Saturday, June 25, 2022

Discovering Ceramics

The Art School on East Broadway

Tourists take note. New York has three Broadways. There's regular Broadway that cuts a north-south diagonal swath from lower Manhattan to the Bronx, West Broadway in Soho, and East Broadway, the secret Broadway running through the Lower East Side and Chinatown. That's where my second home is, the Art School at the Educational Alliance-Manny Cantor Center. Between my dance and ceramics classes, I seem to be there all the time.

The Art School has a storied history. It was started in 1905 for the Eastern European Jews who used the services of The Educational Alliance settlement house. Well-known artists such as Adolph Gottlieb, Louise Nevelson, Mark Rothko and Chaim Gross studied and taught there. 

Educational Alliance Art School
Chaim Gross Tapestry
Photo by Renata Delsignore

Last winter, my nephew, Jack Wedge, suggested that we take a ceramics class. We signed up for handbuilding. Jack cofounded, with Will Freudenheiim, Laser Days, the animation studio. Jack lives in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, so he biked across the bridge on the cold winter evenings, dreaming about what he would make. Soon quirky figures, dogs and chairs populated his shelf. 

Carol and Jack in handbuilding class.
Some of Jack's work on the bisque shelf.
My two ladies are on the right.
"I Love You" by Jack Wedge

Jack and I collaborated on this piece which we call 
"The Cocktail Party"
Jack made the figures and the furniture and I made the room,
enhanced with abstract paintings by Mondrian and Rothko.

A page from my sketchbook where I collected
ideas for objects to make in class.
The building on the left is by Rob. Mallet-Stevens, 1927.
This is my slab-built house -- sort of Bauhaus, sort of 
Mexican influenced. I used underglazes for the color and a
transparent glaze for the final firing. 

Spring Term on My Own

I plunged ahead for the Spring term, this time requesting white clay because it would show off my color. Also, I had a new teacher, Liz Lohr. Liz is the school's Ceramics Education Manager. She has a BFA in ceramics from Arizona State University and started working in ceramics at the age of 15.  Her knowledge is staggering from techniques to chemistry to aesthetics.
Liz with ceramic test tiles which show the 
various glaze options.
Liz explains: "Test tiles tell the story of color and texture."

Liz Lohr @lizhohr
The Orb Cup from Liz's "Fingerprint" series
During the quarantine years of the pandemic Liz felt a deep loss
of human connection and of being with other bodies in the studio.
Making these fingerprint works, in porcelain, was a way
to use the energy of her body to prove love, so sorely
missed by all of us -- touching the clay to connect
energies across a distance.

A benefit of taking a class is meeting delightful, talented people.
 Here are some of my classmates and their work.
Emily Black @French Blonde
Emily has done extensive color explorations to achieve 
her beautiful results with stains and white glaze, as in this 
group of vases which are wheel thrown then
hand manipulated to achieve the shapes.
The catch all dish with the key (it's ceramic)
demonstrates her interest in highly realistic 
work, with a touch of humor, which she pursues in
addition to the color work.
Benjamin Haddix @__maymai
With these small sculptures, Ben has created a
tiny, private world as he intuitively
shapes the clay into caves and stalagmites.
Celine Griscom @mortal_maker
Celine's meticulous work is driven by her interest in
nature and the cycle of life. She aims to pair beauty 
with a sense of darkness. She uses decoration techniques 
such as silk screens, transfers and underglaze pencil drawing.
For a video of her process, please check out her Instagram.
Daliah Heller @daliaxlexle
Daliah built this vase using a tar-paper pattern technique.
Its shape is based on ancient Greek Island vessels
that she has see in museums in Greece.
Daliah's vase after  decoration.
Interviewing Emily for this post.
A tray that I painted with underglaze colors.
It has been bisque fired but not glazed yet.
Faces by Carol
A group of small catch alls which I created starting
with a slab with hand manipulation of the edges to create the ruffle effect.
Painted with underglaze and bisque fired.
I have since glazed these with a transparent glaze but the
pieces were not out of the kiln at this writing.
My ornaments and flowers.

Thanks to Renata Delsignore for the
photographs in this post.

À bientôt!

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Remembering Professor Richard Cramer

 Richard at Layton School of Art

This is a remembrance of my husband, Richard Cramer, and his formative years as a student at Layton School of Art.

In high school in the small city of Neenah, Wisconsin, Richard played ping pong. He also did art for the school newspaper and decorated for the prom. An art teacher noticed his abilities and suggested that he go to art school. In 1950 he began his studies at Layton School of Art in Milwaukee.

Layton was a progressive school. It was founded by Charlotte Partridge, a forward-thinking woman, and run by Charlotte and her life partner, Miriam Frink. The goal was to turn out artists who could earn a living in the world of business, industry and education. There were courses in psychology, drama, music and poetry. These interests carried over to Richard's later life. He loved the music of Philip Glass which he listened to in his studio. His handouts for the Color Course were chocked full of literary and poetic references.  He curated a show for Tyler School of Art called "Intricate Structure/Repeated Image" that not only had paintings, but also dance, poetry and music performances.

Charlotte Partridge and Miriam Frink

Layton's faculty included both Bauhaus-influenced artists and regionalist painters who used the city and landscape as subject matter. From these teachers Richard gleaned ideas about pure abstract form and learned to love the idea of going out in the environment to paint and draw. 

Richard arrived at Layton in time to enjoy its new Bauhaus-style building spectacularly situated with a view of Lake Michigan.

Layton School of Art on Lake Michigan.
Tragically for architectural heritage, it was demolished in 1970
to make way for a freeway that was never built.

Richard loved architecture almost as much as art. Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Kahn were favorites. Architecture was also evident in his color-field paintings with their geometric compositions. 

Richard told me, "Coming from a naive background, a little Wisconsin town, art influences in those early years at the Lakeview Country School were limited. The Neenah Public Library had three art books. Picasso, Norman Rockwell and Thomas Hart Benton. Layton opened my world to possibilities."

Richard amid his art work at Layton School of Art.
What a romantic picture.
 The black watch cap, the tweed coat, the argyle socks.
The mandolin!

After a rocky start at Layton, (too much fun with older students there on the GI Bill) Charlotte Partridge had a serious talk with Richard about buckling down. He took it to heart and soon excelled at his work. He was largely self-supporting and received scholarships in his junior and senior years. 

A photo in The Milwaukee Journal, November, 1953.
Richard with his fresco painting, done in Layton's paint laboratory. The
object was to increase the students' knowledge of mixing pigments and
plaster. Richard's work shows cat-like faces which he intended to "stress
shape and luminous quality without a specific plan."

Richard began his teaching career while still a student at Layton working two evenings a week at the Milwaukee Boys Club. He also did part-time work as a window decorator at T.A. Chapman's department store, where he gained an appreciation for design and elegant clothing (argyle socks anyone?). 

He was a special student, earning prizes at Wisconsin Salons and attracting the attention of the press in a story, Portrait of an Artist which gushed, "Blond, gangling, handsome 21-year-old-student at Layton School of Art who is an exemplar of the notably outstanding art students to be found in Wisconsin."

Richard told the interviewer, "I really don't know how my style will end up. I'm a student, I never forget that, and while my status is that of a student I intend to work and experiment just for myself."

This newspaper clipping shows Richard demonstrating painting
with liquid plastic to junior high school students.

Richard working on an impasto painting at Layton.

After Richard graduated from Layton in 1954, he went on to earn a B.S. degree from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, majoring in medieval art history. He continued at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, earning both M.S. and M.F.A. degrees there.

In 1966 Richard began his 37-year career at Tyler School of Art and Architecture of Temple University in Philadelphia. In 1969 he created the Color Course which was based on his own painting practice of investigating color through complex color-mixing and swatch-making techniques which he used in large, color-field paintings. A painting might contain 7,000 colors contained in small, rectangular units. 

He worked with a dominant color that he liked and created a mixing system which would allow that color to influence every other color in the field. "I wanted a sensation of light running across a surface as I remembered carp and other fish and their scales reacting to light in the water at sunset back in our swamp in Wisconsin," he said.

Richard with his painting, Redbank, 1975.

Richard Cramer received the Great Teacher Award from
 Tyler School of Art and Architecture in 1993.

I recently looked at the Nominating Packet for this award, reading letters from faculty and students on Richard's behalf. Here is a quote from a letter written by Barbara During (Tyler 1991).

"Richard Cramer's sense of the integrated nature of human experience as the basis of painting, indeed living itself, is perhaps the key to his great qualities as a teacher. He gives the respect and attention that encourage the effort that makes us exceed ourselves... He opens the gate to the living tradition we aspire to enter."

In the spring of 2005, Richard endowed the Richard Cramer Color Award in Painting, essentially dedicating his $10,000 Great Teacher Award back to Tyler. The Cramer Color Award is given annually to a graduating Tyler painting student for their excellent use of color.

In the spring of 2022, in honor of the two-year anniversary of Richard's passing, Tyler and I are mounting a campaign to further endow the Award.  I am pledging to match contributions up to $10,000.

Did Richard open the gate to a creative living tradition for you? 
I hope that you will please consider contributing to the Color Award to help a student begin their life of creative work.

Richard Cramer and Carol Markel with Emily Erb, the first
recipient of the Richard Cramer Color Award in 2005.

In the way that Layton formed Richard as an artist, Tyler has done the same for thousands of his students. I hope that you will consider paying the experience forward to help another artist. I believe that the creative life is the best life, and we are lucky to live it.

With affection, Carol.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Lazy Girl: The Summer of '21 in Orient

 Bambi Lives in My Backyard

I hear it's 100 degrees in the city. But I am in the Paradise Village of Orient, New York on the North Fork of Long Island. Here in this capsule community, like Garrison Keillor's Lake Woebegon, the air is fragrant, birds rule the air waves and children ride their bikes one-handed down the middle of the street.

I've rented a charming cottage which is well appointed in tasteful decor. The walls are white and devoid of seaside-themed art. Lavender flowers frame the front steps. From the kitchen window I have a view of a woodland which is messy in a woodland way, in that trees have been allowed to split and fall where they may and thick vines intertwine the underbrush. There is a clearing where a fawn sometimes sleeps.

Outside my cottage I am wearing my Bon Bon bucket hat
and a bead necklace of my own design. Bon Bon is a Swedish
candy store in my Lower East Side, Manhattan neighborhood.
It is pretty and the candy is yum-yum.
On the Fourth of July a neighbor hung this flag  
across the street from my cottage. My sister, Jeanne,
invited me for dinner. My niece, Sarah, and nephew, Jack, 
were also there. We had two dogs in the house, Polly and Bird.
This is Sarah's dog, Polly. She gets very excited
when I walk in the door, so we have to try and calm her down. 
Photo by Sarah Wedge
I found this plaque on a tree by the Main Road.
The clam wreath around it was probably made by Joe from
Orient who worked for Burt's Reliable Oil in Southold
and who serviced our 50-year-old oil burner when we
owned a house in Greenport.
 The name "Clamalot" was spelled out in clam shells on the side
 of his mailbox at the end of his driveway on Young's Road. 
Latham's Farm Stand is an Orient icon.
I peddled here on my trusty, vermillion Electra Townie with pink tire rims.
I ride on Narrow River Road every morning listening
to meditative bird song as I go. 

A Bientôt!

Friday, February 26, 2021

Hello from New York!

Mood Indigo

This week I had a message from a follower on Instagram, @rumygucci. Rumy, who lives in Japan, I believe, describes herself as a cool, funky, quirky old girl. That sounds like a description of me, especially the cool part. No wonder she follows my Instagram. She said that she checked my blog for a new post everyday because she missed it. 

Indeed, I have not been posting on my blog during this hibernation period. Time seems to have collapsed and a year seems like a day. But I am one of those annoying people who is using this time to be productive. I have been working on a large painting for the past 7 months. I am fully dosed with the Moderna vaccine, but now we have a worrisome variant here in New York City, and I fear it will be déja vu all over again. But not to worry, we will weather it.

By way of putting a blog toe back in the water, I want to show you and Rumy my new dress from a Japanese brand called 45R. For a shop hound like me it was a shock to learn that the 45R boutique has been at Mercer and Houston in Soho for 20 years. How the hell did I miss it? I may loose my shop-hound press credentials.

(Oh, did I tell you? I let my hair go au natural to silver!) I am wearing my new 45R indigo-dyed dress in cotton. It has a lovely, delicate trailing floral motif. Beads are from Madame Matovu vintage in the West Village. Blue tights by Fogal. 

45R makes comfortable, everyday clothes in natural materials and dyes. The yarn is hand dyed to achieve the deep color which will fade over time. 

This dress has pockets, the perfect sleeve length and a pretty neckline.
For a bit of je ne sais quoi, I have added my Parisian chapeau by Marie Mercie.
In this closeup you can see the subtle design in two colors of brown and light blue. The wooden bead necklace was purchased at an antique shop in Oakpark, Illinois.
Are you in the Mood Blue for a treat from MEL, an adorable and diminutive bakery poised on the point where Division and Ludlow Streets meet Canal Street in my secret Lower East Side.
All of these pastries were sold out when I got there, but the kind lady gave me a sample of their new vegan granola bar which was delicious.

Simply a spectacular Mood Blue Sky on a Mood Blue Day.
I thought the word "noir" on the building was mysterious. Perhaps someone working on a film noir.
Mood Blue graffiti with shadow of tree.

Thank you Rumy, for getting me back in the saddle!

À Bientôt!

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

The Last Lazy Girl in Manhattan

July Was Yesterday

Lazy Girl has one more snippet of summer in her kit bag. In these weeks before Christmas, it seems like a good time to pull out a memory of a humid day in July when my sister, Jeanne, and I travelled to Sagaponock, a beautiful village in the Hamptons, to visit Jeanne's friend.

Sagaponock is situated on the Atlantic Ocean. Perfectly manicured hedges surround and hide the estates and houses of the privileged few who live there.


Jeanne and me on that day in July.

We visited a private sculpture park on someone's lawn.

The property consists of the main house, a small guest house, a larger house which is rented, a renovated barn, a tennis court and pool and numerous garden sites.
An enormous weeping beech tree provides a sturdy limb for a swing.

A rustic fence surrounds the vegetable garden.
One of the lovely gardens on the property.
The barn which was renovated in a post-modern style.
The young folks doing some planting in the garden.
Jeanne packed this marvelous picnic lunch. There is lobster salad in that plastic container.

The end to a lovely visit: A walk to the ocean.

A Bientôt!