The Moravian Pottery – and Tile Festival!

( This post was originally published on the Art Elements blog – by yours truly.)

It was a temperate day in May and the clouds were fluffy…

Snapped as I was unloading. Great place to spend the weekend!

Last month I was thrilled to return to the Tile Festival at the Moravian Pottery and Tile works in Doylestown, PA. The historic pottery/tile works has been in operation since 1898, and hosts a spectacular artist’s exhibit and show each Spring. Artists from as far as Canada, Alaska, even Russia were represented this year. ( More on that in my companion post.)

The Tile works is a unique building – cast in place, in concrete, and studded from top to bottom with mosaics and inset tiles. Henry Chapman Mercer worked with this style of construction for not only the Tile Works, but also his “home” ( mansion? castle?) named Fonthill. Both are located in parkland owned and maintained by Bucks Co. PA.

Kraken mosaic in situ.

Henry Chapman Mercer was from this area, and after school ( Harvard and U Penn Law) and extensive travel in Europe – he settled down in the area. He served as the Curator of American and Prehistoric Archaeology for University of Pennsylvania in the early 1890s. This lead to his love of and research in American artifacts, and later pottery; he apprenticed with a local German American potter. He was heavily influenced by the American Arts and Crafts Movement – and founded the MPTW in 1898.

Courtyard, with chimneys. And yes, the chimneys have mosaic bands of decoration!

The gift shop, tucked into a Medieval style barrel vault.

The tiles made at the MPTW are diverse – and range from impressed terra cotta pavers to sculptural tiles designed for mosaic use. There are flora and fauna, ships, ancient cities, Colonial era occupations… and many Classical and literary references. They tile employ both glazes and colored slips – playing with the contrast of matte and glossy. Inspirations run the gamut from Medieval and Byzantine eras, the Celtic Revival, and the Arts and Crafts Movement.

Original designs still in production!

I take this picture every time I visit. There is something so evocative about the idea of working in that space…

There are literally tiles everywhere, every surface. Shown here: “The Quarrel”, castle, triton, and a vignette from “The New World” fireplace.

“Bookplate” Mosaic panel – designed by Mercer for his friend Dr. R. Bell. Based on an actual book plate.

The clays used were originally locally sourced, and today the MPTW uses similar. comparable clay bodies. As seen in the picture above – at times color is NOT applied – but the tiles are “cindered”. The term is what I would call a sagger firing: tiles are placed inside a ceramic container, with sawdust. They are them fired in the kiln – created a reduction atmosphere in the saggar/container. This results in the clay absorbing carbon from the combustible sawdust – which darkens the clay body itself. ( Ceramicists: simple definition for the lay people, forgive me) The mosaic catalog on the MPTW website showcases the New World series and has many examples of these “cindered” tiles used in mosaics. The New World Series? It ranges from Vikings,Atlantis, and  Aztecs, to Raleigh and Powhatan!

A polychrome zodiac!

I find this place to be infinitely inspiring. It makes me love terra cotta all over again. And I will admit to ideas and plans for some smallish mosaics of my own. There are classes and apprenticeships available. An tours, of course. So if you are in the area – please take a look. It’s truly living history.

As to the show? The tile festival itself? More on that – Stay tuned.

Beading Back in Time Blog Hop – Ancient Egypt inspired!

It has a been a supremely busy month! Clay Camp, Bead Fest preparations… and here we are at the reveal for the Beading Back in Time blog hop! Wish I had a Time Turner like Hermione! But I digress… 

Early Civilization (3500 BC to 500 AD)

Really? How am I supposed to choose? Crete. Classical Greece. Rome. The Celts. Not to mention Babylon. Assyria. China. Japan. I decided to save Celtic as my favorite for the final hop. I wanted to challenge myself; many friends seemed to be leaning to Ancient Greece… I have chosen Ancient Egypt although it doesnt seem like a challenge! I have loved this time period and this culture since I was in grade school. I have taught numerous Egyptian themed lesson to ages 6-18. I have written papers on Egyptian amulets, their uses, and the traditional materials used. Phew. Now let’s make something! 

Nefertari's tomb

Images from: House of Eternity, Getty publications

Tomb paintings from the tomb of Queen Nefertari show the deceased queen and various goddesses as she is guided into the Afterlife. We are all familiar with the heavy gold and bead collars favored at this time; and pectorals set with carved lapis scarabs, goddesses in carved carnelian… But it’s the amulets that fascinate me. Small, intimate talismans; prayers to the diverse dieties that were actively worshipped by all classes, all the time. (I wrote a series of post on amulets for Art Jewlery Elements a while back. Part 1 – Ankh and wedjet aye. Part 2 – Dietites, heart, tyet…Part 3 – faience or self glazing clay.)

So I gathered inspirations:  

Collected inspiration

1. Illustrated antique book - Dictionary of the Bible 2. Cigarette cards 3. My faience amulets 4. The working selection. What to choose!? 

 simple heart amulet

I had a stoneware heart amulet – small, simple but interesting to me. I selected the sandcast blue beads to reference Egyptian use of lapis, and a few accent beads in carnelian. Its long, it falls over my heart – made of many small wrapped links in brass wire. While the piece is very simple, it is extremely wearable and has many layers of symbolism. Colors were especially meaningful in ancient Egyptian art. 

Heart amulets: to the ancient Egyptians it was” the most essential organ… the seat of intelliegence, originator of feeling… storegouse of memory…” Andrews*

Clay: “primevel substance which recalls both the original creation and the ongoing process of life and fertility”  (ie the annual Nile fllod) – Wilkinson*

Red:  represents both fire and blood; energy/dynamism/power

Blue: the heavens and the flood; life and rebirth

But I had more ideas I wanted to try!

I have been working with this style mixed media piece for a while. (Sadly the class wasnt selected at Bead Fest this year.) They are polymer, and contain vintage images and antique watch crystals. The polymer is the bezel and the backing, and I handpaint each one in anywhere from 2-5 layers of oil, acrylic and Gilder’s paste. 

vintage PC "Lockets"

The images are taken from a set of vintage children’s encyclopedias. I love the limited palette! (These WILL be available  and more like them at Bead Fest this August. Artisan’s Alley #461) 

Please take a few minutes to enjoy the other offerings! Easy arm chair or desk top time travel right here. Links available with our hostesses:

Lindsay Starr – Phantasm Creations

Sherri Stokey – Knot just macrame

Thanks for stopping by! 

 

 

 *Amulets of Ancient Egypt by C. Andrews. Page 72

*Symbolism and Magic in Egyptian Art by R. Wilkinson. page 94

 

 

Many meandering paths… coming together!

MM amulets

BEADFEST 2014! 

I am thrilled to be taking the next step in my teaching career and offering a mixed media workshop at Beadfest Philadelphia this August! ( Information can be found here.) These mixed media amulets bring together metals, ceramics and polymer in a unique and colorful way. Students will design, saw, texture, and create their own personal amulet. Acrylic paint is used to accentuate the impressed designs. Whether colorful or rustic, bold or subtle – they will be gorgeous. 

The work I am am doing now is truly the culmination of many years of experience in the arts. From studying painting and metal smithing in Art school, to early experiments with sculpting polymer in the early 1990’s. I have painted and sculpted my entire life, and as my full time job for over 24 years. I was fortunate to work with Lana Wilson at Penland a few year back, and she really opened my eyes to texture. ( My Penland posts are here and here.) I am thrilled to share the things I love with a new crop of students in the Beadfest environment. 

Thanks to all who have supported me along the way, I look forward to this new exciting chapter! 

A few more pictures, you say? I value the diversity of polymer: 

Dragon transfer

Testing out polymer transfers. (Original post on Art Jewelry Elements blog)

Celtic Amulet

My Celtic amulet – contains sand and amber from the Baltic Sea.  

And just for fun: Dont laugh too hard! The early Art History inspired polymer – from my days as “Jewelry Jenny” at Appel Farm Arts and Music camp. Teaching polymer over 20 years ago… ( Munch’s “The Scream, A Klimt woman, and Medusa…)

AH polymer

Thanks for stopping by! 

 

 

 

 

Musings… on the Muse?

 I took myself on an Art date yesterday to the Delaware Art Museum. Its a small museum, but has a stellar Pre-Raphaelite collection. I honestly can’t remember how it happened as a teenager. Did I go to the museum and fall in love with the PRB? Or did I fall in love  with the PRB and then visit them at DAM? The latter I think. I think the Lady of Shallot started it all, but that another story. 

self portrait with Muse

Here I am with Rossetti’s “Veronica Veronese” – one I have long adored. This year I am participating in Sally Russick/Studio Sublime’sFocusing on life – 52 photos” challenge. Week one was to do a self portrait… I wish I had long flowing Pre-Raphaelite locks… 

Howard Pyle's Mermaid

Howard Pyle – The Mermaid 1910

DAM collage 1

DAM PRB collage 2

DAM PRB collage 3

"Two women on a sofa" Albert Moore

detail: “Two Women on a sofa” Albert Moore 

sketchbook and stamps

I loved the stamps! And of course, I never go anywhere without my journal. 

DGR's Veronica - hand detail

detail – “Veronica Veronese” 1872. by Dante Gabrielle Rossetti. 

It was a lovely afternoon, calm, serene. For the most part I had the galleries to myself. It was a nice visit with art that has moved me, spoken to me… for over 20 years. Returning to the source of some of my earliest inspirations. And it was a diverse array of inspiration – the galleries have accents of William Morris wallpapers, there are Arts and Crafts style pottery and silver on exhibit, Evelyn de Morgan tiles, and jewelry. The time spent was rejuvenating… if a bit nostalgic, longing for a time I feel called to, yet born too late. 

Perhaps today I will wear velvet…

 

 

 

Is your passport in order? Challenge of Travel preview (Part II)

Tomorrow is the big reveal – Erin’s Challenge of Travel. Yesterday I shared information on famous German figures in science, literature, music. Today – the arts. When I was in art school, getting a minor in Art History was a done deal. Literally! I had the credits almost completed after taking Art History electives. Art geek. That’s me!

There are so many German artists whose work I respect, especially when taken in context of history. How they were influenced by their patrons, reaction to events of the time… Art is propoganda, art as expression, art as cultural vehicle…My short list included Holbein, Caspar David Friedrich, Hans Hoffman, Kathe Kollwitz, Eva Hesse, Anselm Keifer… But I narrowed down to artists whose work I respect AND find visually compelling, evocative, inspirational…

(In no particular order)

Albrecht Durer – printmaker and painter. 1471-1528. 

Melencolia by Durer Young Hare by Durer

Melencolia I             1514.                   Young Hare                         1503. 

 

Franz von Stuck – Symbolist and Expressionist painter. 1863 – 1928

von Stuck's Spring  von Stuck's Sin

Spring                    1909                        Sin                               1893. 

 

Emil Nolde – German Expressionist painter. 1867 – 1956

Nolde Nolde's Moonlit night

The Sea                                                Moonlit Night                   1914. 

 

Kurt Schwitters – Dada and Surrealist painter and collage artist. 1887 – 1948. 

Schwitter's Miss Blanche Schwitters collage

Merz231 Miss Blanche 1923 Merzbild – for Alf Gaudenzi

 

Karl Blossfeldt – photographer. 1865-1932. 

Blossfeldt Blossfeldt

 

Sulamith Wulfing – painter and illustrator. 1901 – 1989. 

Wulfing

 Wulfing

Hope you enjoyed that ecclectic sampler. Stay tuned tomorrow to see my piece. And I will tell you – all that I have posted in the last 2 posts – not what influenced my piece at all. Hmm. What a tease…