Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Studio Visit: Greenwich House Pottery

Gushy, mushy sloppy mud. That's what clay is. But it's special mud, mud that can be baked as hard as stone, mud that can become dishes, or flower pots. Come with us to Greenwich House Pottery and take a parent-child pottery class.

Greenwich House Pottery is located in a beautiful building in Greenwich Village. It is a professional pottery center for sculptors and potters. Happily, it also offers parent-child classes.

We arrived at 10 o'clock for a two-hour class. We climbed three flights to a sunny studio where we met Mary, our teacher. She explained that our project today would be to construct clay flower pots. We would use terracotta clay. 

Mary described some techniques for working in clay. She gave us some tools we could use to press decorative marks into the clay.

Mary showed us "the slab roller table" with its large wheel. She explained that you place your lumpy clay on the table and then run it through the "slab roller" (no fingers please) to get a perfectly flat slab of clay.

We each ran our clay through the "slab roller." Then, we trimmed the uneven edges. We cut a large piece off the slab for the bottom of the pot. We rolled our slab around a "can"shape to form the wall of our flower pot and joined the two ends. We placed the "flower pot" on our "bottom" piece, and followed the shape of the pot to cut a circle for the "bottom." We cut little lines, crosshatches, along the edges of the "bottom," and wet them a little bit, so we could join them securely.

We smoothed the sides of our pot with a "smoother," a little piece of flat plastic.

We added flower shapes to one pot. We rolled little balls and pressed them flat to make flowers.We rolled coil shapes for flower stems. The second pot became an elephant. We flattened two balls to form the ears, rolled thick coil shapes for the legs and made pointed tusks.

We cut small holes in the top of the "flower" pot as decorations. We cut a hole to drain the extra water from the bottom of the pots.

We painted the pots with "slip glaze," thin clay color. We painted one pink and one blue. Clear, shiny glaze would be painted over the slip.

The pots would dry for a week and then be 'fired," baked in a kiln, a very hot oven (2000 degrees), that would turn the pots from soft mud into something as hard as "stone." We'll show you our finished pots in a future  blog.

We loved our clay workshop and are planning to sign-up for classes at Greenwich House Pottery this September. Hope you will join us.

Meanwhile, here is a great clay project you can try.

Project: A Self-portrait (at Greenwich House)

• Take some paper plates. Look in a mirror. Use a thick marker and draw your portrait. 

• Place the plate on a slab of clay. Cut out a circle.

• Make some coils, (you know, you roll them under your hand). When they are even and pretty thin (but not too thin) use them to "draw" your portrait on the circle. Put a little "slip," (watery clay) under the coils to join them to the slab circle.

• Let your "portrait" dry. 

• Paint your portrait with glazes. Greenwich House has the glazes.

• Greenwich House will "fire" the pots for you in their "kiln." A "kiln" melts glass...which is what glazes are made of.

• When your portrait has been "fired," Greenwich House will mail it to you.

Greenwich House Pottery 
Jones Street nr West 4th Street

Happy Birthday America 2012

This is a reprint of the artbusnyc blog we wrote in 2011 to celebrate the 4th of July and our Declaration of Independence from English rule forever. Today is the 4th of July 2012.

Today is America's birthday. I'm not sure how you celebrate a country's birthday. Do you have a birthday party? Do you bake a birthday cake? Do you make t-shirts? Do you light fireworks? I decided I would celebrate America's birthday with a blog called "Happy Birthday America."

More than 200 years ago, there were 13 colonies in America.The colonists were mostly farmers. They were ruled by Great Britain and King George III. King George made life hard for the colonies by demanding high taxes for things the colonists needed, like tea.

The colonists decided they wanted freedom from Great Britain. They wanted to make their own rules and create their own government. They formed the Continental Congress.

They asked Thomas Jefferson, a young lawyer, to write a declaration of America's independence from King George and Great Britain.

Two important statesmen, Benjamin Franklin

and John Adams helped revise the declaration.

It became known as the Declaration of Independence. It promised the people "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." After many revisions, the Declaration was sent to Congress where the fifty-six members signed it.

John Hancock, the leader of the Congress, signed it so flamboyantly that his signature has become an icon, and we say "Put your John Hancock on this document.

George Washington asked Betsy Ross to celebrate the new nation and sew the first flag.

I'm sure someone baked a cake.

On July 4th, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress, and America became a new country. Yea!!

Now we celebrate every 4th of July. Artists celebrate with art. like Jasper Johns who painted the "Three Flags." It hangs at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

The Declaration of Independence described our dream of how we wanted our country to be. We invented a system of government that would give all people what they needed. Benjamin Franklin made his ideas clear when he said,"every man is a property owner, has a vote in Public Affairs, lives in a tidy, warm House, has plenty go good Food and Fuel. with clothes from Head to Foot.

 Every the 4th of July, we celebrate America's birthday and our Declaration of Independence, with fireworks. The people of our nation are constantly working and voting, to make the great ideas of our dream, become more of a reality.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

MoMA: 10 Top Paintings for Children

Here are 10 brilliant artworks that have great kid appeal. You will find them at the Museum of Modern Art. Plan a visit to the MOMA and let these artworks introduce the young members of your family to some of the brilliant ideas behind modern art. 

I and the Village by Marc Chagall (1911)

Chagall grew up in Belorusse, on a farm, where he milked cows, planted vegetables, and picked fruit. Later, he moved to the city, to Paris. His paintings remember his happy childhood and seem like dreams filled with imaginary animals and floating people. On the fifth floor.

The Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh (1889)

The first thing you notice about Van Gogh's painting is the artist's whirling, swirling brushstrokes. They  seem to be glittering like fireworks exploding in the sky. The night seems to be filled with celebrations. On the fifth floor.

The Red Studio by Henri Matisse (1911)

Artists love their studios. They stand their paintings against the walls and admire them. They place favorite sculptures and furniture around the room. Here is Matisse's painting of his studio filled with art. On the fifth floor.

One: #31 by Jackson Pollock (1950)

This painting was painted on the floor. You can feel the arm of the artist moving back and forth, creating a tangle of drips and splashes. He walks around the painting to another side, then another, throwing thin lines of paint from a stick. No-one had ever painted like this before Pollock. On the fourth floor.

Untitled by Dan Flavin (1968)

Flavin paints colors with light, the way other artists use watercolors and pastels. His single peach-colored fluorescent light bulb adds soft color to a wall. The glow is truly amazing. On the fourth floor.

The Chariot by Alberto Giacometti (1950)

You know this chariot was built for a king, someone special, someone grand. The figure is so tall. Giacometti used bronze to create this sculpture, because it is fantastically strong. On the fourth floor.

The Three Musicians by Pablo Picasso (1921)

This painting looks like it has been pasted together, like a collage. It is playful and fun. The shapes of a guitar, hats, music and a dog make the painting look a bit like a puzzle. On the fifth floor.

Bed by Robert Rauschenberg (1955)
Why paint a bed? Well, it is fabric just like the canvas painters paint on. Not really. Actually, it's a bit of a joke, but a serious joke that asks what can be called art. On the fourth floor.

Gibraltar by Alexander Calder (1936)

Calder balances shapes that make you wonder if they are going to fall.  His work often has a bit of humor. He invented balancing sculptures that float in the air called Mobiles, and standing sculptures called Stabiles that sometimes reach great size. On the fourth floor.

Water Lilies by Claude Monet (1914-1926)

This is a very large painting of a pond in Giverny, the garden Monet created. His landscapes were designed with flowers and water, like living paintings. This painting captures a section of the water lily pond. The glittering brushstrokes make you feel the water's surface might be moving. On the fifth floor.

Here is a project for you:
Print this blog and take it with you when you visit the MOMA. See if you can find all 10 artworks. Don't forget a sketchbook. You may find some artworks along the way, you want to include in your own collection.