SNC Goes to NCECA to Create Proposed Installation

Photo by Karl Schwiesow

On March 23, 2012, nine students and two faculty headed up north to Seattle, WA to the National Council on the Education for the Ceramic Arts. One student in particular, Karl Schwiesow, proposed a clay installation to Seattle’s juried exhibition for public display entitled “Weather or Not?’ It was based on NCECA’s annual theme, this one entitled: “On the Edge.”

The installation brought together ‘contrasting elements of the industrial cityscape and organic nature’ and focused on the environmental impacts and issues of sustainability.


“The relationship between the clay and refuse from which the effigies are constructed and their industrial counterpart, mankind, becomes apparent through the degradation by the erosive weathering processes of nature. Through erosion, the structural framework of the installation is revealed to create subtle tension between mediums. Raw clay bodies show the fragility and vulnerability of species under the pressure of mankind; rigid sub-structures that supported the species also allude to a darker corner of human bi-products’ impact. In this way the effigies stand in a gesture of submission to the surrounding metropolis.”

An excerpt from Karl’s proposal explaining the intricate details of the process

Interview with Karl Schwiesow

Tell us about the installation.
It was a collaborative project, ‘Weather or Not’ was the title of the show. We extrapolated a formula to create these figures that would deteriorate over time. So we put together a proposal and we sent it off and got it accepted . . . and we were like ‘great,’ it’s actually going to happen, so let’s do it. Basically we came up with a list of endangered species indigenous to the area, we used those as our statement through the weathering and deterioration of these sculptures. The sculptures were unfired clay that we had sourced locally, and the deterioration symbolized the impact of humans on that specific species. On our trip up we sourced many materials locally and assembled them inside the large cityscape. It was a cool contrast and unique to see when they weathered. When we got there and installed, it sat there for the week of the conference. Then we took it down when we left.

Photo by Karl Schwiesow

Elaborate on the locally sourced materials
Well, we searched on these fire roads and we found a spot that was off the road aways; next to this refuse heap of yard waste we found hypodermic needles and stuff in this one corner. Then we had to hike through the blackberry bushes and up this bog, then up a slope and collected buckets of clay and took them back to the truck. Afterwords, we loaded them into burlap bags.

Photo by Karl Schwiesow
Photo by Karl Schwiesow







We also took fallen trees and other kind of elements
When we built these figures, we wrapped them with chicken wire and stuffed them full of trash. We covered them with clay and formed them into these sculptures of endangered species.

Q: What did spectators think of the installation?
Many people were walking by and they were like, “What the hell are you doing?”

Q: What was going on at the conference?
NCECA is a big meeting place for clay nerds. Basically, we had a booth and met people that were walking around and talked to them about our programs. It is an annual nation wide conference, any school can come and represent themselves. Various east coast schools to Kansas to New York to Florida, Michigan, Texas, California were represented. There were several practicing professional artists and professors. It’s pretty cool to meet all of those people outside of the studio, and just be like, ‘oh they’re just real people’ and go and tap them on the shoulder.

Photo by Karl Schwiesow
Q: How was the food and weather at the conference?
There was a burrito window that was good. We had great weather setting up. The weather was nice, it was too not hot and the sun was out. If it was raining or windy, everything would’ve fallen apart.


Interview by Chelsea Christoph & Rachael Robertson

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