After the “Roll Call” symposium Sunday, we ITErs met with Albert LeCoff for our official orientation. After discussing basic program logistics, we each shared some of our work and talked about what we want to focus on during the ITE.
Jean-François works with ceramics and glass as well as wood. And he’s essentially (now, at least) making the same vessels in each medium. He emphasizes spontaneity in his work, which is highly textured, with natural or subdued colors. He says he hates wood, and he often disrupts the natural color and grain through carving, brushing, washing, coloring, and other techniques. Indeed, he sometimes so alters the exterior surface of his vessels that you may not know they are made of wood until you touch them. His work is vigorous and visceral, expressive and strong.
Siegfried is a purist. He does not embellish his work in any way. For him, the three elements essential to his work are the integrity of the work (that is, the quality of his craftsmanship), the shape (curve), and the use of material without tension, which he ensures by drying the wood very slowly, over a period of five years. He believes that this drying process changes the fine structure of the wood, evidenced in the relaxed energy that radiates from it. His work invites touch. His wood choices attract but never overwhelm; as he puts it, if the eye is satisfied, there is no need to touch. The erotic is very much at play in his sensual pieces. He strives to work exclusively from the body.
Sean turns only as a beginning. He then carves away most of the wood, leaving delicate skeletons like leaves gone to vein. He is most influenced by the textures of nature and says that he feels drawn back to simpler work. He sometimes uses color, and his titles suggest abstract conceptualization, although he doesn’t like to plan pieces but to follow whatever unfolds. There is an organic quality to many of his pieces. Some suggest seed pods, with a protected core and an outer shell.
I myself have been more of a purist, emphasizing turning without embellishment and collaborating with the wood rather than treating it as a plastic material. In my own work, I value form, craftsmanship, and the integrity—that is, the wholeness—of each piece. I strive to work with head, heart, and hands, together. As I’ve written elsewhere, my work is about form and substance, containment and expression, and the interplay between lift and mass.