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Journal

News from Dowd House Studios: places to find our pottery, exhibitions, classes & workshops, new forms and exciting projects.

Filtering by Category: Process

Park(ing) Day 2019

Jenny Dowd

PARK(ing) Day happened on September 20th in Jackson. This is a day (all over the country) where artists reimagine parking spaces into places of possibility. This was the 5th year Jackson has been involved, organized by Jackson Hole Public Art, and my first year participating.

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Check out last week’s Journal entry to see how I built my cart…

Once the cart was finished, I could focus on the final touches. A fabric canopy was made to provide shade, I kept this simple by sewing a piece of fabric then drawing a little embellishment on the edge. It’s rather rickety - so at this point I started hoping for a day without wind.

I’ve been making flowers for the cart all summer, some even came from past projects. I put my dad to work cutting stems (wire) for the clay flowers. Each type of flower made from porcelain.

After bisque firing the flower, the stem is attached, then it gets bathed with color… I used a mix of acrylic and whiting (calcium carbonate) and then layers of watercolor.

The finished flowers were poked into the styrofoam inserts that line the cart, and after a test of the awning, plus the addition of signs, it was ready for a parking space!

On a wet, cold, rainy Friday morning Jeny’s Flower Cart opened! I had to set up a tent over my parking space so it wouldn’t melt. I was located in front of Hand Fire Pizza on a very busy Cache Street.

The gloomy, cold day was made cheerful as I invited people walking by to make flower bouquets for free! I have no idea how many flowers I made, and no idea how many I gave away, but I probably went home with less than half of what was started with.

For a little history on the flower cart…

In 2016 I was invited to create an artwork for a Tiny Art Show curated by JH Public Art. Since the show was featured at the People’s Market (a farm & art market in Jackson) I thought a tiny flower stand would be welcome. I made a little cardboard shelf that would hang on the wall and filled it with clay flowers, bouquets, and vases.

A year later after Penny Lane Cooperative opened on Scott Lane, the businesses on that block had a “Midtown Throw-Down” and invited artists to sell their work during the evening event. Since I was already selling my pottery in Penny Lane, I decided to make a concessioner’s tray full of flowers, and walked around during the event selling flowers.

It seemed that the next logical step would be a flower cart, it took me a few years to find the right venue and to plan and build the cart.

Not sure what’s next, but I’m looking forward to a break from making flowers!

Flower: Factory & Cart

Jenny Dowd

I am working on a mound of pottery orders… but first, flowery public art events!

Last week I was invited to participate in a Town Square Takeover. This artist space was created by Wildly Creative Jackson Hole and the Center for the Arts. 6 artists showcased what they do during 3 afternoon takeovers on the Jackson Town Square. Read all about it here.

My takeover was on Friday September 6th and I invited people to participate in a Flower Factory.

I made lots of signs out of cardboard, and collected some safety equipment, since safety is a big concern in the Flower Factory.

7 stations explained how to make a crepe paper flower - the type of flower the factory was producing on that particular day. Many participants came by and safely made flowers, I’m happy to say there were no incidents of lost time and flowers were produced and distributed to nearby people.

Another type of flower factory is currently in the works - I am participating in PARKing Day on September 20th. For this event, artists and designers are invited to take over a parking space in Jackson (and all over the country!) from 10am - 6pm.

I am creating a flower cart that will be parked in my space where flowers and bundles of flowers will be distributed (free!) to all who would like them. So, to get ready for this event, I am making a flower cart out of cardboard. This project is currently taking over the clay studio… and Merlin is not a happy studio cat.

The start was pretty simple, then the wheels and handles got a bit tricky…

Each wheel does spin on an axle, but I just couldn’t figure out how to make this happen from the start in my small space. So each wheel is fitted on a short tube that allows it to spin and also provides a place to attach. To connect the wheel, I made a thick triangular shaped piece that the tube could fit through and is also connected to the base of the cart. Once the triangular shape was connected, the wheels spun but needed a little more support. A longer tube / axle was used to connect the wheels. Now the cart can move on the wheels… but I doubt it would hold up for much of a journey!

The handles also posed a small challenge. I didn’t want them to be flimsy and also wanted to avoid getting things hung up on them before the event. Deciding to make them somewhat detachable, shorter inserts were attached to the cart, allowing longer handles to slide over. It’s not a big difference, but it does take up a tiny bit less room in my space and offers more strength to the handle. This should make transporting the cart a little easier next week.

Tons of measuring yet still rather wonky. The inside is fitted with pieces of styrofoam that will hold the flowers. So hopefully the rest is the fun part… signs, an awning, and lots and lots of tiny flowers…

Visit me on September 20th, 10am - 6pm in front of Hand Fire Pizza on Cache Street in Jackson. And I’ll publish an update next weekend showing how the cart got finished!

Clouds & Cupcakes: Part 1

Jenny Dowd

Clouds & Cupcakes has been in the works for over a year - and as usual, most of the physical work has happened in the past few months. I’m always happy to have a show deadline on the calendar, it seems so far off with endless possibilities. Even though the final few months is always a scramble - it’s actually a carefully controlled chaos of a scramble because there has been so much time to think, and plan, and test, and dream.

Clouds & Cupcakes will open at Mystery Print Gallery & Frame in Pinedale on September 5 and will be on display until November 1. If you are in the area stop by for the opening reception from 5 - 7, with an artist talk at 6.

This is a show I’ve been turning over in the back of my head for close to 2 years and initially invited painter Shannon Troxler to tackle the space with me. The title didn’t emerge until this past very snowy cold January, and came from a specific feeling that I’ve found difficult to put into a few words. We started talking about this dreamy idea of clouds & cakes and that led to inviting poets Matt Daly and Connie Wieneke to join.

Today we are installing the show and I can’t wait to see all the work come together. I’ll publish the second half of this entry next Saturday with all the work in the gallery space. For now here is more on my process and how the show idea evolved…

I had an idea for prints, but something happened before I could even start them. While teaching a monotype class in the early spring I accidentally got a drop of white ink on my brayer that was already rolled up with blue ink. I proceeded with my demo - thinking this would be a good example of why you should keep a clean station - and ended up so excited and completely drawn down a tunnel of mark making. The small prints ended up with a lot of depth and wispy cloud-like forms. They were interesting on their own but also called for something more sculptural.

I like the idea of adding an element that can cast a shadow or move in a breeze, so after making a bunch of little porcelain clouds, I pinned them to the prints or hung them in the shadowbox frames.

While everything else was swirling around in my head, the prints anchored my thoughts for the show. Shannon and I met at Persephone Bakery one morning for sweet treats and brainstorming - which led to a desire to make the gallery window into a sweet shop.

Very flexible and thin porcelain paperclay was ideal for making fortune cookies. The paper here was just to help hold a side open during the firing. They fired an icy white and make a satisfying crunch when broken. Which, yes, you might just have to break the cookie to get to the fortune inside - each unique fortune written by Matt Daly.

My studio turned into a bakery as I made layer cakes that I could only dream of in a real kitchen. Each decorated with cloudy patterns and and perched atop handmade cardboard stands.

Another element came into place slowly over the summer while out walking. I started really noticing cloud shapes and tried to remember them.

You didn’t see that?

Oh. Well, since you missed it

I drew a photo

Stay tuned next week to see how the show comes together, I can’t wait to share the work created by the other artists!

What follows is my inspiration for this show and how the title came about…

Each year in the deepest moment of winter the same thing happens. Looking around, I think that I can’t stand one more day of the winter landscape. Too much white, too much snow, too much work and planning to get around. Within a few days this feverish feeling breaks. Suddenly the landscape is surreal; the clouds have combined forces with the snowy ground and I’m no longer sure where one begins and the other ends.

Indescribable shapes plus impossible shadows swirled with soft colors leave me unsure of what is concealed… and I’m reminded of frosty icing and the delicate sweetness of cake. Is the ground a cake and the sky frosting? Is it actually the other way around?

Conversely, in the middle of summer, the memory of winter is entirely out of place. The lush green plants growing as fast as possible in the short summer months, the river near my house that I ski over in the winter and paddleboard on in the summer - it’s just too much for me to comprehend. It’s odd, but somehow every summer I forget how high the snow piles and every winter I forget how green the land becomes.

Cupcakes & Clouds is an attempt to wrangle all those nebulous cloudy and wintery thoughts and memories into one space. Shannon Troxler, Matt Daly, and Connie Wieneke have joined me in describing the sweet cloudy mood of our skyscapes.

Making a Puppet: Part 2

Jenny Dowd

More from behind the scenes of making a giant pole puppet, plus the puppet in action!

(Check out my past journal entry Making a puppet to see how this all started)

Trying to reduce added weight, we decided to make the scales for the armadillo-ish beast out of cardboard. Strategically painting the scales with silver, black, and white helped mimic metal. I also made some special scales that were covered in shiny, scaly looking fabrics.

The scales were stitched on with wire, directly onto the fabric covering the armature. After connecting the neck, head, and tail to the body, the shiny scales went on as a transition. I ran out of time while attaching the big sequins, or more accurately, underestimated how long everything would take. However, in this case I think less is more. It was good to constantly remind myself that this very large creature would be seen from a distance, a little sparkle was better than none.

I had a little help… my parents arrived for a visit and were promptly put to work on the final details of the beast. (Thanks!)

And finally! The beast all put together. We designed it to be operated by 3 people: 1 person at the head, 1 at the body, 1 at the tail. In the end only 2 people were needed, the tail was stuffed so it would flop around with the movement of the body.

The performance happened on the lawn at the Center for the Arts where dancers from Dancers’ Workshop were joined by visiting artists from David Dorfman Dance.

There were 5 beasts featuring the Chinese elements: Water, Wood, Fire, Earth, and Metal. I regret that I did not get great photos of them in action.

In a beautiful and touching performance, the beasts were compelled to work together in order to solve a problem.

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What a process and what a performance! I’m honored to have been part of this, I learned a lot and hope this is not my first & last puppet. But next time I might go a tad smaller…

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Chalky Characters & Helpful Objects

Jenny Dowd

Last week I tackled my largest canvas yet… the Town Enclosure Pavilion on the lawn of the Center for the Arts in Jackson. This temporary structure was installed last year by Carney Logan Burke Architects with the intention to be a space for performances, gatherings, and also to offer creative space for visual artists.

Jackson Hole Public Art asked me to consider drawing on the panels using chalk. The pavilion can be walked around and through, with the panels changing with movement almost like an optical illusion, so this became an inspiration. I made a rough plan and then just decided to go for it.

Before starting the drawings I could not comprehend the size of the panels. Once a ladder was in place and I could only reach as far as my arms would stretch - I just had to go for it and make the shape fit the space. Suddenly I found it easy to run out of room and wishing the panels were larger!

It was an equally freeing and terrifying feeling to freehand draw these characters and objects. I used both hands to draw and went up and down the ladder and walked back and forth to the street to get a better view.

Some characters feature furniture acting out human scenarios (Bad lamp) and others are embracing their helpful nature - Super chair! (This chair swoops in just when you really need to sit down but there are no chairs nearby.) And the lamp saying “I really like you” to the other lamp. So careful and hesitant, ready to go out on that limb, just not quite ready for the other L-word.

Other helpful and awkward objects include the giant watering can and umbrella. The placement of the panels inspired the watering can and flowers, while walking past the water drops line up so the flowers are getting a good drink.

I’m inspired by the awkward feeling of ladders and nets, as if they are stretching and helping to reach that far-away object.

This was such a fun project! The chalk drawings will remain for a week or so - depends on rain. So if you are in the area be sure to walk by.

Making a puppet

Jenny Dowd

It can be difficult to share process photos and explain projects that are still mostly living in my head. However, I’m finding that this is a helpful part of my process, plus I’m excited to share this project.

Sam and I are currently working on a huge project - we are making a pole puppet! In June we had the opportunity to work with Eric and Ines Bass from Sandglass Theater in a collaboration with Dancers’ Workshop. This project will culminate with a parade and performance on August 16. (Stay tuned!) Our puppet is 1 of 5 beasts, each based on one of the Chinese Five Elements: Earth, Water, Metal, Wood, Fire. Our beast is Metal, and is loosely based on an armadillo.

The Chinese Five Elements contain a lot of interesting layers; Metal also refers to the emotion: sadness, color: white, and flavor: pungent.

We spent 4 days working on the body structure, the tail and head will be added later.

The base of the creature was made out of cardboard, with the double layers helping to keep the reed armature in place. After shaping the vertical hoops, I attached the horizontal reeds with tightly tied bike tubes. I really wanted the puppet body to articulate in two directions - up and down and side to side. However, after attaching a fabric hinge and trying to move the creature, I discovered that it was too bulky to have that much movement. Up and down was more important, so the hinges were remade to easily shift the mass up and down - as seen in the bottom right image.

Poles were installed under the base - they are fitted to the backpack worn by the puppeteer. A pole was inserted into the front half so the body will articulate up and down. Both me and Sam tried on the backpack to make these adjustments.

So, now that the structure is nearly complete, it’s time for the details! Although, these are still complicated and require a bit of engineering and careful thought. This is just the body of the puppet - the head and tail are still seperate at this point and will each have their own pole and puppeteer. Our beast will be operated by 3 people!

I’ve started covering the armature with fabric, including the soft underbelly of the beast, in silver and metallic blue. Next, the scaly armor will be attached, plus a neck, head, and tail.

Remember that the Chinese element Metal also includes the color white? My plan is for the colors to fade from deep metallic blue on the inside to silver and white as they progress from the body.

A few of the details here - Sam is gluing nostrils onto the head and I’ve started sewing the tip of the tail. I think we are over halfway finished, but there is still lots to be done.

Stay tuned for more updates and information on the performance and parade on August 16th in Jackson!

So many mugs

Jenny Dowd

I’m really in a mug phase right now.

Lately I’ve been working on mugs for shops, mugs for upcoming sales, and mugs for special projects. The biggest challenge is coming up with a unique design for each location, at the same time this is the best part - an excuse to stretch and come up with something different while maintaining my voice and style. I love that within each of these projects the mugs are unique yet similar…

This Jackson Hole mug was created as a custom design for Workshop; I’ve been making them for a few years and on this last round gave them a minor tweak. Lowercase metal letter stamps - the result is so much more playful! Each letter is hand-stamped and the mountains and lines are incised. Each different yet similar.

Penny Lane is opening at a brand new location tomorrow! I’ve made a collection just for this space, ivory glazed mugs of all shapes & sizes. Each incised with little details.

This year I have been working on another custom mug, this time exclusively for MADE. Each features the Tetons while varying slightly in pattern. I’m still tweaking this design, trying a batch made from porcelain… coming soon!

In the soda kiln right now… lots of mugs! I’m never totally sure how these pots will turn out (check out these past Journal entries for details on this firing process: Part 1 & Part 2) Here I’m applying stains to the surface of the clay, this will react in the firing and make something interesting.

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And finally! I’ve been invited to participate in the first year of Wyoming Art Drop. This project features artwork by 6 Wyoming artists. Order an Art Drop and you’ll get a box of curated artwork delivered to your door in December. This Wyoming Night Mug is my prototype for this project, I’m excited to represent my state!

Wait for it

Jenny Dowd

Most of the time art requires a vast amount of patience. Sometimes the patience is totally surprising.

In 2004 I was invited to participate in the public art event, Art Inside the Park, in Jefferson City, MO. I made tons of porcelain stacks - a sort of growth formation / pancake stack. There were probably hundreds of stacks of the bright white fired porcelain pieces, installed in a wide meadow and between the trees. They were meant to seem almost natural, as if perhaps they actually grew there. I remember standing back at the opening of the park, watching as some people did a double-take when they noticed “Growth,” while others walked on by without noticing. Both reactions totally perfect.

After the exhibition was over, the pieces were packed up and a friend took some for her garden, my parents took some for their yard, and I probably threw some away.

So here it is, spring 2019. Every time I visit my parents I’m reminded of these pieces. My dad has patiently placed them in the yard, tucking the stacks between rocks, plants, and trees. He glues them together in an attempt to prevent a squirrel from knocking them over (I think the squirrel is winning.)

The best thing is that I always forget about these pieces. Every single time. I look out in the backyard and think about how peaceful it is and how the trees and plant have grown so much over the years. Then suddenly… what? What is that? During the most recent visit in April I actually got about a foot away from them before I recognized what they were. Sitting outside for 15 years has resulted in a surface I could only have ever dreamed of. The somewhat porous clay has been stained and is growing the most beautiful moss. It’s a different piece than it was in that park, bright white against the green grass.

It’s a good lesson to let go. I loved the piece when it was installed because it was exactly what I imagined. After the show was over I felt no attachment to these pieces as they had served their purpose. Once again I am reminded that patience wins the day and the things beyond imagination are often better than the rigid ideas in my head.