ARTBITS by Richard B. Harper

VOLUME 6 * * All Arts News On the Web * * January 10, 2002


      ArtBits always features a calendar of the goings on of Franklin County artists. Check out these events around Franklin County. Each issue includes the entire text of our weekly newspaper column.

      Stop in for the AAC CoffeeHouses at 7 p.m. on the second and fourth Wednesday of every month. These gatherings bring new opportunities, gossip, "show-and-tell" and workshops. We come together on the second Wednesday for a booked musical performance and an art exhibit at Simple Pleasures in St Albans. On the fourth Wednesday come to the Kept Writer in St Albans for acoustic Open Mike Night featuring music, readings, and more from the best new artists in Vermont.


      AAC member Diana Herder-Bennett will introduce students to the endless possibilities of clay in "Clay Creations," a CCV-St Albans Spring course offering. Students will learn the history of clay, how different cultures used it, and some of the techniques of making utilitarian and attractive objet d'art. Classes will be held on Mondays mornings, January 21 through April 29. Registration ends tomorrow. Call CCV (802-524-6541) for info.
      "You can do tons of things with clay," Ms. Herder-Bennett said. "You can make functional pieces like bowls, mugs, and plates and ornamental pieces that are sculptures. Pieces that say something to you. And if you don't fire the pieces, the clay is 100% recyclable."
      The course will examine many cultures, from native American to Aztec to Greek. "The Greeks were one of the first to attempt different firing methods," she said.
      Firing dries the clay to drive off all of the water in the kaolinite. The ware will shrink about 10% while it loses this moisture. As the temperature rises in the kiln, very small quartz crystals form but the product is still very fragile. Quartz inversion, a change in the geometry of the crystals, follows until the temperature rises enough for vitrification in which the microscopic crystals of mullite and quartz knit together and the pot becomes a single, solid piece. Cooling must be done slowly to prevent stress cracking.
      A glaze is the smooth coating applied to pottery before firing to add decoration, color, and texture, and to form the necessary hard surface. The slip, a mixture of finely divided clay and water, can decorate wares or cement parts such as a cup and its handle. The slip must ensure that the glaze is easy to apply, thixotropic, and adheres well when wet and after drying.
      The potter's art culminated in ancient Greece around the fifth century B.C.E. Their painted and fired vases featured a gloss unduplicated by modern potters. Neither a glaze nor a varnish, their slip may have comprised an illite or a similar clay applied thinly to the surface of wares or mixed into the artists' black "paint."
      People are also interested in Raku "which is firing the piece, then immersing the hot piece in a combustible material such as horsehair, sawdust, or even steel wool and feathers." That puts different, variable colors and textures on the glaze. Raku clay has to be very shock resistant to withstand the quenching stresses. The Japanese artist and tea master Koetsu favored the simple Raku ware that he made himself in the 16th Century. The class will use primitive sawdust firing which "compares to how Western Indians fired with manure and wood to temperatures lower than a modern kiln."
      A para-educator at BFA-Fairfax, she works with small groups of 7th and 8th grade kids, two or three at a time, outside of the regular classroom. She lives in St Albans and sculpts at home.
      "My husband is my biggest supporter," she said, "and is pretty tolerant of the different unorganized times when you are in the middle of doing several pieces at the same time."
      Lynnette McKinney, her teacher at Duchess Community College, "gave me the inspiration to keep going," she said. "She loved my pieces." Ms. McKinney passed away last year from complications of Lyme disease.
      Ms. Herder-Bennett may be best known in the area for her whimsical clay sculptures of trees and racoons. "Now I'd like to get more detail in the animal sculptures," she said. "I want to get the point where they look like they are going to move." She is now working on mugs that scream "made by me, which means I want to have a little animal crawling up the side, something I haven't seen many people do. A real fun piece, something you would like to drink coffee out of or have sitting on your table. "


      Gary Dulabaum entertains and teaches through the magic of song. His high energy concerts are participatory sing-alongs with humor, movement, dance, and his own home cooked, inspiring songs. The former kindergarten teacher is a songwriter, performer, and comedian who has recorded five albums of children's music. His national tour stops in Franklin County next week with a free public performance plus a full schedule school events.
      In the free public workshop and performance Different, Yet the Same: Exploring Inner Space, Gary Dulabaum will offer songs, poems, and writings about self-esteem, self-worth, friends and friendships, accepting people as they are, peer mediation, being responsible for what we say and do, and making good, well-informed decisions. The workshop, organized for teachers, parents, child care providers, playgroup leaders, and librarians, and anyone else interested, will be held next Thursday evening, January 17, at the Northwestern Medical Center Conference Center. It is free. There is no advance registration required.
      Throughout his residency next week, Mr. Dulabaum will teach and entertain groups of children up to the third grade at the Mary Babcock Elementary school in Swanton, Franklin Central School, Montgomery Elementary School, Berkshire Elementary School, A Child's Garden in St Albans, Barlow Street Community Center, Bakersfield Elementary School, Cold Hollow Career Center, Enosburg Public Library Winter Story Hour, Fairfield Community Center, Fairfield Center School, Northwestern Medical Center, St Albans Town Educational Center, BFA-Fairfax, and Fletcher Elementary School.
      The Enosburgh Public Library Winter Story Hour Series also begins next Thursday morning with a performance by Mr. Dulabaum at the library. The weekly story hours are sponsored by the library and Mr. Dulabaum's performance is funded by a grant from Enosburg/Berkshire Success by Six. All story hours are free and open to the public.
      The residency is sponsored by the All Arts Council, Child Care Programs at the Family Center, the Comfort Inn, the County Courier, Franklin County Early Childhood Programs, Franklin County Success by Six, Mousetrap Pediatrics, and Northwestern Medical Center.


      Many moons ago, Dr. Carl Whitehouse suggested we need a regular event series for Franklin County folks caught in the Winter doldrums. "Everybody would come out in the snow if we had Concerts for Grumpy Grownups," he said.
      Mark your calendars. This new All Arts Council series starts next weekend with a lineup that includes two performances of Sojourns in The Wild, a full VYO concert, and one more event that is still a secret.
      Sojourns in The Wild is nature photographer Gustav W. Verderber's visual and musical celebration of nature. Using multiple projectors to create a cinematic effect, Mr. Verderber exhibits his stunning images of landscapes, wildlife, and marine life to take the audience on a virtual tour of some of the most pristine areas on Earth. The music of Celtic harpist and composer William Jackson accompanies the images.
      Sojourns in The Wild will be presented next Saturday, January 19, in the sanctuary at St Luke's Episcopal Church in St Albans. Tickets for Sojourns are $8/adults, $5/senior citizens and students, children under 12 free and are available now at Better Planet Books Toys and Hobbies in St Albans, Spears Pharmacy in Enosburg, and Swanton Rexall.


      The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston houses one of the finest collections of Greek pottery and Roman glass in the United States. Founded in 1870, the MFA opened to the public on July 4, 1876. Their guide introduces more than 500 works in their collections, chronologically arranged. Each is illustrated in color, and accompanied by concise and informative text.


      ArtBits features a quick weekly peek at the bookshelf or night stand of the folks you know in and around Franklin County. That popular feature has a page of its own at the Franklin County Bookshelf here on the AAC site.


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      This article was originally published in the St Albans Messenger and other traditional print media. It is Copyright © 2002 by Richard B. Harper. All rights reserved. Archival material is provided as-is. Links are not necessarily maintained (if a link in this article fails, try or your favorite search engine).
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