!

Do you have any favorite gardens?

Sissinghurst, Kent UK; Cloudehill, Melbourne; the private garden of plantsman Otto Fauser.

 

A detailed painting of Camellia flowers, leaves, twigs, and fruit.
A detailed painting of Camellia flowers, leaves, twigs, and fruit.

Any advice for anyone interested in exploring botanical illustration as a career?

I have been a member of ASBA since 2005/2006. The ASBA is the benchmark on which all botanical societies should be based. The running of the society, and the cohesion of both chapters and international artists is extremely well managed. The annual conference is truly a highlight, bringing together artists from around the US and abroad. It is wonderful to be able to present your work on an international platform. ASBA is at this stage the most global society of artists, that is until the creation of the International Society of Botanical Artists!

 

 John Pastoriza-Pinõl is presented the 2013 ASBA Diane Bouchier Artist Award by the American Society of Botanical Artists (image courtesy of American Society of Botanical Artists at https://www.asba-art.org/about-asba/awards)

John Pastoriza-Pinõl is presented the 2013 ASBA Diane Bouchier Artist Award by the American Society of Botanical Artists (image courtesy of American Society of Botanical Artists at https://www.asba-art.org/about-asba/awards)

 

Thank you John!

Sunday Clippings

Dahlia ‘Chat Noir’, Begonia Rex, and grapes

Heavy on the topics of horticulture and food, we welcome you to this weeks edition of Sunday Clippings.  The plant world is abuzz with the happenings of the Chelsea Flower Show, but there are our other faves too, paintings, ceramics, the Hermès rooftop garden(!!), and a slew of other things to drool over.  We leave you this week, showing some admiration for our readers, for whom we wish a most enjoyable Sunday, wherever you may be in this world….. -James

 

5.10.5 Shira, jewellery designer

We met through a mutual friend during my time as a student at the Jerusalem Botanic Garden in Israel. Bonding instantly, we often spoke excitedly about many topics, creativity, art, plants and of course, Israel. Shortly after meeting, Shira and I discovered we shared the same birthday and she has been a talented friend and inspiration ever since.

S.Goldberger
Shira and one of her grandfathers jewelery pieces that inspired her to start creating her own designs

How was it that you came to the realization you had a passion for jewelry design?

My passion for jewellery and adornment has been present since childhood. I was making pieces from whatever materials were available, from beads to threads and used colorful electric wires.  But there was an ideal I grew up with; my maternal grandfather was a jeweler, never professionally, but that was his dream. His life was too hard to follow on it, though. You see, he was born in Poland and as an adolescent he went through the Holocaust. He moved to Israel as a young man, the country itself was very young and poor too, and he needed to get a proper job. So he became a blacksmith and as a hobby he also made some beautiful metal work, as well as some jewellery for my grandmother and mother. I, myself, never knew him, he died before I turned a year old, but I was always surrounded by things that I knew that he made. The idea then fascinated me, so I went on to study it, both to feel closer to that man I didn’t know and to understand how I can create such magical, shiny things myself.

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‘A Pearl Necklace’ – a series confronting modern ideas concerning femininity and beauty

What was the progression from studying at school to arriving at Vanilla Ink Studios?

I graduated with a BFA from the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Jerusalem, in 2008 but five years passed and I was not doing anything jewellery-wise. My degree show was called “A pearl necklace” and it confronts modern ideas of femininity by contradicting materials and ideas of beauty. This project was very successful and was showcased in different locations worldwide.  I then moved to London for three years, and had a job at an enamel goods gallery in Mayfair. After London I was living in Israel again, a bit discouraged with life and art, so I studied another profession and got an MA in Gerontology, the study of old age.

Moving to St Andrews was another new start and while checking opportunities available in the area, I found out about Vanilla Ink (click for link) a Dundee based jewellery collective, where we get a bench at a workshop, and receive business development sessions. I was very surprised to get accepted to it as I’m one of eight girls, all the others are Scottish, but I’m sure they liked me being exotic and I saw this as my opportunity to get back into creating.

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14 of the individual handmade beads from a series of ’31’, one of Shira’s most recent projects

What current project you are working on?

Being part of Vanilla Ink made me realize I love the craft of jewellery making, but the commercial side of it freaks me out completely…

So this is me trying to get back into art jewellery. It is something I’m still working on, a project called “31”, made of 31 brass beads (I’m now up to 14), each one is hand made individually to the same sort of pod shape, but each one is different in design.

This is a very personal project (I am 31), through which I am trying to grow up and embrace my age and my journeys, drawing inspiration from what I have done in my life, and sort of try and pull myself together. (Video of the bead making process at Vanilla Ink)

ShiraGoldbergerEarrings
taking cues from her daily life surroundings, it’s easy to imagine the beautiful Cyclamen persicum foliage (the national flower of the State of Israel) were part inspiration for these freshwater pearl earrings

At the beginning of the creative process, how does it take shape for you, is it an idea, a series of ideas for a collection, or does it come from organically like seeing an object or image that sets it off?

When I start the creative process usually there is one idea that’s always in the background:  to show beauty in imperfections, because nothing is perfect, each of us and each piece should be unique. I collect visual inspiration from different places, Jerusalem, my city of birth, is completely diverse and very inspiring and I’m influenced by the shapes and colors I find in nature, flowers, leafs, seedpods are all part of it; no two are completely alike.

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another strong textural piece from ‘A Pearl Necklace’ easily reflects the atmospheric landscape of the Negev Desert, Israel

With having moved a number of times in your life and experiencing different countries and cultures, has this affected your design process?   Israel is a small but very beautiful country, and I was amazed with how quickly the landscape changes there. With the Mediterranean Sea, the Jerusalem Mountains, the Negev desert and Dead Sea in your presence growing up,have any of these landscapes influenced choice of color and materials? Some designs, like those in the pearl necklace series, reminded me of the flora I had seen in the Negev desert, so do you think there is any subconscious connection to your home?

I think most artists reflect in their works the places they come from and feel most attached to. Israel is very beautiful and has a great variety of landscapes for such a small place, but it can also be quite intense and a difficult place to grow up. Jerusalem and the surrounding mountains have always been a main inspiration. Until I was 26, I never left Jerusalem for more than 3 weeks, and its views and colors are very much with me. Living in London for three years, then the Negev desert for two years, and now in Scotland, I feel I keep coming back to those beloved views of my complex home town, probably in a desperate effort to define and form my identity, which is harder when you keep moving around. I find that the different landscapes, people and culture influence me and my design process, and have added much depth to my creative (and non-creative…) thinking; but in essence I’m still trying to realize where I come from, who I really am, and what I would like to be.

It is interesting how the colors of my pearl necklace collection have reminded you of the Negev desert flora, if I meant it, I am sure it was quite unconsciously done, but I do like that idea! On this project I was working on conflicts and contradictions (which do very much connect to the place I come from), and with working with superb materials such as sterling silver, lovely pearls and raw white wool, part of the conflict needed to come from the choice of colors and materials, and I wanted to contrast them with something that will look almost dirty, something that will take away all their freshness, and that’s when brown, hairy looking materials were brought into the designs.

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More of her current and colorful work, handmade earrings created by Shira in Scotland

1506405_10152258216398057_1747039475_nHas the local landscape or culture in England and Scotland influenced your way of arriving at your ideas or materials?

Since I moved to London, the British culture has been a major influence on me but while living there the only creations I made were baskets. To Scotland I arrived five years after finishing my BFA in Jewellery design, in those five years I was not having anything to do with jewellery, so I am very grateful to Scotland and to Vanilla Ink who accepted me and gave me the opportunity to get back into the world of jewellery and silversmiths. As I returned to this line of work in Scotland, I really think it has influenced my ideas and choices I make; a lot of it comes from comparisons to different places I have lived. Here is the first time in my life that I live right by the sea, so it is bound to have some kind of influence on me in the long term.

JamesMcGrath
a woman of contrasts- favorite gardens include Great Dixter in winter and wild but well-tended Jerusalem gardens

Is there a favorite garden, public or private, that you know you will walk away from feeling inspired?

My parents’ garden in Jerusalem, is a pretty little wilderness, with different trees and plants, amazing for such a small garden, but it has everything – from the most fragrant climbing Jasmine, a lovely vine with sweet green grapes, a fig, a cherry and a lemon tree, a great rose with massive white flowers. In springtime, tulips, freesias, narcissus, loads of cyclamens and much more. My family moved to that house just before I was born, and I grew alongside that garden.

The Jerusalem botanical garden is also a lovely gem, with beautiful native plats alongside more exotic ones. In the spring there is an extraordinary display of anemones that will make your heart leap with joy.

But my ultimate public garden simply has to be Great Dixter, since no other place can ever be as beautiful to me as Dixter, which is magical in each and every season. It is very easy to love in the spring when the magnificent tulips are everywhere and everything looks so charming, during summer with the long border just so full of colors and excitement, and autumn with the dahlias and that fantastic mulberry tree they have there. It is in winter when it’s at its most magical, when you can really see how the garden is built and all the trees are just beautiful skeletons.

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The Poppy Field near Argenteuil, 1873, painted by Claude Monet

If you were to be left alone on an island and could have only take one plant and piece of art with you, what would you choose?

It depends; do I need them for survival? I will assume it’s a no and choose pelargonium, as it can sometimes blossom all year long, has bright colors and reminds me of Jerusalem. A work of art is so hard to choose, as I’m not even sure about which medium I would like it to be. I guess it should be a painting, an impressionist work surely, possibly one of Degas ballet dancers or maybe Monet’s poppies field, with the mother and child walking down the hill? They always cheer me up and reaffirm my will to live, but it’s difficult to choose

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proving that her creative skills extend beyond jewelery design, Shira hands make good baskets- handmade pieces include twined jute and jute coiled on sisal

When not working with jewellery, do you have other creative outlets do you turn to?

I weave baskets, twining and coiling them from soft materials, and find it to be very relaxing. I like photography too, always have, recently joining instagram, which brought back this old love of mine. I enjoy painting, colored pencils and acrylics, sewing, loads of stuff apparently. If I really need a creative outlet and none of the above are available – then I usually bake a banana-chocolate cake…


 

Thank you Shira for a view into your creative skills and thoughts.  If you would like to see more work or contact Shira here is where she can be found:

Meet the Professionals- the work of Paul Rowley

Paul Rowley- Of Local Interest- Visions
Of Local Interest- Visions

Paul Rowley is  a filmmaker and visual artist, born in Dublin and now based mostly in Brooklyn. (http://paulrowley.bigcartel.com/)

“I first came to making art through making collages like these many years ago, and even though I work mostly with film and video these days, I have continued to be fascinated by collage.  The images come from all over – 1950’s photos of Ireland, bright garish textile books from the 1970’s, science manuals, travel magazines, architecture books.  Combining these images from different sources, different places, diverse histories, allows me to create new stories on the paper, sometimes playful, often abstract, yet always rooted in the excitement of an unexpected edit.”

Meet the Professionals- Knitwear
Meet the Professionals- Knitwear
Of Local Interest - Raincoats
Of Local Interest – Raincoats
Meet the Professionals- Veda
Meet the Professionals- Veda
Of Local Interest - Pausa
Of Local Interest – Pausa
Of Local Interest - Shopgirl
Of Local Interest – Shopgirl
Meet the Professionals - Coach Mike
Meet the Professionals – Coach Mike
Film Loop - Wichita
Film Loop – Wichita
Film Loop - Portia
Film Loop – Portia
Of Local Interest - Peter Street
Of Local Interest – Peter Street
Of Local Interest - Foxy
Of Local Interest – Foxy

Paul Rowley is a visual artist and filmmaker born in Dublin and now based in Dublin and New York. His work shows in galleries and at film festivals internationally.

His work has been exhibited at the Pompidou Centre, Paris, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Forum Expanded at the Berlin Film Festival, Photographers’ Gallery, London, 300m3 in Gothenburg, the Kunst Film Biennial in Cologne, Museum of Contemporary Art in Mexico City, Butler Gallery Kilkenny, Videonale at the Bonn Kunst Museum, the ICA in Philadelphia. Recent screenings include the Impakt festival, Oberhausen Film Festival, the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, and dedicated screenings at the Darklight Digital Festival in Dublin and Prog:ME, the Rio de Janeiro Festival of Media Arts.

His work has been funded by the New York Foundation for the Arts, Irish Arts Council, Irish Film Board, Culture Ireland, and others. He has received fellowships from the MacDowell artist colony, the Bogliasco Foundation, and Atlantic Centre for 
the Arts. His
most recent commission, Local Time, is a sixty screen permanent installation at Los Angeles International airport.

He has received many awards for his work including Golden Gate Award at the San Francisco International Film Festival, the Irish American Art Award (under 35 and overall prize), the New
Langton Arts Award, the Glen Dimplex Artists’ Award (the Irish Museum of 
Modern Art’s annual contemporary art prize), a special jury mention at DMZ docs Korea, nominated for an IFTA (Irish Film and Television Award). He was the winner of the Irish Film New York Rising Star award in 2011 and with his company STILL FILMS was awarded the Michael Dwyer Discovery Award by the Dublin Films Critics Circle for their work.

To learn more about this work and/or purchase:   www.paulrowley.bigcartel.com

To see more of Paul’s work:    www.stillfilms.org                &            www.condensate.net

 Thank you Paul! – James