Craft Redefined

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Untitled (Footed Bowl, Sures #65) Ceramic bowl with Bandicoots
working with clay, ceramics, porcelain, glazing, expression using clay, artistic spirit, form and function, love affair with art, craftsmanship, humour, forms interacting within imaginary environments, proportion and scale, form, classical traditions of pottery, ceramic tradition, glazed porcelain, classical form, organic form, incising clay, bandicoot, clay surface decoration, Hieronymus Bosch, footed bowl, yin and yang, rigid and plastic, whimsical, fanciful, relationship to world
description
start quoteMy work is all about clay and its relationship to the world we live in; from the outside in, to the inside out.end quote-- Jack Sures

Let there be no doubt – Jack Sures loves working with clay. “It’s the juiciness of the clay, the sensuousness,” Sures told writer Margaret Hryniuk in a profile she wrote in 1988. Sixteen years later he expanded on his love affair with  clayMud; moist, sticky dirt. In ceramics, clay is the basic material, usually referring to any of a certain variety of mixtures of such ingredients — fine-grained, firm earthy material that is plastic when wet, brittle when dry, and very hard when heated. There is a temperature with ceramic clays at which their particles fuse (vitrification), and this is most commonly controlled by heating (firing) them in a kiln. The most common types of ceramic clays are earthenware (terra cotta when fired, terra cruda when not), stonewares, and porcelain. (Artlex.com)  in an artist statement: “My love of clay as an expressive material, with it’s innate ability to create any and all other materials, its ability to reinvent itself every time it is touched, has empowered my life with a richness and completeness that few people seem to achieve in their lifetimes. My hope is that this richness and completeness is reflected in the work and this spirit is transferred to the viewer.” (Exp’04, 2004)

The untitled work presented here from the MacKenzie Art Gallery  collectionTo collect is to accumulate objects. A collection is an accumulation of objects. A collector is a person who makes a collection. (Artlex.com)  is an example of Sures’ outstanding sense of  formIn its widest sense, total structure; a synthesis of all the visible aspects of that structure and of the manner in which they are united to create its distinctive character. The form of a work is what enables us to perceive it. Form also refers to an element of art that is three-dimensional (height, width, and depth) and encloses volume. For example, a triangle, which is two-dimensional, is a shape, but a pyramid, which is three-dimensional, is a form. Cubes, spheres, ovoids, pyramids, cone, and cylinders are examples of various forms. Also, all of the elements of a work of art independent of their meaning. Formal elements are primary features which are not a matter of semantic significance — including colour, dimensions, line, mass, medium, scale, shape, space, texture, value; and the principles of design under which they are placed — including balance, contrast, dominance, harmony, movement, proportion, proximity, rhythm, similarity, unity, and variety. (Artlex.com)  and  proportionPrinciple of design concerned with the relationship of one object to another with respect to size, amount, number and degree.  in the classical traditions of pottery. The large-size  functionalRefers to the intended use or purpose of an object. The term is often applied to manufactured products, particularly crafts, and when discussing designs for architecture. Though sometimes said to be non-functional, art is expected to function in various ways, including: to beautify, to adorn, to express, to illustrate, to mediate, to persuade, to record, to redefine reality, to redefine art, to provide therapy, to give unselfconscious experience, to provide paradigms of order and/or chaos, and to train perception of reality. Anything that is not functional is called nonfunctional. Often the decorative qualities of a thing are considered nonfunctional. (Artlex.com)  bowl is created with a master’s skill. The integration of the bowl with the other forms creates a perfectly proportioned, exquisitely crafted object.

In this work Sures adds his individual touch to the classical form. Bandicoots (exotic little creatures found in Australia) decorate the mid-section and add a sculptural element and interesting detail to the bowl.

Sures’  functionalRefers to the intended use or purpose of an object. The term is often applied to manufactured products, particularly crafts, and when discussing designs for architecture. Though sometimes said to be non-functional, art is expected to function in various ways, including: to beautify, to adorn, to express, to illustrate, to mediate, to persuade, to record, to redefine reality, to redefine art, to provide therapy, to give unselfconscious experience, to provide paradigms of order and/or chaos, and to train perception of reality. Anything that is not functional is called nonfunctional. Often the decorative qualities of a thing are considered nonfunctional. (Artlex.com)  ware has a ‘voluptuous organic’ quality that is a combination of the smooth luscious  formIn its widest sense, total structure; a synthesis of all the visible aspects of that structure and of the manner in which they are united to create its distinctive character. The form of a work is what enables us to perceive it. Form also refers to an element of art that is three-dimensional (height, width, and depth) and encloses volume. For example, a triangle, which is two-dimensional, is a shape, but a pyramid, which is three-dimensional, is a form. Cubes, spheres, ovoids, pyramids, cone, and cylinders are examples of various forms. Also, all of the elements of a work of art independent of their meaning. Formal elements are primary features which are not a matter of semantic significance — including colour, dimensions, line, mass, medium, scale, shape, space, texture, value; and the principles of design under which they are placed — including balance, contrast, dominance, harmony, movement, proportion, proximity, rhythm, similarity, unity, and variety. (Artlex.com)  of porcelain with the incised, stretched or richly decorated surfaces. Sures incorporates the Japanese principle of opposites - yin and yang - in his work, which can be seen by his fluctuation between the appearance of control and lack of control, finished and unfinished, rigid and plastic, hard and soft, smooth and textural. Sures explained this idea in an 1983 artist statement, “My work is all about  clayMud; moist, sticky dirt. In ceramics, clay is the basic material, usually referring to any of a certain variety of mixtures of such ingredients — fine-grained, firm earthy material that is plastic when wet, brittle when dry, and very hard when heated. There is a temperature with ceramic clays at which their particles fuse (vitrification), and this is most commonly controlled by heating (firing) them in a kiln. The most common types of ceramic clays are earthenware (terra cotta when fired, terra cruda when not), stonewares, and porcelain. (Artlex.com)  and its relationship to me. I’m all about my relationship to the world we live in; from the outside in, to the inside out.” (Sures, 1983)

Sures’ smaller works are often whimsical, and can include fanciful creatures, similar to those seen on the Untitled footed bowl displayed here. Like the work of Hieronymus Bosch, one of Sures’ favourite artists, these smaller works are full of life forms interacting within imaginary environments. The entire  surface(an element of art) The outer or topmost boundary or layer of an object. Colours on any surface are determined by how incident rays of light strike it, and how a surface reflects, scatters, and absorbs those rays. The material qualities of a surface, as well as its form and texture further determine how it is seen and felt. (artlex.com) See also texture.  is activated and as the viewer’s eye is drawn around the work, he or she may observe surprisingly humorous situations hidden within.

additional resources How I Got Started in Ceramics
Duration: 1:12 min
Size: 5471kb
Japanese Influence and the Organic Nature of Clay
Duration: 2:19 min
Size: 10144kb
Making Good Art
Duration: 2:30 min
Size: 11211kb
Regina a Global Centre for Clay
Duration: 1:32 min
Size: 6915kb
Teaching and Awards
Duration: 2:30 min
Size: 11175kb
Things to Think About
  • Look at classical pottery from Greek and Roman times. How is Sures’ work similar to the ancient pots? How does his pottery differ? For more information about classical Greek and Roman pottery, go to:
  • An artist whose work inspires Sures is the famous American potter, Peter Voulkos. Learn about the life and the work of Peter Voulkos and see if you can see any similarities between some of the works of Sures and Volkros. For further information about Peter Voulkos, go to:
    Untitled work
  • Why do you think Sures included the bandicoots in the Untitled work presented here?
  • How has what you have experienced in your travels influenced your life?
Advanced Activity

Explore the "I am an Artist" website for various activities involving paint and colour:  http://www.iamanartist.ie/weblinks/

Online Activity
Hello, you either have JavaScript turned off or an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Go to the following website, and click on Play a Game - Clay. 

You will then have the opportunity to virtually experience throwing in pottery and to learn new things about clay:  http://www.iamanartist.ie/weblinks/

NOTE: to play this game you will need
Studio Activity

Clay tile

Sures’ work is often referred to as organic or having animate qualities of life, as opposed to inorganic, which is composed of  mineralsAn inorganic species or substance occurring in nature, having a definite chemical composition and usually a distinct crystalline form. Rocks, except certain glassy igneous forms, are either simple minerals or aggregates of minerals.  (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  and not living things. In some of Sures’ work he blurs the distinction between the two by creating little creatures within a setting that also appears to be somewhat alive.

  • Create a small wall plaque using clay.
  • Always apply some moisture and scratch the surfaces when you want to join two clay surfaces.
  • When the clay has hardened and can be lifted without losing its shape, flip it over for more consistent or even drying.

Clay 1 Clay 2 Clay 3 Clay 4 Clay 5 Clay 6

Potter’s wheel experience

Learn to throw a pot on the potter’s wheel. Invite a ceramist to demonstrate using a potter’s wheel or take a few classes at the local community center.

  • In looking at the Sures’ work shown here, it can be observed that it is made of a couple of bowls and stems joined together.
  • Practice making bowls and stems on the potter’s wheel. Try joining them together when they are leather hard to produce a two or three part vessel.
  • Here are some links that show you how to throw a pot:

Make an ‘allegorical landscape’

For another work from the MacKenzie Art Gallery  collectionTo collect is to accumulate objects. A collection is an accumulation of objects. A collector is a person who makes a collection. (Artlex.com)  titled Allegorical Landscape Sures made a mould of his face and then pressed  clayMud; moist, sticky dirt. In ceramics, clay is the basic material, usually referring to any of a certain variety of mixtures of such ingredients — fine-grained, firm earthy material that is plastic when wet, brittle when dry, and very hard when heated. There is a temperature with ceramic clays at which their particles fuse (vitrification), and this is most commonly controlled by heating (firing) them in a kiln. The most common types of ceramic clays are earthenware (terra cotta when fired, terra cruda when not), stonewares, and porcelain. (Artlex.com)  into that mould. Once he had produced a face  formIn its widest sense, total structure; a synthesis of all the visible aspects of that structure and of the manner in which they are united to create its distinctive character. The form of a work is what enables us to perceive it. Form also refers to an element of art that is three-dimensional (height, width, and depth) and encloses volume. For example, a triangle, which is two-dimensional, is a shape, but a pyramid, which is three-dimensional, is a form. Cubes, spheres, ovoids, pyramids, cone, and cylinders are examples of various forms. Also, all of the elements of a work of art independent of their meaning. Formal elements are primary features which are not a matter of semantic significance — including colour, dimensions, line, mass, medium, scale, shape, space, texture, value; and the principles of design under which they are placed — including balance, contrast, dominance, harmony, movement, proportion, proximity, rhythm, similarity, unity, and variety. (Artlex.com)  in clay he then pushed and stretched the  formIn its widest sense, total structure; a synthesis of all the visible aspects of that structure and of the manner in which they are united to create its distinctive character. The form of a work is what enables us to perceive it. Form also refers to an element of art that is three-dimensional (height, width, and depth) and encloses volume. For example, a triangle, which is two-dimensional, is a shape, but a pyramid, which is three-dimensional, is a form. Cubes, spheres, ovoids, pyramids, cone, and cylinders are examples of various forms. Also, all of the elements of a work of art independent of their meaning. Formal elements are primary features which are not a matter of semantic significance — including colour, dimensions, line, mass, medium, scale, shape, space, texture, value; and the principles of design under which they are placed — including balance, contrast, dominance, harmony, movement, proportion, proximity, rhythm, similarity, unity, and variety. (Artlex.com)  to distort the face. He made a number of these tiles and joined them together to produce this work. At first viewing, the face forms are not readily apparent.

  • Learn about allegory in art and literature.  Here are some links to help you:
References

Exp’04. Saskatchewan Craft Council, 2004.

Hryniuk, Margaret. ‘Self-Knowledge Essential to Jack Sures’ Art.’ Regina Sun. Sept. 25, 1988.

Jessop, Gerald. Personal Imagery of Jack Sures: 1967 - 1987. Exhibition catalogues. Moose Jaw Art Museum and National Exhibition Center, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, 1987.

Krueger, Julia. Jack Sures. Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan. Retrieved from the Internet on February 15th, 2008 at: http://esask.uregina.ca/entry/sures_jack_1934-.html

Sures, Jack. Making Art in Saskatchewan: five Approaches. Artist statement. Saskatchewan  craftThe production of work involving the use of skilled hands.  Council exhibition, 1983.

Yum, Helen, editor. Review. University of Regina, Nov. 1990, V11 pg 5.

Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning