September 16, 2012

New Blog Address


With the recent launch of our new website we now have a new blog! 

Please, make sure to update your bookmarks to

The HCCC Blog provides a forum for information and conversation on a broad range of topics, including contemporary craft, current trends in the field, and curator and artist commentaries.

April 26, 2012

The 100 Bowl Challenge

The eighth annual Empty Bowls event supporting the Houston Food Bank is coming up at HCCC on May 26th, and six zealous and daring craftspeople have taken on the exciting challenge to create 100 bowls to donate towards the event.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Empty Bowls, it is a grassroots effort led by artists across the country to feed the hungry in their communities. Hundreds of handmade bowls are donated by local artists and, in exchange for a minimum $25 cash donation, guests pick out and take home a one-of-a-kind handmade bowl as a reminder of all the empty bowls—and stomachs—in the world. Whole Foods Market will be providing a lunch of soup and bread to enjoy outside in HCCC’s Craft Garden, where there will also be live music and demonstrations.

Visitors selecting and supporting the 2011 Empty Bowls Houston.
Photo courtesy Empty Bowls Houston
Bowls from the 2011 event at Lawndale Art Center. Photo courtesy Empty Bowls Houston

Now back to the topic on the table, the “100 Bowl Challenge.” The challenge to make 100 bowls in 100 days was concocted by Houston artists Renee LeBlanc and Clark Kellogg. On January 3rd, the pair launched their creative, philanthropic venture with a dedicated blog.
 As Kellogg stated, “My goal is to turn one bowl every day for 100 days.  Given the timeframe, my hope is that it forces me to think about each bowl as a sketch, rather than a finished, ‘planned’ piece.”

This goal doesn’t sound too tough in theory but, of course, there are life’s unexpected inconveniences, jobs, exhaustion and a multitude of other things that could potentially curb the one-bowl-a-day production schedule. So, it seems the artistic challenge took the form of simply creating 100 bowls within the time constraint of 100 days, even if that means pulling a couple of all-nighters, throwing and turning to reach the ultimate goal (I don’t believe this has happened yet, but I would love to hear an anecdote of such determination and commitment).

After learning about this challenge, I wanted to know more about these “brave gluttons for punishment,” as Clark Kellogg humorously describes himself and his colleagues.  The six artists who have accepted the challenge are: Angel Oloshove, Mak Taing, Steve Campbell, Clark Kellogg, Renee LeBlanc and Karen Fiscus. The blog I mentioned earlier gives readers a fantastic glimpse into the project. It’s a chronological record of the artists’ processes and techniques, their steadfast progress and some of the inevitable complications, but I wanted to hear directly from a few of the artists about their artistic background and what motivated them to take on this challenge.

Renee LeBlanc has been working with ceramics for about three years, first at Lonestar Montgomery, and now at Glassell. She majored in art, mainly sculpture, at the University of New Orleans. When I asked to know what motivated her to take this challenge, she shared the following:  “A few years ago, I was teaching at a school where over 95% of the students came from families living below the poverty level. One day, while on breakfast duty in the cafeteria, I spotted one of my kindergartners wrapping up part of her breakfast in a napkin and slipping it into her backpack. Her eyes teared up when I asked what she was doing because she knew that it was against the rules to take food out of the cafeteria.  She said, ‘It's for my baby brother. We don't have food at home.’ This was my first real glimpse into the reality of my students' lives. The thought of her mom and little brother waiting for her to come home from school, just so they could eat a dried up biscuit, made ME want to cry! I know that the Food Bank helped some of my other students, because I would see them boarding the bus on Friday afternoons, with a small sack of food donated by the Food Bank, to help carry them through the weekend.”

LeBlanc currently volunteers at a community medical clinic, which provides services to the "working poor."  Part of her responsibility includes reviewing income statements to determine eligibility, and she constantly thinks about the near impossibility of being able to support a family on such meager wages. LeBlanc’s motivation for taking on this challenge is the fact that she has come to know the families the food bank helps.

Angel Oloshove studied painting and drawing at the California College of the Arts and then moved to Japan and worked as a designer and commercial artist for seven years. Oloshove started making pottery after moving back to America a year ago and likes the rigor and skill involved in the ceramic-making process. She saw the 100 bowls challenge as a chance to help the local community and the Houston Food Bank. “I enjoy community building activities, and it's good for all people, including artists, to support community charities.” 

Angel Oloshove making bowls for Empty Bowls Houston. Photo courtesy the artist.
Bowls by Angel Oloshove. Photo courtesy the artist.

During her senior year of high school, Karen Fiscus had her first experience with the potter’s wheel, but it wasn’t until her senior year in college that she took her first real ceramic throwing class. She has had her hands in clay off and on since then and is currently in the Master of Arts program at the University of Houston-Clear Lake. As a seasoned ceramist, Karen did not face many problems producing bowls. She explains, “When I heard about the 100 Bowls in 100 Days Challenge, having done some production pottery, my thought was (not knowing it was a woodworker that started the challenge) ‘why would it take so long?’  When I started making bowls, I didn’t intend to make so many.  The first week, I made 24 bowls. Two weeks later, 20 more. Then, at the UHCL Bowl-a-thon, 30 more.  With a little urging from Tom Perry, making 26 more bowls didn’t seem too difficult.  So, I have111 bowls finished and ready for May 26.”

Karen Fiscus with bowls. Photo courtesy the artist.

Photo courtesy Karen Fiscus

Karen Fiscus posing with bowls. Photo courtesy Karen Fiscus

For some reason, I was most interested in hearing about the limitations and challenges the artists faced individually and how they were overcome. I mean, who doesn’t like hearing other people’s inspiring tales of redemption and completion of a project? This reminds me of a previous post I wrote about Mary Smull’s Society for the Prevention of Unfinished Needlepoints (SPUN) and the projects we often leave incomplete, despite the arduous labor initially invested. You can read here about how the staff and current artists-in-residence did not respond to my request for stories of unfinished labor, resulting in my blog post highlighting this unfinished project.

However, these craftspeople have chosen to take on this challenge and, from what I can tell, will be completing their project despite the snags. LeBlanc’s biggest challenge was the glazing process. She had a couple of incredibly disappointing moments and said she had around 40 bowls that have almost made it through the entire process, only to come out of the final step with glazes pitting, running or flaking off. On some of her favorites, she had done extensive carving, and they were fired in a kiln that contained another piece that exploded.  Consequently, most of the pieces in that firing were ruined. Though it was a huge disappointment, she continued onward.

When there are hundreds of bowls sprawled out on tables, it’s easy to forget the time, energy and work that’s behind each one of these bowls. These artists obviously aren’t bowl factories, and each attempt doesn’t turn out perfectly. So, it didn’t surprise me to hear from Angel that the biggest challenge she faced was attempting to produce a large amount of work without sacrificing quality or design. She stated, “I wanted each bowl to be a unique entity and to be given the right amount of care. I engage in a craft-based process to celebrate the handmade.”

With that in mind, we hope you will join us on May 26th by purchasing one of the hundreds of handmade bowls that will be available in this effort to help those less fortunate in our community. And, perhaps, this will be the first of many 100 Bowl Challenges for years to come!

--Ashley Powell, HCCC Curatorial Assistant

April 24, 2012

Asher Gallery Spring Trunk Show: Tom Irven & Anita Barnes

From Suzanne Sippel, Asher Gallery Retail Manager:

Putting together a trunk show is unlike any of my regular tasks in the Asher Gallery. It’s not about choosing one person, but finding two artists working in different media that complement each other. It’s important that their work not compete with each other. Ideally, their two sets of clients will merge, bringing new audiences and attracting new collectors for everyone.

Keeping this in mind, I was drawn to the pairing of jeweler Anita Barnes and woodturner Tom Irven. The visual weight of their work, regardless of material, is very light, almost airy. Upon closer examination, one can see similar graphic qualities, such as twists, loops and curves. Though their individual styles are very different—a turned acorn box versus amethyst and gold-fill wire earrings—their shared sensibilities work well together.

Earrings by Anita Barnes. Photo courtesy the artist.

Former HCCC resident artist, Tom Irven, is known for his innate sense of balance and form. He explains, “The inspiration for my designs comes from nature, dreams and life experiences.”  Expressed in objects from mobiles to sculptures and from finial boxes to acorns, Tom’s work does not scream out to be seen, but rather converses with the viewer.

You’ll see this same interaction in the delicate, sparkling jewelry of Anita Barnes. The beauty of these pieces arises in concert with the wearer.  Inspired by the light and color of the Caribbean islands, it’s easy to picture yourself thus adorned, strolling on a tropical night.

Thomas Irven, Threaded Acorn Box. Cocobolo, maple, Corian. Photo by Jack Zilker.

In the end, it was the shared relationship with the viewer that drew me to this pairing of Tom Irven and Anita Barnes. Both are very happy to discuss their work and answer questions, so don’t miss this opportunity to view a large selection of new work and meet the artists!

Opening Reception & Preview:
Thursday, April 26, 5:00 – 7:00 PM

Trunk Show:
Saturday, April 28, 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM

April 22, 2012

A Tale of Two Cities through Ceramics

ACT I: Seattle

This year, the 46th Annual NCECA (NationalCouncil on Education for the Ceramic Arts) Conference was “On the Edge.” True to its theme, the conference was in Seattle, on the edge of the Pacific coast in what proved to be a wonderful, walkable and welcoming city.

I’ve been to many conferences, but had yet to visit NCECA. I had previously followed the 2010 Philadelphia conference through crafthaus’s emerging artist blog and, similarly, this year, both crafthaus and NCECA will have blogs updating soon here and here.

Rather than try and recap the entire event, I thought I’d hit some highlights that connect back to HCCC and Houston. Besides, NCECA will be in Houston in 2013, and it’s important to draw connections and let folks in on the dirty little secret:  Houston and its “walkable-museum-district”  is great, despite what people say about the traffic.

Image from the “Houston. It’s Worth It” campaign.
Sarah Lindley and Norwood Viviano’s Kohler Diptych, 2010, glazed China clay at
Push Play: The NCECA 2012 Invitational at Bellevue Arts Museum. Photo Courtesy of HCCC
SCENE I: Bellevue

One of my first stops at NCECA was the Bellevue Arts Museum (BAM) for the exhibition PushPlay: The NCECA 2012 Invitational. The exhibit features work by 35 different artists loosely organized around a theme of play that is not always full of “fun and games.” The first work I viewed immediately brought up thoughts of Houston. As the fourth largest city in the nation, Houston is home to more than 5,000 energy-related firms and touted by the City of Houston as the EnergyCapital of the world.  Created while they were artists-in-residence at the Kohler Company, Sarah Lindley and Norwood Viviano’s Kohler Diptych responds to early American industry, and the BAM label describes how “the artists combine industrial technologies such as rapid prototyping, slip casting, and factory production with play technologies such as staging and the miniature to reference notions of dependence, control and consequence.” (Footnote 1)

Besides the NCECA 2012: Invitational,  BAM had two other great exhibitions on the third floor. DirkStaschke: Falling Feels a Lot Like Flying featured the lavish ceramic work of Dirk Staschke, winner of the John and Joyce Price Award of Excellence at the BAM Biennial 2010: Clay Throwdown! In the same floor just around the corner, Nora Atkinson curated Making Mends, a group exhibit of artists who expand on the therapeutic benefits of art. (Nora wrote a guest blog post for us in the past on the traveling exhibit, Lisa Gralnick: The Gold Standard, which you can find here and here. 

Dirk Staschke’s Consuming Allegory, ceramic and mixed media, 2012

Cynthia Giachetti’s Centerpiece, porcelain, wood, found objects, 2007
from the exhibit Making Mends
SCENE II: Seattle

A great thing about the NCECA conference is the number of exhibitions throughout the city and surrounding area devoted to ceramics, including around 30 exhibitions at the Seattle Design Center. One of the exhibitions featured a new piece by Janice Jakielski titled Sweet Melancholia and the Case for Infinite Sadness.

I was excited to see Janice’s work in person, as she will be having a solo exhibition at HCCC in January of 2013 that will be up through the Houston NCECA conference that year. Through her mixed-media approach, incorporating wall decorations, textiles, and ceramics, Jakielski seeks to engage the viewer in new ways of seeing and sometimes disrupting our understanding. Here, the white ceramic flowers are overlaid with a colorful embroidery hoop.  Looking through the mesh, the colors overlap the white forms but, from the side, we see the illusion at play.

Janice Jakielski’s Sweet Melancholia and the Case for Infinite Sadness (detail)

Janice Jakielski’s Sweet Melancholia and the Case for Infinite Sadness

The conference itself took place at the Washington Convention Center and had a variety of lectures, panel discussions, and demonstrations. Former CraftTexas artist, Marianne McGrath, was a co-curator of the Projects Space described as having conceptual and material conversation, taking the artists “beyond the confines of their kiln.” This included a performance by The Brick Factory, a performance-art collective of artists:  Summer Zickefoose, Nicole Burisch, Tom Myers, and Erik Scollon. The four met last summer at Actions + Material, A Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts residency, and a shared interest in ceramics and performance art prompted the creation of this group.

Marianne McGrath’s piece Mine, yours & ours, but mostly mine as installed at
HCCC in CraftTexas 2010, porcelain, string, Mylar, photo by Jack Zilker.

The Brick Factory re-stage of Jim Mechert’s 1972 performance, Changes, but with a musical
addition—hopefully, a video will come soon to their blog

In thinking of performances and happenings, I allowed myself a night out in Seattle and attended SPROUT. SPROUT is a local grassroots event centered on a community dinner that funds emerging artists through a vote. In this case, there were six different artists and projects proposed throughout the evening, with the final vote being cast in support of Celeste Cooning’s cut-paper workshop, Cut It Out. It was inspirational to see community support of emerging artists and different projects, all of which can be viewed on their website, and this prompted me to begin thinking about how an event like this could take root in Houston.

SPROUT volunteers in preparation for the dinner, a photo from their website

A poster from the event as photographed by me.

Directly following my NCECA travels, I came back to Houston and quickly continued the ceramic adventure with a second act in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

ACT II: Baton Rouge

This time, I picked up a traveler in Susie Silbert, Curatorial Fellow, for a road trip to LSU, their ceramics department, and to talk with their visiting artist, Clare Twomey. We were fortunate to have met studio potter and assistant professor at LSU, Andy Shaw, at the opening of MFAH’s ShiftingParadigms in Contemporary Ceramics: The Garth Clark and Mark Del VecchioCollection. In a follow up email, he invited Susie and me to visit while Clare was at LSU for an artist residency.

Clare is a British artist and currently a research fellow at the University of Westminster. She’s known for working in clay, often creating or staging large-scale installations that are site specific. At LSU, she was engaging with the entire ceramics department in making 1,000 bowls. She described how the project is exploring the reasons behind making through the act of making. For two weeks, the department will work on this one task and document the process through a blog, which you can find here.

Tumblers by Andy Shaw as pictured on the Elle Décor blog.

Clare Twomey’s recent project, Is It Madness. Is It Beauty, a work commissioned
for the Siobhan Davies Studios.


After a full week of viewing ceramics from the West Coast to the banks of the Mississippi, I’m overwhelmed by the visuals that keep resurfacing in my head. It will be exciting for Houston to host NCECA next year, and I look forward to more visits to LSU, Baton Rouge, and the great state of Louisiana (though I guess I have to say not as great as Texas). I’ll leave you with two final images linking Baton Rouge to Seattle.

A walkway and ferry on the Mississippi

Yuichiro Komatsu’s  Schema No. I, 2, and 3, low fire white clay, glaze, decal, 2011,
as photographed in Seattle Design Center exhibit, To Wander Out of Place.

--Anna Walker, HCCC Curator

(Footnote 1) - Bellevue Arts Museum. Museum label for Sarah Lindley and Norwood Viviano. Kohler Diptych. Bellevue, 29 March 2012.

April 4, 2012

Art as Accessory – The Silent Auction You Don’t Want to Miss!

Donae Chramosta is the owner and CEO of The Vintage Contessa.  She shares her thoughts on the inspiration behind HCCC’s upcoming silent auction, featuring pieces you won’t see anywhere else—wearable art and sculpture created from repurposed, vintage couture handbags. 

I am thrilled to announce my position as Chair of the Art as Accessory Silent Auction for HCCC’s 2012 Crafting a Legacy Luncheon on April 18th, at River Oaks Country Club.

Last summer, while traveling in the Hamptons, I was inspired by a few pieces of art as fashion or fashion as art. In fact, I was so moved, it became a mission to gather a group of artists in Houston who would translate handbags into art; however, I didn’t know how to pull all the pieces together. 

Fast forward a few months, when the amazing media mogul, Alton LaDay, asked my husband, Rob, and me to participate as Honorary Committee Members for the fundraiser he was co-chairing, the Martini Madness! 10th Birthday Bash, at HCCC last September.  A few martinis later, with a bit of liquid courage, I pitched the idea of “fashion as art” to the amazingly forward-thinking Julie Farr, Executive Director of HCCC, and, thankfully, she loved it!

Now my once-lofty dream has become a reality in the form of beautiful and unique wearable art, sculpture and jewelry created from repurposed couture handbags.

The Vintage Contessa, our international website offering vintage, luxury-designer handbags and accessories for less, donated a group of vintage couture handbags that were showing signs of wear and tear and were less desirable for resale. A group of current and former HCCC artists-in-residence were invited to the Center to select one or two pre-owned, pre-loved couture bags to redesign.

Click here to see the original treasures and resulting transformations, and read about the artists’ inspirations.

You’ll find amazing works by Elaine Bradford, Nathan Dube, Jessica Dupuis, Giovanna Imperia, Masumi Kataoka, Edward McCartney, Pamela Sager, Leslie Shershow, John Van Domelen, Melissa Walter, and Kristi Rae Wilson.

We hope you’ll join us on April 18th or submit a bid on one of these fabulous auction items!

--Donae Chramosta

March 17, 2012

Alyssa Salomon in Town for Workshop & FotoFest

Curatorial Assistant, Ashley Powell, shares her thoughts and interview questions with artist Alyssa Salomon.

Above, from left to right: Alyssa Salomon, these wild ecstasies (for A. Siskin).
Cyanotype, waxed. 2010. Photo by Terry Brown. Alyssa Salomon, Tell Me again, the
World will be Beautiful.
  Van dyke, waxed. 2009. Photo by Terry Brown. Alyssa Salomon, Untitled.
Van dyke on handmade paper, metal, waxed. 2011. Photo by Alyssa C. Salomon.

Currently on display in the Artist Hall is the exhibition, Alyssa Salomon--The Handmade Print. Salomon’s works are stunning examples of contemporary photography that use 19th-century photographic processes as well as handmade surfaces. She uses Van Dyke printing, Cyanotype printing, and is a member of the international artist community of the Contemporary Daguerreotype.

Her work in the two series, Tell me again, The World Will Be Beautiful and Mind’s Eye, provides us with more than just a glimpse into the natural world. She hopes to evoke a sense of nostalgia, to “recall an abundance of sights seen, held dear, and linked by recollection -- scenes gathered through binoculars and focused eye, from shore and balcony, beyond the fence and within one’s garden.”

When I was unpacking these works and, as I pass by them every day, I am repeatedly struck by the artist’s representation of the often forgotten or overlooked pure and intrinsic beauty of nature, which is always surrounding us. These images are fleeting moments of the human experience. She demonstrates a unique way to view the trees, the birds on the telephone wires, the sea gulls circling overhead and our place within this natural world.

In the excitement surrounding having Alyssa in town this weekend to teach an alternative photographic processes workshop at the Museum of Printing History, I wanted to find out more about her work to share with our readers.

On your website, you said you’ve been taking photos since you received a camera on your eighth birthday, but when did you start experimenting with 19th-century photographic processes? What was it about these antique processes that enticed you to explore them further?

I had pretty much used the same silver-gelatin paper brand and just a couple film stocks for two decades until 2000, when in expanding a body of work that mined the visual language of vernacular photographs, I learned to make daguerreotypes, first in a Penland class with Jerry Spagnoli, and later as an apprentice to Robert Schlaer. The experience of seeing the world rendered in an unexpected photographic form and the compelling photographic objects that the process produced changed my studio practice.  19th-century and handmade photographic processes gave me brilliant tools to retell the world through photography.  And my successes with the complexities and subtleties of the daguerreotype process made me fearless.

Can you explain how you relate and compare your studio practice to the realm of contemporary craft?

I see my studio practice with handmade photographic processes as part of significant currents within contemporary craft and material studies, particularly the exploration of materials and intentionality around process. I use photographic printmaking the way a metalsmith might approach the fabrication of jewelry: everything is fair game as material and structure. My images are objects that result directly from their parts and methods. While process, for me, is important and necessary, it is not sufficient; process gives me tools for rendering for the viewer a sensory experience that embodies the physical delights of locating ourselves in the natural world. 

The capacities of light-sensitive compounds and the properties of paper provide voice to speak of the energy of the oceans, the blue of the sky, and the entrancement by birds. Ordinary and wondrous phenomena are my means and my subject.

Can you briefly explain to us your creative process, staring with the way in which you capture your photos?

My process is much like that of a birdwatcher in the field: disciplined by skill, attuned to sight, and gifted by chance.  But my purpose is to render the reality of the mind’s eye rather than the truth of the eye.  My images begin with a lens, but are realized through the properties of printing process.  Each unique picture is crafted with photographic chemistries, light, and hand work.  I mix my photographic solutions from basic compounds, brushing them on handmade and fine papers to produce light-sensitive surfaces on which negatives are exposed.  The final images, with velvety surfaces inherent to the van dyke and cyanotype methods and intensified with wax, are more like drawings than photographs, more like memories than documents.

In examining the roots of my infatuation with the natural world and with elemental photochemistry itself, I realized I owe much to an undergraduate education in the writings of British Romantic poets, and eighteenth- and nineteenth-century English and French social history. A number of my titles are drawn from William Wordsworth’s poem, Tintern Abbey, which lays out a rich detailing of landscape and the transcendence of recollection.  Other titles in this body of work come either from Charles Wright’s book of poems, A Short History of the Shadow, or from my imagination. 

For the viewer, I hope these artworks together recall an abundance of sights seen, held dear, and linked by recollection--scenes gathered through binoculars and focused eye, from shore and balcony, beyond the fence and within one’s garden.

What aspects of the world we live in have inspired you to create this work you think of as a call “to inactive action”?

Pervading the work is a celebration of beauty and its pursuit.  In our consumer culture of throw-away imagery, environmental anxieties, financial turmoil, and unsettling political discourse, the contemplation of untamed beauty is essential to living life richly amidst the manmade. This project invites the viewer to inactive action:  to sit, to see, to acknowledge the accumulation of sensory experience, and to reminisce. 

Why is using handmade paper significant to your work? How do you choose what papers to use, and where do they come from?

Beginning to work with handmade paper was a revelation, but in hindsight it seems so obvious.  The processes I use--and the iconic images I use to create them--are so basic that each component has a significant impact.  With these handmade photographic processes--cyanotype, van dyke, salted paper--one has the light-sensitive emulsion one mixes from a few simple compounds, the paper it goes on, the brush, the light, and the negative or other material used to shape the light as it strikes the light-sensitive paper.  Much like cooking with only a few ingredients, the character, flavor and quality of each has a major impact on the outcome.

Amazing paper is being made these days--I'm lucky to have used a lot of paper made by Helen Hiebert, leftovers from Dieu Donne', and a few sheets made by Anne Marie Kennedy.  The marble, Steve Pittelkow, gave me a couple of dozen sheets, which were the last of his archives of paper he had made and collected over the decades. I'll try anything--you never know until you experiment what a paper can do, what the attributes of the paper will bring to the final image--surface texture, color, sizing, fiber content.  A paper's reactions with the photochemistry all affect the crispness, tone, detail, and value range of the image.  Paper that is pigmented means the image doesn't have white but is whatever color the paper is (pink, green, orange) and whatever the photographic chemistry is (blue with cyanotype, brown with van dyke).  The fiber content and sizing impact hue of the chemistry. There is a wonderful heavyweight kozo stocked by the photochemical supply house, Bostick & Sullivan, that I've been using for crisp images recently.

What are you most looking forward to during your visit to Houston?

Working with the creative community that surrounds HCCC & the Museum of Printing History is a great opportunity.  As a landscape, Texas and Houston are very unlike where I live--an ancient cypress swamp in an agricultural county outside Richmond, which is a small, East Coast city distinguished by small-scale, late-19th- and early-20th-century architecture.  I'm looking forward to the visual rush and disorientation that happens in looking at and negotiating the unfamiliar.  And, of course, coming to Houston during Fotofest is a great opportunity--how wonderful to be part of the outpouring of photographers and photography enthusiasts amid a photography extravaganza.

"A couple of snapshots that I've taken by kayak of where I live.
We moved here five years ago after decades of urban life--with the intention
of making the amazing and wild part of daily life and vision." Alyssa Salomon.

The workshop, Master Alt Photo Workshop with Alyssa Salomon: "The ABCs of Alternative Photographic Processes" takes place Saturday, March 17, 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM at the Museum of Printing History. The workshop is sold out.  Participants will make cyanotype and salted-paper prints, two of the easiest, earliest and loveliest 19th-century photographic processes.

For more information about the artist, visit

March 14, 2012

Come have your brain scanned!

Hello there, blog readers! 

We bring you this break from our normal format to let you know about a couple really exciting events in our gallery this week celebrating International Brain Awareness Week.

Come have your brain scanned and meet the artist of Bridge 11: Lia Cook

We’re happy to announce that artist, Lia Cook, of our large gallery exhibition, will be in the gallery this week from 2-4 pm Wednesday – Friday conducting experiments on the science of the looking at artwork with Dr. Luca Pollonini from the University of Houston. Come have your brain scanned with a NIRS machine (that’s Near Infrared Spectroscopy for all you science buffs) while you interact with Cook’s weavings—it’s not only a fantastic opportunity to meet the artist, but you’ll also be participating in her research! NIRS scanning takes place Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 2-4 in the Large Gallery at HCCC.

Can’t make it during the day?

Come to a gallery conversation TONIGHT, Wednesday, March 14 from 6-8. You’ll be joining artist Lia Cook, Dr. Luca Pollonini, Research Assistant Professor at UH, and Dr. Tim Ellmore, Assistant Professor at The Vivian L. Smith Department of Neurosurgery, for an informal conversation about how NIRS and fMRI brain experiments work and how they inform Cook’s body of work. Promises to be a fascinating conversation!

For more information on this exhibitions, check out our website. More on Lia Cook here and on Brain Awareness Week here.

Thanks and hope to see you this week!

March 10, 2012

Hurry up and Apply! CraftTexas 2012 Call for Artists Closes March 15th!

CraftTexas 2012 call for artists will soon be coming to an end. All of us at HCCC encourage every one of you procrastinators out there to hurry up and submit your applications before March 15th.

The CraftTexas series began in 2002 and is one of the most significant exhibitions in the Texas craft community. For HCCC, it is an event deeply rooted in the core mission of our organization, and it serves as a starting place for the general public to appreciate the depth and breadth of craft being made in our own communities and across the state. To me, the excitement comes in seeing the incredible variety of work being created across Texas. Every craft medium is represented, and the show includes both functional and non-functional work. The historic traditions and legacy of craft can be seen along with works that exemplify contemporary conceptual craft.

When I was thinking about writing this blog post, I began to wonder about the artists who participated in CraftTexas 2010 and where their careers have taken them. So, I sent an email to a few of the artists who participated two years ago, asking them for an update and a photo or two of new work. Although my request was a little last minute, I received three responses! Catherine Winkler Rayround, Kira Kalondy and Rebekah Frank sent me brief statements summarizing their current artistic endeavors and accomplishments. Keep reading below to learn more about these artists, and, if you’re an artist, we hope you’ll apply for Craft Texas 2012!

Catherine Winkler Rayroud
, Award of Merit winner for CraftTexas 2010, practices the art of paper cutting. In an email response to me, she wrote:

“Winning the merit award at CraftTexas 2010 was very important for me and led to some other wonderful opportunities. The same year, I won a juror’s award at CraftForms 2010, taking place at the Contemporary Craft Center in Wayne, PA, which was followed by another merit award at the 25th International Juried Show taking place at the Visual Arts Center in Summit, NJ. These two shows had jurors coming from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and the Guggenheim Museum in New York. The interesting thing with my paper cuttings is that I seem to constantly be able to cross the fine line between craft and contemporary art, and I feel very privileged to have found a medium that enables me to express my feelings, but also allows me to be a mirror of what is happening in our world today.”

“I also have a passion for the history of paper cuttings, and so I have been invited to give lectures and talks about this intricate art, which crosses borders and is practiced in many parts of the world. Last year, a museum in Germany asked me to organize a juried exhibition for the Guild of American Papercutters, and this show should start in June of this year if all goes well. Last year again, June Woest, from Urban Artists (, asked me if I would like to make a billboard, which would be exhibited along Bellaire Boulevard during the summer of 2011. The billboard was called ‘Enjoying the Rat Race???’ and was a wonderful experience and a completely new field for me.  Recently, I was invited to have three of my paper cuttings in the show, The Art of Seduction, taking place at the Rouse Company Foundation Gallery at the Howard Community College in Maryland, and curated by Gail Brown, who was one of the jurors of CraftTexas 2010. So lots of good things have happened to me, and it is very humbling to be able to do what I love most--paper cutting--and be able to get some recognition for it. I also started ‘cutting’ a book about women, and we will see where this new journey takes me.”

To read more about Catherine, visit

Catherine Rayroud. Mama Rebel Biker.  26" x 18.5". Photo by C. Winkler Rayroud.

Catherine Rayroud. Billboard: “Enjoying the Rat Race??? Photo by C. Winkler Rayroud.

Kira Kalondy, is a ceramic artist and metalsmith, who responded:

“After 2010, when I was selected to be included in Craft Texas 2010, I was also selected for the juried show, Texas National 2010, and was awarded an honorable mention by juror Judy Pfaff. Also, I was part of the 5th Annual Intercollegiate Metals Exhibition held by Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ, and was awarded fourth place in the sculpture category. Besides this, I had a solo show called New Ceramics at Mary Hardin Baylor University in Belton, TX.”

“In 2011, I participated in some group shows, to name a couple: Sculpting Space at Goldesberry Gallery, in Houston, TX; Emerging Artists in Texas at College of the Mainland in Texas City, TX; and I also taught a two-day ceramic workshop at College of the Mainland.”

“Right now I am about to finish a Museum Studies Certificate from Stephen F. Austin State University (SFASU) in Nacogdoches, TX, and I work as the Event Coordinator for the SFASU Art Galleries (The Cole Art Center and the Griffith Gallery). This month of March, I have a solo show called Fusion at Lone Star College – Montgomery County in Conroe, Texas. The show runs from March 5-30, with a closing reception on the 29th.”

Be sure to check out her webpage at

Kira Kalondy, Génesis. Ceramic, 9” x 22.5” x 12.5”, 2012. Photo by Christopher Talbot.
Kira Kalondy, Amanecer. Ceramic, 15” x 22” x 18”, 2012. Photo by Christopher Talbot.
Kira Kalondy, Lapislázuli. Ceramic, 10” x 22” x 23”, 2012. Photo by Christopher Talbot.

Rebekah Frank, a jeweler and metalsmith from Wimberly, TX, shared the following:

“I am currently at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, graduating in May with an MFA in Metalsmithing. I am working on a body of work, Catenate Collection, that will be shown at the Cranbrook Museum as part of the Degree Show exhibition. I will have work in the traveling exhibition, Mirror, Mirror, which will be shown at Espace Solidor in Cagnes-sur-Mer, France, and Velvet da Vinci in San Francisco, California.”

You can find more of Rebekah’s work on her website:

Rebekah Frank. Catenate Collection, Various Necklaces, 2012.
Steel, 18 karat gold or silver solder. Photo Credit: Rebekah Frank

--Ashley Powell, HCCC Curatorial Assistant

February 29, 2012

AIR Interviews: Paula Haymond

This week, we’re sharing the third in a series of interviews featuring our current artists-in-residence. Paula Haymond is a woodturner who combines many different woodworking techniques, as well as acrylic paints and metal, to create three-dimensional works of art.  Haymond is often inspired by the natural world, and she seeks to explore the relationships among color, imagination, form and texture to express the wonder she so often found in the woods, lakes and open pastoral scenes of her native Indiana. She is a member of the Gulf Coast Woodturners Association and has taught classes in wood turning, piercing and embellishing at local workshops and regional symposia. Haymond has been accepted to be a mentor for the Virginia Symposium of Woodturners in 2012 and is the vice president elect of the Southwest Association of Turners. She will be with HCCC through May of 2012, so please feel free to stop by her studio, chat with her, and witness how she’s transforming her media to create fantastic and often whimsical story-telling pieces. 

Paula Haymond. Texas Wetlands, 2012. Mesquite, turned, carved,
pierced and wood burned. Photo by HCCC.

Paula Haymond. Sea Creatures, 2012. Texas ebony, turned, carved,
pierced and textured. Photo by HCCC.
Tell us a little about the current body of work.
I find myself going in multiple directions with a focus on altering the wood, which is initially turned on the lathe, into forms using texture, pyrography, piercing and air brushed paints to create either pictures or creatures.  My pictures often involve garden scenes with butterflies, hummingbirds and dragonflies, with floral designs pulling the story together.  My creatures appear somewhat alien or anthropological with carved appendages.  I like using the wood as a canvas but try to create a relationship between the piece and the viewer so that their natural curiosity draws them in closer to find hidden surprises in the pieces.

What drew you to wood as your medium of choice?
I have always been drawn to wood as a property for building objects, but it was the lathe that changed my relationship from hobbyist to artist.  I like the wide variety of woods that are available to turn, as well as the many possibilities that I find inspiring in the grain and figure of each piece of wood.  Even when I intend to cover the surface with my designs, I first take into consideration what that piece of wood will support and how I will work with it to create something new.

How would you describe your work?
I see my work as dynamic and changing.  I love variety and am, for better or worse, always looking for a new angle on creating images which have an impact on the viewer.  I like to create the illusion of the wood being some other type of material, such as metal or ceramic.  When the viewer says “wow,” or “that really looks like ceramic,” I think I have captured their imagination and they are intrigued by what I have created.  I like to encourage them to pick up pieces and really relate to them.

What are the woodworking techniques you use?
Every piece I create starts on the lathe.  If the wood is light colored, then I am more likely to want to use acrylic transparent airbrush paints along with creating a background of textures, lace work, and pyrography.  I use a high-speed dental drill to accomplish the lace work and then a variety of burs to create textures.  I often either draw or transfer images onto frisket or directly to the wood to cover the piece in a revolving set of images to pull the images together.  When I carve, I use an NSK micro motor with burs, sandpaper, and cutters to remove wood quickly.  Most of my pieces have hours of hand work involved in them to reach the final three-dimensional objects.

Many of your pieces include color pigment designs. Have you always used color in your work?

No, I started out as a purist, calling on the natural beauty of the wood to be the only dimension I was interested in showing off.  I think most wood turners start with the idea that the beautiful wood is all one needs to create enjoyment.  Although that can be true, for me, I needed to become more involved in what was happening to the wood beyond the lathe. I have a vivid imagination, and I was able to see characters in the grain of the wood, which I wanted to accent, and that lead to carving away the parts of grain that clouded the images I saw.  Carving away wood just lead down a path of further exploration, and I still seek out new ways to add to the character of wooden objects.

Paula Haymond. Butterfly Garden, 2012. Silver maple, turned,
pierced, air brushed and textured. Photo by HCCC.

Woodturner Paula Haymond in her studio at HCCC. Photo by HCCC.

What types of wood do you work with? Is there a particular kind you prefer, and why?
Currently I am turning more green wood than kiln-dried wood.  In the Houston area, I really find silver maple, magnolia and hackberry to be great woods for turning thin-wall vessels.  By thin, I mean less than 1/16th of an inch in thickness.  This allows for piercing with the dental burs, which are the same burs the dentist uses to take out cavities.  Much thicker walls on the vessels and the bur is not able to cut all the way through the wood at once.  I am also exploring turning green mesquite and Texas ebony, which are very dense hardwoods.  They are very easy to carve and texture, despite their hardness.  They also hold up to the thin-wall turning I do.  Because of their strong grain patterns, they do not lend themselves to coloring.

What are you doing when you’re not creating works of art from wood?

I am a licensed psychologist and am still running a practice in Katy.  We focus on carrying out psychological and neuropsychological assessments for the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, as well as for Social Security Disability.  Currently, I am working seven days per week while in the AIR program.  It continues to be a fabulous opportunity for me.

February 22, 2012

Transference and the Glass Armonica

We are incredibly lucky to be showing the multimedia exhibition, Transference, by glass artist Andy Paiko and experimental sound artist Ethan Rose, in the small gallery at HCCC.

Their piece is based on the idea of the singing wine glass—the amazing ability of glass vessels to produce sound when rubbed with a wet finger along their top edge. This phenomenon has fascinated people since at least the 16th century (and personally I’ve been fascinated by it since I discovered it for myself at a bar mitzvah at age 13), but it was never more popular than in the mid 1700s. At that time, Benjamin Franklin, the statesman and inventor, took it upon himself to make the singing wine glasses easier to play.

Benjamin Franklin’s glass armonica.

Using the same ingenuity and focus that brought the world electricity, bifocals and the urinary catheter, Franklin set about improving this curious instrument. First, he had glassblowers create 38 vessels of graduating sizes. Then, he nested them on a spindle that rotated by pressing peddles—much like those on a piano [image of armonica]. In fact, the whole instrument, which he called the glass armonica took the shape of a piano (an interesting side note on naming: Franklin said he named the instrument for the “musical country” of Italy because it seemed particularly well suited for “soft and plaintive” Italian music. Read it in his words here.

Players could sit in front of this instrument and place both hands on the rotating spindle of glasses before them. Whereas the horizontal layout of the singing wine glasses meant a player could only make two notes at a time, one with each hand, on the armonica, each finger could hit a separate note. The invention opened a world of possibilities and became an instant success.  Mozart and Beethoven composed for the instrument and several well-to-do families purchased armonicas for home use.

Thomas Bloch plays his glass harmonica made by Gerhard Finkenbeiner.
But the armonica’s fame was short lived. Just 20 years after its illustrious debut, there was widespread concern that the instrument’s ethereal notes had a serious negative effect on players’ moods, causing depression and neurological disorders. Though there were likely many reasons for this precipitous downfall, one of the most convincing (and certainly the most juicy) is that the armonica’s bad reputation came from its association with Franz Mesmer, the inventor of hypnotism and from whom we get the word “mesmerization.”

As legend has it, Mesmer would use the instrument to lull his patients (his work was considered more or less “medical”) into an entranced state where they could not be held responsible for their actions. This loss of decorum, so out of line with late-eighteenth-century social morays, caused the instrument to be seen as suspect.

Whether this was the main reason the armonica went out of fashion or not, within decades the instrument was hardly known and by the turn of the 20th century, it had all but disappeared, a lost footnote in the history books. That is, until Ethan and Andy unearthed it.

Ethan Rose and Andy Paiko were introduced by mutual friends while both were living in Portland, Oregon. Recognizing a shared interest in recovering and repurposing antiquated objects and technologies, Ethan and Andy worked to find a subject for a collaborative installation. On a camping trip, they visited the Spark Museum of Electrical Invention. It was there that they got the idea for this exhibition.

Using the armonica as their source, Ethan and Andy have created an exquisite installation showcasing the possibilities of the material—specifically glass vessels--to create sound. By removing the player from the installation (glass mechanisms, like record arms with fabric tips, meet the surface to create sound), the artists have placed the attention on the objects themselves; they have created a perfect environment for contemplating the properties of glass, the capabilities of material, the processes of creating and hearing sound, and the legacies of history.

Installation view of Transference: Andy Paiko & Ethan Rose
at Houston Center for Contermporary Craft
Photo by Kim Coffman

Installation view of Transference: Andy Paiko & Ethan Rose
at Houston Center for Contermporary Craft
Photo by Kim Coffman

But don’t take my word for it—hear Andy Paiko and Ethan Rose speak about the piece themselves in these incredible videos below. And come on in to see the show—it’s up until May 13, and it’s worth seeing multiple times.

-- Susie Silbert, HCCC Curatorial Fellow