[Clayart] s cracks

Snail Scott claywork at flying-snail.com
Tue Jan 21 21:17:02 EST 2014

On Jan 21, 2014, at 12:51 PM, Terrance Lazaroff wrote:
>> ...My passion is currently sculpture and if it cracks it is landfill no matter how much time is in the piece...

More often than not, I work sectionally, and add non-clay 
components to my sculpture. I use a lot of epoxy for these 
carefully planned connections. 

I would never misrepresent my work. That includes both 
claiming it's something that it isn't, and hiding defects that 
a reasonable observer would not expect or accept. What 
is a defect? Something that wold prevent the piece from 
functioning as expected.  I would not use a fugitive coating 
on an outdoor piece, or use components that might decay
or be destroyed in normal, reasonable handling. I know 
artists who do wonderful work that's meant to decay and 
change with time - and they make that known to the viewer, 
because otherwise an important aspect of the work would be 
missed. It's not OK to make something of fugitive or unstable 
materials and then show it as though it were not, though, 
and I expect even those artists would agree with me.

I often alter my work after firing, going after it with an angle 
grinder to true up contact surfaces, or even re-sculpt a form. 
Sometimes I re-glaze and re-fire to get a better surface.
I have no patience with the semi-religious notion that you 
must accept what the kiln offers. Post-firing modifications are 
just another phase of the whole process. Why should the kiln 
be the end? 

For that matter, why should a planned epoxy joint be somehow 
more morally pure than a similar but accidental one?

Sometimes (not often, but it happens) I do get a crack, from 
pushing my drying times (as the recent freezes have tempted
me to do), uneven kiln shelves, rough handling, or some other 
cause.  If the piece is already planned for extensive epoxy work, 
is any harm done in repairing and strengthening these areas?
If the damage would remain as a hidden structural flaw, then 
yes. If it's an aesthetic issue, then the viewers can decide for 
themselves (though I doubt anyone would find any joint or 
repair of mine if I didn't wish it).  If no diminution of function 
is resulting from the repair, however, then why shouldn't I 
proceed? (Yes, sculpture has function. It may not hold coffee, 
but function  - ranging from conveyance of meaning, to aging 
in accord with expected maintenance requirements, to not 
toppling and crushing hapless passersby - does matter.) 
It's a question of ethics. Am I acting with integrity when I make 
and present my work? If I believe otherwise, that alone is 
sufficient reason to stop. If not, then what harm?

If a single project takes a month to execute, one repairable 
crack (or even a few) will not induce me to use it for erosion 
control instead of exhibition. It's not that the amount of time 
invested exempts such work from any standard, but rather a 
simple equation of effort expended at repair versus replacement.

There is no absolute standard. What is acceptable for a purely
visual object may not be at all fine for foodware, and what's  
acceptable for a pedestal object may not pass muster for a work 
in a public playground.  And only the artist and the viewers can 
pass judgement (independently and by their own standards) on 
aesthetic issues.


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