Kenneth J. Nowicki on mon 23 jun 03
Someone pick me down off the ceiling... please? Come on... help me out...
I've been floating around up here since I left Mark Petrin & Cindy Gatto's
ceramic studio... "The Mudpit" in Brooklyn yesterday... the last day of an
incredible workshop by Peter King and his wife, Xinia Marin.
One word about this workshop. I N C R E D I B L E !
Not only was Peter & Xinia's workshop incredible... but our hosts... Mark &
Cindy were awesome as well! Add to that a great group of hardworking workshop
participants... and well needless to say... a great time was had by all.
This was my first visit to "The Mudpit" in Brooklyn... only 21.7 miles from
my Port Washington home where I moved from Southern California some 18 months
ago. I am learning more and more about living in New York each day... and
discovering the "Williamsburg" area of Brooklyn... (an "artsy" section of town
where Mark & Cindy have their facility) ...was a cool experience indeed.
This was Mark & Cindy's first time hosting a workshop, but you would've never
known it if you attended Peter King's workshop this last weekend. When the
workshop attendees arrived Friday morning, we were greeted with hot coffee and
the most incredibly tasting fresh warm bagels from a local bakery nearby (I am
sure some of the best bagels in all of NYC!) and cream cheese of course. After
some introductions and everyone getting settled in... Peter, Mark & Cindy
discussed what was to be built and where it would be made during the course of
Mark & Cindy decided that rather than a more typically larger piece, like a
"door surround" that Peter often makes during his workshops... that a smaller
(but still "substantial") water fountain/sculpture would be great for their
patio/garden behind the studio. Unbeknownst to all of us, especially Peter...
this decision would prove to be very beneficial to us all... and could very well
become pivotal in the manner in which Peter may conduct many of his workshops
in the future. Even with the small group of only a dozen or so of us working
on this project... by the end of the first day... it was clear that we were
making much quicker progress than Peter had anticipated. Because of the smaller
scale of the project (I'm guesstimating the approximate size of this sculpture
at around 4' feet wide X 6' tall) we were able to complete the sculpture ahead
of time, yet still, Peter was able to take us all through each and every one
of his construction techniques. Each method he uses in his much larger
architectural installations was covered during the course of this beautiful
sculptural fountain. Applying these same architectural techniques, Peter assured us
that anything that we might encounter... large or small... could be made the same
way out of clay.
The bonus was this. Because Peter unexpectedly had more free time on his
hands than he anticipated originally... he was able to show us even more
demonstrations that he had not planned to do. He showed us a wonderful way to make
sinks, complete with the drain overflow... using slabs and drape molds... then
adding thrown elements on the wheel. He also showed us how to make large
planters... beginning with large slabs wrapped around a cylindrical form... then
finished and thrown on the wheel... amazing stuff.
During the course of the workshop, numerous times Peter found himself asking
Mark or Cindy if they had this or that... or could they find a scrap of lumber
here to make this thing out of this over here... or a did they have a tool
for this and that... etc., etc. Amazingly... our hosts came to the rescue with
flying colors each and every time. Mark & Cindy have the most well equipped
studio I have seen in a very long time. Not only did they have every pottery
making tool, piece of equipment, or supply right at hand... but there seemed to be
every tool available that one would find in a cabinetmaking shop or machine
shop handy... it was really amazing. Mark not only worked part of his life
building houses, but he is also a motorcycle enthusiast and builds first class
motorcycles from the ground up... machinist, mechanic, and woodworker are just
"some" of his other titles under his belt. As you could imagine, with talent
like that... The Mudpit is a first class working pottery facility in every
aspect. Very neat and orderly, very equipped, and the kind of place that most of us
wish we had for our own studios... I'm sure. If you ever get a chance to take
a workshop, class, or just drop by and say "hello" while you are in the NYC
area... do it! You won't be disappointed.
I must tell you a little about Xinia, Peter's wife and partner. She is a bit
more quiet than Peter... and some of that may be the language difference for
certain. Xinia is from Costa Rica, and teaches at the University there... and
she is learning English and does quite well in my opinion... but this woman is
amazing to watch her hands sculpt away... she does it with such ease and
appears to do it subconsciously, without even aware that her hands are toiling away
making beautiful objects... quietly. I would periodically glimpse over to
catch her scraping tools across the sculpture's surface... smoothing...
molding... carving... doing something... all the time... even when nobody was around...
in other parts of the workshop... or getting ready to go home for the day...
whenever... it seemed as though she just couldn't stop touching the clay... it
was so cool. Not only is Xinia a great artist/sculptor... but she apparently
is quite a master of glazes as well... and we saw some incredible examples of
her work during the workshop. She likes to spray her glazes... then go back
and remove them.. scraping away surfaces to reveal the surfaces underneath...
giving variation and depth to her work. Amazing.
Peter began each morning with a series of slides that just blew me away.
Covering many or his commissioned jobs over the years... explaining his hurdles
and accomplishments along the way... in his very "'personable" style. Very open,
and very generous with his knowledge... Peter King is in my opinion the type
of person that every workshop presenter should strive to be. Unpretentious,
accessible, and there do give you every penny's worth of the hard earned money
you spent to attend his workshop. In my opinion, if you ever get the
opportunity to attend a workshop of his... by all means... don't hesitate... do it! I am
SO glad I did.
As my mind continues to swim full of the information I garnered from watching
& learning from Peter and Xinia during the last 3 days... I can't help but
think about all of the many new projects I now want to tackle with regard to
architectural ceramics. I have been interested in architectural ceramics for a
very long time, but have never really taken that "leap". I have always worked
near my potter's wheel... and still love working on the wheel... I don't know if
I'll ever get away from that... however... now... I feel as though a giant
stone has been lifted off of my back. I feel more empowered and a lot less
frightened to explore the area of larger scale handbuilt architectural ceramics.
Spending a workshop with Peter King has taken the fear out of attempting large
ceramic architectural installations for me... he has broken it down into some
simple methods and reachable expectations. Methods that can be used on any
scale using slab construction. It's like a whole world has now opened up for me.
You don't need any fancy equipment or tools to do what Peter does... sure... a
nice slab roller and an extra person around would help when working on some
larger pieces... but it is not a necessity... only a convenience. My friend and
fellow Clayarter... Nan Kitchens once told me that when she met Peter King's
mother... she told her... "Your son has changed my life..." Now I understand
exactly what she meant. :::grin:::
"Finally enjoying a bright, sunny warm day in the New York area... where
summer will finally make it's debut this week... temps reaching into the high 80s
by midweek... and over 9 inches of rainfall for the month of June... breaking
a hundred old year record for rainfall in June... wow..."
Kenneth J. Nowicki
Port Washington, NY