In the Studio: 2018 Jerome Ceramic Artist Project Grant Progress Reports

We are more than half-way through the Jerome Ceramic Artist Project Grant award year with just over a month to their exhibition, Three Jerome Artists. We’ve checked in on our 2018 recipients to hear about their progress.

Heather Barr didn’t waste any time getting her ball mill up and running to do multiple tests with different terra sigillata (or terra sig) recipes. She began working on a number of new functional forms, including a lidded pot that she says, “will be great for food storage!” Most recently she has started getting successful results from her pursuit of colored terra sig and is aiming to complete some small wares to specifically showcase her new color palette and efforts. “I'm slightly nervous about how many pieces I'm going to get completed, but I'm hopeful the cups I'm making to showcase the terra sig will demonstrate that a lot of the work has been testing and research based.” In Barr’s original proposal she shared that her research had plateaued and imagined, “A ball mill would allow for experimentation in materials…leading to richer surface opportunities and a greatly increased color palette.” It seems she is indeed going to get the data she hoped to retrieve with her new equipment.

Heather Barr stands proudly in her studio, ready to put her ball mill through its paces. Barr happily putting her ball mill through its paces.

Alex Chinn had a bit of an unfortunate delay in the start of his investigations due to a tendon injury which restricted him to only moving around two pounds of clay at a time. While he patiently worked through his recovery, he kept things moving along by examining a number of photos of tobacco barns he took the last time he was out east, which allowed him to settle on the geometry of the form for his project. Chinn wanted to push scale in a way that would influence human interaction with his forms. He planned to examine materials for exterior durability and to develop a body of work inspired by the landscape and architecture of his birthplace in rural Massachusetts.

“I have been contemplating the golden ratio and the Fibonacci sequence. The geometry of the barn form has a wall one unit high, two units wide, and three units long (first three numbers of the sequence) the roof is an 8/12 pitch (from the photos) which is also 2/3 (2nd and 3rd numbers in the sequence). I thought it would be interesting to use the sequence to help determine the scale of the work as well. I drew up the sizes for forms beginning with a one-inch high wall. Then 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55 and 89. In short order the form goes from just over an inch at the roof top to over 12 feet. The three- or five- inch wall will probably be the size to make multiples of.”

As the exhibition date nears, Chinn reports that materials and surface treatment for indoor works have begun to make more sense and that he has also had some success with atmospheric firings. He has employed a Grolleg porcelain paper clay to achieve the surface and stability he desires. He plans to use the remaining time to close in on his outdoor materials and larger scale works. “I still have a number of issues to resolve with the larger pieces.”

Templates Chinn arrived at with the Fibonacci Sequence as his guide.

Results of his formal investigations intended for interior display.

Mitch Iburg wanted to examine Minnesota’s mineral resources, broaden the technical and visual vocabularies of local materials in the field of ceramic art, and question the role of materials use in defining the boundaries between ceramic and sculpture. So, by the middle of summer, Iburg was up to his ankles in Fond Du Lac Sandstone just south of Duluth, MN.“The Fond Du Lac sandstone is quite rare compared to others throughout the state due to its high feldspar and volcanic stone content. Its mineral composition allows it to achieve greater durability and strength after firing. I’m amazed by portrayal of time through layers and the haphazard beauty of jumbled piles of sandstone found along Mission Creek, where the waters have eroded fragments from this heavily striated deposit and left them in large, mounded piles.” 

In his studio he revisited the idea of ‘arrangement’ in both controlled and unrestrained compositions of stones, which are fluxed together using a clay-rich glacial soil.This fall, he’s been researching the properties of different stones collected throughout the state and their potential to flux and add color to a fused, durable object without the use of any clay - essentially making a cast glaze from found materials. He seems to have found a balance of materials which are bisque fired, crushed to a coarse sand, then poured into a trough, and fired to cone 6 in oxidation. The information will be applied to a series of larger objects and a wider range of forms.

Collecting sandstone from the Fond Du Lac Formation, south of Duluth, MN

Fused disk of pink granite, rhyolite, quartz monzonite, and slate. Fired to cone 6 in oxidation

All of the Jerome Ceramic Artist Project Grant recipients have been using their grant year to be engaged in very methodical investigations.

Don't forget to get your own application ready for the 2020 Jerome Ceramic Artist Project Grant cycle! Applications are due February 10, 2020 at 5 pm. What are you waiting for? The only way to receive the award is to put yourself forward. Remember – there is no passion to be found in living small! 

Contact Kyle Rudy-Kohlhepp, Deputy Director of Operations and Director of Learning & Artist Services at with your questions.

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