Mark Pharis

June 2011

From Flat to Fat: Function, Context, and Process

Course Description
This clay handbuilding workshop will be an intuitive and practical exploration of how to work with patterns and molds beyond the repetition of forms. The investigation will be open-ended, emphasizing making which employees two-dimensional patternmaking for constructing three-dimensional form.
Everyone has ideas and notions about future works that are as yet undeveloped. How do you see? What do you see? And, what needs to be done to begin to make it? The background for this visual discussion will be the language of form, proportion, use, beauty, and communication. We will consider pragmatics of use, function, and conceptual perspectives associated with pots in addition to considering pots as idea, symbol, and metaphor.
Our time together will include hand building demonstrations, patternmaking, brief lectures, discussions, and visual presentations.
I would like to have all participants bring samples of current work, either pieces or slides. In the beginning, each participant will make a brief presentation to share their experiences and influences. I encourage participants to come to the workshop with clear but simple goals for the week.
Participants will be asked to bring a few non-clay tools with them.

Supply List
*Any personal handbuilding tools
*Cutting wire
*3 inch soft printing Brayer
*Scissors
*5 pages 16x24 drawing paper
*3 Charcoal sticks
*Flat metal Rib
*Items marked with an asterisk are available in the Shakerag store.

Artist's Biography

My introduction to ceramics began in the fall of 1967 at the University of Minnesota. As I began my education at the University, I found my way into several art classes and eventually the clay studio. I had been encouraged by my best friend’s parents to study with Warren MacKenzie, which I eventually did. It was a transformational experience. I continued to study with a cohort of talented and committed students at the University until 1971. In the summer of 1973 I set up a pottery studio in a rural area outside of Houston, Minnesota and produced work in that studio until 1989. In 1985 I joined the Department of Art at the University of Minnesota as a faculty member. From 1998 to 2004 I served as the Chair of the department.
Nearly all of my early work was functional, thrown, and once fired in a wood and oil fired kiln. Since 1992, I have worked exclusively in earthenware. My forms and volumes are arrived at through the use of two-dimensional paper patterns and made from clay slabs. My work process owes much to the traditions of patternmaking, which are found in sewing and sheet metal work. I think about and use geometry while making these pieces, but it is casual geometry and intuitive, not based in math. In addition to the many admirable and influential historical pots that have served as an inspiration and foundation for all potters, I admire architecture - the grace and use of materials that populate rural agricultural landscape. They are often quite simply containers, but of another kind.

Artist's Statement
I have been making functional pottery for over forty years. During this time I have been engaged in the history of clay, craft, aesthetics, studio process, and the semiotics of vessels. I am particularly interested in the wide range and vigor of objects used in domestic environments. The themes provided by function are familiar: vases, cups, teapots, etc. These functions are shorthand for a longer and, perhaps, less obvious list of concerns which include, in no particular order: interactivity, material, metaphor, formal constitution, social and cultural context, and the object’s relationship to "fine art" and utility as "idea”.

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