Friday, October 7, 2011

Tin Man

This is my friend Careen Stoll's kiln, the Tin Man. He lives in her backyard and runs chiefly on waste vegetable oil. Meaning, he is carbon neutral.

I was lucky enough to visit him as you see him -- all glowing and aflame during a firing. It was quite an ordeal; three to five workers with handkerchiefs on their heads, safety glasses on their eyes and big, big heatproof gloves carefully taking heat measurements, sliding stones out, inserting fuel or checking flames, sliding other stones, taking notes, and moving all the time.

Firing takes a very long time when it is done this way. I think we were there the evening of day two, which is about the middle of the active firing process. Then there is the passive cool-down -- meaning, I think, that they just let him cool down in his own time. I think she said it took a week or two for everything to be settled enough to unpack him.

Slow and steady wins the race.

Her work has a beguiling simplicity to it. It is very lyrical, lots of smooth flowing lines. The pieces are not always immediately intuitive -- I would not describe her work as experimental, exactly, but something closer to soothingly minimalist. You can't help but pick something up as you wonder at it, and through this interaction all is made clear.

I think this interaction is crucial to her. She thinks a good deal about space and our bodily conversation with it as we move about in the world. She once gave a very memorable presentation of her work during an art critique I was facilitating by filling one of her larger vessels with water and asking us to pour water into various cups and bowls so she could see where our hands went when we picked something up. I think she -- like me -- is one of those people who sees the frenetic energy of the world we inhabit. The computers, twitter feeds, jumble of too many titles and not enough stories all rattling around in our minds. Our response to that is a reminder to people of the things you can make outside that world, outside the wires and glowing screens. Things you can see with your real eyes, and things you can touch with your real hands.

(In fact, things you could touch with your real hands for REAL if you are going to be in Portland this weekend or next. Careen is a brave one and opens up her studio to the inquisitive during Portland Open Studios.)