This is going to get wordy, so I'm telling you right now to pass unless you have a curiosity about artist's co-ops. I am writing in defense of them, sort of. I say this having recently resigned from one- ha! But, as I was ending my three and a half year involvement with this particular co-op gallery, I thought about all the good stuff learned from the experience:
How to coordinate exhibits: painting and patching panels, communicating with visiting artists, setting up the show, reception, marketing...
Brainstorming ideas for exhibits, classes, community events.
Some of what it takes to run a brick and mortar business.
More on the plus side: You have control over your display- change it out, rearrange, whatever. Also, there is no denying the creativity boost from being part of some of the exhibits and being around other artists. Then there's a pool of customers- some may be new to you, and it's a shop with regular hours so they know where to find you. I have to admit, it was a difficult decision to end my time with this gallery.
Why did I leave, then? Time and money. Some travelling may be in my future. Pottery is time-consuming work. So is working at the co-op. Being gone is a problem. And, it wasn't making financial sense. The combined commission fee and rent comprised a yearly average of 40- 43% of what I sold. I was not selling enough at this location to offset the costs. This is a small community and raising prices is not an option. As I expect to be compensated for my time and experience, a better use of my time is to participate in shows where fees typically take 10 to 15% of my sales. Also, I've found it impossible to keep up with my Etsy shop, which I hope to have stocked and active again in a few months.
Anyone who has been involved in a an artist's co-op knows there are other factors which make it a difficult balancing act- getting a dozen or more people to agree on one course of action (often, things just did not get decided), and equal division of labor are a couple of famously common difficulties in co-ops. Then there's the age thing. This didn't seem to bother anyone but me. As a 58 year old, soon to be 59, I was one of the younger members. For a variety of reasons I felt the organization needed a more diverse age range. But, with a shop open 6 days/week (closed Mondays) younger artists who are working full time (actual paying) jobs and may have little dependents are scared off by the thought of giving up a couple of weekend days per month to man the gallery. I don't think they get past that consideration to even contemplate all the other responsibilities.
Remember, I started out talking about the positives. My advise is take a look at your local co-op and see what it has to offer you. Don't forget, you'll probably have to jury in. Here's the thing- if you can possibly swing it for a year or two, look at the experience as an educational tool. The knowledge gained is invaluable. Think of it as an internship. You might get paid, too.
A little late getting these pictures out. It's usually best to post pictures before the show. This was the Local Artist Show in Marietta, Ohio. I was flying last week to get things done. Pictures had to wait. Here's a few of the items left at end of show. I made four of these cairns. One had a rabbit jumping over it. That was a fun one. These bird cairns are two I still have. They are now at Riverside Artists Gallery in Marietta.
A few words about the cairns- The roundish "stones" are thrown on the wheel. Sometimes I alter them a little so they lose the perfect roundness. Birds are hand built. The flat stones are shaped from rolled out slabs. A metal rod runs through the middle of all so, obviously, I cut holes in the ceramic pieces while the clay was still soft enough. In the cairn above the rod also goes into the wood block. I first used a drill press to drill a hole in the block. It's really easier to have that block anchoring the whole thing, as it automatically makes the metal rod nice and straight. Many adjustments were needed to get the cairn pieces with no wood bases to line up.
And mugs. The ones with the transfer images all sold. I kind of resent that these mugs with the more interesting glazes weren't chosen. I guess that's what I get for going down the transfer image road.
The red whatever-it-really-is/not tenmoku glaze makes another appearance.
Little lamb, little lamb. Also ringed turtle dove and jumping hare. Gone to good homes, but not forgotten, are: raccoon, mouse, bear, squirrel, 2 make believe owls, 1 barn owl, and another sheep. Critter ornaments.
I like a lot of different glazes, and seem be particularly drawn to rich, dark glazes. However, my usual tenmoku glaze is temperamental. The plum, almost black, glaze that I love may be driven to extinction by poor record keeping. Note to self: Do not assume you will remember which Albany Slip clay substitute you used. Several mugs have been sitting around for some time waiting to be glazed with plum glaze once I figure out the Albany Slip thing. I have a couple of containers of Albany Slip that I made using different recipes. I seem to remember combining these to get the right look for this glaze. Or did I use some of the commercially made stuff? There are a lot of recipes for Albany Slip- apparently no one has found the secret to duplicating the real thing since mining ceased.
I have temporarily given up on the plum and decided to try a new tenmoku. Normally I make 200 gram tests, but was feeling trusting and made 500 grams so I could skip the test tile and go directly to glazing a mug or two. This meant having just enough to dip the bottom half, then turning to dip the top half. I did place mugs on some reject wall tiles saved for this purpose in case something really bad happened (like glaze melting off the mug and later cooling into a pool of obsidian on the kiln shelf). I expected a standard translucent brown, but got this great deep rust red. Okie dokie. Tested a few brushstrokes of other glazes underneath the tenmoku and even took notes- and put notes in a sandwich bag with the glaze recipe taped to the lid of the glaze bucket. I'm hoping this proves to be a reliable glaze. Recipe follows at bottom of page.
We should all have a blue pumpkin. Just made one of these because I thought it might be too weird but I kind of like it. I veered away from my usual pumpkins this year and went with a satin matte glaze instead of shiny. Let's try a spotted pumpkin, too. Speckled clay used here.
There is an iron oxide engobe on some stems, which is dark and metallic. For a couple of the pumpkins I brushed the iron oxide engobe on much lighter and went over it with a rutile engobe resulting in a less shiny golden brown. Then I remembered that I have an iron ox./rutile/frit wash which I dabbed here and there on the pumpkins to get some interesting spots on the ones with non-speckled clay so they wouldn't be jealous of their freckled pumpkin siblings. This wash may have worked well on the stems, but I'm fresh out of pumpkins, so no more experimenting for now.
Tenmoku cone 6 oxidation, source unknown (yeah, I didn't write it down)
slow cool: 125 degrees/hr. from 1900 F. to 1400 F.
silica flint 25.
Neph. Sy. 16.7
bone ash 6.7
Red iron ox. 10. used Spanish Red
The "Poetry in Art" exhibit is a collaboration of poets and artists, mostly in the region of Marietta and Athens, Ohio and Parkersburg, West Virginia. Poets submitted poems and artists used the poems as inspiration to create art in their chosen media. Poems were displayed alongside the artwork. The opening last night at Riverside Artists Gallery included a reading of the poems in the exhibit. The exhibit continues through Sept. 29. Below is a progression of the making of one of my pieces for the exhibit. As usual, I did not think ahead about taking pictures so many steps are missing, especially ones of building the forms while in the greenware stage.
So, these are in the greenware stage, but out by the kiln in the garage, probably dry or almost dry. Clay is stoneware (tan). White slip was brushed on, then cobalt slip over the white. The small figure was left white. A fragment of the poem was etched into the surface.
These are forms after bisque firing and after a black slip was brushed on, then wiped off. Also did the same with a little iron engobe. I made two because I was nervous about the possibility of not getting the results I wanted so I gave myself better odds. Since, with clay, the process often takes weeks, I think the advantage many other forms of media have is the artist usually knows to change or scrap the piece in a matter of a few days, if not hours.
After cone 6 firing. This is the one I preferred. I was pleased with the results. The words are there, but not so commanding as to take away from the image and form. Though it can stand on its own, it is meant to hang on a wall and I made attachments in the back to hold wire.
The poem, "Insomnia is my Father's Bartender" is a wonderful, haunting work by the very talented Christina Veladota.
My plan was to take a couple pictures of the show, "Elements" so that the show can be seen as a whole. The gallery is a co-op with member's work displayed all the time, while a center section towards the front of the shop is devoted to separate exhibits which change monthly. Taking a picture of the "Elements" display results in picking up a lot of background artwork not in the show. It is not distracting in person but becomes rather confusing in a photo. Also dealing with fluorescent light! So, I am showing just a small sampling of "Elements":
One of Steve Comb's rings. He has a nice display of jewelry set on a plate of glass and raised up on clear shot glasses inside an antique case.
An encaustic work by Shila Wilson. There is a green tint applied to this, though this pic may not represent the exact shade.
This is my favorite panel. Works by Shila. To the left of the panel you can see a sliver of some member work in the gallery.
Most of my pieces are in one place on a cluster of pedestals. My attempt of getting a good shot of my work here in the gallery failed, but I wanted to show the display stump that Ivin cut for me. He noticed that someone had left a dead tree cut down along the road and asked if he could cut some pieces from it. (Yes, take the whole thing.)
I have one panel for my 2-D work. Orange panel next to it is my nemesis. Don't ask. Shila's work looks great on it, though.
Below are close-ups of bird images. I just noticed I used this bird seven times on my work for "Elements".
I am not so confident with free hand painting on pottery. I usually draw the image on paper or cloth, place the paper on the leather-hard clay, then trace so it is etched onto the surface. Then I paint inside the lines with slips or engobes. Or, when the piece is bisque fired, paint over the etched design, then rub off the excess with a damp cloth, leaving the dark color behind in the lines.
Though I call these "garden stones" they could go anywhere. These are the only ones with critters on them. There are a few more at the gallery with different designs.
I'm calling this one "river rock" because I had to call it something and it has a line running through it which represents a river. There is one more river rock at the gallery with a little different glaze treatment.
I am very pleased with the way the show has come together. It is almost completely set up and officially opens Friday evening (tomorrow!) and will remain up through the month of July. Shila Wilson has some wonderful monotypes and encaustic pieces. Steve Combs will bring in his silver jewelry tomorrow, which will be a great addition. Steve is known for his artistry and craftsmanship.
Riverside Artists Gallery is located at 219 Second St., Marietta, Ohio.