50 Shades of Clay (or the making of the Equamore mural)

20150218_160346Greetings to all my loyal friends and art enthusiasts!

I wanted to let you all know what is happening in my life and on the Horses of Equamore mural (FINALLY!).

2014 was a crazy busy year for me, beginning with receiving a $4,000 grant from the Haines Foundation of Ashland in late July! I proposed creating a mural I could call my creation from start to finish as a way to build my portfolio and help myself get future work as a mosaic artist. I was excited, but also a bit daunted, as I knew I would have to raise at least $10,000 more in order to really “get paid” for all my work.

I chose the theme of the mural, the horses of the Equamore Foundation, as I felt that there was a strong connection between the community of Talent where I live, and the horse culture that is all around us here in the Rogue Valley of Southern Oregon. I was introduced to the foundation by Anna Clay, owner of the Grotto Pizza where the mural will be installed. Anna is a huge supporter of animal welfare causes, so it seemed a good match to me, and luckily she agreed! Here is a link to the mock up of what the mosaic will look like, minus a good number of wildlife tiles that will be added in to the final piece, in situ.

I also had to go through the City of Talent to get approval from the City Council, and still have to get permits finalized through Planning before installation on the Grotto.

In August I put together an Indiegogo.com crowd funding campaign which started in early September and ran for a month. I slowly started raising money one dollar (or sometimes 75 cents!) at a time.indigogo card copy

In addition to the horses, the mural will also include many other examples of wildlife that can be found in Southern Oregon. I “sold” folks the chance to have their names put onto an animal tile from a selection of around 45 tiles, which will be set into the final mosaic as an integral piece, rather than as an aside. I liked the idea, which I borrowed with permission from Eileen Barr who co-created the 163 steps project in San Francisco. She was a great resource for me in terms of how to handle fundraising and integrating the community into the project. Thanks Eileen!

I was ultimately successful in the last hours of the campaign and made my goal, which enabled me to pay a lower fee to Indiegogo and keep more for the project! THANK YOU to everyone who pitched in, large or small, it all matters! I am feeling so blessed and so happy to have the support of the community, my friends, and my family.

Then I took the next 6-8 weeks for prepping wares for the annual Clayfolk Show and Sale at the Medford Armory, which was also quite a success. More good vibes!

I began right after the Clayfolk Show getting set up to create this giant project consisting of a 27 foot long, 2.5 foot tall handmade ceramic tile mosaic depicting the horses of the Equamore Foundation, a local rescue for abused and neglected horses.

I purchased a “portable” carport/tent to use as an outdoor annex to my tiny studio. You can see the back of my studio just in front of the tent.

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It looks small here, but is 12 x 20 feet of room that I’m loving having already. It will be even nicer when it warms up and I can be out there all the time!

Next, my friend Rick Evans, fellow artist, and previous co-worker from Illahe Tileworks, found me a used slab roller on Craigslist.20150119_142143I’ve wanted one of these for a long time, but never had the space. Now I do! It’s very exciting and I rolled out my first slab today. I’m a little rusty on the how part, but it HAS been about 6 years since I’ve used one of these babies. And I’m attempting to do large slabs of clay — approximately 24″ x 30″. I’m feeling my age today!

Once I’m done with this blog post and the slab has stiffened up just a little, I will begin to cut out the shapes for the first pieces. Whoot! Whoot!

I had the full mural design blown up onto paper at 111% original size to use as a template. I coated the entire thing with clear contact paper to protect it from tearing and make it more resistant to the moisture in the clay.20150129_131949 Then I cut out pieces from the template that would be more manageable in size and shape. I made a corresponding “map” of the final piece so I knew where each piece would go once they were finished.

Yep. I pretty much just made a giant puzzle!

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Each of these pieces will be placed on the clay and cut around as well as transferring the design to the face of the tile as a guide. I still am a little undecided how I’ll tackle creating “mosaic” pieces for the background, but I think it’ll work out. Sometimes you have to figure things out as you do them to see what will work and what won’t.

And finally today, I’ve been creating my own version of the whole 50 Shades genre by doing glaze tests for the project. My own 50 Shades of Clay!20150218_160346

I am using Amaco Velvets underglaze with a clear sprayed on top to bring out the color and protect it from the dirt and weather. I’m loving the palette so far. I realize there are only 48 colors here, but more tests are on the way!

That’s where I am on the process so far, as I am concurrently working on a public commission for the McMinnville Library. This will be a lily pond mosaic I’m co-creating with my friend and fellow mosaic artist Lynn Adamo of Hillsboro. Coverage on that project in the next blog post!

Oh! and don’t miss seeing how all the Haines Foundation recipients used their grant money — join all 18 of us at the Ashland Art Center on March 6th (First Friday) from 5-8pm for an exhibit of everyone’s works and works in progress!

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December is here already?!

Whew! what a crazy busy time last month was!

The 38th Annual Clayfolk show was a resounding success and I want to thank all of my supporters for coming out to make it our best year ever.  I was honored with the front page of the Medford Mail Tribune’s Tempo this year, and I have no doubt it helped me immeasurably.1

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My platters came out great- and I was able to do a trade with my friend Julie Young for wonderful photographs of my work. Here are a few:

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I totally enjoyed myself and did well in sales to boot. Bonus. However, I’m still trying to recover my energy to move on to new endeavors. I think the adrenaline is what took me through last weekend-and this week has been a long crash.

My first order of business after the show was to clean the house (which had been let go for far too long) do some laundry, and create the class description for my next workshop: Mosaic LOVE. I hope some of you can join me for this fun and informative class!

heart2Mosaic LOVE: A Class for Beginners of All Things Mosaic with Karen Rycheck

The mosaic art form is experiencing a resurgence all over the world – and you can be a part of it! Come get a taste of this dynamic and versatile art form while making a fun valentine gift for your sweetie, your mom, or yourself! We will be creating a small project to whet your appetite and give you the basic skills needed to begin creating in mosaic. Your first three hour session will be cutting and laying tesserae (pieces), the second one hour session will be grouting and finishing your piece.
Saturday February 1, from 10:00 am – 1:00 pm, and Saturday February 8,              from 11:00 am – 12:00 pm

$50 Members, $60 General
All materials provided
Ages 13 +
Click here for the registration form
Please register by Tuesday, January 28
Questions? Email karaQlewis@gmail.com

Or peruse the Ashland Art Center class schedule on their site at http://www.ashlandartcenter.org

This could make a unique Christmas gift for someone, or a fun activity to do together- so grab a friend and sign up NOW.

I’m also going to move my potters wheel indoors for the winter, so I can continue to practice and create more good looking bowls, yet still be warm and comfy. I gave away my futon couch on Craigslist-took less than 16 hrs. for it to disappear-to make the space for the wheel. Now I just need shelves for the work! One can never have enough shelves it seems. So if anyone wants to help transform the bedroom into an annex studio-give me a call 😉

Coming soon- the fictional downtown of Bedford Falls (from Frank Capra’s classic film It’s a Wonderful Life) in CAKE. By yours truly. I have to admit to loving food sculpture-as long as it isn’t taken too seriously. But I do like a challenge, and this will prove to be one. Stay tuned for that adventure.

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving and were able to give thanks for the wonderful lives we all have. Even when I’m whining and struggling I am always grateful to my clients, readers, friends, and family; without whom my life would be dull, dull, dull. Thanks everyone!  xxoo