Saturday, July 28, 2012

Studio La Chouffe: Community & Collaboration

It has indeed been a busy summer, and anyone who only follows me here can tell it from the lack of regular posts (something I'm always trying to improve). So thanks for following if you're still paying attention here, and if you didn't know, you can also keep up with the many doings of Crazy Green either on the facebooks, or on my webpage (linked on the right side bar) or via my endeavor as one of The Village Potters at our website or facebook page. Thanks again.

studio la chouffe

Something I've been wanting to do with this blog is to highlight other sources of my own inspiration. In this case it comes in the form of a visit to Studio la Chouffe, the home of Holly deSaillan clay & mosaic. Holly and I became friends when we both had studios at a community clay studio, and we have remained mutual fans, sources of inspiration and instigation for each other.

My first goal was just to highlight her wonderful slip-straw built studio where she makes her beautiful mosaics, and show how her unique approach of tumbling her clay and glass components makes her works beautiful to see and touch. Well, that's still my goal, but Holly was recently commissioned to make a large (over 30 feet long!) mosaic for the private 'Visiting Garden' at the Department of Social Services in downtown Asheville. Her "Appalachian Animal Parade Mosaic" will feature animals of the area along with tiles representing indigenous plants, and her approach to the project most definitely fits the description of a collaboration, and a true community collaboration at that. The mosaic, and the entire Visiting Garden project, is the brain-child of talented native plant specialist Sadie Adams of Growing Native Nursery.

Holly de Saillan, unloading more ceramic shards

To make a mosaic of this size, Holly will use a combination of glass and ceramic shards, along with ceramic tiles. For the tiles that depict indigenous plants, Holly had help from the kids attending the Asheville Community Design Lab through Roots & Wings School of Art (where she will teach this fall). 

native plant tiles (even poison ivy!)

The tiles will line a portion of the wall, and ceramic and glass shards will make up the animals. For the ceramic shards, Holly has called upon Asheville potters to share their rejects and broken pieces*, and I'm very happy that my glaze tests and 'oops' pots will have a good home and a second life in a beautiful piece of art that will bring much happiness to children and their families visiting this garden. 

array of donated pieces awaiting the hammer and tumbler.pieces shown donated by myself, Sarah Wells Rolland, and Kyle Carpenter

My studio mate Sarah at The Village Potters has also made some contributions, and I'm sure more members of The Village Potters will be donating by the end of the commission! 

one of Holly's beautiful mosaics greets you on the path to studio la chouffe

I made a visit to Holly's studio to see the initial process involved in getting ready for this installation, which she will begin in the next week and will complete by the end of August. That seemed daunting itself to me, and after seeing what she's doing to prepare, it's no less daunting in my mind, but having seen Holly's work on other levels, I know she's just the person for the task!

the sweet little 'hula kiln' that will tirelessly fire all the tiles for the Appalachian Animal Parade

Studio la Chouffe is, as I mentioned, of slip-straw construction, and I'm happy to say I helped there too! After the studio frame was built, we had several work parties to fill the walls with a mixture of clay slip and straw bale, packing in beautiful colored bottles that now bring beautiful light into the studio.

inside the cool, clay walls of studio la chouffe, with beautiful, diffused dancing light of many colors!

Holly's partner Basil has continued more studio construction, including a gorgeous back deck. Holly's work and esthetique add to the landscaping that they've done together to make the studio grounds a welcoming place for humans and critters alike.

another happy member of studio la chouffe

I also mentioned Holly's unique approach of tumbling her glass and shards. It's hard to describe the difference this makes. Tumbling of course takes the sharpness off the edges, and gives glass shards a soft hue  and actually brings more depth to the tones in clay shards.

the tiny tumbler, hard at work!

Her little tumbler has been working 24/7 since she started preparing for this commission, making her what I like to call a "small batch" mosaic artist. Each time the tumbler completes a cycle, she has another box full of shards ready to go in, and as they come out, they get added to piles of other shards that she carefully sorts based on how they'll be used in the mosaic.

chards, out of the tumbler

I've already made this into a much longer article than intended, and I've only scratched the surface! So this is just the introduction - you'll learn more about Holly as I continue to follow the progress on this project, and you'll get to see the mosaic wall develop before your eyes! Take note and follow closely, because this finished project will not be open to the public, but only to those families visiting the Social Services office.

If you have been following me at all, you know that I've been happily immersing myself in the experience of being a part of the Collective at The Village Potters, and the collaborative atmosphere that is leading toactual collaborations with my studio mates. Collaboration is nothing new in the art world. Many gifted artists find alignments with others and I think it's very natural that they explore the 'what if' of working together. I'm happily experiencing that in my own studio, recently beginning a series of collaborations with Sarah Wells Rolland, the first of which is now showing in The Village Potters Gallery. One of the pots I'll be donating to the mosaic project is an early glaze test in preparation for that collaboration, and it makes me so happy to know those pieces will be a part of another piece of art!

*any Asheville-area potter with high fire (cone 10) shards to donate, please contact Holly deSaillan via her website. And if you're on the facebooks, you can follow Holly's progress in her Appalachian Animal Parade album on her page.

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