I discussed these alternatives with many people before trying to make a decision. I was quite surprised at how much in favour of communal bowl manufacture most of them were. I was quite ambivalent. I thought it would take as much of my effort one way as the other. If I did it myself at least I could guarantee schedule and quality. If I asked for help I would be indebted to numerous others and would have to put untold energies into polite management; but I would get a lot of different bowls - much more variation than I could personally generate.
In the end I chose the alternative people seemed to want and the idea of the Carvathon was born. So I brought clay, wine and pizza on one Tuesday afternoon and about 140 bowls were thrown by various members of the Ceramics department - most of them by the other 4th year Ceramics students. Everyone seemed to enjoy the experience.
I tripled-wrapped the bowls in plastic and placed them in the damp room on two big carts for a two-week wait. I created a Carvathon Invitation and posted it on my website, in faculty mail-boxes and all over the school with the help of Marion Nicholl Gallery staff. I even organized the event with cafeteria management to make sure we wouldn't be stepping on toes there.
At lunchtime on the Tuesday in question Adrienne Gradauer helped me trundle the plastic-wrapped [and still damp -thank the powers!] bowls up to the cafeteria. She also drew up a sign on the big portable chalkboard I had borrowed for the day. She helped people stamp and carve the bowls while I wandered around and tried to talk people into carving a bowl. We had a lot of interest.
I managed to keep the Carvathon going until about 7pm even though it was supposed to end at 2pm. Many people said that they wanted to carve a bowl but couldn't do it until 5pm. What the public wants - it gets! The afternnon got very hectic as I was also doing a presentation involving speech, slides and display in the middle of the afternoon and this involved madly moving large plinths up to the fourth floor and back down to the glass department. Finally at around 8:00pm over one hundred bowls had been carved and I had the clay shavings swept up and the floors and tables swabbed down. I retired home in an even more exhausted state than usual.
The next day I tidied up the bottoms of all the bowls and put them out for the bisque. I carved an infinity symbol [sideways 8] on the bottom so that I could distinguish my Carvathon bowls from all the rest of the bowls enduring the firing process. It's amazing though, just how many of them I could later recognize on sight.
Over the next few weeks the bowls got bisqued, glazed and fired in time for the show. I glazed most of them; but got plenty of help. Adrienne glazed many of them for a marathon soda firing [we were still loading at 6am!] and we fired over half of the high-fire ones. The last few bowls came slowly in from various sources; but eventually they were all done.
It soon became apparent that these bowls had become locally famous and that many people thought that the show was just about them. The same thing happened to a lesser degree about the shelves I made for the gallery. At the time I tried to explain and de-emphasize the bowls; but now I'm beginning to think that a show that has various elements that are each important enough to build a show around has the advantage that it gives viewers and participants various different points of approach.
I've been criticized on several occasions for failing to limit what I was saying in a particular piece or project. I understand this attitude; but I'm not entirely sure I'm happy with saying a limited number of things and stating them clearly. Postmodernist approaches suggest that one must accept multiple conflicting voices. In as much as I hear such divergently-opinionned voices from within myself, it seems reasonable to express many of them simultaneously. This is clearly a point upon which much further thought and consideration is necessary.