synergy:  the interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects


It’s one thing to say “Hey, we should do a collaboration.” Actually making that happen can be a challenge. Last week I had the great pleasure to work on a collaborative project with Eric Stearns.

We have been talking vaguely about collaborating since March, and frequently comment on each other’s work via shared photos and phone conversations, but we’ve never actually watched the other work, let alone worked together. Eric is the first clay artist I’ve ever collaborated with, so I really didn’t know what to expect from the experience. I am extremely picky and judgemental of my own work, and not sure how I felt about trusting someone else to actually ALTER my forms. And there are the inevitable insecurities about my work not being good enough, or that it would collapse. So I was a wee bit apprehensive as the project started coming together…

First we needed a place – somewhere with a work space, kilns and safe storage, as once the pieces were pierced they would be too fragile to transport until after they were fired. There was also distance to consider, as our studios are six hours apart. Eric suggested Bracker’s as a good halfway point, and Anne, Anne, Cindy and Dave were all to happy to host us, in their homes as well as the studio. (I can’t say enough about how generous the Bracker-Sturm clan were, and what a great time we had. I’ve been buying tools and supplies from them since I was in undergrad, and over the course of time they have become not just my clay supplier, but true friends.)

We also had to coordinate our schedules – easy on my part, as I have the luxury of being a studio rat all summer, but more challenging for Eric, as he’s the Department Chair at Doane College, so had a bit more on his plate for the summer. Eventually we agreed to a trial run last week, so we could see how this idea would work out.

Sounds simple in concept – I make the slipcast forms, Eric pierces them. But there are big differences between a slipcasting body and a throwing body, and many of my sculptural pieces are assembled, which means seams, areas that may be more susceptible to cracking. And then we’re not sure what’s going to happen when I go back to apply terra sigillata to the bone dry forms. Could be they’ll collapse when I start burnishing….

And that was all part of the fun. Because in the end, working with someone, tossing ideas back and forth about pattern, actually watching how his process works, and then discussing forms that I could create that would work even better than our trial pieces, was a ton of fun. He pierced 4 pieces – and we both agreed that one of them will never see the light of day. We’re hoping the other three survive the terra sig and firing, so we have some finished work to evaluate.

Now we’re in the planning stages of an installation piece that I’m really looking forward to…..



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