Tag Archives: pottery

Aric on PBS: Update & Link

Back in July, I wrote about my experience on the 9th of that month as a camera crew from PBS’s Detroit Performs shadowed me for a day – both at my sculpting studio and at The Henry Ford’s Liberty Craftworks where I present early American pottery and demonstrate various decorating techniques. It was my most widely read blog post to date and I’d like to think it wasn’t solely due to its title, “Aric Has Been Shot.

Last month, I announced that the interview would be broken up into two episodes. The first, which focuses on my work at The Henry Ford, aired this past Tuesday evening. For those of you who missed it (or don’t live in Michigan), here is a link to the entire Liberty Craftworks episode of Detroit Performs. The pottery segment itself starts about 5 minutes in with other segments on our glass blowing and weaving shops directly thereafter. That said, I encourage you to watch the entire episode – particularly if you have never visited The Henry Ford – as it really captures what we do in the Liberty Craftworks.

The second piece of my interview will focus on my work as a sculptor and will air later in the season (likely early January, 2015). I will post the date here once I know it. Among other things, the second piece will feature the making of my “Hugin and Munin” relief as well as a large free-standing piece that I will be previewing here in December prior to the official unveiling on Detroit Performs.

~Aric

Aric has been shot!

It’s all over. The camera crew is gone, the shoot has wrapped and a sense of normalcy has returned to my studio. My head has stopped spinning and after a day spent unwinding and picking up some fresh supplies (including a badly needed lamp), I’ve managed to ground myself once more.

But let me back up a bit…

About a month ago, I was contacted by a producer of the 2014 Emmy Award winning PBS show, Detroit Performs, and told they were interested in featuring me on an episode. This was all thanks to someone I had met years ago who turns out to be on the advisory committee for the show (unbeknownst to me). When the themes for the upcoming season were announced, she thought my work would be a good fit and submitted my name.

A few days later, the phone rang and I had a delightful conversation with the show’s producer. We set the date, I sent her the information she needed to prepare for the segment and I waited for July 9th to roll around.

So it came to be that yesterday, I had a production crew shadowing me as I lived out a day as a working artist. In the morning, we were at my home studio talking about my work as a sculptor while I roughed in two new pieces for my Sculpting Myth series.

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In the afternoon, we relocated to The Henry Ford where I demonstrated early American pottery decorating techniques like slip trailing and sgraffito.

It was a surreal experience to spend a day with a camera crew in tow. It was exciting, eye-opening and genuinely fun and I hope for the chance to do it again someday.

The episodes have yet to be placed on the fall schedule but I will post the date as soon as I know it. You will also be able to find it on the Detroit Performs Website (following the air date which will be sometime this fall/winter.)

My deepest thanks to the wonderful people at PBS-Detroit for their kindness, patience and professionalism – particularly to the creative team, Sarah, Matthew, Kim and Tina and to the wonderfully synergistic Colleen who thought of me and was kind enough to make the connection on my behalf. Thanks also to my family who had to put up with my craziness as the shoot date loomed near.

I have been blessed this year and I thank everyone who has helped support me as I make my way down the left-hand path.

~Aric

Sgraffito at The Henry Ford

With just under two weeks before I announce the next piece in my Sculpting Mythology series, I thought to share a technique from another part of my life that I have yet to discuss on this blog. 2-3 days per week, I work as an historical presenter and decorative artist at The Henry Ford’s Pottery Shop.

The Pottery has a line of around 250 different items. We make in excess of 10,000 pieces each year, go through a ton of clay per month and have a staff of seven. It is a production shop that supplies THF’s gift stores, catalogs, historic buildings and restaurants but we also demonstrate how pottery was made in North America from the colonial era through to the twentieth century. In fact, some of the equipment we use is of historical interest in its own right – including a belt-driven potter’s wheel from the 1870s.

One of my favorite techniques to demonstrate is sgraffito, which most commonly took the form of decorative plates. German immigrants brought the style with them to the new world and it was popular in North America during the 1700’s and early 1800’s. A time consuming (and expensive) technique, you would not have seen a set of these around the dining table of a colonial home as much as a single plate hanging over the mantle – likely a cherished wedding gift.

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Sgraffito comes from an Italian word meaning to scratch or scrape and this describes precisely the technique.

I start by drape-molding a red ware plate over a plaster form to ensure consistency in size and shape. I then pour a paper-thin coating of slip (watered down clay) onto the inner surface of the plate and allow it to dry to the touch – a process that takes 3-5 days in a damp cabinet.    [note: The slip appears gray but will fire to a buttery yellow.]

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Once the proper level of moisture in the clay has been achieved (referred to as leather hard), I trim the plate on the potter’s wheel and then use simple loop and needle tools to carve my design through the top layer thereby revealing the red clay beneath.

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The carving completed, I allow it to dry fully in the open air for about a week. At this stage, the surface must be gently sanded using nylon netting and any dust or debris cleaned off with an air compressor. Next, I selectively brush on a highly diluted copper paste that will turn green when fired.

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The finished piece gets fired twice at 1800-2000 degrees Fahrenheit with a coating of clear glass frit (glaze) applied between firings.

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The process takes about 30 days from clay cabinet to store shelf.

Greenfield Village and the Liberty Craftworks (part of The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan) will reopen to the public for the 2014 season on April 15. If you happen by the pottery, stop in and say hello!

~Aric Jorn