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nceca review

updated wed 30 apr 97


M A WATLEY ALLEN on sat 19 apr 97

Arizona Clay asked for a overview of NCECA for the newsletter; so,
while I m spinning my wheel I may as well share it with you.
A-Watley Allen

Going to the NCECA (National Council on Education for the Ceramic
Arts) is like going to a three ring circus for clay. You just don t
know what to focus on. One is concerned that while they are watching
ring three they might be missing the best spectacle in ring one. Not
less than five events abounded at the same times in distant rooms.
One just could not observe everything. Twice however in the three
days at the conference I knew I was in the right place at the right
time. Two shows were so bright that the others seem dim by comparison;
the demonstrations by Philip Corenelilus and Sana Musasama were a
pleasure to behold. The two at different times had to fit the
simultaneous format for demonstrations that NCECA gives their
headliners. This being three artists demonstrating their craft at
the same time on the same stage. There did not appear to be any
format as to who spoke. Both Sana the enchantress and Philip the
magnificent were vocal far less often than I would have wish them to

Philip Cornelius demonstrated on the stage in the morning,
simultaneous with two other artists. Philip s technique of thin
layer porcelain construction won the show. He has the most delicate
touch. You know how when you wire under a thrown pot a thin layer of
clay sticks to the wheel(batt)? Well our man Philip has developed a
way of firmly placing a block of porcelain down on a plaster surface
and wiring under it. Then he peels that thin sheet up with the
greatest of ease, ribbon like sheets of porcelain. He then join the
ends of these sheets and PRESTO CHANGE-O there was a standing
cylinder. He took a bisque mold, laid it on the outside and place
one hand inside the cylinder coaxing a few salamanders to run around
on the outside of his cylinder. Another sheet and BAM! there s a top
and bottom. The magic just kept coming, this vessel sprung spouts
and a lid. Then he showed us a little something he acquired in France.
He took a two piece mold and pressed a thin sheet of porcelain into
each side, he joint the mold together and when he opened it out
popped a little birdie. He did not even clean the birdie up, he just
found him a perch on his newly formed teapot. Then He teases us many
times saying. don t try this, it doesn t work . He put so many
things that don t work together that they worked out just fine.

In the afternoon s demo, Sana Musasama, slab builds a tree from
stories, experiences and travels. One need not be a potter to enjoy
her presentation. The clay was her vehicle to tell stories. The
Maple Tree series she calls them. Coming from a story she read about
the natives of New Amsterdam, now New York, telling the Dutch that
there was no need to enslave a race for their sugar trade for a tree
has been provided to give them all the sweetness they could desire.
She uses many types of clay to slab-build a cylinder or the trunk of
the tree. She embeds bisque pieces into this, like hands and heavily
textured shards which appear to grow out of this trunk. She says the
hand imagery comes in on her work often. Egyptian paste components
are also added in. These trees can grow to be 8 feet high. She
traveled all over the world and uses all she learned in many cultures
of clay. There were two large screens to either side of the stage to
show what the artists were working on, most of the time the camera
focuses on the center artist. The hall was very big and it was hard
to hear questions and see the action if you were not up front. Sana
was to the left, less flamboyant than the other two artist she shared
the stage with, the elegance of her movement and the quietness of her
voice kept one hanging on her every word. I for one should like to
see her in a smaller workshop. She left me with mounds of questions;
When is Egyptian paste added on? Sugar cane doesn t grown in New
York? Is not shrinkage a major problem? How do you keep the trees
from falling over? ...

The next morning was a toss-up as to if I should go to Sana s slides
or part Two of Philip s demo 23 floors away. There was also a
delightful mug sale, for the Student fellowship fund. The commercial
exhibitors were giving out catalogs, equipment information and even
free samples and posters; Not to mention demos of their products.
The Non-profit booths tells one where all the great workshops are
coming up. There were ceramic art exhibitions all around in Las
Vegas. So many of the celebrities from Clayart were there in the
flesh that I remain star-struck. Many diverse and interesting people
there. So much to see in so little time. I didn t get to everything,
but a great time was had by all. I can hardly wait for the circus
next year in Dallas-Ft. Worth, maybe I will run off from my studio
and join up.