Simply Ornate with A. Blair Clemo

In this installment of the Ceramic Arts Daily Presents video series, A. Blair Clemo shares his unconventional pottery making techniques, which combine handbuilding, press molding, and wheel throwing. The building blocks of Blair’s ...(Scroll for more.)

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Runtime: 3 hours

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…work are two different types of plaster press molds: first a decorative mold that yields an ornamental patty or strip of clay to build from; and second, form molds, into which clay is pressed to create a volumetric form.

After first explaining his simple process for making both types of molds, Blair presents a number of projects showing the various ways he combines these press-molded elements with wheel throwing and handbuilding to create beautiful and unique functional pottery. This video will get your creative wheels rolling as you envision the possibilities with this unorthodox building system. Warning: May cause “oohs” and “ahhs!”

Ornamental Building Blocks

Blair begins the video with by explaining how he generates the one-of-a-kind sprig and strip molds he uses to build his work. While the ornament looks fancy and complex, Blair reveals that they are quite simple to create with basic coils and balls of clay. Once the ornamental prototype is generated, Blair casts a plaster mold so that this decoration can be used over and over when building forms.*

*This video assumes a basic knowledge of plaster mold making. For in-depth instruction on plaster mold making, we suggest Fundamentals of Mold Making and Slip Casting.

Structure and Form

Blair also explains the process for creating “form molds,” which provide the structure for his pieces. From simple thrown and carved prototypes, he makes two-part plaster molds, which he later presses clay into to generate forms.

Piecing and Pressing it Together

Once the building blocks are created, the real magic begins as Blair demonstrates how he puts them to use in a variety of forms. From coil building with the fancy strip molds to press molding decorative sprigs into form molds, the way Blair deftly makes his pots come to life is nothing short of amazing.

Adding Contrast

Blair combines the irregular curves and distorted ornamentation of his mold generated segments with the clean, precise, and round lines that can only be achieved on the potters wheel. This results in a beautiful play of loose against tight.

From A. Blair Clemo’s Artist Statement

“The ornament that makes up this work begins as a press molded strip of fancy clay. As it becomes form, it is squished and distorted by the act of scoring, pinching and assembling. What remains is a tangible display of the struggle between form and ornament. The more complex and visually assertive the form becomes the more the ornament recoils, yielding to the demands of form and utility. The illusion of meticulous ornamentation is threatened by the act of making pots.”

About the Artist

A. Blair Clemo is a potter and assistant professor of craft and material studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. He received his MFA in Ceramics at the New York State College of Ceramics, Alfred University in 2010. Originally from Doylestown Pennsylvania, Clemo spent many years out west studying ceramics and working at small production potteries in Idaho and Montana. He has been an Artist in Residence at The Northern Clay Center (Minneapolis, MN), the Da Wang Culture Highland (Shenzhen, China) and the Zentrum für Keramik (Berlin, Germany) and The International Ceramics Studio (Kecskemét, Hungary) funded by the 2013 NCECA International Partnership Grant. Clemo’s utilitarian and installation work has been included in numerous solo and group exhibitions both nationally and abroad.

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