Thursday, July 7, 2016

Narratives: A Workshop Given by Terri Kern

Summer time is a perfect time for teachers to catch up on professional development.  Quite a few professional development opportunities have been offered by Greater Cincinnati area organizations.  I wish I could take them all but there is not enough time (or money) to do it all! I had to choose wisely and I think my choice was a good one! Last week I had the opportunity to take a week long, intensive class from the wonderful ceramic artist, Terri Kern.  I have pictured one of her pieces above but you can also see more of her work here.  The workshop was offered at Queen City Clay, a public clay studio here in Cincinnati.  Just stepping into this place will inspire you to make something!  It is a dream come true for artists, and I got to spend five days there being taught by a professional artist and surrounded by other students who are artists and teachers. We learned so much from Terri and each other all week long!

Terri Kern's artwork is rich with symbolism, telling stories about herself and those she loves.  Each piece has hours invested in beautiful craftsmanship. The unique imagery of animals and objects is a fantasy for your eyes to get lost in.  

The morning of the first day Terri shared with us about her background and how she got to where she is today.  Her life experiences inspire her art.  When she was a young girl she went to day camp at the natural history museum. She remembers being one of the first people allowed in the museum in the mornings and seeing the exhibits of natural objects with lights on them.  This influenced her greatly and today her art work reflects that precious experience.  Terri's work is very personal and I feel that is one reason her artwork is successful.

Each day of the workshop Terri would give us a demonstration in the morning and in the afternoon, allowing us to have the remainder of the time to work on the project assignments that she had given us.  She was so good at continually checking with each student in the workshop to see how we were doing and to give us our own personal demonstrations if we needed help!

Terri uses mostly underglazes for her designs.  The first project involved a sgraffito technique on a glazed background of blended yellows, oranges and reds. Sgraffito is a technique of carving into the glazed surface of a ceramic piece.  We first transferred our design onto the background color with pencil and then began painting the design in black.  As the black glaze dried we scratched into it with various tools. Above is my tile before it was fired and also before it got the coat of clear gloss glaze.  

The second day we did a design on a new tile that involved a sgraffito technique that was faster, scratching into a semi-wet, glazed surface. This was on a black, glazed background.  I liked doing this technique a lot!  She also taught us about blending the colors before scratching into the glaze.  Above is my little interpretation of a dessert I make with strawberries, blueberries and kiwi.  

The third project was a tile that combined all of the techniques she had taught us up to that point.  This is my design, in progress, pictured above.
 I have always known that craftsmanship is important, but this workshop really emphasized that for me.  Terri reinforced how important it is to keep trying and practicing to get better and find the best way to do something.  When she is working on her pieces she makes sure that each little part is done with her best effort and if she gets tired she takes a break, so that when she comes back to it she can continue to do the best work she can.  When someone owns that piece they will see the close attention and thoughtfulness that she put into every part.  

Now when I am working on my own artwork I am thinking about being careful and giving it that high amount of attention. 

The fourth day was packed with more demonstrations and projects to make.  Terri showed us how she makes her miniature books using a slab of clay cut into small pieces.  She demonstrated how she creates the pages and details on each book.  

Terri makes whimsical salt and pepper shakers. These salt and pepper shakers by students in the class were each made with one triangular slab.  All three points of the triangle were pulled together and then the sides were pinched together and details added.  

Terri's necklace pendants inspired these made by students in the class.  

This cocktail cup (above) by Terri was first painted with black glaze, and then while it was still wet, the sgraffito technique was used to create the design, complete with a cocktail recipe.  The glaze is applied to the cup while it is still greenware.

Above is my cocktail cup with a mango! 

The fifth day Terri demonstrated her relief carving. An example of her carving can be seen on the nest pictured earlier in this post. We spent the day finishing up all of the projects of the week.  

In addition to the variety of techniques that I learned in this class, that I can apply to my own art work and my teaching, I took away something else.  Terri opened a fresh channel of creativity in making my own art work. She also gave me confidence in putting my work out in the gallery world, which is something that I have been recently working on.
As an art educator it is important to pursue my own creative adventures.  This allows me to direct my students more successfully when they are struggling, because I know first hand what it is like to be in that situation.  It sets an example for my students, showing them that making art is an important profession that is a part of our community. Making my own art work makes me a better art teacher.
The Night Before the Storm
Abby Miller

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