Monday, July 2, 2012

clayspace, asheville

i met Josh Copus, the founder of clayspace  in Tasmania, at the woodfire conference.  we took part in the woodfire competition, josh building the kiln and me being the chef cooking using the fire of the kiln. our team won the most number of wine bottles as prize! 
“if u ever want to come to the States and work u know where to come”josh told me, in josh copus style. so it happened. josh had just started a international visiting artist program this year, and i came as the first visiting artist.

over a couple email exchanges, we decided the residency would be for three months. i like being in a place for some time, get used to the place, get into a routine of work, make friends, feel like part of where you live- all this is very important for me to produce work. and the kind of work I am doing now, all chunky robust pieces of work, which need slow drying, so a longer residency worked perfect for me.

the first day into Asheville, was the introduction to my first baseball game, and at least ten friends of josh- everyone knew my name, it felt like josh had already told half of Asheville about my arrival (well, josh knows almost 90% of the people in Asheville!). 
clayspace is in the heart of the river arts district, a whole street full of artist studios. the studio is big, with a gallery in the front and five artists sharing the studio space. josh is a dreamer, a true visionary, super friendly and full of clay dreams and ambitions. he is already dreaming of a larger work space with more artists working in it. his woodfiring kilns at madison, which is half hour drive from asheville really proves how crazy he is, good crazy, as he calls it. i agree. 

first couple of days i took time to get used to the place, meet people, remember all those new names (have my first beer at the wedge brewery, first tacos, first plate of tender ribs with corn and cheese grits on the side). the second week i used clay, which josh calls as pipe clay, which he digs out locally from a farmer's field. later in the week josh decided to make more clay. he had some porcelain clay already, to which he had added sand. "too sandy" he said, so we went out to Marshall, to Alex Matisse 's studio and collected some white clay with lots of grog and rocks in it and mixed it with the already existing sandy white clay. we worked on the pug-mill, my first experience of a pug-mill, (mostly josh working on the machine and me cutting the clay into slabs and sausages and packing them into the red truck) we had clay hump as tall as us by the end of two full days.

since then i have been spending most of my days, listening to loud music in the studio (getting education about rap music by josh, thats the true cultural exchange program he says) and working and i can see am slowly encroaching more space than am given...

we will be firing , first the three chambered kiln at end of july and later the first week of august, the anagama kiln. there is a new body of work which am totally excited about, and will post the photos once they are fired..

2012, a year of change

year 2012 seems like a year of change, a year of transition. after being in golden bridge pottery for four long years, i never wanted to go anywhere else. but once i built the house near auroville, travelling in that ecr road seemed more like a punishment. everyday i would thank my stars that i hv reached home safe. i told myself, if the change has to happen may be now its the time. i decided to make a small studio behind my house, in my tiny little backyard. i worked at rakhee's studio for sometime, bisque fired in her kiln and high fired in adil's newly built upma and as i was using my savings money to repair the house from the cyclone damages, i continued building small little things as studio parts in my house. i worked in my garden couple of hours in a day, mulching the kitchen garden which my friend malavika started, weeding in the garden, watering the plants, trying to steal flowering plants from my neighborhood, i enjoyed it all- just the way my garden was growing, i was putting together things for my future studio. one big wooden shelf to keep the finished work, one smaller shelf which i got for cheap price, malavika gave her ten year old gas kiln to me it came all the way from chennai in a truck, i contacted my contractor and got a wedging table and two clay tanks made. i know its just the beginning, i know its nothing compared to what i had in golden bridge, or what other studios around me have, but building this house i have learnt to take things slow, wait for things to happen, wait for things to grow from scratch- am all ready to water my studio, mulch the area, keep the weeds off and work in it hot and sweaty till i see it grow...
i have finally told myself that, year 2012 is a year of change- wait and see what happens 

jeff shapiro and friends

thanks to adil writer and dharmesh jadeja for putting up this show

jeff shapiro workshop 2012

Beginning of the year 2012 I returned back to my newly built house, soon after the cyclone, to find the whole house in water and nearly 250 roof tiles blown away. Rakhee and her workers came to help me, so the house was dry in a day, but there was no water for the rest of the month as there was no electricity. I bought two tanker full of water, hired a generator to pump it up to my tank- all I wanted to do was to be in my new house. All I wanted to do was to hide from people and not talk about the cyclone. But it was a bad time to hide. We were gearing up to a very important workshop at golden bridge pottery, a workshop happening after nearly ten years. Jeff shapiro’s workshop. I was waiting for it to happen from the last one year, and when it finally was near, all I could think of was to run away from everything and everyone. Somehow all the works I had made at Rakhee’s studio before the cyclone had survived, that gave me a little courage. Rakhee and me finished bisque firing all those pots. Still no electricity in auroville area, I had to buy a small solar panel so that I could stay in my house. To look back now, it was the best decision Ray took to continue with the workshop, I guess everyone helped each other emotionally and just went through with all the events and by the end of the workshop, we were warmed up to do the actual firing. Ray’s gallery at 25 rue dumas was opened during this time., demos and presentations during the day, an exhibition of all the works by the participants at kalakendra, three days of south india tour, the ten days went by real fast. As the kiln floor was still wet, we could not do the firing when jeff was around. Here is a detail write up on the firing: the kiln saw some beautiful results. I think the salt results are so far the best out of all the previous firings we have had. And also in terms of how much variation one could see from one part of the kiln to another was fascinating