Becoming a SME

Big Wook in progress, 2017

     A SME?  WHAT is that, right?  It’s an acronym/short abbreviation for the term Subject Matter Expert.  This part of my studio practice is ALWAYS a work in progress, even more so than my actual sculptures.

     I will never be a SME on my animals.  With my varied interest in sculpting all kinds of different animals, it’s just not possible.  Nor will I ever be a subject matter expert on glazing or the chemistry behind clay.  I know the basics.  Enough to make me sound smart when explaining it to a group of non-ceramists .  But there are definitely those who know FAR MORE than I ever care to learn.

Cold Finishes

What I am fervently working towards in my studio practice – my constant work in progress…is becoming a SME in cold finishes.  I love the versatility, diversity, and the ability to create what is in my minds eye.  It took me a while to wrap my head around the idea of using NON ceramic finishes.  But I could never get the look I wanted with underglazes or glazes.  I’m sure I could have figured it out eventually… but I wanted that immediate gratification.

Insert me finding the amazing artists that I know look to for inspiration who utilize cold finishes in their works.  Beth CavenerTip TolandKelly Thiel. Merry ArtToones. Bill Albright.  Just to name a few.  Oddly enough, they’re predominantly female though there are a few men in this small niche too.  One of my motivating factors is that as a whole, our cold finish community is small – at least as I know it.  If I’m wrong, PLEASE show me the yellow brick road!  And the information on HOW to apply these things is scarce.  What little I do know has been from experimentation and scouring the inter-webs for information and resources.  Which finally brings me to the purpose of this post – MY work in Progress. 😉

   To date, I have only been using acrylic paint and Pan Pastels as finishes in my sculptures.  This month has started the “experimentation” chapter and the inauguration of my independent study to becoming a subject matter expert in cold finishes.  Why?  So I can lead workshops, teach, and share the process.

 As you can see in this picture, I have a test tile (I think I’ll be revisiting the test tiles to make them a tad nicer…).  With some rather crude markings, divided in two.  On one side, I’ll be priming the ceramic surface.  I’ll do a series of tiles where the primer is gesso, as an example, and then will use watercolor paint, acrylic, oil, pastel, enamels, etc; both over the raw clay and the primed clay surface.  I’ll be doing this for EACH type of primer.  Why?  Because one never knows when you’ll stumble across an AHA combination.  Repetition and examining every possibility is necessary.

And THIS is everything I’ll be starting with.  House paint WITH primer, gesso, mod podge, and a spray on primer.  Just THIS will be enough to keep me busy for months as I experiment with one type of primer and a variety of cold finishes…

​   So stay tuned.  Not only am I working on my Animals of War series and accepting (limited) small sculpture commissions … but I’m still working on *Being All I Can Be*.  Some things from the Army will never change 😉  HOOAH