Thailand underwater

Posted on April 12, 2014

Koh Tao, Thailand:  Each day we head out into Jansom Bay and explore what’s under water. After the first few days of being captivated by the beaked coral fish, Christmas tree worms, Harlequin sweetlips, parrot fish, double barred rabbit fish, butterfly fish, long fin banner fish and pink skunk anemone fish, we decided to get an underwater camera case. While we’re not able to capture all of it for the blog, it’s pretty amazing to swim amongst this beautiful marine life.

Koh Tao home base

Posted on April 11, 2014

Koh Tao, Thailand: We loved our time in Bali, but we didn’t love Bali’s beaches. So, we set out to find the most beautiful, quiet & secluded spot in Thailand to call home for 3 weeks. Due to some fortunate circumstances (and persistence), we were upgraded to a cliffside bungalow that hangs over the Gulf of Thailand. Sunsets off our deck are spectacular, and we couldn’t be happier waking up to the quiet surf rolling over the boulders below.

Auf Wiedersehen, Bali

Posted on March 31, 2014

During the planning stages of this sabbatical, we suspected our time in Ubud would be centered around art projects. We couldn’t have forecasted, however, how much these pottery and batik workshops would have an impact on our future plans. These last two months have been transformative, and the experiences here have led to a potential reframing of the rest of our year abroad. We’ve had countless conversations around how to continue down these creative paths, and how we choose future locations that will allow us to explore these areas deeper. Plans are still taking shape, but one thing we do know is that we will be back in Bali as a part of it. So, we’re not saying goodbye, we’re just saying, ‘until we see you again…’

Man on fire

Posted on March 29, 2014

Ubud, Bali, Indonesia: The first piece of pottery I picked up in Bali was finished in raku. I fell in love with its smoke wreathed finish and scratched surface arterial lines, and knew I wanted to experiment with making pieces in this style.  By chance, we stopped by Gaya Ceramics 3 days before its 2-week raku immersion workshop started, and I was able to get a spot in class.
Gaya’s open-air space is beautifully designed in a traditional Javanese joglo. Artists & instructors from around the world who chose to dedicate their lives & careers to ceramics are a part of the Gaya community. An American painter, potter & textile artist, Hillary Kane, runs the center. Hillary instructed us each day as we were hand building & throwing clay on the wheel, but for me personally, she also served as an inspiration for how to live an arts & crafts-driven life across the globe.
Each day of the workshop, I felt closer to the elements: my hands in the dirt & water, and finishing the clay with fire & smoke. There’s something really rough & raw about this, and it brought me back to what I love about designing & creating art. Also, being back in a studio environment fueled me. This is my place, and I love being able to draw inspiration from other artists. This intensive 2-week period got me thinking even more seriously about future ceramics scenarios and exploring the arts across the rest of our year abroad.
Finished work to follow…

Graduate studies in batik

Posted on March 27, 2014

Ubud, Bali, Indonesia:  I fell in love with the art of batik. There are infinite ways of approaching the creation of these beautiful fabrics, and over our 2 months in Ubud, I experimented across a broad spectrum of techniques. A few weeks in to our stay, I decided to take my initial ‘playing around’ studies a little deeper. I contracted with Widya, the man who runs the studio where I’d been learning batik, to come back and work 10-15 more times for the whole time we’d be in Ubud. My main areas of focus would be color, fibers and hand stamping.
IMG_5437 IMG_5531Color is a tricky one for me, as I didn’t go to art school and remember very little about color theory from my high school art days. Enter Thomas, artist in residency. Together we brainstormed mixes, complementary color combinations, and read about home dyeing, additive & subtractive colors and the color wheel. I needed to do some experimentation of my own, however, so we found an art supply store and I started mixing my own watercolors. After some playing around, I was able to gain a better understanding of how to create the really bold or really subtle colors I wanted to reproduce on fabric.
IMG_5557And then there are fibers. The fibers I choose have an effect on color as well. A hand woven cotton or a fine grade machine-spun thin cotton, for example, will turn out differently if dipped in the same color because of the variation across weaves, grades and weights. Over these past 2 months, I did tons of testing to understand how all of this intersects with wax to create a finished fabric.
IMG_5751 IMG_5767IMG_5786IMG_5705Hand stamping is my favorite part of batik creation. Copper tjaps (stamps) are dipped into hot wax and then pressed onto cloth. Widya has about 15 copper stamps that he designs and has made in Java. They are beautiful and range from traditional to contemporary. A traditional batik artist will very carefully align stamps to create a clean or organized pattern across his piece. I, however, approach it differently. I work with tjaps that haven’t been sufficiently dipped in wax to create a splotchy and modeled effect. I like layering different tjaps on top of each other to make a cloudy and inconsistent effect. After the first few weeks of working with Widya’s copper tjaps, I started wondering if I could create a different effect with wood carved stamps, so I set out in search of someone who could make a few of these for me.
IMG_5789And then some fortuitous timing…

We discovered Pak Tjok’s treasure trove of wood stamps (jump to post). I went to work there a handful of times and loved trying out dozens of these wooden stamps.  Unlike copper tjaps that produce very precise lines, the wax applied by wooden stamp ‘soils’ or leaks onto the fabric’s base color in an imperfect way to give it depth and a vague tri-dimensional effect. This suited me well, as over time I’d evolved from making perfectly symmetrical stamped patterns to creating cloudy and amorphous ones.
IMG_5761My 2-month batik immersion has been a transformative experience, and I hope I’m able to continue learning, experimenting and creating once we get to Berlin. What started out as play turned into an internship, and is now shaping up to feel like graduate studies.

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