JEFF NIMEH

Masterpiece

My brother said I created a masterpiece.  I can not live up to those words, but I can say I found one on the number 3 train of the New York City subway in the year 2000.  My dog Barney died in Kyoto, Japan yesterday.  He was my friend, my studio assistant, and my soul.  Image #1 is Barney sleeping after summiting Mount Algonquin in the Adirondacks of New York State in 2009. Image #2 is Barney charging after a full snow in the East Village dog run of New York City.  Image #3 is Barney under the cherry blossoms in half-bloom in Kyoto, Japan in 2012.  Image #4 is Barney the day I found him in late August of 2000. Consequently, the same week in 2000 a man found a human baby on the New York City subway platform.  Now that baby is 12 years old and in good care.  The same judge who expedited the adoption of that baby, also married into law the man who found that baby, to the man he loves, in New York State, once the law allowed it. http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/28/we-found-our-son-in-the-subway/?hp  If there is one thing Barney represents, it is love.  Thank you for everything Barney.  I love you.

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The Front Line

Last week highlighted some kiln disasters. This post illustrates two large kyushu porcelain works made this week (25 and 27 inches in height) drying, waiting for surface design, and then firing. Without the momentum of a good firing, you can see the fear in the eyes of these pieces. Oh, wait, perhaps the fear is in my eyes. I forgot they are just inanimate objects. Exhibition date, 12 days and counting...

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An Elephant Falls

Opening a kiln is a gut-wrenching experience for me.  This past Saturday was a humbling day.  A kiln loaded with three, 24-inch works, equated to a meltdown.  I trimmed the vessels too thin toward the foot, such that they could not survive the heat.  (At peak temperature, the porcelain gets soft like 'taffy', where by all structural deficiencies are revealed.)  Upon seeing what happened in this kiln, the image of a fallen elephant came to mind.  These where large, majestic works, with many hours put into each one.  (It doesn't help things that my exhibition is 3 weeks away.)  I return back to the wheel, ready to make adjustments from what I learned. The image below shows one of the collapsed porcelain pieces on it's side.

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A Gathering

This week I have been fitting lids to these small covered pieces I threw about 6 weeks ago.  As a size reference, each work fits in the palm of your hand. Next steps will be applying strategically placed porcelain inlay and possibly gold.  What pieces make it through the final firing will be part of the upcoming exhibition in March.  These containers can be used for just about anything or nothing at all.  I love seeing them in a gathering such as this.

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Form and Flower

The piece featured this week is a bowl-shaped vessel I am working on for the upcoming exhibition in March.  Most likely I will inlay a blue or black porcelain line around the entire lip of the piece (similar to blog post 'A River for Inspiration'), with a simple clear glaze on the vessel's interior only.  I am considering displaying the vessel with flowers in an ikebana style, having a local Kyoto flower artist do the arrangement.  Below, the first image shows the vessel being thrown, and the second the piece freshly trimmed and drying on a shelf.

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Kyoto Show

This February, Barney and I are busy preparing for my first solo showing in Japan.  The exhibition begins March 19th in Kyoto and detailed information can be found under 'exhibitions' on the main page of the blog.  The studio is cold now in Japan and the image below shows Barney carefully backing his way out of the studio, returning to his bed for a late morning nap, after bringing me a pail of hot water.  Meanwhile, I'm wedging Kyushu porcelain on the floor. I will try to include images of work in progress in the final few weeks prior to the show.

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Black Beauty

This week exhibits another black porcelain vase I made, however, this one looks like it went through stretch mode on Photoshop.  The lines on this piece are near perfect, but I feel there is too much tension in the completed form.  Sometimes proportions can be taken too far.  The piece has taken on a mind of its own and thinks it's better than it is.  I better take a hammer to it before it gets the chance to cause anyone harm.

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Monument

When taking formal photographs of my work I usually come up with titles for the vessels. I look at the piece and name it simply by what comes to mind. For this work, the word 'monument' seemed fitting.  Somehow the composition of the image reminded me of the 'monument' in the second photograph. As we move past inauguration day in the United States lets wish for some smart and peaceful resolutions domestically and worldwide. I have family caught in a partisan war in the United States and in a violent war in Syria.  Which war is your family a part of?  Hey World... stop for a minute and catch your breath; all of this conflict is getting a bit ridiculous.

The Heron or The Egg

A narrow-necked heron laid an egg on a small rock toward the middle of the Kamogawa in Kyoto today.  Immediately following, it turned and simply walked away.  Abandonment is common within the species should the offspring display more attractive physical characteristics than the parent.  I believe the mother heron to be better looking, but it's a rather subjective assessment I suppose.

Theft on Broome Street

One year prior to leaving for Kyoto I was 'lucky' enough to store my ceramic equipment, display shelving, and actual pottery vessels, in an abandoned building on Broome Street in Manhattan.  There was no rent, but in exchange came high risk and some drama.  That final year saw my belongings exchange hands between two young Israeli guys squatting in the building, Ron Paul's 2012 New York City presidential campaign team (don't ask), and a mysterious someone who transferred most of my things from the 3rd to the 5th floor of the building.  All said and done, I maintained possession of all my things and ceramic work, with the exception of the piece below.  It is out there somewhere, sitting on a nice piece of furniture I hope.

As a historical reference for the person who has this work, it was inspired by a classic Chinese and Korean pottery form.  The Chinese version is known as a 'Meiping' (plum vase), and the Korean version a 'Maebyeong'.  This was my interpretation of the form that includes incised concentric rings with character carvings on the porcelain.  The glaze is in the style of a celadon, but I derived the color green by means of copper and nickel oxides rather than the traditional use of iron.

A Resolution from the Wheel

The first day of 2013 yielded these works.  I have never unloaded a kiln on the first day of the year actually.  Tending a kiln during New Year's Eve has not proved advantageous in the past for multiple reasons.  These pieces are actually test works for a grouping of about thirty similar pieces I have in progress for an exhibition this March in Kyoto. The first two images show a small porcelain box with black porcelain inlay and gold, the second two images show a white porcelain with blue porcelain inlay, and gold.  As a size reference, the flatter piece measures 1.5"high x 3.5"wide and slender piece 4.5" high x 1.75" wide. Happy New Year.

Ornament

One year becomes one day, as a piece of pottery breaks in my hand.  One year becomes one hundred years, as a piece of pottery finishes in perfect form.  Such are the realities of life, and the life of a craftsman.  Peace, Love, and Happy Holidays.

Below are a few pieces from the past.  It is nice to bring out the same ornaments every year.

The Signature

What do Willem de Kooning, BDDW, and Jeff Nimeh have in common? Ask your local fine art gallery owner to research such a commonality, and I guarantee you will come up empty handed.  However, a painting by the uber famous Willem de Kooning, a credenza created by the best furniture company in the world (BDDW), and a trio of vases by me, did end up in proximity inside this home.  My thanks to the designer who curated this for the tremendous honor. Please forgive the poor photo quality on this post; unfortunately it is all I have.  A little blurry... but it's there... sometimes a signature holds some weight.

Gravity

As a ceramic artist, every so often, I find myself feeling a pang of envy for those in the performing arts.  I was lucky to attend two amazing performances last week in Kyoto.  One was a musical duet by German musicians, Ulrike Haage (piano) and Eric Schaefer (percussion/drums).  The second was by Japanese dancer Yuka Saeki.  The performances were raw and spontaneous, and for me had more to do with what they made me feel, than the sound or movement. Can a piece of pottery, or any visual art for that matter, evoke the same intensity of feeling?  This is something I will be pondering as the year comes to a close.

Image #1 shows me in the early stages of throwing a pot.  Image #2 is Yuka Saeki during her performance last week.  She is a member of Japanese dance troupe The Monochrome Circus, www.monochromecircus.com .  Image #3 shows ceramic drums that were played by Eric Schaefer this past week.  The drums were made by Japanese ceramic artist Takatsukasa Shinozaki, art.dvoi.com/articles/112/ancient-echoes/#.UMb4SaXGdvB .

The Ground Above

Pan a little gold, dig a pound of clay, mine a rough diamond, and raise a sheet of moss... combine the four...  I gave this ring to my wife for her graduation, and commencement of her career as an art conservator.  I made the lidded box from white porcelain from Japan's most southern island, Kyushu.  The ring is made of 22K gold, and bezel set with a rose-cut bronze colored diamond.  It was beautifully crafted by New York jeweler Jill Anish, www.jillanish.com. The moss was gathered from the summit of one of the eastern mountains that border Kyoto City.

The Four Seasons

If you visit Japan, you may be told that it is the only country that has four seasons.  On hearing this, you may claim the statement ridiculous. However, should you live here for a year or more, your doubt may well transition to belief.  For one, in Japan you learn to live 'within' each season. By this I mean your approach to heating and cooling yourself, and drying the things you wear, are dependent on the weather and season.  Laundry is line dried, and heating and cooling is done only within the room you occupy.  For the truly 'first world' country that Japan is, this is remarkable, and I believe much can be learned from this lifestyle approach.

Late November marks the peak of Autumn in Kyoto, and everyone takes time to savor the subtlety of the natural surroundings.  Landscaping is curated in a way that almost forces the viewer to observe an individual tree, flower, or leaf, instead of in clusters.  In early Autumn this year I didn't even notice the leaf color change.  I was looking for something more spectacular I think, one which characterizes the Autumn in the northeastern United States.  There is a different natural aesthetic in Japan that can go unnoticed if you don't remove your glasses.

The first image below shows a ginkgo leaf fully transformed to Autumn-gold coloration.  It is set in a ceramic piece I own by Kyoto ceramic artist, Shouhei Fujita.  (The ceramic is actually a water dropper, but for this image, I inverted it as a vase.)  The following three images show the details of a porcelain jar I recently completed.  This piece highlights 24K gold accents along with cobalt-blue porcelain inlay.  I love the look of 22 karat and 24 karat gold metal (jewelry), from which this gold surface was inspired.  Porcelain and gold will again be the themes of next week's blog entry.  See you then...

The Harvest

I began working in the style of ceramics you see on this post about 10 years ago.  In making pottery, my pursuit is based mostly in search of a certain aesthetic, yet also in the pursuit to overcome technical challenges that co-exist with creating the work.  My ceramics are gradually changing and may eventually result in a strikingly different aesthetic.  However, I have come to realize there is still much to explore within anything, as long as the fruits of the subject matter keep maturing.

Below I have highlighted two pieces from my firing the week prior.  The kiln yielded about 25 works, but these two embody the aesthetic I attempt to achieve.  In the case of these small pots, I started with just one pound of porcelain each.  To get it right, many correct decisions had to be made during the making process.  This does not always occur, yet on occasion the combination of intention and process align.

Heat Miser

I have a plan to place my unfired pottery in a heat-resistant cage, attach that to a heat-resistant balloon, and fly it out of the Earth's atmosphere and back, eliminating my need for a kiln on Earth.  The sun has some 10,000° F on it's surface and I need just about 2,300° F.  The heat-resistant cage is finished, however, I'm outsourcing the balloon project to China, and they will not have it complete until next year.  My patience is dwindling. This is a firing week actually, which equates to lots and lots and lots of hours of work being subjected to the test of intense heat.  The idea is to bring the porcelain to a temperature just short of structural collapse, then shutting the kiln off, reducing the temperature gradually.  This is a potentially rewarding time but also a very emotional one, due to expected and unexpected outcomes.  Sometimes I want to leave my pieces on the studio shelf unfired, for fear of what might happen to them in the kiln.  Next week's blog entry will highlight the porcelains from beyond the circular glare of image #1, if anything survives.

Image #1 illustrates the 'spy hole' (a small hole in the front of the kiln, allowing you to see inside) of my kiln at peak temperature.  Image #2 is simply an amateur photo that NASA took of the Sun.

Neutral Force

Two objects in porcelain are presented below.  One functions as a container, the other as an emitter.  I strive for my ceramics to possess a 'neutral force', a kind of pulse, both containing and giving forth energy.  This first image shows a lidded container I made this year, true to my aesthetic, but with more emphasis on ornamentation for sure.  I have come to love lidded vessels.  There is something very complete about a skillfully constructed jar. The second image illustrates a lamp from a series of lighting I made, on display at BDDW in New York City.  To date, my lighting has stayed true to the classic 'base and shade' combination.  Sometimes I find it difficult to remove myself from the classics.

Jewel Box

A recent New York Times article ('True Blue Stands Out in an Earthy Crowd', Oct. 12, 2012) confirmed my love for the ultramarine-blue, chromium-green color juxtaposition.  The article discussed the scarcity of blue coloration in nature and highlighted Pollia Condensata, an African plant thought to be the brightest blue terrestrial object in nature.  If I was ever able to create something as beautiful as this first image illustrates, my reason for further ceramic pursuit would cease!

That said, I did compose the latter three images before encountering this magical blue plant.  The vessels in image 2 and 4 were photographed against a moss bed in a southern Kyoto temple.  The composition in image 3 was captured some four years prior while working with two toxic barium carbonate glazes (precautions taken); one with high percentages of cobalt oxide yielding ultramarine blue, the other containing high concentrations of chromium oxide producing gorgeous acid greens.  I was a bit thrilled noticing the similarities between the blue berries of the plant and the round blue vessel in image 2, so inspiring this blog entry.       

                                                                                              Photo Credit: Silvia Vignolini et al.via PNAS