Craft Redefined

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Untitled (1987)
potter, painter, raku-fire, Abstract Expressionism, structure, composition, surface decoration, sculpture, gesturalism,structure through colour, sculptural, form and surface, pigment, clay, line, edge, bowls, function and form, potter's wheel, hand-building clay techniques,mark-making,hand-built,yin and yang,beauty, clay body, temperature change, firing technique,vitreous, abstract painting, Japanese firing techniques, potter, craft, Matisse, wood-fire, raku fire, master potter, glaze, glazes, heat-resistant gloves, visual composition, clay recipes,salt-firing, firing temperatures,
description
start quote...it is the finished work that is important, not the method, tools or media...end quote-- Don Chester

Early in his artistic career Donovan Chester was as well known for his paintings as he was for his pottery. This is not surprising given the similarities between the painted  canvasCommonly used as a support for oil or acrylic painting, canvas is a heavy woven fabric made of flax or cotton. Its surface is typically prepared for painting by priming with a ground. Linen — made of flax — is the standard canvas, very strong, sold by the roll and by smaller pieces. A less expensive alternative to linen is heavy cotton duck, though it is less acceptable (some find it unacceptable), cotton being less durable, because it's more prone to absorb dampness, and it's less receptive to grounds and size. For use in painting, a piece of canvas is stretched tightly by stapling or tacking it to a stretcher frame. A painting done on canvas and then cemented to a wall or panel is called marouflage. Canvas board is an inexpensive, commercially prepared cotton canvas which has been primed and glued to cardboard, suitable for students and amateurs who enjoy its portability. Also, a stretched canvas ready for painting, or a painting made on such fabric. Canvas is abbreviated c., and "oil on canvas" is abbreviated o/c.  (Artlex.com)  surfaces of his  abstractImagery which departs from representational accuracy, to a variable range of possible degrees. Abstract artists select and then exaggerate or simplify the forms suggested by the world around them.  (Artlex.com)  paintings and the  glazedA term used in ceramics to describe a thin coating of minerals which produces a glassy transparent or colored coating on bisque ware. Typically applied either by brushing, dipping, or spraying, it is fixed by firing the bisque ware in a kiln. This makes the surface smooth, shiny, and waterproof. Also, a glaze can be a thin, translucent or transparent coat over a painting, sometimes meant simply to protect the paint underneath, but more often to add a veil of colouration to an area of a picture. (artlex.com)  and raku-fired surfaces of his pots. Rosemont Art Gallery (now the Art Gallery of Regina) Director Karen Schoonover writes about the influences on Chester’s work: “Responding once again to the abstract influences of the past, his work continues the gesturalism of abstract expressionism, a concern for structuring through  colourProduced by light of various wavelengths, and when light strikes an object and reflects back to the eyes. Colour is an element of art with three properties: (1) hue or tint, the colour name, e.g., red, yellow, blue, etc.: (2) intensity, the purity and strength of a colour, e.g., bright red or dull red; and (3) value, the lightness or darkness of a colour. When the spectrum is organized as a color wheel, the colours are divided into groups called primary, secondary and intermediate (or tertiary) colours; analogous and complementary, and also as warm and cool colours. Colours can be objectively described as saturated, clear, cool, warm, deep, subdued, grayed, tawny, mat, glossy, monochrome, multicolored, particolored, variegated, or polychromed. Some words used to describe colours are more subjective (subject to personal opinion or taste), such as: exciting, sweet, saccharine, brash, garish, ugly, beautiful, cute, fashionable, pretty, and sublime. Sometimes people speak of colours when they are actually refering to pigments, what they are made of (various natural or synthetic substances), their relative permanence, etc. (Artlex.com)  reminiscent of [Henri] Matisse, and a sense of  compositionArrangements of elements in a work of art.  not unlike that of Morris Louis.” (Schoonover 1987)

Schoonover also wrote about Chester’s ability to integrate his innate sense of  designA plan, or to plan. The organization or composition of a work; the skilled arrangement of its parts. An effective design is one in which the elements of art and principles of design have been combined to achieve an overall sense of unity. Also [applied design], the production of attractive and well crafted functional objects. Subcategories of the design arts include: architecture, bonsai, fashion design, furniture design, graphic design, ikebana, industrial design, interior design, landscape architecture, stagecraft, textile design, and Web page design. (Artlex.com)  with his  naturalisticA style in which an artist intends to represent a subject as it appears in the natural world — precisely and objectivly — as opposed to being represented in a stylized or intellectually manipulated manner. Although naturalism is often used interchangeably with the term realism, there is a difference between them. The realism of Gustave Courbet (French, 1819-1877) is more interested in the honest depiction of unpretentious subjects, while the naturalism of Ernest Meissonier (French, 1815-1891) is more a visually accurate depiction of subjects which in other hands might well have been depicted pretentiously. (artlex.com)   surface(an element of art) The outer or topmost boundary or layer of an object. Colours on any surface are determined by how incident rays of light strike it, and how a surface reflects, scatters, and absorbs those rays. The material qualities of a surface, as well as its form and texture further determine how it is seen and felt. (artlex.com) See also texture.  decoration to create entrancing sculptural art works. She described how he works his alchemy in his studio, “… manipulating raw materials (clay, pigment, powders, paint) into forms infused with an energy and life of their own. Intent on integrating  formIn its widest sense, total structure; a synthesis of all the visible aspects of that structure and of the manner in which they are united to create its distinctive character. The form of a work is what enables us to perceive it. Form also refers to an element of art that is three-dimensional (height, width, and depth) and encloses volume. For example, a triangle, which is two-dimensional, is a shape, but a pyramid, which is three-dimensional, is a form. Cubes, spheres, ovoids, pyramids, cone, and cylinders are examples of various forms. Also, all of the elements of a work of art independent of their meaning. Formal elements are primary features which are not a matter of semantic significance — including colour, dimensions, line, mass, medium, scale, shape, space, texture, value; and the principles of design under which they are placed — including balance, contrast, dominance, harmony, movement, proportion, proximity, rhythm, similarity, unity, and variety. (Artlex.com)  and  surface(an element of art) The outer or topmost boundary or layer of an object. Colours on any surface are determined by how incident rays of light strike it, and how a surface reflects, scatters, and absorbs those rays. The material qualities of a surface, as well as its form and texture further determine how it is seen and felt. (artlex.com) See also texture.  he relies on spontaneity and intuition to guide him.” (Schoonover 1987)

Chester has a strong concern for  lineA mark with length and direction(-s). An element of art which refers to the continuous mark made on some surface by a moving point. Types of line include: vertical, horizontal, diagonal, straight or ruled, curved, bent, angular, thin, thick or wide, interrupted (dotted, dashed, broken, etc.), blurred or fuzzy, controlled, freehand, parallel, hatching, meandering, and spiraling. Often it defines a space, and may create an outline or contour, define a silhouette; create patterns, or movement, and the illusion of mass or volume. It may be two-dimensional (as with pencil on paper) three-dimensional (as with wire) or implied (the edge of a shape or form). (Artlex.com)  in his work. Lines can be expressed in the way the pot rises off the  surface(an element of art) The outer or topmost boundary or layer of an object. Colours on any surface are determined by how incident rays of light strike it, and how a surface reflects, scatters, and absorbs those rays. The material qualities of a surface, as well as its form and texture further determine how it is seen and felt. (artlex.com) See also texture.  on which it is set. He often interrupts the line at the lip of the pot to make the edges more interesting and to draw the viewer’s eye around and within the sculptural pot form.  LineA mark with length and direction(-s). An element of art which refers to the continuous mark made on some surface by a moving point. Types of line include: vertical, horizontal, diagonal, straight or ruled, curved, bent, angular, thin, thick or wide, interrupted (dotted, dashed, broken, etc.), blurred or fuzzy, controlled, freehand, parallel, hatching, meandering, and spiraling. Often it defines a space, and may create an outline or contour, define a silhouette; create patterns, or movement, and the illusion of mass or volume. It may be two-dimensional (as with pencil on paper) three-dimensional (as with wire) or implied (the edge of a shape or form). (Artlex.com)  can also be incised into the pots. In an interview with writer Meta Perry, he said, “The presence of a free flowing line on the  surface(an element of art) The outer or topmost boundary or layer of an object. Colours on any surface are determined by how incident rays of light strike it, and how a surface reflects, scatters, and absorbs those rays. The material qualities of a surface, as well as its form and texture further determine how it is seen and felt. (artlex.com) See also texture.  of each bowl reinforces the work’s strong reliance on line. The bowls are less concerned with  functionRefers to the intended use or purpose of an object. The term is often applied to manufactured products, particularly crafts, and when discussing designs for architecture. Though sometimes said to be non-functional, art is expected to function in various ways, including: to beautify, to adorn, to express, to illustrate, to mediate, to persuade, to record, to redefine reality, to redefine art, to provide therapy, to give unselfconscious experience, to provide paradigms of order and/or chaos, and to train perception of reality. Anything that is not functional is called nonfunctional. Often the decorative qualities of a thing are considered nonfunctional. (Artlex.com)  than they are with form.” (Perry 1986)

Chester will occasionally use a potter’s wheel to throw his pots but for the most part he uses hand-building techniques. He creates moulds in which he slumps his  clayMud; moist, sticky dirt. In ceramics, clay is the basic material, usually referring to any of a certain variety of mixtures of such ingredients — fine-grained, firm earthy material that is plastic when wet, brittle when dry, and very hard when heated. There is a temperature with ceramic clays at which their particles fuse (vitrification), and this is most commonly controlled by heating (firing) them in a kiln. The most common types of ceramic clays are earthenware (terra cotta when fired, terra cruda when not), stonewares, and porcelain. (Artlex.com)  slabs and forces them to take the  formIn its widest sense, total structure; a synthesis of all the visible aspects of that structure and of the manner in which they are united to create its distinctive character. The form of a work is what enables us to perceive it. Form also refers to an element of art that is three-dimensional (height, width, and depth) and encloses volume. For example, a triangle, which is two-dimensional, is a shape, but a pyramid, which is three-dimensional, is a form. Cubes, spheres, ovoids, pyramids, cone, and cylinders are examples of various forms. Also, all of the elements of a work of art independent of their meaning. Formal elements are primary features which are not a matter of semantic significance — including colour, dimensions, line, mass, medium, scale, shape, space, texture, value; and the principles of design under which they are placed — including balance, contrast, dominance, harmony, movement, proportion, proximity, rhythm, similarity, unity, and variety. (Artlex.com)  of the mould. He then constructs the lips and edges. There is a pleasant yin and yang  balancePrinciple of design dealing with the arrangement of the visual elements in an art work to produce harmony of design and proportion.  between the elegance of his forms and the spontaneous ripping and manipulating of the edges of his pots. His pots suggest the perfection of the mass-produced, but he makes no attempt to hide the artist’s touch. He consciously squeezes his fingerprints into the  clayMud; moist, sticky dirt. In ceramics, clay is the basic material, usually referring to any of a certain variety of mixtures of such ingredients — fine-grained, firm earthy material that is plastic when wet, brittle when dry, and very hard when heated. There is a temperature with ceramic clays at which their particles fuse (vitrification), and this is most commonly controlled by heating (firing) them in a kiln. The most common types of ceramic clays are earthenware (terra cotta when fired, terra cruda when not), stonewares, and porcelain. (Artlex.com)  to demonstrate the human touch, stretching the edges and making marks that reinforce the inherent beauty of the clay.

Over time and with much research and experimentation, Chester has developed his own recipe for his strong clay body that can survive the sudden temperature changes during the  firingTo fire is a process of applying heat to make hard pottery in either an oven or an ovenlike enclosure called a kiln. Also the means of fixing colours to ceramic surfaces. (Artlex.com)  process and still retain a smooth  surface(an element of art) The outer or topmost boundary or layer of an object. Colours on any surface are determined by how incident rays of light strike it, and how a surface reflects, scatters, and absorbs those rays. The material qualities of a surface, as well as its form and texture further determine how it is seen and felt. (artlex.com) See also texture.  quality. As Chester describes his clay body in a 1989 interview, ”Raku clay is less vitreous and is often thinner than other clay forms. As a result it is lighter for it’s size than other pottery.”(Dandie 1989)

Chester has used Raku  firingTo fire is a process of applying heat to make hard pottery in either an oven or an ovenlike enclosure called a kiln. Also the means of fixing colours to ceramic surfaces. (Artlex.com)  methods for many years and has become a master of this  firingTo fire is a process of applying heat to make hard pottery in either an oven or an ovenlike enclosure called a kiln. Also the means of fixing colours to ceramic surfaces. (Artlex.com)  process. Allyson Dandie describes this: “An old Japanese  firingTo fire is a process of applying heat to make hard pottery in either an oven or an ovenlike enclosure called a kiln. Also the means of fixing colours to ceramic surfaces. (Artlex.com)  technique, raku involves loading the clay into an already hot kiln. A raku  kilnA special oven or furnace that can reach very high temperatures and is used to bake, or fire clay. Kilns may be electric, gas, or wood-fired. (Artlex.com) To see some examples of wood-firing kilns, go to the Wood Firing Kiln Gallery at: http://www.woodfiring.com/KILNS.html. For information on salt-firing kilns, go to About Salt Firing at: http://www.glenfarmpottery.com/AboutSaltFiring.htm.  is designed to heat up very quickly to provide easy access for inserting and removing the pieces.” (Dandie 1989)

Because the temperature in the  kilnA special oven or furnace that can reach very high temperatures and is used to bake, or fire clay. Kilns may be electric, gas, or wood-fired. (Artlex.com) To see some examples of wood-firing kilns, go to the Wood Firing Kiln Gallery at: http://www.woodfiring.com/KILNS.html. For information on salt-firing kilns, go to About Salt Firing at: http://www.glenfarmpottery.com/AboutSaltFiring.htm.  is around 1100 degrees Celsius (2012 degrees Fahrenheit) the artist must use tongs and heat-resistant gloves to place the cold wares into a hot kiln. Once the  glazesA term used in ceramics to describe a thin coating of minerals which produces a glassy transparent or colored coating on bisque ware. Typically applied either by brushing, dipping, or spraying, it is fixed by firing the bisque ware in a kiln. This makes the surface smooth, shiny, and waterproof. Also, a glaze can be a thin, translucent or transparent coat over a painting, sometimes meant simply to protect the paint underneath, but more often to add a veil of colouration to an area of a picture. (artlex.com)  have melted, the wares are removed. They are quickly immersed in a sawdust-filled can where they will smolder and cool with the lid secured. In this part of the process the black carbon of the burning sawdust is embedded in the  clayMud; moist, sticky dirt. In ceramics, clay is the basic material, usually referring to any of a certain variety of mixtures of such ingredients — fine-grained, firm earthy material that is plastic when wet, brittle when dry, and very hard when heated. There is a temperature with ceramic clays at which their particles fuse (vitrification), and this is most commonly controlled by heating (firing) them in a kiln. The most common types of ceramic clays are earthenware (terra cotta when fired, terra cruda when not), stonewares, and porcelain. (Artlex.com)  surfaces devoid of glaze, and the  glazeA term used in ceramics to describe a thin coating of minerals which produces a glassy transparent or colored coating on bisque ware. Typically applied either by brushing, dipping, or spraying, it is fixed by firing the bisque ware in a kiln. This makes the surface smooth, shiny, and waterproof. Also, a glaze can be a thin, translucent or transparent coat over a painting, sometimes meant simply to protect the paint underneath, but more often to add a veil of colouration to an area of a picture. (artlex.com)  colours are altered by the reduction in oxygen in the smoking can.

“I love the suddenness of Raku,” says Chester, “The  firingTo fire is a process of applying heat to make hard pottery in either an oven or an ovenlike enclosure called a kiln. Also the means of fixing colours to ceramic surfaces. (Artlex.com)  process is so short that the clay never has a chance to slump in the kiln, so there is a bit of leeway in terms of the type of  formIn its widest sense, total structure; a synthesis of all the visible aspects of that structure and of the manner in which they are united to create its distinctive character. The form of a work is what enables us to perceive it. Form also refers to an element of art that is three-dimensional (height, width, and depth) and encloses volume. For example, a triangle, which is two-dimensional, is a shape, but a pyramid, which is three-dimensional, is a form. Cubes, spheres, ovoids, pyramids, cone, and cylinders are examples of various forms. Also, all of the elements of a work of art independent of their meaning. Formal elements are primary features which are not a matter of semantic significance — including colour, dimensions, line, mass, medium, scale, shape, space, texture, value; and the principles of design under which they are placed — including balance, contrast, dominance, harmony, movement, proportion, proximity, rhythm, similarity, unity, and variety. (Artlex.com)  you can use.” (Dandie 1989)

You can learn more about Raku and Chester's Raku techniques by watching the ARTSask videos "Raku Pottery" and "Don's Raku Cooling Technique".

additional resources Craft Redefined
Duration: 2:26 min
Size: 11298kb
Don's Raku Cooling Technique
Duration: 2:15 min
Size: 9973kb
Every Potter Should Know How to Draw
Duration: 1:45 min
Size: 7691kb
I Became an Artist by Accident
Duration: 2:39 min
Size: 12349kb
Raku Pottery
Duration: 2:06 min
Size: 9293kb
Things to Think About
  • What philosophical differences do you think might exist between an artist and a craftsperson?
Online Activity
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Match the lips to the different pots by clicking on a lid and dragging it to the top of a pot below.  The combinations of pots and lips are radically different depending on the grouping.  Choose the combination you like best and use it to hand-build a  clayMud; moist, sticky dirt. In ceramics, clay is the basic material, usually referring to any of a certain variety of mixtures of such ingredients — fine-grained, firm earthy material that is plastic when wet, brittle when dry, and very hard when heated. There is a temperature with ceramic clays at which their particles fuse (vitrification), and this is most commonly controlled by heating (firing) them in a kiln. The most common types of ceramic clays are earthenware (terra cotta when fired, terra cruda when not), stonewares, and porcelain. (Artlex.com)  pot.

Studio Activity

Utilizing a mould

Chester often uses a mould as a starting point in his production.

  • Roll out a slab of clay.

Clay 1 Clay 2 Clay 3

  • Cover either the inside or outside of the shape/form with soft paper or cloth.

Clay 4 Clay 5 Clay 6

Clay 7 Clay 8 Clay 9

Clay 10 Clay 11 Clay 12 Clay 13 Clay 14 Clay 15 Clay 16 Clay 17

Build a ship
One of the vessels that Chester designed had a ship-like shape. So, even though it was functional, it also represented something else – the  conceptAn idea, thought, or notion conceived through mental activity. The words concept and conception are applied to mental formulations on a broad scale. (Artlex.com)  of a ship.

Think about the  symbolismAn image that stands for something else to convey meaning and information in an art work.  related to ships and view artists‘ works who have represented the image of a ship and discuss them with your fellow artists, students, friends, etc.

Using the idea of a ship,  designA plan, or to plan. The organization or composition of a work; the skilled arrangement of its parts. An effective design is one in which the elements of art and principles of design have been combined to achieve an overall sense of unity. Also [applied design], the production of attractive and well crafted functional objects. Subcategories of the design arts include: architecture, bonsai, fashion design, furniture design, graphic design, ikebana, industrial design, interior design, landscape architecture, stagecraft, textile design, and Web page design. (Artlex.com)  an artwork to be used as a  functionalRefers to the intended use or purpose of an object. The term is often applied to manufactured products, particularly crafts, and when discussing designs for architecture. Though sometimes said to be non-functional, art is expected to function in various ways, including: to beautify, to adorn, to express, to illustrate, to mediate, to persuade, to record, to redefine reality, to redefine art, to provide therapy, to give unselfconscious experience, to provide paradigms of order and/or chaos, and to train perception of reality. Anything that is not functional is called nonfunctional. Often the decorative qualities of a thing are considered nonfunctional. (Artlex.com)  object or to symbolically represent an idea.

Spontaneous colour

Try to create natural patterns by using the principle of oil and water repelling each other.

  • Find a large flat container and fill with approximately five centimetres of water.
  • Mix some pigments in an oil solution.
  • Use a stick to make the colours swirl and mix.

Marbling Marbling 2 Marbling 3 Marbling 4 Marbling 5 Marbling 6 Marbling 7 Marbling 8

References

Chester, Donovan. Artist Statement. Exp’04, Saskatchewan Craft Council, 2004.

Dandie, Allyson. ‘Chester: Ready to Fire Up Again.‘ Regina Leader Post, Oct. 7, 1989.

Kallio, Natalie. Donovan Chester. Public service announcement, Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, 2001.

Perry, Meta. ‘Pottery Exhibit Explores Shape and Form.‘ Regina Leader Post, July 16, 1986.

Schoonover, Karen. Donovan Chester. Exhibition catalogue. Rosemont Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan, 1987.

Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning