Thoughts on a journey to making miniatures and art, and the aunt who started it all...Read More
When I work in miniature I love that I am not only creating art, but also an illusion of something larger, of a different time, or something unattainable to me in full scale. In miniature we can recreate small worlds of the past, or even an alternative to the present, something that is awfully tempting, considering the state of the world.
As miniaturists, we create objects somewhere in between toys and art. The look of joy, awe, and satisfaction on my viewer’s faces is one of the most rewarding experiences of my daily existence. It is every artist's dream to communicate effectively with viewers, and I feel that my art communicates without saying much at all.
I have also found that working in miniature sets me free from many limitations that I found paralyzing in full scale. As a perfectionist and a potter, I nurtured a very full “ceramic graveyard” in my backyard where I would destroy pots I didn’t like. I was torn: I hated creating so much physical waste with these shards of pottery and also so much energy waste I spent firing kilns to try to create something worth keeping. The result was playing it safe in form and surface design. Experimenting proved too much of a risk both in material cost to me as well as environmental impact.
Working in miniature, I have so much more creative freedom to experiment. My kiln is half a square foot in size and I fire it every two months on average, saving copious amounts of energy. I can invest in a variety and small amounts of glaze; pints will last me a year. I use mere grams of clay to create my vessels and am able to use every crumb of porcelain. My studio practice is based on efficiency and tedious attention to detail.
The trade-off: my eyes will probably go bad before I reach thirty.
In this blog post I discuss the process of writing my own artist manifesto and a couple of my inspirational friends and fellow artists including Jess Sprunger, Mandy Schlabach, Taylor Skillen and Nikita Zook. If you have a manifesto, I would love to read it. Please share!Read More
In the past four months the ceramic gods have been set against me, testing my will, forcing me to face the question: why on earth are you committed to doing this?
Two batches of glazes botched, three firings in a gas kiln too cool, one pin-holey oxidation firing full of a commission, a faulty design for a large commission that resulted in s-cracks on half the production, one kiln broken, transportation of work to three different studios to reach a due-date, and more that I have probably blocked out of my memory for the sake of sanity.
I’ve decided that being an artist requires unreasonable hope.
The previously listed disasters make me question if I actually know anything about my medium, and more depressingly, why I chose such a difficult medium with long processes, and so much room for error.
I don’t have an answer for that.
But I continue to come back to the studio with excitement, with a new composition itching in my brain that needs scratching. And I will scratch it, I will spend hours, days and weeks, and I will likely be unsatisfied with the finished product. By then, however, I will already have started scratching another itch.
The trials of the past several months drove me the closest to quitting I’ve ever been in the last six years. Why couldn’t I have chosen painting? Or portrait drawing? Or library science?!
I’ve decided that being an artist requires unreasonable hope.
Despite the likelihood that I will constantly be unsatisfied with my art, the likelihood that things will go wrong in the kiln, or my glaze will be ugly, or the form will slump, crack or warp, there is something worthwhile, and maybe even essential to being human, in having hope in what is yet unmade.
People process life in different ways. Maddie Gerig choses art. Or rather, art choses her.
“I couldn’t really imagine my life without making art,” says Gerig, a senior art major and writing minor. “People make art for different reasons… I make art to process what has happened in my day.” Through her multi-media artwork, using primarily clay and steel, Gerig reflects on relationships and daily interactions.
“I enjoy watching
interactions: the weird stuff that people do because of a random thing that happened in their childhood.”
The term Gerig uses for this idea is “gesture.” In art, a gesture is the concept of capturing a glimpse of someone or something, collecting and recreating their essence. This is why Maddie makes art.
She admits that art is an obsession for her, and her involvement in art at college has reflected this trend. Over the course of her time at Goshen, she was president of the Art Club for three years, Best of Show winner at the 2016 Juried Art Show (as well as a winner in three other categories), organizer of the student art sale and intern with six different ceramic artists across four different states.
In the fall of 2015, Goshen College’s business department awarded Gerig a venture grant, which allowed her to start marketing her multimedia art as a business. While Gerig was in the business department’s entrepreneurship class, her culminating project was to create a business plan which she presented and resulted in the grant. Her plan involved two major components: making functional ceramic pieces for businesses and creating fine art pieces.
Gerig has used this grant to further establish her business, and as a result, you can find Gerig’s ceramic pieces throughout the broader Goshen community. Her work can be found at Constant Spring, the Electric Brew, Maple City Market, Rachel’s Bread (now Anna’s Bread), Found and Just Goods in South Bend.
Although Gerig has spent much of her time and energy bolstering her business by creating functional pieces, she has found it quite difficult to break even making solely functional art. People aren’t willing to pay a high price for functional pottery, like a mug, in the same way as they would for a fine art piece.
Gerig lamented the conundrum noting that she would “spend equal or more amounts of time on the functional work but make less money at it.”
Currently Gerig is enjoying being a student and having the opportunity to buy clay through the school at a reduced price as well as having access to the school’s wide range of quality glazes.
Gerig praised the improvements that have been made in the art department in the past year, and in the ceramics lab specifically. “The kiln yard got cleaned out, we got new studio tools, there’s no asbestos…a big shout out to Ken Newbold for that.” That being said, she would like to see further growth happen with the art department.
“I think we have great faculty that care a ton about students. My biggest wish is that there was more integration of the art department on the broader campus.” She made the comparison to the music department, “By putting resources into the music department, Goshen College now has an awesome music department. I think that could be the art department.”
As a senior, Gerig is looking forward to being done with college and putting all of her energy into her art. She is currently compiling artistic portfolios and is looking at a couple potential options, including graduate school and an artist-in-residence program at a clay guild. Whatever she chooses, she hopes that her art can contribute to a better society.
“I recognize that the world is full of enough sad and horrible things,” she said, “and as someone who makes something, I can make something that is not destructive to people. I think there is value in that.”
Read more Record Articles at www.record.goshen.edu
Javi, my brother, and Wendy, my cousin, both eleven years old, and I sat watching El Origen de la Lucha last night (a game show that every Peruvian seems to watch but no one seems to actually like - replays are on the morning news everyday). Both were fiddling on their phones and the room smelled overwhelmingly like feet. Suddenly, the tv blinked out. Complete blackness. We sat unseeing and unmoving for a spell. I giggled.
"I bet it's beautiful out," said Javi. Wendy agreed.
"Let's go to the roof!" I said.
On the roof each of us cradled a bunny in our arms and overlooked our square mile of city that lay in complete darkness. I rubbed the bunny's soft head against my cheek and thought of my dog at home in G-Town, and the feel of her soft ears and whiskery little lips against my cheek too.
There was a half moon, pale honey colored and bright. In our part of the dark city, I could see the reflective glows of car lights on the tops of tall cement buildings, a subtle stream of flickering lights showing me the maze of narrow streets below. Inside my neighbors houses the cold lights of cellphones guided the way across dark houses.
Houses are not soft here. No carpets and they're built with rough cement, steel, red brick or homemade adobe. Code isn't really a thing -- winding narrow staircases, no railings, risky drop offs, Windows with no glass, open roof rooms or simply whole open sides of houses are so common. It's hard to imagine navigating this in the dark...
These weeks here in Ayacucho seem to be a blur looking back. Seems like perhaps I've been in a honeymoon phase with this place the entire five weeks I've been here. And now, with only four days left, I'm just now starting to be irked by the constant honking, crowded streets and dog fights. Some of my annoyances are a given for a foreigner: I'll always be gringa, my Spanish will never keep up, I'll always get too many catcalls, and will never feel totally safe. I miss the freedoms that come with belonging, blending in and knowing that accompany my experience of the states.
All that to say, time is wrapping up, and I'm ready.
Día del Campesino is a little known holiday in Peru that really, only small school children celebrate. I currently work at a Kindergarten with 9 students from 2 to 5 years old. Surprisingly, it's hard to teach 2-5 year olds. (Not surprising).
Dia del Campesino is the day thanking and celebrating the farmers of the Peruvian Andes. For us in Ayacucho, it means celebrating the neighboring pueblos of Ayacucho.
The children arrived at school dressed as miniature Quechua abuelos and abuelitas. They carried pick axes and mantas, and wore tiny, recycled rubber tired sandles. They dressed in the traditional Andean ware of the region, beautiful in their colors, top hats and scarfs. We took the kids to a park, where they pretended to sow seeds. We had a picnic in the shade of the traditional cheese, boiled potatoes, boiled corn and beers with lime.
Additionally, my fellow teachers had a grand time also dressing me as a traditional Quechua woman, fit with wide skirt, frilly blouse, colorful manta and a top hat. I definitely won best dressed gringa for the day.
My aunt joined the picnic and looked around. "Where's Maddie?" She asked.
"Maddie flew back to the states this morning," I responded. They laughed. Thus ends one of the only successful jokes I have made in Spanish. Dia del Campesino was three weeks ago and my coworkers still quote me on this.
I've just finished week ten of my stay in this awesome country: Peru. Today in Ayacucho is the first day I've seen the sky this heavy, and mediodía this cold. I could hear the rain pounding on the tin roof three floors up, and on the street outside all last night. Heavy rain is a comforting sound, especially to a Midwest kid. When my host mother opened the door this morning to sweep the patch of cement of our doorstop, metal clanging loudly at 6am, that cool, fresh smell of after rain swept through the room and I smiled in my early morning daze.
The rain came so hard last night that the wetness on the streets has stayed, settling the dust. I've never seen the streets wet here, usually the dry heat sucks the dampness right back up.
I only am here in Ayacucho one more week and I feel a tug at the corner of my heart when my mom, brother and I snuggle in bed watching our nightly soap, or when my students hug me and yell "gut mornink teach-ar!" Or when my favorite street pup lets me pet it on my way home. I could stay so much longer, I think.
And yet, as the spoiled American that I am, I know, not so deep down, that all I really want is a hot shower and a beer. A good beer, something hoppy. Like a two-hearted. Or better yet, zombie dust. And the shower, dear Jesus, do I need to extrapolate? Nothing against my little laundry tub bathing experiences twice a week. Oh yes, and I'd like to see my family too.