Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Works in Progress as Summer Ends

Life and work move ahead here in Massachusetts. The beautiful summer is on it's way out and the cool calm of autumn is creeping in. I have a hard time making myself keep a strict studio schedule when it is nice outside and I can be at the beach; plus taking a break from making allowed for a nagging wrist to become better.

                                                                From the beach

Back to the studio

 There is something to this monotone thing. It is a good way to further investigate form.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016


One of the benefits to working as Chris Gustin's studio assistant is access to the wood kiln. Having a regular place to create wood fired work is always something that energizes me and my work. The kiln is quite large, and thus is only fired twice a year, however. What this has meant for me is having to create a new way to finish my work outside of the wood kiln. Having worked in our small studio in Mexico gave me plenty of experience finishing my work using only an electric kiln; looks like I am back to my old tricks. The electric kiln gives me a great chance to work with color, something I certainly enjoy.

These works are all terra cotta with a porcelain slip and mason stain for the color. I fire the terra cotta at the high end of its range, cone 4, and waxed the surfaces with a mixture of beeswax and paraffin to give the pieces a "still wet" look. This simple detail really helps to make these surfaces luscious. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

New Website and Instagram

The past few months have been quite busy as we have moved from our home and studio in Mexico to our new home in South Dartmouth, MA.  My wife, Renata, is currently working on her MFA at UMass Dartmouth while I am working as Chris Gustin's studio assistant.  In addition to the exciting opportunity to learn from someone as knowledgeable as Chris, I also have my own studio space and am continuing my work.  One big change for my work will be the re-introduction of wood firing. This, along with the ability to make larger work (mostly because I have access to larger kilns) will be driving my newest works.

In this time of transition, I have made it a priority to update and re-organize my digital presence.  I am happy to introduce my new website, which will be a collecting point for images of finished work, as well as other information about my work.  I intend to continue to use this blog as a means to share work in process and will keep updating with regularity.  I am also pleased to announce the launch of my new Instagram account - @craig.hartenberger - which will be another avenue for me to share my in progress and finished works. I am looking forward to the change of rhythm and the shifts that this new perspective will bring to my work.

My studio space and new work table

Thursday, July 30, 2015

New Work

We are finishing our last few weeks here in Mexico before we move to Massachusetts this fall.  The last push in the studio has been quite productive and some good work has come out of this most recent cycle.  I am excited as we move to this next stage in our lives and careers to have access to wood kilns again, it has been some time since I have fired with wood and look forward to making work for this type of firing again. Coming from a background based mostly in atmospheric firing, working this past year with only an electric kiln has made me re-evaluate my work and has forced me to develop new ways to view my work. Firing in an electric kiln necessitates that you give everything to the work, you will get nothing from the kiln. I look forward to working again with wood firing and am excited to see how this period away from the wood kiln will inform my work when I am again firing wood kins.

Here is some work from the most recent cycle here in our studio. All of the work is made with a locally dug red earthenware, slip, and stains and is all fired to around cone 02.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Work in Our Studio in Mexico

This fall, we will make a move to Massachusetts where Renata will begin her MFA at UMass Dartmouth.  During these busy last few months as we have been preparing for our move, studio time has been less frequent, however the time I have found to work has been quite productive.  It will certainly be a change moving from our very cozy studio here in Mexico to a new setting several thousands of miles away, but we are excited for what the future holds for us as we make this transition.

Our simple studio here in Mexico

We will have one last big push in our studio here as we prepare work for a duo exhibition to be held at the Museo de Antropolog√≠a in Xalapa, Veracruz in June of 2016. We are excited for this chance to make another round of collaborative work and look forward to the possibilities for exploration that this exhibition holds.  

In my own work, I have been combing through familiar themes and looking for new ways to present  my ideas. As always, I am interested in letting the material speak something of its own and doing my best to respond and contribute to the conversation.  One thing I have been looking for in my recent work is another type of form that can serve as a "stage" to the structural elements which have so captivated my recent works. I had some slab-built forms which I ultimately decided to take apart, and rather than recycling the clay, I decided to use these slabs again and build new forms with them. This technique ties in well conceptually with the way I have been thinking of my work recently; building from scraps and remnants to create forms that are both coming together and falling apart simultaneously. The idea of creating something which is at once both entering and leaving a space has been in the front of my mind. 

An example of bases I have been making

On these bases I have been adding structural elements. With adding these elements I am never interested in perfection, sometimes interested in symmetry, and always interested in movement. Due to the way I add these elements, there can be a lot of stress puling the material in may different ways. Although I add paper and a good deal of grog to the clay, I cannot totally eliminate the cracking and pulling that is a result of the material stress during drying. However, as I said earlier, I am most interested in work that has a dual expression of growth and decay, so rather than seeing cracking and pulling as a defect, I see it as something which enhances the work and provokes my imagination into new ways that the material can be used. 

As has been my vision before, I like to have the top structural elements decorated with bright and vibrant colors.  Rather than dipping or spraying the colored slip I use, I apply it all with a brush. Working this way is obviously much more time consuming, one work can take hours to fully color, but there is something in the process that I appreciate, some element which I find very valuable. I cannot quite put into words what this is, but I have a feeling that the work would not be the same without this slow and persistent part of the process. When firing, I take the materials out of their intended range. I do this to darken and further harden the clay as well as to slightly over melt the slip. This over melting gives the slip an appearance of being continually wet, though not with the exact shine of a glaze. 

A piece with the colored slip applied