So, WHAT'S Katie up to???

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Preview, Part 3

I like the fluid motion in this Dancer abstract. It just makes me want to get up and move.

The colours in this small Cappadocia landscape took me by complete surprise. It's chemistry at its finest, with the iron, copper, manganese, salts, and ammonia all playing together with beautiful results.

Spending time clambering round in the Cappadocian rocks, one is struck by the interrelationship of the natural landscape with prehistoric, Hittite, Selcuk, Christian, and Islamic influences -- several of which are represented in this small panel.

Ah!! The Hamam! The sensuous caress of warm fragrant water. Soothing aching bones & tired muscles, replenishing the skin, rejuvenating the spirit. The tender, loving care each of us needs.

"Mavi Havlu", "The Blue Towel", for after the hamam, or any time. There's no reason it's blue. Just because I wanted it to be.

The piece is intended to convey not only the woman's body, but her love for it. More than just acceptance. Definitely not resignation. Not really pride, either (though she probably walks proudly). It's the kind of understanding and enjoyment of the body, and all it can do and convey, that makes one want to care for it well and treat it with tenderness. To love it.

Part 4 of the show preview tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Preview, part 2

Oh, that Cappadocian landscape. There really is no other like it anywhere in the world. This small panel, "Cappadocia #1", is one of four small pieces depicting various elements of this landscape that moves me so much.
"Balikçil", literally, means "fisher", which is, of course, what herons do best. There aren't any herons right around Avanos, since there aren't any marshes. The river is probably too fast flowing to be very attractive to any wading birds. There are, however, within an hour's drive, some beautiful marshlands (very salty) with abundant birdlife and other swamp-dwelling critters. Besides.... I just like the shape of herons.

"Benimle Dans" means "Dance With Me", which pretty much tells it all for this one.

"Dansöz" means Dancer. This little abstracted dancer is one of 6 similar pieces that play with shape, texture & relief. The colour is really only intended to emphasize the texture of the various spaces.

There's a lot of dancing going on in this post......
"Kadinlarin Irmakta Banyosu" is called "Bathing Ladies" in English. The actual translation from Turkish would be "ladies bathing in the river". When the piece was first done, another Avanos potter commented that he could remember when, as a child, he watched as Avanos women did laundry down at the edge of the Kizilirmak (whose waters were then clean enough to drink). When the washing was done, they stripped off their own clothes and bathed in the clear waters.

Exhibition preview part 3 tomorrow.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Exhibit Preview

I've decided to post these in no particular order, which could appear disorganized; but I figured it would be more interesting to see landscapes interspersed with figures and other abstracts, rather than each genre's pieces all lumped together.
The small tryptic above is entitled "Kizilirmak", which is of course the Red River that runs through Avanos where I am working.

It seems fitting to begin this process with the Artist's Statement that goes with the exhibit. As you will see, this whole process has been a very emotional one for me, and one from which I have learned and grown a great deal. Of course, It's also been fun, in a hard-working & stressful kind of way!

Sevgiler, as the closing of a letter between friends or lovers, can be roughly translated into English as With Love. This, then, is the genesis of these pieces.

The tenderness of a kiss; the warmth of a lovers’ embrace; the love of a mother for her child; the lover’s willingness to sacrifice; the ache of a broken heart; the sensuous pleasure of a warm bath; the wondrous perfection of the human form; a child’s unabashed love of life; the love of a special place – so many loves: so many ways of showing and feeling love. These works celebrate the love we have for ourselves, for each other, for special places, for moving, and for life.

Created with love, in a very special place, each piece conveys love in some way. Collectively, the work asks each of us to think of what we love in our lives.

This exhibition is made possible by the kindness and generosity of my friend, Avanos artist, Erdogan Güleç, and by the unending love and support of my husband, André Sobolewski. To both of them, I say, thank you, and


"Avanos" #1. A small panel depicting my 'home away from home', with its houses nestled (or rather crammed) onto, below, and into the hillside.

"Benim Kalp", which translates to "My Heart", and symbolizes the sacrifices one is prepared to make for the love of another.

"Anne & Bebek", "Mother & Child. Is there any love more powerful or enduring?

And this, as they say, is where it all began. This is in fact the second (& much larger) iteration of "Love in Ruins", which is the piece that originally secured for me the exhibition in Istanbul. The lovers are lying amongst the ancient ruins that abound in this part of the world. But their love is apparently far from 'in ruins'. The double meaning is lost in Turkish translation. So this piece became the literal, as well as the figurative, symbol for the show, and is appropriately entitled, "Sevgiler".

More tomorrow.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Studio #12

The studio work is finally done!! This "Little Blue Mosque" is one of about 15 small panels ready for the show. All together, there are 27 pieces of various sizes.

"The Blue Towel" is one of the mid-sized figurative pieces that form the core of the exhibit. To begin with, all the pieces were figurative; but some landscapes crept in over time, and I like them a lot. (pics to follow tomorrow)

The work is finally done. The panels are ready to be shipped up to Istanbul on Sunday. I've finally reached the end of the 17-hour days, the 24/7 thinking of new designs, new techniques, new possibilities, and new ways around myriad obstacles that popped up daily. I've tapped into my creative energy in many new ways, tested my patience, amazed myself with my resourcefulness and adaptability, and gained new skills and confidence. All that remains is to put the work out there and see what happens. I'm feeling a little lost at the moment. Haven't done or thought about anything except studio work for the past 6 weeks.

Over the next couple of days, I'll post a little preview of the show, for those of you unfortunates out there who are unable to make the Reception next Friday night.........

All for today.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Studio #11

Peppers hang all over town these past couple of weeks. At the Friday market, the air around the red pepper vendors is heavy with the pungent aroma of slightly over-ripe fruit. Strings of red & yellow & green peppers in all shapes and sizes hang in windows, from lamp posts, on clotheslines, on tree branches -- anywhere available. The dried peppers, and stuffed pickled ones of the familiar large red variety we know so well, are a winter staple here, where the temperature hangs below freezing for much of the time between November and March.

The first set of panels is fired, assembled, and sealed. In these photos, they don't look too much different than they did before firing. But there is in fact a big difference in the clay colour. The terracotta fairly sings with energy, and contrasts nicely with the black outlines & highlights.

A lot of unseen work went into these first panels, since I had to "fix" the blue accents after the pieces were fired. (All the blue fired to black.) It was a somewhat tedious process that took the better part of an entire day. But I'm happy with the results.

The small abstract panels on which I "fixed" the colours looked pretty horrid at first. But, with a little (a lot, actually) brushing to remove unwanted oxidation, they turned out pretty much as I had originally hoped they would. So, one set of pieces saved from disaster. Whew!

Saturday was spent cutting out the backing wood, and mounting the tiles onto it with silicone. It's not what is generally used here; but I'm used to it, I like the wiggle-room it gives during the mounting process, and it remains flexible when dry. These backing pieces are not very thick, so I was a bit concerned that bending of the back could cause cracking of the panels or lifting of the tiles if a hard glue was used.

After the tiles were mounted on the boards and dried overnight, I sealed them, since they aren't glazed. At home, I would use a sealant designed for stone floors. Here, I used what everyone else uses. It's called "Lef Lef", and it's actually for shoes! Why anyone would want shoes with a shiny plastic-y finish is beyond me; but, it works great for the clay. It's non-toxic, the shine-level is easily adjusted with water, and it gives a very satisfactory finish when dry.

More pics tomorrow. All for today.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Studio #10

Yesterday morning, I had breakfast with my friend Serife. As I said, she lives at the very top of the town, and has a fabulous view. I'm having my morning tea in the hammock. Her garden is rudimentary, and looks pretty sad by Sunshine Coast standards. Every tree and plant needs a well around it to hold the water it's given. And typical gardening tools include a pick-axe to break up the rock-hard clay soil. Composting is not common here, so there isn't much organic matter around to add to the soil. Kitchen scraps and compostables go to the chickens or the neighbourhood cats & dogs.

But, considering the harsh conditions, Serife does a pretty good job. These aubergines will soon be ready for picking. She also grows sweet and hot peppers, summer & winter squash, tomatoes, & herbs, with miscellaneous flowers sprinkled throughout. There are fruit trees (apples, apricots, and mulberries), grape vines, and nut trees. This unusually hot and dry summer has apparently taken its toll on the veggy crop.

I see this lady every day on my way to the market. She spends a lot of time sitting outside her house talking to friends and neighbours. & she loves to pose for pictures!

This crew lives just up around the corner from the studio. They come every day to ask "Uncle Erdogan" for clay to play with. Most times there isn't any for them. But occasionally he gives them each a small ball to work with. Sometimes they bring their work back to the studio for him to fire, which he always does, with great care.

This triptic is unfortunately a little hard to see. Each part is about 12" square. It is my impression of Avanos -- houses all higglty pigglty, tucked against the hillside at every imaginable angle, caves & ruins sprinkled here and there, all against the backdrop of rugged red clay mesas and mountains, with the Kirzilirmak (Red River) running in front.

I've finished building my last panel today, and will stain it tomorrow morning. The wood arrives tomorrow for the panel backings, and we begin the process of mounting the pieces. In a few days we'll fire the rest of the work, and complete the mounting. All the panels will be sealed to protect them, since they aren't glazed. Then, we'll ship them up to Istanbul for the opening on October 1st.

All for today.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Studio #9

This is my friend Serife (say Sherifay), who I've known for 10 years now. She lives just up behind the studio, atop the mesa. Hers is the highest house in town, and the view from her little veggy garden is spectacular, with the 'old town' laid out at her feet, and the river running far in either direction. She can see clear to the next village!

Seeing each other for a few weeks each year, Serife & I have developed a warm friendship. She speaks a little English and quite a bit of French, so our conversations are multilingual. We take a walk every afternoon by the river and help each other with our languages. My Turkish is improving daily. Serife has agreed to be my videographer for a couple of days while I make my final (and best, I hope) panel. I have some footage already, taken with the camera on a tripod. Having Serife use the camera, I can move around a bit more, as I'll need to do when laying out the ground for the panel. And it will feel more natural talking to Serife than talking to myself!

Remember those dull, black-&-black-&-grey-on-terracotta abstracts that came out of the kiln?

Well, I worked a little magic on them after the firing, and this is what I got. I like the way the colours came out in this one. The others are a little too blue for my liking; but they tell me that blue sells..... so..... We'll see. Inshallah.

Today's "Hamam Woman" is looking a little blue at the moment also. The blue wash made the clay very wet, as you can see from the reflection of the camera flash. So I am waiting until tomorrow to brush off some of the blue so her trunk and legs are just a little more visible.

Today's entry seems a little short. Frankly, I'm preoccupied with visualizing my final panel. It will be on the large side, about 3.5 x 2.5 feet I think, and a very sensual piece. I figure it will take at least two days, or maybe three, to complete.

Also in the next couple of days, we will be mounting the fired pieces on their wooden backings. Then, stay tuned for some photos of the final work!

All for today.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Studio #8

So..... All my artistic efforts over the past two+ weeks are reduced to this..... a couple of boxes of dusty, nondescript little square-ish bits. Looks less than impressive when viewed like this. But, there is gold in those boxes I hope! After a few hours out in the sun to get nice & toasty warm & thoroughly dry (just in case, since cave studios can be a little damp), the tiles are loaded into the kiln.

The kiln is a home-made affair: there are no pottery supply shops here where one can go and order a shiny new kiln. Virtually all the kilns in Avanos, of any sort, are made right on the spot. This one is electric, with a nice digital temp gauge. Erdogan's previous kiln was wood fired, requiring overnight babysitting to feed the fire, and also needing an experienced eye to assess the colour of the red hot pieces to tell when the firing was done. When I first came here 10 years ago, the kiln was oil-fired, and very stinky. The electric one is head & shoulders above both of the earlier ones. Propane is available here, but it is very pricey. There is even natural gas in some parts of town. But most kilns are still electric, since most potters here don't need the oxygen reduction capabilities of a gas kiln, and electricity is actually quite inexpensive (though you can't convince the locals of that....).

You can see by the photo that there are no shelves in the kiln. Pieces are piled on the kiln floor. Depending on the size of the various pieces, often the whole interior is full. But, when firing tiles like these, there is a limit to how many one can stack atop one another. So, a 'load' doesn't take up much space. The temperature sensor is near the top, near the back of the interior -- the hottest spot in the kiln. Not so great, especially when the space is 2/3 empty. I have suggested many times that using shelves would make firings more efficient, even, and predictable. But, shelves are expensive, shelf props take up space, and they've been doing it this way for hundreds of years... so, they nod politely, acknowledge the brilliance of my suggestion, and continue to fire in the usual way. It works for them.

The photo above shows the kiln fully loaded and ready for firing. Notice the colour of the clay before,

and after, the 12-hour firing. This firing was to 850 degrees C -- about 150 less than my usual bisque temp.
But the clay fires to a wonderfully warm terracotta colour. It was exactly right.

So...... if it was exactly right, where the heck are all the nice oxide colours I was supposed to get? The line-mark-textured parts were supposed to be a nice soft green. And the black parts with the little dimples were supposed to be a sort of teal colour. At least, that's what I get in my kiln at home. So, what's up? I confess I was a little disappointed.

As usual, it all comes down to science. First, the temp was a lot lower than I'm used to. In fact, a couple of pieces that were at the back of the kiln in the midst of the pile, where it was nice & hot, actually showed a bluish tinge to the black parts. But they were still more black than blue. Then I noticed that a couple of tiles that I'd brushed white slip onto before applying the stain had indeed fired blue. & the lightbulb went on. Of course! My usual clay has virtually no iron in it. It fires white at 1000 degrees, and sort of creamy at 1250. So, of course there's nothing to interfere with the colourant, and I get my usual results. & I now understand why Erdogan mixes his colourants in white slip before applying them to the clay. They are still altered somewhat by the colour of the underlying red clay, but the colours are reasonably true and predictable. A valuable lesson for me, and all in the process of understanding one's materials. Different materials require different treatment at all stages of working. & I'm still learning about this Avanos clay.

I have found a pretty exciting solution to the colour issues from the firing (you'll have to wait to see the photos of the finished pieces...), and I have put my lesson to work for me in the remaining panels I'm doing.

In yesterday/today's panel, "The Yellow Kite", I've used both my usual oxide solutions and some of Erdogan's coloured slip. The panel is loosely based on a wonderful photo (we call it "Kite Girl") that André took and sent to me from Peru. I knew right away that there was a panel in there somewhere.

All for today.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Studio #7

Since I only have a couple of panel pictures today, I thought I'd start off with some shots of the incredible landscape in this area. This first photo is of rock formations in the Rose Valley, so named because of the pinkish tones of some of the rock.

These landscapes have been the inspiration for my small abstract landscape panels. This photo shows the dovecotes built in about the 10th Century by Christian monks who lived here. It was Gregory (now St. Gregory) who chose this region to establish sites for spiritual contemplation and growth, thus beginning the Christian monastic tradition. The rugged landscape afforded some protection from persecution, and the soft volcanic rock is easily carved out, providing ready housing, as well as storage, churches, and the dovecotes pictured above. The plentiful rock doves (aka pigeons) provided the fertilizer for grapes which the monks made into wine.
There is a volcano at either end of the Cappadocian valley, and there have undoubtedly been several others at some point. The 'fairy chimneys', as they are known to tourists, are volcanic tufa, which is a soft igneous rock containing a lot of limestone. It carves easily when damp, and hardens quite well once exposed to the air. Although people actually lived in these formations until very recently (and some diehard shepherds & such still do), living in them is now discouraged, since the walls, because they are not sealed, continuously shed fine silica dust. Lung disease, particularly among the women, who spent virtually all their time in the home, was rampant among residents of cave houses. So the Turkish government provided compensation for residents to relocate. However, the main building material in the area is still the same silica/limestone rock. And, as I have mentioned before, most older houses have caves for storage, and many many artisans use caves for their workshops. & they seem to be pretty healthy. In any case, they all smoke so many cigarettes here, that silicosis is probably not their greatest health risk.
This was the panel from a couple of days ago. It's now drying and will be ready for firing in a couple of days.

To whom is this fellow presenting his heart? We can only guess. I hope she's worth it.......

The firings will begin tomorrow, and I'll post photos of the kiln etc when we load it.

All for now.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Studio #6

This one's a bit blurry, having been enlarged from a facebook post by a friend. But, at least it shows I'm actually here! I get so involved posting pictures of my work and of the place, that one might wonder where I am in all of this! In this photo I am carving out one of the tile pieces. As I have said, work continues at all hours here. When the piece is of the right dampness, that's when the job is done. We use lots of plastic wrap to preserve the moisture content so we can work at sane hours. But sometimes, well, the timing is off. It was about midnight when this shot was taken.

This is the last of this series of small abstracts. I reverted to one of my favourite images: I just love herons. They are so sensual, and can pack so much length & power into their curvy necks.

The next series of small abstracts are essentially landscapes. The photos look rather boring I'm afraid. My aim is to use these designs with some post-firing colourants I sent over by mail earlier. I wanted to avoid aeroport hassles with them, since they are liquids -- both emultions of metals in acrylic, and oxidants in solution. Glaze firing is difficult here, since most potters only fire once, and the pieces are stacked willy nilly on top of each other. Shelves are a real luxury, and not really necessary. The molton glaze would of course cause the pieces to stick together on cooling. I am trying to do things in the most traditional way possible, the way local artists work. Often, decoration is applied post-firing by painting. So, I have designed these pieces to have the colourants applied after firing. Inshallah, they will have some lovely turquoise and golden parts which will accentuate the terracotta clay colour and the black of the oxides I've already applied. We'll see ....................

This triptic represents the "Kirzilirmac" -- the river which flows through Avanos, and the longest river in Turkey, whose waters often run red with the iron-rich clay so plentiful here.

A few more abstract landscapes, and then it's back to my bigger figurative pieces. Also, stay tuned for some pots with sculptural forms added to them.

All for today.