If there is one thing I look forward to each year, it’s Mayhem. That’s when I spend a week in Boise with fellow ceramic artists Sarah Minkiewicz, Joan Berkwitz and Lynn Fraley. It’s a week set aside for sharing ideas, learning new techniques and just generally being inspired. (Well, that and consume an insane amount of food.)

It has become our tradition to undertake a big project for the week. This year we had something particularly ambitious in mind. It began with an innocent enough question at last year’s gathering. Sarah wanted to know if Joan could mold her traditional sculpture Stormwatch in ceramic. His complex, swirling mane and tail would have been daunting enough, but he was also a scale not usually done in earthenware. (Plaster molds absorb the water from the casting slip, and large horses require molds that are too heavy to tip and drain once they are wet.) But the idea of seeing him in ceramic was too tempting, and Joan agreed to try.

And even now, after spending a week working on one, it’s hard to believe she did it. The nineteen-piece mold is an amazing bit of engineering. I have often wondered if anyone else is making complex plaster molds like these – for any application.

Anyway, at this point I’ll just share some photos I took during the week.

Here is Sarah de-molding a Stormwatch. Once he comes out of the mold, he takes over six hours to clean and assemble. I should also point out that this a really rare in-focus photo of Sarah. These are typical photos of Sarah.

She is never still! I used to think I was a high-energy, bouncy sort of person. But I am just not in the same league. My camera could not cope.

No, we didn’t render Joan down to make slip! Most of us who make earthenware horses use Joan’s slip recipe, which is itself close to the original Hagen-Renaker slip recipe. I suspect that after staying up until all hours for days, Joan might say it was the only thing still fresh!

And here is Joan, doing what we both did all week – scritching little roan hairs in with an xacto blade. All I can say is there are a lot of square inches on a traditional scale horse!

And here is Lynn, bringing us a box. We got so excited when she arrived, because we thought she had said she brought us brownies. (We had just spent the previous night at her home, enjoying her cooking, so we had good reason to be happy about this.)

What she had said was that she brought Brownie, not brownies. We were all terribly disappointed – all out of proportion to how hungry we could have possibly been at that point. Mayhem has a way of making food seem really important. (Maybe to balance out how unimportant sleep becomes!)

Here is Sarah’s enormous kiln (“Big Al”) loaded up for a bisque fire. You can see the two Stormys and Sarah’s two plaques, as well as an assortment of greenware. I believe this was the last bisque firing for these pieces before the glazing fire.

You can see the finished Storms here. And you can see Sarah’s plaques here. I have more things to post – it was a busy week – but I fear this is already a long post to slog through so I’ll save them for another time.

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7 Responses to Mayhem!

  1. mel May 22, 2008 at 12:28 am #

    It is sad that I have not laid eyes on Sarah in years, yet that trio of images is exactly how I remember her: a blur of energy, laughter, and wonderment.

  2. Jen May 22, 2008 at 4:31 pm #

    Could you make a person any more eager to try to learn the clinky trades!? I am totally dying here! 😀

  3. Heather May 22, 2008 at 4:41 pm #

    Thanks sooooo much for sharing Leslie…..the pictures and comments were wonderful. What talent you all have. ~Heather

  4. Heather May 22, 2008 at 11:25 pm #

    Oh Mah Gawd! I would have loved to have been in that room with you wonderful, creative people! I’m Greeeeeen With envy!

    Heather Abounader

  5. Joanie May 24, 2008 at 4:00 am #

    It was certainly crazy. My digestion is still working overtime to compensate.
    You can see how BIG Sarah’s kiln is… those two are trad. scale horses! We called it the Gaping Maw.

    We had to grip our Stormys by his leg that has tail swirling around it…and scritch until all hours. My arms ached for days. It was a pretty compressed time scale to get all of that scritching done it, but we did it by golly! Thanks to Chris the Bartender.

  6. Lesli Kathman May 26, 2008 at 11:30 am #

    Yes! Chris makes wonderful Grasshoppers and Mojitos, which oddly enough help a person continue to roan things at 2am.

  7. Becky Turner May 26, 2008 at 10:01 pm #

    I am so jealous! Id have loved to be with a group of people as creative, artistic and knowledgeable as you guys! that looked like you all had so much fun too!. I hope someday to be able to have a small group get togather once a year would be so fun..I also want to learn more about doing my work in clicky…
    Im looking onto getting a kiln.. nothing as large as Saras.. maybe someday! hoe fun that would be I just have no room here right now. LOVED the shiny Stormys!!! wow!!!
    Rebecca Turner

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