Friday, February 8, 2019

#liberty #justice #equality

 In 2010 I was asked by Winterthur Museum to reverse engineer the process of making an 18th-century Liverpool creamware jug to inform their publication Success to America: Creamware for the American Market referencing the S. Robert Titleman Collection, the finest collection of patriotic jugs in the world. This genre of colonial era ceramics, largely produced and exported from Liverpool, England, documents an incredible historic record of war, revolution, independence, and trade. Commemorative and celebratory depictions of American revolutionary heroes, merchant ships, war ships and sailors adorn these British ceramics “made for the American Market.” At first glance, the inscription “Success To Trade” appears to be an innocuous salutation but the reality of Britain and America’s cynical capitalistic enterprise was the brutal business of human commodity and Liverpool the largest slave port in the world.

Patriotic Jug 2018 

“Patriotic Jug” historically connects the actions of NFL player now Nike spokesman Colin Kaepernick’s taking a knee against the inhumanity of mass incarceration and institutional racism to the iconic image of the ‘kneeling slave’ made famous by Josiah Wedgwood’s 1787 abolitionist medallion ‘Am I Not A Man and A Brother. By the early 19th century, ceramic sugar bowls and tea sets were decorated with abolitionist themes featuring images of the kneeling slave as a call to boycott sugar produced by slave labor- directly instructing social activism through household ceramics. The transfer print of a kneeling enslaved woman on the face of the jug is borrowed from a 19th-century pin cushion worn around the wrist, an artifact of women’s work, and an intimate daily reminder of the injustice of slavery.
A transfer print of the 1st amendment encircles the interior of the rim and the Nike campaign moniker EQUALITY opposes the iconic image of Kaepernick’s extraordinary action to risk his career and raise his voice with millions watching by taking a knee on behalf of the voiceless who suffer the injustice of racism.
photography  Robert Hunter

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Trumped Up China

Years of cynical republican leadership assaults on immigration, women's rights, voting rights, planned parenthood, LGBT rights, climate change, and gun legislation - the ugly politics of us and them gave Trump his rebel yell.
... read more at trumped up china

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Michelle Erickson: Conversations in Clay at Virginia MOCA

 during my my solo exhibition conversations in clay spring summer 2015 at virginia moca director of exhibitions Alison Byrne videographer eric hales and associate curator of education truly mathews combined efforts to make this short video connecting 'master class' making with a look into the galleries. many of the works in the show came out of exploration and experimentation during my 2012 v&a residency..

a project to get area youth engaged in art resulted in these two teen audio stops. each work chosen from the exhibition by the teen author to create a narrative the piece evokes from their imagination .
rake's progress: the orgy scene

 green squirrel and second amendment squirrel

Friday, May 29, 2015

NCECA 2014

My blog version of the article I wrote for NCECA 2014 Journal as Demonstrating Artist
Michelle Erickson

My career-long fascination with ceramic history during the period of Western exploration, expansion, and dominion began with exposure to archeological ceramics in the “colonial triangle” of Virginia. Fragments of British, European, Asian, and Native American pottery unearthed in early colonial excavations embody a remarkable global convergence of cultures in clay.  My now 25 years in the rediscovery of lost ceramic techniques of this era has come to define my work as a contemporary artist.
My work has been cleverly and aptly described from time to time by critical genius. Garth Clark once dubbed me a “Post Modern Chameleon.” (Fig.1
Liberty private collection
Photo Gavin Ashworth NY
The then prince of craft Glenn Adamson prior to his recent coronation at the Museum of Arts and Design encapsulated the nature of my practice as both a “grim fascination” like “a driver slowing down beside an accident” and a ‘Magpie flitting through ceramic history.’ (Fig.2) 
Pagoda Tulipiere's Museum of Art and Design NY
Photo Gavin Ashworth NY

Ceramics in America editor Robert Hunter poetically captured the spiritual side of creation describing my trancelike modeling of clay forms as “channeling an ancient votive maker worrying the clay between her fingers.”  (Fig.3)
Temptation Posset  Private Collection
And in his 2011 The Pot Book Edmund de Waal included my Pectin Shell Teapot  in his top 300 worlds pots.  Definitely flattering but it’s his words that I want on my tombstone which truly animate the calamity of making art.  In describing my work he begins:  A cobbled-together cartoon teapot has the feel of an object that cannot wait to be made. There is an urgency about this situation: a response is required, right now.” (Fig. 4)

Pectin Shell Teapot  2005
Photo Gavin Ashworth NY
Edmund’s visceral description could perhaps only come from a fellow ‘maker’. As such he could see the impractical, unpredictable, and impossible constructs of my work, which is often full of arcane unknowns and clumsy imperfections, but in the end they have to work. I want to have a self-possessed understanding of the ceramic objects that inspire me. Although mimickery, appropriation, and even the direct use of historical artifacts and their refuse can be an extraordinarily effective means of reference, my art is actually about the connection gained through the intimate act of recreation.
             During my tenure at the V&A I created three films in collaboration with the V&A and The Chipstone Foundation that document the process of recreating two icons from British ceramic history: one illustrating the arcane forming, decoration and social function of an 18th-century English delft puzzle jug and the second revealing the enigmatic techniques and elite production of a 1750’s Staffordshire pectin shell agate teapot. (Fig. 5)
Making an Agate Teapot Video Still Juriaan Booij

The third video documents my working studio and curated exhibition case in the V&A’s ceramics galleries that included 13th century London jug, indigenous clays foraged from East London construction sites and sprig molded patterns taken off Olympic trainers donated by Nike 2012 Olympic Track and Field Innovation  to make dragons, sauce boats and other stuff . (Fig. 6)
My V&A Residency Cases
Photo Robert Hunter
 The videos can be seen on the V&A Channel (QR code) or just by using google. The videographer Juriaan Booij is extraordinary as he collapses a decade of work into 5 minutes. (Fig. 7)
In my V&A residency studio with videographer Juriaan Booij filming Making an English Delft Puzzle Jug
 Photo Robert Hunter
This blog ME@V&A is a resource that further describes and illustrates my research and experimentation while there and since.
Beginning in 2001 my experimental archeology became the subject of an ongoing collaboration with the debut of the annual journal Ceramics In America now in it’s fourteenth year. The journal published by the Chipstone Foundation has both incorporated and initiated projects resulting in several comprehensive articles on my process of reverse engineering historical ceramic technologies. To date they include English slipware techniques, English agateware, recreating an 18th-century American porcelain picklestand from the Philadelphia China Manufactory of Bonnin and Morris.  In addition, I worked in collaboration with ceramic historians and curators to reproduce a North Carolina Moravian figural flask, a ring bottle, and several slipware objects. (Fig.8)
2nd Amendment Squirrel courtesy of Ceramics in America 2009

In 2008 my commissioned artwork appeared on the cover of Ceramics in America and featured in the article Fit For A Queen written by Ivor Noel Hume OBE who tells the story of my design and creation of the official gift given to Queen Elizabeth II during her historic visit to Virginia in 2007 commemorating the 400th anniversary of founding of Jamestown. (Fig 9) 
Terra Nova presented to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth ll as the official Gift from the Commonwealth of Virginia
During The Queen's historic visit to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the first English settlement at Jamestown in 1607. Cover Article by Ivor Noel Hume OBE Ceramics In America 2008
Queen's Collection
Photo Gavin Ashworth NY
My work with Ceramics in America has given me access that includes the amazing photography of 
Gavin Ashworth, to an extraordinary breadth of context and scholarship on many previously unpublished archeological and antique ceramic collections.  These lengthy full color illustrated articles have been a mutually beneficial experience tailor made for publishing this aspect of my practice. Equally important, however, is the significant role this historically based perspective on the American ceramic psyche plays in the development of my art. Whether using the precedent of anti-slavery ceramics for the basis for my series on 21st-century child soldiering, (Fig.10)
Front and Centerpiece collection of the Chipstone Foundation
Photo Gavin Ashworth NY
 or exploring the fascination in the 18th century with the discovery of fossils to address our own predicament with fossil fuels. (Fig.11)
Fossil Teapot collection of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
21st Century Galleries
Photo Gavin Ashworth NY
 The substance of our shared past is a tightrope I walk between the constraints of physical recreation and the liberation that exists within those boundaries, a balance between force and direction. No matter how many ceramic genres and techniques I have explored I am always compelled by the material of clay, from it’s ancient geological origin to it’s modern space age use. Its history is the history of us.  
21st century material culture is inundated with the technological phenomenon of seemingly instantaneous proliferation in art and design yet it reminds me of the invention of fast food- it seemed so great at the time. Now more than ever the art of the hand is increasingly significant in the context of virtual experience and continues to be irreplaceable even in the production of our most sophisticated technology. Clearly evidenced in recent headlines like “300,000 Foxconn workers produce 500,000 iphone 5S units every day”[viii] Has Technology advanced art? I like to look at our most sophisticated advancements- the future- as arcane methods of the past and in that future the unconscious pursuit of technology for it’s own sake is force without direction an ambition that has the dubious distinction of being the greatest thing since splitting the atom. (Fig.12)
Demon and Deity-pot collection of Arkansas Art Center
Photo Gavin Ashworth NY

 I suggest that it’s when art advances technology that humanity is universally advanced and somehow clay is always at the center. Grandiose words from “Hampton potter Michelle Erickson”.

Solo exhibition Michelle Erickson: Conversations In Clay is on view at Virginia MOCA thru Aug 16 2015

1) Garth Clark Blue + White = Radical Catalogue essay, Garth Clark Gallery NY 2002
2) Glenn Adamson Re-enter The Dragon: the Post Modernism Of Chinese Ceramics,  Transfer: The Influence of China on World Ceramics. Colloquies on Art & Archaeology in Asia No. 24 Cover Article, Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art page 158
3) Robert Hunter Specializing in the Diverse: Kerameiki Techni Aug 2004, page 43-47
4) Edmund de Waal The Pot Book, Phaidon Press Oct 10 2011 page
5) 2007? Daily Press whatever article Mark St John Erickson

Michelle Erickson has a B.F.A. from The College of William and Mary. Her contemporary ceramics in museums collections include The Chipstone Foundation, The Museum of Art and Design, The Long Beach Museum of Art The New-York Historical Society,The Peobody Essex, Yale University Gallery, The Carnegie Museum, The Mint Museums, Seattle Art Museum, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Cincinnati Art Museum, Arkansas Art Center, The Potteries Museum Stoke on Trent, UK and the Victoria and Albert Museum London. Her work has been featured in numerous national and international publications. Erickson is renowned for her research into 17th- and 18th-century ceramic techniques published extensively in Ceramics in America and has lectured and demonstrated her work widely for scholarly groups and institutions. She has designed and produced ceramics for major motion pictures and HBO series John Adams. As Artist in Residence at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum in 2012 Erickson created three videos now on the V&A Channel the films were shown at Ceramic Arts London 2013 and the International Ceramics Festival UK. She received a Virginia Museum of Fine Arts 2013-14 fellowship.  Michelle was guest artist at the North Devon Festival of Pottery, funded by the British Arts Council Sept 2013 Demonstrating Artist  NCECA 2014, and Guest Artist at The Metropolitan Museum of Art for their Friday Focus An Artist's Perspective April 25th 2014.
Erickson's recent exhibitions include her solo show Potter's Field was at the Clay Art Center NY April 2014. The NCECA Invitational Exhibition at Milwaukee Art Museum Flow Feb - March 2014. Enough Violence SCC 2013-14 and Traveling exhibition Inciteful Clay

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Mover Shaker World Class Maker

The V&A categorized my artist in residence as "World Class Maker".
Titles can be a useful way to stake out territory especially since we can't go around pissing on everything we want to lay claim to.  At first it seemed a bit mocking but one day it struck me to take my props- embrace and even brandish the moniker. One- why not? B-  I realized it is a literal description of my specific approach as a clay artist, and a very a useful way to give people some idea what they may encounter - one whose work in clay includes a serious skill set. It definitely sets the tone- the only trouble is then you gotta come up with the goods!
 There is a strong compelling movement within contemporary ceramic art that is about NOT making things out of clay- but making things out of clay things that have already been made or using clay to define that which will never be made - the temporal shaping and arranging of clay material creating an impermanent vulnerable momentary tap into the ceramic cosmos - a kind of alter ego to the earthly manifestations that clay has been bound to for millennia. A valiant attempt at impeaching this imperishable artifact from our collective past-a past we can't run away from but one we can perhaps travel at light speed to escape at least for a moment. I like it! After all ceramics today is the material of space travel diabolical weaponry and the key to solar energy!? what? it is as much a material of the future as the past and one that allows our present predicament an escape to both- sometimes at once.

 London truly seems to be ground zero for some seriously righteous paradigm shifting mind altering endeavors in clay and a lot of other so called craft and design (ugh). I have like many become swept up in the dragnet of critical thinkers in the field ambitious to redefine what and who is art- artist-craft- craftsman design- designer, a back and forth momentum that has begun to exhaust itself (or at least me) while inching closer and closer to an anticlimactic balance point- like the mystic tale of the stag whose mad pursuit of a heavenly scent drives him off the edge of a cliff and contorted from the fall, his head encircled to his belly, he realizes the origin of the divine fragrance that compelled him to his death was in fact emanating from his own navel.

  So where better to explore all that we call ceramics than in the belly of the beast- swallowed whole the undeniable proof of our karmic china closet and at once the germ seed of provocateur- the enemy within, laying, navigating, wounding and wounded alike warriors on the conceptual minefield of art and clay.
 In light of this I had a 'senior makers' moment- the V&A organized a pow wow at the om point for a small diverse group- whose common ground is clay- to explore the meaning of ceramic art in the 21st century a high minded pursuit that quickly devolved into playing with Nike Olympic trainers, London clay and of course tea and cake- it was all very civilized.

 V&A Curators Reino Liefkes, Alun Graves, Catrin Jones, and intern Kate Quinlan, residency and 'long table' coordinator Ruth Lloyd, ceramic artist's Phoebe Cummings, Carol McNicholl, Clare Twomey Conor Wilson, Matthew Raw and Ceramics in America Editor Robert Hunter who took the usual high ground and all the great pictures.
 True a few heavy hitters were MIA but I tried to compensate by using a bigger hammer.
Nike once again was literally on the table I was continuing to explore the trainer patterns from the olympic trainers Brett Holts had brought me from the Nike 2012 Track and Field Innovation