What is a good glaze?

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Soda glazed ceramic cupThis is a good question. It is a question to which there is no single answer. Ultimately the answer depends on who is asking the question, and why, and on the context in which the glaze is being used.To an industrialist, and indeed to any maker of utilitarian ware, a good glaze is one which fits the body well, is easy to clean and is durable in use. In this context the question is primarily a technical one.

Watering can in ceramics

To a maker of decorative pots or of sculpture the question is primarily an aesthetic, visual question – does the glaze have visual qualities which appropriately complete the totality of the object and its surface?

These topics s are often at the centre of Lorna Meaden’s work  and will be addressed in the workshop Utility and Embellishment that will take place at La Meridiana from May 10th – 23rd 2015.Bucket in ceramics with wire, soda fired.

Throwing a variety of functional pots like cups, bowls, pouring pots, lidded jars, teapots, spoons and scoops. Formal issues such as line, volume, and scale will be discussed, as well as ideas concerning aesthetics, historical reference, and function. For surface and decoration we will use slip inlay technique, use of shellac for relief, and decoration techniques with glaze. The work produced in this workshop will be fired to high temperature in a soda kiln.

Ceramic bowls with blue centre and line decorThis workshop for intermediate and advanced ceramicists. Contact us for further information: info@lameridiana.fi.it

ON CENTRE – For Beginners or Advanced?

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Whoever is interested in our new,twelve week long, residential workshop about throwing, clay bodies and glazes, might ask this question.

Sculptural ceramic spiral formIt must be understood  that in the initial stages of the course many of the throwing exercises will be recycled, as fluency develops and technical improvement occurs, We are expecting that participants will have sufficient experience of throwing to understand not simply what they can expect to get out of the course (this should be clear from the outline programme) but also what they will need to put into the course, in terms of time, concentration and work. With dedication, relative beginners are just as likely to benefit fully from the course as those with more experience.

 

Advanced Tecnical Ceramics

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Hi tech ceramic elementsAdvanced technical ceramics seem to belong to the world of science fiction, so thrilling is the output of new materials with unbelievable qualities. When I hear of plasma-sprayed ceramic coatings for bone implants, of high sensitivity ceramic sensors, of thermo-structural materials and special, ceramic laminated glasses, of elements with zirconium –yittrium, and alumina I over again get marveled and amused: Amused, because the qualities required for application in aero space, pharmaceutical, mechanical and electronic industry, require qualities, that very much the same as in the past, and remote past. If indeed, the biggest amount of Ceramic fragments in an archeological finding in Romearchaeological findings are ceramics, it is because of its peculiar qualities:

-Outstanding performance even at medium and high pressures; – Anti-wear feature; – Resistance to acids and abrasives; – Chemically inertia – Compatibility with foods, drugs and cosmetics thanks to no release of material – Low maintenance request and extremely long life – Impermeability – Low friction coefficient

Ceramic box made of clay with inclusion of other materials.

Ceramic box by Jeff Foster

These peculiarities are even enhanced in advanced ceramic technology making ceramics irreplaceable in many fields.

Finding ways to include new materials into the clay body can be very exciting also for the artist, here aimed at an esthetic reason: to achieve strong surface and structure. In spring 2015, we are lucky enough to host a Jeff Foster, a ceramicist who has extensively experimented with the inclusion of various materials in his building processes. If you do have an interest in this thematic, check out his workshop, April 5th – 11th 2015

Detail of ceramic surface with inclusion of materials into the clay body

 

ON CENTRE. GROUP DYNAMICS

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A group of potters at La MeridianaGroups as well as individuals have identity – we know this from our long experience of running courses. Being a single apprentice in a workshop is a very different experience to being part of a group of people with shared intentions and interests. Being part of a group can, and should, be on enriching experience. The group will live in a shared house and will have single rooms so, after and around work there will be opportunity to socialise as a group but also to enjoy privacy.

 

The new Workshop Programme 2015 is now on- line!

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There is no recipe for our yearly workshop programme, rather it is a puzzle that requires a lot of thinking and discussion!Three people in reunion
We want to offer a cornucopia of experiences for beginners, advanced, throwers, hand builders, raku, jewellery, sculpture and paperclay freaks, wood- and soda firers.
Our circle of friends and fellow ceramicists is an inexhaustible inspiration for new or old topics to offer.
Various needs have to be met so that the elaboration of the final programme with as many as 26 different workshops, complete with a meaningful description and images lasts all through the year.People toasting with spritz
When finally the programme is on – line, we are ready for a toast!
Check it out and let us know your thoughts. We are open to your suggestions!

ON CENTRE: TWELVE WEEK RESIDENTIAL COURSE WITH FOCUS ON THROWING

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Ceramic spiralCramic platter with blue, spiral shaped glazeAt La Meridiana we have run one and two week courses for over three decades. We have had workshop assistants/trainees who have stayed for various periods between several months to over a year.But 2015 will be the first year we offer ON CENTRE, a twelve week course, aimed specifically at giving the opportunity to develop repetition throwing of domestic items to a professional level, open to a small group.                  Light source in ceramics by O'RourkeWall piece in ceramicsThe course will be demanding. We are confident that, with sustained concentration and hard work, a good level can be reached in the three months and the latter stages of the period will give time for more personal development.
In developing fluent skill participants will, of course, glaze and fire a considerable body of work so that fluency of making is matched by knowledge and fluency in finishing work. Find here the full course description

World premiere at La Meridiana Ceramic Gallery

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Thanks to the generosity of our instructors and to the purposeful choices of founder and President Pietro Maddalena, the ceramic collection of La Meridiana growing in terms of techniques and contents. Which are the latest additions?

A collaborative piece of Richard Notkin and Jason Walker, probably a world premiere. P1050030 Richard Notkin and Jason Walker execute tecnically and conceptually well conceived work.The two artists are of different generation but with fundamental aspects of their work in common. Both are very meticulous, precise makers, with the excellence of execution an essential part of their art. Both do P1040951

express strong political, social and environmental issues.Their recent workshop at La Meridiana “Ceramic Imagery: Relief Carving and Surface Illustration” was based partly on the inspiration from the work of ceramic artists of the past: Andrea and Luca della Robbia. Within the boundaries of the bas-relief these renaissance artists created sacred imagery surrounded by luscious garlands of fruit and leaves.  They developed brightly colored slips in many hues and a shimmering brilliant tin glaze, a formula that is a secret to the present day. Their work was

Madonna with child by Andrea della Robbia at Bargello museum in Florence

Detail of Madonna with child by Andrea Della Robbia

the subject of Richard Notkins’ studies, 30 years ago.

In their collaborative piece, Notking and Walker have placed a fish in the center of a garland made of relief tiles that carry strongly symbolic imagery. Characteristic of Jason Walkers work, the fish has a natural shape along with threatening aspects of modern technology, like imagery of destruction of nature (a bewildered Richard Notkin trying to control the fumes of an utterly destructive explosion) and riveted fins. The theme is further developed on the relief tiles: electric light bulbs illuminating natural scenery, traffic signs, skulls and feet with stigmata.Collaborative piece of Richard Notkin and Jason Walker at the Gallery of La Meridiana, iInternational school of Ceramics in Tuscany

The Total Work of Art

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MERP1040878 P1040867 P1040848 20b DSC_0177Some people  create a living space that is expression of their philosophy of live, of their need for beauty and their concept of community.  It may include a house a living quarter, a studio, a garden, and all those elements that are intangible like beauty, inspiration, friendship. Such an approach can be defined well with the German word: Gesamtkunstwerk . Certain words in foreign language cannot be translated, as they do have a connotation of metaphysical meaning that is not common with the equivalent native language word. As close as I can come, I would translate with The total work of art.

Easier is to have an example that illustrates the concept, and I will propose La Meridiana for that. Who has been here before knows that  every time you come back, there is a surprise, a functional or fun or beautiful addition. When Pietro founded the school 33 years ago it was just an old farmhouse with nude walls and over the years so much has been added.

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First years: Pietro Maddalena and John Colbeck in the studio

A view of the gallery at La Meridiana with works Of Pietro Elia Maddalena

Entrance to the Gallery

The way of looking at the house is a comprehensive one, no Gesamtkunstwerk without that!  Right from the start, the planning included creation of common areas: The amphitheater as an outdoor lecture room, the terrace as a night movie theatre, the pizza oven for homemade pizza. The core is the studio, a former wine stocking area. There is now the kiln area, a new kitchen, terraces, a small pool, a pond, the wood firing kiln down the hill, a vegetable garden and an orchard, and Pietro’s private studio, finally with windows. It has taken 30 years to substitute the plastic covered  holes-in-the-wall of Pietro’s private studio with real Windows. 18e

The driving force behind this achievements has always been the goal  to offer to our patrons a facility dedicated to a continual education in the ceramic art and rich in beauty.

Our students say it better than I can:

Pietro has created an amazing environment like nothing I have ever seen.  The studio was so incredibly organized, clean and tidy.  The facilities were amazing.   It was so nice to go to the studio each day and know where we were going to work and not have to fight for space and equipment.  It felt light we had our own studios.  As far as the landscape, architecture and environment goes, when I first walked through La Meridiana and entered the back patio area I spent the first hour or so crying as I was so overwhelmed with its beauty.   It is so obvious that Pietro loves, respects and honours his surroundings.  He is a special fellow and has made an incredible impact on the community near and at large.  

  

Colleen O’Reilly

Hamilton, Ontario

Canada

April  13

 

Find out more about La Meridiana’s mission:

http://www.lameridiana.fi.it/about_us.htm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Use of the Kickwheel: Passion and Frustration

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Study abroad group of Austin Peay State University in the Ceramic studios of La Meridiana

 

 

 

 

Currently we are hosting a great group of young students from APSU, Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee, led by Professor Ken Shipley.

Leg, giving motion to the kickwheel

Shipley is a thrower, and is teaching his group really well. Some of the students have decided to take up the challenge and use a kick wheel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here the comments of the students:

Karla at the Kick Wheel in the studio of La MeridianaKarla: “I have seen and tried a kickwheel before, but it was  heavier  and I got frustrated.  Here View from the studioinstead of getting me into frustration it feels more of a meditation. It helps to be in Italy, relax, look out of the window, see the beautiful hills. Kicking the wheel is giving me that  pleasure, it is not only like I work with clay, but be part of it. I do consider to get a kickwheel at home, it is much more affordable. But then, what will I say? I wanna go out and throw? Or, I wanna go out and kick!”

Assistant Teja with friends Brandy from the USA and Ella from RussiaTeja, assistant from Slovenia “My first meeting with a kickwheel was very traumatic! I was 12 years old and a beginner. After one year of learning I quit. When I got back to a kickwheel after 4 years, suddenly I could center easily, and was much better than the rest of the group.”

Savannah during a moment of relax during her study aborad in Italy with Prof. Ken ShipleySavannah “ The first time I used a kickwheel, I did not enjoy it, because I was not prepared mentally, I was impatient. The rhythm that you have to find with your body helps you to find peace and truth and balance.”

Svend Bayer on one of  his kickwheel

Svend Bayer on one of his kickwheel

 

 

A potter who production throws exclusively on kickwheels ( He owns three of them). Svend Bayer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nde51XQEXcA

The Victorian Wheel. Very hard to control.

The Victorian Wheel. Very hard to control.

 

 

 

• At the movies! From Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Western to Robert Benigni’s La Vita è Bella

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Tepid evenings on the terrace with a good glass of wine. Plenty of good conversations. Pizza. And the movie night.
Hamish and Pietro Maddalena laughingAs the workshop days come to an end, there is a cornucopia of pleasures to enjoy at La Meridiana. It’s part of the experience for our students to forge new friendships, exchange ideas and experiences in the generous way that is so typical in the ceramic world. Without the relaxing and fun moments that wrap up the clay activity the workshop would not be complete.

Movies have the power to take you to another world. And they can also tell you so much about the culture of the country you are visiting. That’s why we keep a Italian selection of movies, from Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Western to Robert Benigni’s Oscar winning La Vita è Bella (Life is Beautiful) alongside some all-time runners for fun and relax.
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A young Clint Eastwood in Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Western

A young Clint Eastwood in Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Western

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A selection to be updated with your recommended visions!

 

This is a simple story, yet it is not easy to tell it.
Guido Orefice (Roberto Benigni) in Life is beautiful

 

 

 

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