Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Thankful for Joe
When I was struggling to get into graduate school, I spent a year at Alfred University (NYSCC) as a special student (no joke, that is the registrar's term.) I was able to learn from some amazing people, most of whom were not under the employ of the university. As I was thinking about what I am thankful for, I am so grateful I had that time at Alfred. It was there that I met Joe Streno.
Out of the blue, came a larger than life character with a swagger, a smile and a wicked rye sense of humor. As a returning student, Joe came into the room with more experience, wisdom and life under his belt than most of us would have twenty years later.
We made it through the mid-way hump of the year and began the downward slide into the end of the year. As we prepared for our exhibitions and filled out applications to get into grad school, we all had to prepare images of our clay work. Joe offered to help me shoot slides of my work. Having had virtually no experience shooting commercial caliber work, I was completely in awe of how Joe was willing to share all of his time and technique. The images that came home from that shoot are still some of my favorite pics. What I am thankful for is that Joe said it was easy. He said that learning how to do it was easy. Then he added that being really good was a bitch. Joe made it look so smooth and seamless.
So what are these images all about? Well, Joe taught me to think about light and pots... and to find the drama therein. Joe wasn't timid behind the lens, and light bent for him in the most amazing ways. Sixteen years later, I pulled some of my favorite pots out of my cupboard to see what I could do to show them off. I have met so many great potters over the years, and whenever possible, I always tried to either trade or buy the best of their work that I could possibly afford.
While in school at Alfred, one of my fellow students was Samantha Henneke. At the time, her student body of work was primarily oxidation fired, very brightly colored glazes with dot patterns and amazing satin surfaces. I was blown away by how her functional work could pack such a visual wallop! I still kick myself for not picking up any of her work from that time.
The two pieces here are from Sam and her husband Bruce. Together they run Bulldog Pottery in North Carolina, doing what most potters only wish for. They make GREAT pots, sell great pots and live POTS. And it shows. I am so glad I get to use these pots every day. They sit by my computer keyboard with steaming tea or chai or hot chocolate. Every day.
On some level, they are a gift to myself. When the doctors and surgeons told me that clay would no longer be a reasonable or safe thing for me to continue doing, I was devastated (still am). Using other potter's pots though, makes it easier. It also helps to encourage me to pursue my photography with the same fervor that I pursued ceramics with.
When Joe first offered to trade his photographic skills in return for my pottery, I was blown away. Honored and excited! But most of all, encouraged. We both got the best part of that deal. By the time we wrapped up the shoot, I was still completely ignorant of all that went into the preparations for a commercial product photograph... but I felt like it was something I "could" learn to do. Like I said, Joe made it easy.
That encouragement is still there everytime I setup my seamless backdrop. In the past year, I feel like I have started to get to know what my lighting rig can and cannot do (easily). As with most things photographic, there is the easy (cheap) way, the right way (hard) and the fast way(expensive!) Since my ordeal with the surgery, coma and subsequent recovery, money has been a constant nagging hammer pounding into my skull. What in a normal year, I would simply throw money at as a way of solving,... now I can't do. If money couldn't solve it before, I would throw my back into it and shove my way through.... cant do that either. Which leaves me with the hard (smart?) way... and that is tough.
And for that, I am thankful.