Mending001Breakage resulting from an unfortunate shipping accident.

If you’ve come over from NCECA Minneapolis 2019, welcome! This is the first of a series of posts relating to a demonstration I will be giving with TJ Erdahl titled “Get Your Fix,” on Thursday March 28th at 4pm in Ballroom B (or, the NCECA Makerspace.)

In 2017, TJ Erdahl was a visiting artist at Indiana University in Bloomington, where I was a graduate student at the time. During his visit, our conversation turned to the topic of patching and mending ceramic sculpture. As a graduate student, I was having to do a lot of crack filling and mending breakage on my figure sculptures, so this topic was fresh on my mind. I had previously talked to Chris Boger about this, one of my professors at IU and a legend in the figure sculpting community. She told me that patching and mending was commonly done among figure artists, even though it wasn’t openly talked about. When TJ arrived, I wanted to confirm what Chris had said, so I asked him if he also mended his figure work. He immediately agreed that he did and soon, the conversation turned from shop talk to a strong feeling that we should do something about the fact that this topic has been treated like an unmentionable secret among ceramics professionals. Thus the idea for our NCECA demo was born.

The demo, and this series of blog posts, is our effort to get information about this topic out into the world. Our mission is both to share information and techniques that we and other artists have come up with through our own trial-and-error experiments, and to dispel some of the shame and silence that surrounds this issue in the ceramics community. We’ve spoken to many ceramic artists who have reported that they patch, mend, assemble, and surface their work using bisque-mend products, ground-up pyrometric cones, epoxies, wood filler, plaster, latex paint, encaustic wax, and other non-clay materials. The debate on mended work and the debate on mixed media and ceramics follow a similar track in the clay community, which is why I mention them together here. Many artists we interviewed for this project enthusiastically added input and shared their own methods with us, including Tip Toland, Beth CavenerArthur Gonzalez, Sam Chung, Chandra DeBuse, Susannah ZuckerHannah Cameron, Ariel Bowman, and Luke Huling. I want to take this opportunity to thank all of these artists from the bottom of my heart for their contributions, and willingness to share on this topic. I will share some of their contributions with you via later entries in this blog series, through NCECA’s blog, and during our demonstration.

If you are an NCECA-goer, I hope to see you at our demonstration. Otherwise, please enjoy the following blog series covering this topic. I hope you find something helpful, informative, or share in our sense of excitement to be having this conversation with fellow ceramic artists.