Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Friday, June 26, 2009
The query letter:
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington DC 20500
June 26, 2009
Dear Mrs. First Lady Michelle Obama,
Regarding: children’s drawings transferred to ceramic art for creating trust in the world
The moment will suddenly happen when there is an opening with our foe and their nuclear threats will be seen for what they are. In the awkward moments when new beginnings for building trust are possible, a gesture beyond words will be right. A gift of a rare vase would honor the best outcome of Persia, Northern Iraq and Korea’s prehistory – the places where ceramic technology began. All will recognize the futility of the other outcome of ceramics as a shell for weapons. On the vases will be children’s drawings of what is most precious to them like their family or cracker or what they come up with.
The children’s images would be representative samples from our whole nation. All the images could be placed on a web site for all to see. The vases could be on public view giving grace to the White House. Recognition of children’s art from their heart will empower them while reminding the world what is important is what we all have in common.
For further information please look at my blog. I have posted a time line on ceramics as symbols that brought about social changes. Ceramics implemented social structures allowing humane values to win over suppression. Also my blog has links to artists and website builders in the Corvallis, Oregon area. I will be honored to work in any way I am able on the Children’s Ceramic Project.
Diane Widler Wenzel
An outline not included in the letter on the history of vases in diplomacy:
Prehistory leaves us no records of negotiations between leaders and foreign encounters but we know that before 6,000 BC there were pottery vessels made in Korea. During the same time period in Northern Iraq and the Eastern Coast of Arabia the Halaf culture made female ceramic figures and invented the tournette – a hand operated turn table for making ceramic pots. They traded their pottery and spread their technology leading to the invention of the foot run potter’s wheel. Production pottery vases with female curves replaced human sacrifice in the history of ceramics and social structures. Briefly below is a historic time table of artist / leader collaborations:
221 -206 BC Qin ceramists worked with a brutal totalitarian monarch to make a Terra Cotta Army to replace the sacrifice of humans and animals to be buried in his tomb.
206 BC – 220 AD during the Han dynasty potters leveled the gap between the powerful rulers and the poor by creating equality in death. Pottery vessels were plentiful enough for all so everyone’s bones could be transported in a vessel to the afterlife.
600 AD Kaolin clays and high temperature firing made possible water tight ceramics but the collaboration between artists and leaders did not immediately result. The Tibetan Empire building stretched from the boarders of Afghanistan, Nepal, Burma, Northern India and parts of China. The Imperial Tibetan ruler exchanged wives in a misguided attempt to seal trust between principal leaders of in his Empire. This trade of wives meant treating women like so much property. When the Dalai Lama tried to visit the Tang Emperor, the Emperor would not give him a respectful audience. Instead he tried to give the Dalai Lama half of a golden fish and said come back another time with his half of the fish to marry it with the other half to be received in dignity. Gift refused.
About 1,000 years after the invention of high temperature firings, in 1642 The Great Fifth Dalai Lama collaborated with a potter to make two sealed vases containing holy water. Instead of offering an exchange of wives the Dalai Lama offered the vases to remind the Manchu Emperor of their historic religious bonds. The emperor always kept the vases near his side taking them wherever he traveled. The Manchu once a subject of the Tibetan Empire, acknowledged their common bond by placing Buddhist symbols on Imperial ceramics. Imperial potters retained their own expression of the Taoist principle of bringing together opposites by bringing together divergent and competitive cultures in a symbol of harmony.
In 1945 Chinese Mille Fleures vases with all the symbolism of the 18th Century Imperial Vases were part of the ceremony when the first United States Naval Ship entered a Japanese harbor after World War II ended. My grandfather had recovered the dead Japanese soldiers on the battle ground of Tsing toa, and on the ones he could identify, he wrote in Japanese letters of condolence.
My grandfather kept a vase like the one in the ceremony and it has been an education to me. I have kept notes over the years listening to what might be useful in peace making. I feel my grandfather’s presence in death saying, “ Yes, you have the power to make a difference as an artist.” This is a feeling I would like my grandchildren to feel. I am buying some blank vases and will invite my children to collaborate with me. We will paint their symbols of what we hold precious adding similar symbols of divergent cultures coming together in harmony. I believe the main issue in getting people to come to talk about starting a new relationship based on mutual respect is their own low self-esteem. They feel powerless to shape their destiny. Making, giving, displaying vases gives us confidence that we with our own hands can work towards making a difference.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Yesterday I started an oil painting from the sketch but it seems like I was just going through the motions without the emotion I had when I did the sketch. So I have elaborated a little on the sketch and calling it a finished work and no longer a sketch.
Monday, June 22, 2009
Sunday, June 21, 2009
June grasses and daisies in back of our place about 8:45 PM.
Friday, June 19, 2009
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Monday, June 15, 2009
To see some examples of pots made without a wheel click on this link. http://images.encarta.msn.com/xrefmedia/sharemed/targets/images/pho/000a4/000a4fbe.jpg
What a fascinating post on the history of ceramics. I really enjoyed it and compliment you on the exhaustive research on the subject.
Thanks Darlene, I have picked up on these ideas over many years and I keep thinking of their meaning by writing and painting making connections.Recently I have watched the Questar Mystic Lands DVD series. It was interesting to contrast the ancient mariners of Persia with an advanced culture that did not develop a potters wheel.The Anasazi mysteriously disappeared 700 years ago in the four corners of the United States. The Anasazi made lop sided ceramics that look like they were made on the dry ground without even a turnette. Yet they were always seeking a spiritual center according to Pueblo myth. They built a spiritual space with temporary dwellings in a canyon. It had seven roads leading to it like the spokes of a wheel. All appeared to be lead back to settlements except one that lead to a dead end with unusual rocks. All along the road were shards of broken pottery. The Pueblo people believe the ceramics were offerings to the gods. The Anasazi broke them because they feared someone would come and steal them if they were whole. I speculate that the rounded boulders in the canyon at the end of the road symbolized life and trust in the other world from which they appeared to come like themselves. The eroded pedestal was the hopelessness of this world. They did not have a feeling for their pottery was a vessel like themselves filled with life's waters. They could not have felt the feeling of clay centered on the wheel and the water in the clay along with the centrifugal force giving the potter the feeling that the pot is alive.
Then "Rain", who has studied the Native American History of the Four Corners found my premise unsupportable from her own experience owning replicas of their ceramics. She believes a wheel is not needed to make uniformly round pots. Rounded uniform pots can be made from coils or slabs. Rain contends furthermore that water cannot be kept in ceramic vessels burned at low temperatures in open pits because the low fire ceramic is too porous.
To make a uniformly round pot from coils the clay is rolled between the hands making the clay particles line up around and around themselves in tight formation. The coils configured of organized particles resist being pushed together. The wrapped coils forming a vessel must be either glued together with slip or pinched together leaving weak and strong unevenness at its basic structure. The appearance can be evened out by beating the exterior with a flat potters rib while pressing from the inside of the vessel outward with the other hand. All the while one is beating on the clay either the vessel must be moved evenly like on a tournette or the potter has to move around. When the potter moves around lopsidedness occurs which is then distorted even more during the firing.
Building uniform rounded pots from slabs has a number of physical problems. First, when the flat surface is pushed out for the belly of the pot, the slab becomes thinner. When the slab is necked in for the top of container the slab becomes pinched together in folds and much thicker. A rounded slab construction may have all the clay particles in alignment but because the clay wall is so thin at the belly and thick at the neck it may not even make it through the firing. And the pots that hold together through the firing may not contain water well.
In contrast with hand building, wheel "thrown" pots have the help of an extra hand - centrifugal force pushing up and outward. The potter keeps the clay particles centered while a uniformly thick wall is thrown up by the force.
I do not have an expertise for a comparison of the quality of clays of the Colorado River and Four Corner Area to the clays of the Tigris, Euphrates, Nile, and Yellow River. The inland clay of the Four Corners may have been so poor for holding together that even with a tournette or potters wheel the clay could not have stored water.
As for clay slab construction: Hand building is not without the technology of the wheel. The outer edge of a hand rolled slab is thinner than the center. So if a pot is fashioned from a rolled slab the foot would become the center of the vessel and the thinner outer edge would have to be the necked in to a smaller top.
There are other ways to make uniform slabs without the wheel. A slab can be formed by throwing the clay on a flat surface repeatedly. This works with clay of good elasticity but if the clays of the Four Corners were poor quality the clay would have just crumbled apart. They may have been limited to coil or small pinch pots.
Still another way to make slabs is to cut a rounded ball of clay with a long cutting edge like twine or strong hide strips.They probably did not have wire. Cutting a ball of clay would make a slab with less organized particles than the rolled ones. The air bubbles could cause the pot to break during firing.
The drawings were done about 30 years ago. They show the physical dynamics of the hand building technique as being awkward for making uniformly rounded vessels.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Saturday, June 13, 2009
In a previous post to this blog I outlined briefly the history of the use of clay vessels as a symbol that changed the way we treated one another. Other art forms like books, carpets, and paintings have symbolic histories as well that have brought about changes in social interactions between differing and competitive peoples. I do agree about their vital rolls in our history. The vase I purpose has some unique symbolism that might be useful as a tool to educate the giver being The United States at the same time as giving the receiver a sense of equality and shared responsibility.
Antonia Acock’s Red Cedar porcelain vase could have a particular relevance to our relationship to third world countries who we see as nuclear threats. Her vase was painted to commemorate the thirty acres of red cedar forest clear cut on the Oregon coastal range during the Bush administration trying to keep the economy going at all costs to our resources sustaining life when we were waging war against a supposed nuclear threat of Iraq. Acock wanted to commemorate the little contested loss of a treasure valued by her Native American ancestors. She knows it is important to paint on archival porcelain that will outlast fiber and even hot fires.
The symbolism in the Red Cedar vase could encompass more than her sensitive use of the materials. New symbolism could be added to all the other points in history where societies became more civil such as replacing human and animal sacrifices with pottery vessels. New symbolism could be added to bring about equality of rich and poor like when pots were first used in death rituals. Other grand purposes could be added to women’s rights like when vases instead of trading wives was a ritual of observing equality between nations.
The shape of porcelain vases like the Red Cedar vase symbolizes life universally understood. To me the vase also symbolizes our shame and fear. The vase reminds me of the ceramic shell of the Atomic bombs unnecessarily dropped on innocent civilians in Japan after what could have been the end of the war. The vase’s shape is our humiliating past and symbolizes our fear that other nations will be equally irresponsible. Our arrogance that we can police the world in preventing nuclear energy’s misuse is not sustainable. We will not have red cedar forests anymore to sustain us.
On the positive side of giving a vase of Red Cedars as a gift to begin real talks with competitive nations is that we can say we all have failings and we can start to work together as equals.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Below I will expand upon a vase's role for creating bonds of trust throughout history. For example women's equality was furthered by giving vases instead of exchanging wives to seal agreements between states. Also the differences between the powerful rich and poor were bridged by clay pots. And I will cover how porcelain vases helped to begin the healing after World War II.
For 394,000 years there had been clay hearths but it wasn’t until 6,000 BC in northern Iraq and the eastern coast of Arabia the Halaf culture invented the tournette – this hand operated turn table speeded up production of uniform ceramic pots. Soon after foot run pottery wheels spread either by marine trade or less likely by independent simultaneous invention. Pottery of that early period sprang up in river deltas like the Nile, the Tigris, the Euphrates, the Yellow River and the Yangtze.
3,000 BC the first white ceramic was traded as far away as Alaska. From the Middle East the idea of making ceramics was traded throughout the world expanding possibilities for social structuring around a humble common substance - clay – a material that no country has ever fought a war over.
221-206 BC The Qin Terra Cotta Army was realistic clay vessels made to replace grand scale sacrifice. Even in the darkest and most brutal of empires the final act of the state was to bury in the emperor’s tomb ceramic replicas instead of people and animals. Pottery vessel as gifts of sacrifice replaced human and animal sacrifices. Clay vessels remind us of our own creation and thus had significance in structuring social rituals that are universal.
206 BC – 220 AD during the Han dynasty pottery vessels contained the bones and spirit preparing them for transport to the after world. Inexpensive pottery was affordable for all. Equality in death created a bridge of trust between rich and poorer people. In China and the Near East pottery was used to represent practical things needed in the afterlife and also importantly for its symbolic meaning of birth, death and rebirth in an afterlife. Ceramic is symbolic of the miracle of life cycles because it was once igneous rock that was worn down to dust and it has been transformed to a solid vessel that holds water necessary to life.
600 AD Kaolin clays and high temperature firing and the invention of water tight ceramics happened at the same time as Tibetan Empire building stretching from the boarders of Afghanistan, Nepal, Burma, Northern India and parts of China. The Imperial Tibetan ruler exchanged wives in a misguided attempt to seal trust between dignitaries of his empire. The Tang Emperor gave the Dalai Lama a gift of mistrust - half a gold fish which he had to bring back to marry it with the other half in order to be received with dignity. Gift refused!
960 AD the Sung dynasty adopted the first seals of office to attest to the validity of documents as was customary with their trading partners, Arabs and Persians. The Imperial potters began the practice of adopting more foreign ideas into their pottery. Square Imperial seals were painted on the bottom of Imperial pottery.
1642 AD The Great Fifth Dalai Lama presented two vases to the Manchu Qing Emperor of China to remind him of their historic bond. The vases replaced the traditional exchange of wives. The substitution of ceramic vases for women involves greater trust. The Manchus, once a subject of the Tibetan Empire, acknowledged their common ties by placing Buddhist symbolism on Imperial ceramics.
17th and 18th century trade with the Middle East gave Imperial porcelain the cobalt for blue mineral painting. The beauty of the cobalt painting on the ceramics bonded China with the Middle East in trust through trade. These blue and white wares, arriving through the spice trade, were much sought after by European households. Thus began world trade of colored minerals from various corners of the earth to enhance a cornucopia spectrum of colors for mineral painting.
Early 18th Century French Father D’Entre-colles wrote a series of letters describing the Imperial Porcelain Workshop. The French imitated the technology and furthered it by developing a new rose enameling color. The Chinese were eager to see examples of European pottery to stimulate their own inventiveness. The Imperial Potters incorporated European realism in their work while retaining their own expression of the Taoist principle of bringing together opposites – bringing together in harmony past cultural bonds between divergent and competitive cultures.
1945 vases painted in 18th Century Chinese Mille Fleures Motif were part of a ritual when the dead Japanese soldiers were returned to Japan after World War II. My grandfather was the translator who identified dead Japanese soldiers, wrote letters of condolence to their family and delivered them. He was on the first naval ship to enter Japn after the War. He did not talk about the details of our mystery vase but rather questioning me as to what were the greatest inventions like the grid. Also he referred to his interest in the history of ceramics.
2004 Antonia Acock, mineral painter wanted to preserve in an archival fire resistant medium the feeling of what it was like for her native American ancestors to be in a red cedar forest. Thirty acres of the last remaining forest of this kind was being clear cut. The vase commemorates the loss in a positive reference to life itself. The rounded form used to store water vital to the continuation of life is like mother and child and gives the art form vital meaning.
Porcelain vases symbolize the miracle of life and the painting upon them portrays experience like a capsule of the whole cosmos. The porcelain was once melted plasma from a volcano turned cold to igneous rock worn to dust by erosion. To the dust vital water was added to make clay. The vase was formed on a wheel pressing outward upward growing with centrifugal force. Then fired in a kiln it is transformed into a vessel that holds water necessary for life. The vase is life confirming and carries a message of healing.
Please consider Antonia Acock’s vase as history educational tool for diplomatic relations. For throughout history vases have created the basis for bonding peoples broken apart by dispute or repression helping to bring about the best and most humanizing moments in history.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Monday, June 08, 2009
Friday, June 05, 2009
from our visit last week to Seal Rock.
Fishermen at Seal Rock, Watercolor and Gouache, 12" x 16", $90.