I recently had the good fortune to travel to Spain with a group ceramic artists on the ICAN Ceramics in Barcelona Tour—a mix of cultural tours and ceramic workshops. This is the fourth international tour I have taken as an ICAN host, and with every tour I’m increasingly amazed by how travel can inspire new creative ideas while also slowing down the making process to the point of relaxed artistic experimentation—art for art’s sake. Every day is spent immersed in visual stimulation with like-minded wanderers. When you travel with a group of ceramic artists, everyone is on high alert to the surrounding material stimuli: one person is noticing shape and form in nearby architectural details while another is finding potential glaze decoration in stained-glass windows.
Photos I took of tile patterns and colors from the 2019 ICAN Barcelona Tour. To see more inspiring images from the tour, visit https://ceramicartsnetwork.org/2019-events.
All of this stimulation slowly trickles back to the ceramic workshop in the following days. Soon sketchbooks are filled with innovative forms, original designs for sgraffito etchings, and fresh palettes of glaze colors. Because this type of creative development is generated over the course of several days, in inspiring locations, within a think tank of fellow creative types, the process of making speaks more to ritual, and the made object more to treasure. One develops a relationship not only to the object made but also to the time spent creating it. It’s rare to remember what we make on any given day in our studios; however, that changes when using a bowl with a pattern inspired by tile from the Uffizi floor that you made while overlooking rolling Tuscan hills. That bowl is suddenly so much more than an object. This slow approach to art making—wandering, discovering, discussing, reflecting, sketching, creating—employs all of the senses and reminds us of what it was like to make art for the first time.
Take this issue of PMI with you on your travels this summer and slow down and explore Mike Gesiakowski’s transparent glazes, Jillian Cooper’s underglaze plaid patterns, Eric Heerspink’s Star Wars-inspired decoration, Andrew Clark’s inventive kinetic forms, ideas for tile patterns, plus so much more!