Community, Collaboration, and Social Media

National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts, Panel: Digital / Analog  with Paul Donnelly, Jennifer Woodin, Bryan Czibesz, and myself.  I will be presenting a brief paper I wrote Community, Collaboration, and Social Media. Along with this discussing topics brought up by the other panelists. 

March 20-23, 2013 Houston, TX

Art and technology are implicitly tied and continue to shape and inspire one another. Existing and developing technologies will always be catalysts to influence how the arts are taught, created, viewed, and marketed – in some instances transformed – in relation to the transition to a digital society. This digital society is not static, it continues to advance and develop at a very rapid rate.  Artistic methods and disciplines certainly have different dimensions and relationships with technology.  There are art forms like photography or video that exist because of technology while mediums such as ceramics which can be influenced by technology.  My attention is focused on the latter, particularly the impact and role of social media as a source of information, dissemination and discussion about artist practice .

The Internet along with computer-aided technology has made available the ability to collect and share enormous quantities of information and data, while connecting people over vast distances, collapsing notions of time and space.  It is a global phenomenon not simply for its capacity as an international network but also its creation of cyberspace. The Internet has altered our overall relationship to fundamental concepts such as social interactions, presence and time.  In this it precipitated the expectation that instantaneous or as the Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan, described as “all-at-once-ness”, being here and there at the same time is now part of being human.

This ubiquity has found itself in artistic landscape of ceramic design. David Pye's theory of workmanship in particular “Workmanship of Risk” presents a fundamental challenge from the tradition of craft to the digital incursion that ensues.  Pye remarks that the quality of craftsmanship“ is not predetermined, but depends on the judgment, dexterity and care which the maker exercises as he works.”.[1] As Pye proposed, working with a material must entail a certain amount of risk.  Does the use of computers with save as or undo functions really demand sufficient involvement with the material or enable us to take risk?  Does this render us more noncommittal using virtual mediated forms rather than more immediate materials such as clay?

Digital media is decisive and engaging in that it creates a substantial shift and allows a new sort of participation with art.  It uses both web and mobile technologies to turn communication into an interactive dialogue.  This provides a structure for people to interact with one another and in turn, open possibilities for the exchange of ideas over vast distances nearly instantaneously. For the arts this has a number of implications, the most interesting being technology that supports synchronous interaction. In an analog model, collaborating artists visions are consistent of a shared set of expectations and presumptions, that also include what each individual constitutes as strong work, and what subjects are worth investigating.  There is an agreed upon or shared vision that may or may not move towards a new style or aesthetic by way of a variety of new and diverse tools.  Each person’s work is an expression or shared vision filtered through their own viewing lenses.  Much of this remains true where in a digital model collaborative technology (Skype, electronic whiteboard, photo and video texts, etc.) provides opportunities for artists from numerous locations to simultaneously participate in discussion or work upon projects together in real time. I believe that while the evolution of digital technology may lead to new ways artist’s approach process, the greater implication is how technology affords opportunities to share information.

Part of what is paramount about social media is the opportunity artists have to reach a specific audience that is interested in what they produce.  Traditional ways of exhibiting works is shifting. Online distribution of information has allowed artists to circumvent the traditional structure of art representation by placing work online directly. Computer-based interaction has, to some extent, decentered the experience of art from the gallery as being the sanctioned art space.  Multimedia outlets enable a domestication of experiencing art, no longer does viewing art require a fixed space. This dislocation is accelerating where online galleries rival the brick and mortar environment as a primary and exclusive space for exhibitions. While in attendance at the Utilitarian Clay Symposium at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, Tennessee the presenting artist began a dialog about technology and community, while discussing such events as the St. Croix Pottery Tour.  This presented questions regarding technologies role of initiating communities and galleries while not being constrained by a fixed location. Emily Schroeder Willis refers to the upcoming online space that presenting artists at UC6 are currently forming, and states in her article Generational Shift, “ we would brainstorm (there), daydreaming of how we could create a new system of artist community though modern technology.”[2]  This upcoming online community/gallery is to operate as an educational space where individuals can sell objects, and share ideas. 

            There is no doubt that the destination for craft is evolving in concordance with technology. Ceramics responds and reflects; social, economic and technical demands of society from 25,000 years ago to today.  Digital technologies have changed the context in which art is produced and displayed, while extending and intensifying perception of time and distance.  I remain fascinated with how technology, which is constantly in renewal or transition, continues to transform the timeless tradition of production of ceramic work.

[1] The Nature and Art of Workmanship. By David Pye. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968.  Pg. 20.


[2] Schroeder Willis, Emily. Generational Shift. Ceramics Monthly, December 2012. Pg. 80.




Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, TX.   May 31 - Sept 8

A collaborative project with artist Bryan Czibesz

Idea to Object

Lopez ,Chappell, Spangler, Clay Art Center , Port Chester,  NY.   April 6 - May 11

An exhibition exploring three sculptors' drawing process and their objects by Linda Lopez, Rebecca Chappell and Shawn Spangler

I will be giving a lecture and workshop near the end of the exhibition

In the Mix Ceramic Surface Forum, Traveling Show

Crimson Laurel Gallery, Bakersville, NC.   March 1st - April 30

"2013 marks the second year of Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts' Ceramic Surface Forum in Gatlinburg, TN. The forum is made up of invited artists that represent many facets of the field such as graduate students, professors, studio artists, and art center facilitators and directors. Plus, they're chosen based upon their handling of the material through a variety of decoration and construction processes, firing ranges and functions. For one week in the winter these artists engage in discussions, collaborate, research, and take risks among their peers and friends. In The Mix is an exhibit that highlights these artists, their work and their continuous commitment to the ceramic field."

Clay on the Wall

Landmark Arts Gallery, Texas Tech University, TX.  January 26 - February 24, 2013        20th Anniversary Clay on the Wall Invitational
Co-Curated by Glen Brown, Ph.D., Kansas State University
and Juan Granados, Texas Tech University

Compelling Surfaces

Adams State University, Alamosa, CO.    Jan 14 - Jan 31

This exhibition highlights contemporary ceramic artwork created by artists who use innovative surface treatment techniques to enhance their forms. The artists include Kurt Anderson, Jeff Campana, Israel Davis, Brian Dieterle, Andrew Gilliatt, Brian Jones, Lauren Kale, Megan Mitchell, Courtney Murphy, Kristin Pavelka, and Shawn Spangler.

Ethereal Patterns

Bing Davis Gallery, Upper Iowa University, Fayette IA.   January 17-February 8

This exhibition highlights the work of five artists that explore the concept of pattern in their functional ceramic work. This exploration of pattern can be seen in the design and repetition of the formal elements and surface treatments of the ceramic pieces. Each artist takes a different approach; influences vary from historical ceramic vessels, Islamic arabesque art, and European decorative arts. This collection features the following ceramic building techniques: hand building, altering wheel thrown pieces, and using plaster molds. The artists use these techniques to create contemporary functional pieces that encourage the audience to question their perception of utilitarian objects.