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scandinavian sojourn

updated thu 31 jul 97


Jack Troy on mon 30 jun 97

I recently helped build a kiln near Gothenburg, Sweden, visited an on-site
ceramic sculpture event in Kalmar, and traveled to Denmark for a few days.
ClayArt subscribers may be interested in some of the juggernaut's highlights.

Torbjorn Kvasbo, the Norwegian ceramist, has a 3-year teaching appointment at
the University of Gothenburg, and asked me to join his students in building an
anagama about 30 km outside the city on a very large estate called Naace, to
which the University has access. Torbjorn had designed a beautiful kiln, ideally
moderate in size (about 4 meters long; a little over a meter wide and tall).
The lower 3/4 is brick; we cast the arch, then backfilled it with stones and
earth. The arch form had been built of plywood and styrofoam blocks chainsawed
into shape - an elegant sight in itself. The kiln will be fired for the first
time in October, and should be a jewel to heat up.
At the same time, Torbjorn was masterminding a huge outdoor sculpture project in
Kalmar, about 4 hours away, on the other side of Sweden, being coordinated with
a major cultural event commemorating a period of cooperation hundreds of years
ago among the Scandinavian countries. A ceramic artist from each Scandinavian
country as well as one from Iceland, had been invited to undertake a project
over a 2-week period, and to fire the piece on-site, in temporary fiber "kilns."
Funding for this project had been provided by the Swedish Ministry of Culture
(these countries have _Ministries of Culture_!), and provided transportation
costs for about 20 students to assist the artists, each of whom was given a very
small stipend; catered meals were provided on-site, and nearby lodging provided.
You'll be reading about this event in the 'zines in coming months, I'm sure, so
I won't be as comprehensive as I might, but I'll point out a few items of
special interest:
A Swedish ceramist, Kennet Williamson, involved 6 people in a handbuilding
project that was as ambitions as it was innovative. Kennet instructed his
helpers in the use of a simple and remarkable tool he's discovered - a short
(6") rolling-pin-like dowel a little bigger around than a wiener. Covered with
an epoxy-like glue similar to Bondo or PC-7, and subtly stippled, this dowel is
hollow and revolves on a long bolt anchoring it to the handle, of about equal
length. He also used a similarly-constructed roller employing a
tennis-ball-sized sphere on a handle.
Kennet and his students build huge organic forms less than half an inch thick
using these tools to thin and shape the coils from which their pieces were being
constructed. They'd build up a wall perhaps 6" tall, and then reach inside it,
supporting the wall while thinning it and compressing the clay by rolling it in
many directions. This compression strengthens the clay remarkably. Kennet's
piece was close to 6' tall. From a base only about 10" wide, it swelled up and
out like a flower, or seedpod, while appearing to be about 8 months pregnant in
a dozen or more places. Another piece, made by Savina Vassiliadis of the U. S.,
was only 6" or so at the base, swelling up and out to a final width of more than
a meter, resembling the trumpet-shaped bloom of a morning glory. Supported in a
simple crate-like box, it was breath-takingly thin, and your correspondent's
breath isn't easily taken away.
Kennet's pieces were the only ones unfired. On the last night, they were set in
a weedy nook and small fires built near them, casting shadow and light patterns
as a group gathered, staying well into the night, enjoying the way these
large-scale objects transformed the setting before weather claimed them, leaving
only photography and memory to retain images of their existence .
The Danish ceramist Nole Hole (pronounced "Hooa-la") built a large v-shaped
sculpture using her self-devised lattice-work handbuilding technique familiar to
readers of _Ceramics Art & Perception_ which featured her piece made at the
woodfiring conference in Goolgong, OZ a year or so ago. (Getting to know Nina
and her husband Larry and visiting them in Denmark was one of many highlights of
this trip for me).
Torbjorn himself made a massive sculpture by stacking unfired perforated bricks
in a roughly rectangular configuration, and covering the whole lot with a fiber
"kiln" supported by wire mesh, which, when firing (all these projects were
wood-fired), looked like a huge glowing shoe or truck. The firing brought out
every imaginable color and texture from the brick-clay being used.
The Finnish representative dug a pit about 7' x 8,' bricked up the walls, and
fired his large columnar pieces down inside. This piece is to be displayed
under a grating, permitting viewers to walk over the pit.
The Icelandic contributor - sorry I can't recall her name either - made an
eliptical free-standing sculpture about 8' tall x 6' across, rigged in texture,
with the words of an Icelandic epic emerging around the volcano-like opening.

For someone who has come to almost automatically regard clay as
somethingtomakeintolotsoflittleitemsfordailyuse, it was refreshing and
inspirational to watch these folks wrassling tons of the stuff in a field on a
small forested island, in the midst of squawking gulls, against all the odds of
such a thing happening at all.
Additional stops in Denmark included visits to the extraordinary ceramics
facility at Tommerup, where the world's biggest pot (4.68 meters tall) was made
and fired, Grimmerhus (a museum of ceramic art in MIddlevart), and the
magnificent Louisiana Museum, high above the sea, with its wonderful collection
of Noguchis, Calders, Moores, and many other fine pieces of world-renowned art
in a magnificent setting.
With apologies for this pixel-glut,
Jack Troy

Aileen/Elliott Sperber on thu 3 jul 97

What a wonderful account of the large sculptures and firings of this
inspiring Scandanavian event. It certainly made me wish I had been there to
see it too. I wonder how many of us fantasize about building huge
structures/sculptures/monuments, whatever, out of clay. I hope in my next
life I can start earlier, and stronger and retain all that I have learned in
my short clay life.

Thanks for your dual talents. We all profit them both.

Aileen Sperber
with regards from Nancy Craemer