Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The art of carving concrete forms

If you've ever wanted to carve wet cement, there's an artist you should definitley check out. Elder G. Jones was in Jackson this past weekend conducting a workshop in the craft. He's been practicing for the last twenty-some years, and as you can see from his website, he's a craftsman and artist. http://sandpudding.com/

The Art Association of Jackson, housed in the Center for the Arts building, which is a terrific facility, hosted the workshop. We spent Friday evening bringing in all of the materials that Elder transports in his pick-up truck from workshop place to place. He had picked up bags of silica sand and cement, which had to be hauled to the upstairs multi-purpose room. After we got everything else up, which included buckets, big mixing tubs, flexible metal sheets that are the forms that the wet concrete is poured into and a myriad of tools, we measured and mixed together the dry sand and cement thoroughly, for mixing with water the next morning.

It rained pretty much the entire weekend in Jackson. Impressive lightning and thunder. This also played a bit of havoc with how the cement might set up. There comes a certain point in the process where you have to remove the form, but too soon, and you could have a heap of wet cement on the table. The next morning, after we mixed the dry ingredients into wet, much like baking, and got the cement into the forms, we had to wait until after lunch before we could remove the forms and start carving. Elder showed us slides of much of his work. One slide featured his 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th pieces that he'd made, and they reflected an artistic quality even then. Elder was first interested from a mentor, and progressed rapidly in design and interpretation. A duck to water.

Chris and I went to the bagel shop and had a salad, sports tea and a big ole cookie, which we shared. She then took me over to an art gallery who had an exhibit of the work of Wolf Kahn. I'd never heard of him, but here's a link to his website: http://www.wolfkahn.com/index2.html. He works in the subject of landscape, but in abstract and colorized ways. I loved his work immediately.

Back in the studio, we began removing our forms and began the carving process. We all finished around 6:30 that evening. It's an absorbing process, and as Elder worked on his pot, he checked out our progress, offering guidance and assistance to each of us. The different designs are striking, and Elder said he is continually surprised that each person does something entirely unique. He said he also learns a great deal from his students, which helps him try new things that he hadn't thought of before. As you can see from the picture of our finished products, we held true.

The weekend was also the 5th anniversary of the Center for the Arts, and the celebration focused on their residency program. Activities for that began at 2:00 pm and featured films, demonstrations of jazzercise, hoola hooping, stage combat, poetry reading by Jackson Hole writers, ballroom dancing, drum circle, and a Porch Band concert. There were also live remotes on radio. All events were to take place outside and the tents were up, but the hail and rain forced everything inside. Congratulations to the arts center on five productive and exciting years of arts programming and support.

Below are some of the photos from class, beginning to end, and the remarkable designs that came out.
You can click on the photos to give you a bigger image.

Sam mixes his cement
Elder (r) helps Chris load her form
Julie removes the form that makes a hole for a pot


Julie and Javier take off the form
Elder roughs out his pot
Chris works on her Buddhist altar


Javier and his design
Joe works on his female torso

Group photo - Julie, me, Elder, Chris, Joe. Sam and Javier could not be there that morning. Their pots are the far left and far right.