Monday, November 14, 2011

Finding the Worm! (Part 2 of 2)

I've had an eyeworm for five years.  Until yesterday.  OK, I am not talking about a real parasite, but rather an image I could not identify, nor could I get it out of my mind's eye.   Like an unidentified earworm for the eyes.

It was this piece of art.  Google image search did not help me with this one.  It was actually through searching a digitized collection from the University of Iowa Libraries which helped me find and identify the print (Cena) and the maker (Mauricio Lasanksy).   Museum and library digital collections are really starting to pop up.   The Metropolitan Museum's online collection is awesome.  We can count on these resources to be accurate, although in lesser known museum collections, the image quality or size is not always great.  When I came across the University of Iowa Libraries' digital collection of over 450,000 items.  My heart quickened because I knew I was close to hunting down the worm (I had seen the print there when I visited in 2007).

For a virtual tour of major museums, like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, check out Google Art Project.  Although not a substitute for the real thing, it's pretty exciting to visit (or re-visit) a virtual museum and get a zoom up view of works without having to leave your house (or change out of your comfy-pants).

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Finding the Worm! (Part 1 of 2)

I once had only the synthesizer opening to this song stuck in my head for a couple of years, but I couldn't figure out what song it was.  Every chance I would get, I would hum the tune to anyone willing to see if they could help me.  It was hopeless.  Until one night in my basement ceramics studio I played an old INXS cd and *voila* mystery solved.  Dream on white boy.

Side note: Radiolab has a fascinating episode devoted to the phenomena of earworms.  Definitely worth the listen.  From wikipedia:  Earworm . . . is a portion of a song or other music that repeats compulsively within one's mind, put colloquially as "music being stuck in one's head."

Did you know that through the Google Chrome browser, you can search by image instead of words?  I gave it a whirl with an image of one of my nutstash jars and the search engine returned accurate information, as well as other visually similar (color scheme, composition) images.  I can see a lot of potential here for designers, researchers, spies, and otherwise curious folks.  

a screen shot from the results of my image search in Google Chrome
I imagine it will only be a matter of time before we can search by musical snippet.  Finding the worm will be easy--getting rid of it will still be problematic.

What about a search by smell?  Ripe with possibility.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

More is better

elevating used soap to a status of beauty
glass insulators
I moved to Gatlinburg five months ago.  I guess that's long enough for me to forget what a pain in the ass moving is.  Case in point:  I just bought a book.  After giving away half of my book collection and moving only with my "special specials", I thought that it would be a really long time before I started acquiring books again.  Guess not.  That being said, I'm really excited to tell you about my newest purchase, In Flagrante Collecto: Caught in the Act of Collecting.  I first poured over this coffee-table-style collection of beautiful images at the West Palm Beach public library, jotting down notes in my sketchbook all the while.  I recently spotted it at a reduced price (used) through   I was especially drawn to the remarkable grouping of used soap chips and glass insulators.  Oh the beauty of common things.  The gorgeous photos in the book really do prove that it's all in the display.  And more is better.  Except when it comes to moving boxes of books.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Amuse Bouche

I gotta start reading the NYT Dining and Wine section.  Regularly.

Either that or visit fancy restaurants.

There really is no excuse for anyone who calls herself a potter or tableware designer to not know the term amuse bouche.

It wasn't until polymer artist Judy Belcher picked up one of my hand-sized oval dishes and exlaimed, "This would be perfect for amuse bouche"  Immediately, I liked the sound of that.

Pronounced (uh-MYUZ-boosh), the french word means: mouth amuser.   Serving sizes are small and chefs often showcase their creativity with the dish.

However, you probably are living on this planet and you already know that.

Embarrassment aside, I'm inspired.  Thank you Judy for the vocab lesson.  I'm off to make some spoon-sized bowls.

Amuse bouche spoons

Thursday, November 3, 2011

50 Watt Love

My new favorite blog is 50 Watts.  Warning:  it surely will cause WWILF? syndrome (what was I looking for).  But it doesn't matter, because it is best to visit 50 Watts with no agenda.   You will find lots of goodies by just poking around.
From "Fledgling", a Serbian Sesame Street
I have been obsessed with children's book illustration, especially the surreal psychedelic folk style of books from my childhood.  50 Watts' children's book section is ripe with this stuff.  And that makes me happy.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The journey from pen to kiln

I have been filling up pages in my sketchbook like a squirrel on speed lately.  I am growing ideas for my next body of work through a three-phased process I will describe as:

phase 1: stream-of-consciousness illustration
  I indulge in whatever imagery flows from pen to page.  Like seeing imagery in the clouds, I have several strategies to generate images. Characters or patterns might evolve from scribbles.  Often, these drawings will be incomplete.  Occasionally I will force myself to finish the sentence in order to see how the character or pattern can be resolved on the page.

Phase 1 images

phase 2:  research
   Through responding to my phase 1 drawings, I find connections between the drawings.  Using the dictionary or thesaurus, books, internet (wikipedia, blogs, vimeo, netflix), and even real life experiences (what??!), I focus in on one or two themes that tie the drawings together.  Usually the soil of my brain is very fertile in this phase and lots of ideas sprout.

phase 3: sketchbook to clay
   I revisit the sketchbook and draw more detailed illustrations, incorporating the characters I developed in phase 1 into narratives or scenarios that evolved during phase 2.  I usually come up with a few ideas that seem like they would transfer nicely into specific ceramic forms.

I do have to mention that the phases to not always follow such a strict linear progression.  I usually bounce somewhat between the phases.  Often, I will try out some drawings on cups before I know exactly what my narrative is.  I never thought I would be so strategic with my art-making!  (Thank you graduate school).  I am pretty comfortable with the process at this point in my creative life as it keeps my mind and my pen very busy.  

What processes do you use in your artistic practice?

Monday, October 31, 2011

It's just a cup, no big deal

Cups amaze me.  They are taken for granted, yet so tricky to get right.  They are affordable <--- I both love and hate that fact.  Here are a few special ones from the Charlie Cummings Gallery's knockout show, Cup The Intimate Object VII.  Go get yourself a treasure.  Let me know which one caught your eye.

Jason Walker
Ronan Peterson
Erin Paradis

Doug Peltzman
William Brouillard

Monday, October 17, 2011

New Work Online at Charlie Cummings Gallery

Trash Stash Bear S&P by Chandra DeBuse
Photo taken by Charlie Cummings
My online exhibition, Playscapes, at Charlie Cummings Gallery is up through November 17th.  The work is a response to living in South Florida and the mountains of Eastern Tennessee over the past year.  I hope that when people use my work, they feel a playful sense of discovery.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Product Plug

Hey--remember this guy? A photo of Nut Stash Jar is posted during the leather hard stage in the previous post. Now he's all dressed up in black, green and yellow. The dark palette is a departure from my current body of candy-colored work on white. Because the jars depict the act of looking for previously-buried nuts, I turned to darker colors, representing the underground world.

I was definitely experiencing eye strain while I was working on these, so I have to plug a recent purchase, the Donegan Optivisor. Yes, it looks weird--even weirder when worn, but works great. The headband magnifier made detailing the little squirrel finials so much easier. My eyes were going crazy before I got that thing! The level of detail I was able to get on the squirrels really improved. changed. my. life.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Storing up for winter

I am living the Tennessee life right now: high temps in the low 80s, blue sky days that make me want to do cartwheels and lots and lots of studio time at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts. Here are some nutstash jars I am working on for an upcoming show at Charlie Cummings Gallery. Little squirrels everywhere are stashing away their nuts. What are you doing to savor these autumn days?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Stories of Nature

Have you ever seen a luna moth being attacked by wasps? How about carnivorous butterflies eating a carcass? The electric blue tail of a lizard salamander? A fitful millipede losing a battle to an army of ants? Well, I have seen all of these things at or around Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in the past five weeks. One amazing thing about this area is the biodiversity. Nature seems to have a story for me each day if I just take the time to look around. Even luckier if I have my camera with me. I have been uploading pictures taken at Arrowmont to my flickr page. To see more stories of nature, arts and crafts, check it out.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Vis Stim

Well, I have been at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts for five full weeks now. Although I am inspired by the art and craft objects that are being made here, I am particularly in awe of the everyday scenes of the studio and around Gatlinburg. I try to carry my camera with me, as you never know when inspiration strikes. Here are some images I have captured since my arrival.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Reclaiming Blue

I probably first heard the phrase, "If you can't make it good, make it big. If you can't make it big, make it blue" right after unloading a kiln full of noxema jar-colored early attempts. Potters usually have a love/hate relationship with the color. Often referred to as "cash-flow blue," it is a favorite among buyers, yet easy-to-come-by cobalt blues often cause potters to throw up a little in the mouth. My studio mate, Virginia Jenkins, would have two words for this: "ceramic baggage". Well folks, it's time to throw out the baggage and reclaim the color blue.

Confession: I am a lover of the cool-hues: turquoises, celadons, mint greens and yes, blues of all shades. Mudfire Gallery in Georgia is too and their new exhibition, "Damn Right I Got the Blues" proves it. Usually the blues are cool, but if you want to check out some HOT work, featuring the coolest color, see it at
The exhibit opens officially on June 4th, but you can preview all the work now.

The folks at Mudfire are on top of it, and have created artist pages for nearly every artist they have worked with. I even have my own artist page, which lists the five pieces of mine in the show:

And while you're there, check out my friend, and fellow UF alumn, Sara Marraffino's work in the show too.

Hope you can let the blues get the best of you!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Cups in Process

Loading up a glaze kiln of yellow, pink, purple, blue and green cups today. I use two resists to mask off the drawings from the first glaze spray (blue tape and contact paper). The blue shapes made by the tape are pretty interesting. These cups feature more playing characters. Pictures of finished work to come.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Playscapes Blog

For me, "play" and "research" are not necessarily mutually exclusive terms. Especially, when the "research" involves lots of exciting ideas and gorgeous pictures or a chance to ride a roller coaster, like I have planned to do tomorrow when I visit Busch Gardens. Aahhh, research.

When the research happens at the computer, Paige Johnson's playscapes blog is a regular stopping point for generating ideas and connecting with playground design from many lands and eras. It's great for anyone interested in the landscapes of play.
Arcady, aka Paige Johnson, writes of her blog, "Playscapes":

Because it's difficult to find non-commercial playground information. And I find that frustrating.

Because a playground doesn't have to cost a million bucks and come in a box. In fact, it's better if it doesn't.

Because playgrounds are under-recognized as an artistic medium.

Because everybody loves a playground.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


My studio research has focused on play for the past few years. How does play influence personal identity? How is play portrayed in Art? In what environments do we allow ourselves to play? What do our toys look like? (And what do they teach us?) Who is allowed to play? Can we transcend our realities through play?
The word, "playscape" has multiple associations for me. First, it refers to the environments in which we play. I am interested in what these landscapes of leisure look like and how space is divided within these landscapes.
The transcendent potential play provides leads to the second association of the word, "playscape." I think about how play allows us to escape or 'scape present realities, or troubles.
For my most recent exhibition, I developed a series of plates that featured imaginary creatures, each with a physical limitation, such as limited mobility due to aging, being overweight, missing a limb, etc. I attempted to show these creatures in a state of play, overcoming their current reality.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Cup Forms

I spent a lot of time this past year obsessing about my handled cup form. I made several grossly unsuccessful (and frankly un-sellable) attempts at reinventing the cup, in an attempt to have it speak the same language as my other pottery forms. Anyone who peeked into my studio looking for cups, surely walked out with wrinkled eyebrows, scratching their heads. I am going to spare you the cups that didn't make it to sale status, and instead post the two cup-forms I feel most successful about. The first, a cup and saucer, features a beaded handle that is tedious to make, but surprisingly comfortable for the one-finger grip. I have a passion for form and design and enjoy bringing a touch of the unexpected to functional ceramics.

The second form is a very simple, generic form that lends itself to illustrated surfaces. The contours of this cup shift smoothly from one angle to the next, meaning no surface of this cup is unavailable to an illustration. In fact, what I enjoy most about this form is being able to wrap the drawing around the bottom. The stories illustrated are of creatures engaging in some sort of play activity: roller skating, dancing, jumping on a trampoline, playing with a ball. I love that the illustration is not fully visible to a spectator until the cup’s user drinks the last drops of liquid from the cup, fully exposing the bottom and the entire picture.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Number Five

Richard Notkin recently presented a workshop at Florida Atlantic University. First, Notkin gave all of the workshop attendees one cubic inch of clay and told us to work with it for one hour. We could use any tools that we wanted. We did not have to use all of the clay, but we were told to stay quiet and work for the entire 60 minutes.
I worked on a small bunny sculpture; later turning it into the salt and pepper set you see here.
Notkin talked about Time as an element in art-making. Giving each of us a small amount of clay, a few guidelines, and the uninterrupted time to give the clay the care and attention it deserved proved to be a valuable gift. After all, our lives are defined by time.
As a resident artist and ceramics teacher, I do have lots of studio time. However, my To-Do Lists are always looming, and interruptions are frequent. The quality of time is not what it should be. Through Notkin's exercise, I learned that 60 minutes/week of guilt-free, studio play-time needs to be an essential part of my artistic practice.
#5 S& P ended up being in the resident artist exhibition at the Armory Art Center. My body of work for the exhibition centers on themes of play. The illustrations and figurative pieces, specifically, are about transcending one's present reality through the act of play. I am in the process of documenting the work in the show. Look for a blog post about it soon.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Gettin' Smaller

These are on display at the Armory Art Center foyer, as a part of a ceramics and sculpture faculty exhibit. The creamer and sugar jar are little guys: approx 5 inches tall. I am working toward my piece for Small Favors at the Clay Studio in Philly, which needs to be no larger than 3.75 inches. Get out your magnifying glasses!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Mad Hats and Paint Chips

The Armory Art Center's Mad Hatter Luncheon is tomorrow. The annual event raises money for the resident artist program. Traditionally, attendees wear wild and wacky hats to the luncheon. The hats range from handmade to high-design.

I was inspired by the paint chip art I saw at Art Basel in Miami this year. A google search of "paint chip art" will yield a healthy return for your visual pleasure.
There are many things I loved about this project: the flat colors, the petal configuration, the ease of hot glue, and especially the low cost of the materials. Can't get much cheaper than free, now can I?
I built this hat just like I would if I was coiling a pot: I put the hat on a banding wheel and engaged in the rhythm of glue, press, turn, glue, press, turn.

I also made a fancy broach out of paint chips to wear with my dress tomorrow. Hope it does
not rain!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Finished Teapots

These teapots (and maybe one or two others) will be making an appearance at the Armory Art Center's Mad Hatter's Event on March 3, 2011. The event raises money for the resident artist program.