After creating my newest body of artwork, “Cosmic Mugs” with glazes inspired by images from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, I find myself asking, “Why?” Why try to show huge galaxies and nebulae on a small mug? I turned to mainstream science advocate Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson for guidance. During the Origins Project at Arizona State University, Dr. Tyson critiqued an iconic painting by Vincent van Gogh: The Starry Night.
“I want and I need the artist to take me to new places, and the new place van Gogh took me is not the sky as it is, but the sky as he felt it. And the more of us that feel the universe, the better off we will be in this world.”
Unlike a painting or sculpture, pottery mugs are meant to be touched, picked up and brought to the mouth and nose. How many other types of artwork do you actually touch with such intimate parts of your body? I want my “Cosmic Mugs” to communicate beauty like a van Gogh painting, while deeply engaging multiple senses. Why does art that hangs on a wall deserve more value than art that holds coffee or tea? I make these “Cosmic Mugs” to challenge that notion by letting people experience fine art in daily life.
How many brush strokes are in a van Gogh painting? Thousands and thousands! How do my simple coffee mugs relate when they have only a few brush strokes?
Complexity is revealed in the kiln firing. Raw earth metals like iron, copper and cobalt are mixed with water and brushed onto the pot. Massive energy is needed to fire each pot to 2400 degrees F, melting glaze chemicals together into a hard, glassy surface. I give up control, letting the kiln melt glazes into an abstract painting that I can never fully predict.
Will my glazes ever compare to the complexity of a Hubble image? This photo of the Andromeda galaxy has 1.5 billion pixels and you would need 600 HD TV screens to see the true photo!
Looking closely at each pottery mug gives us a deeper understand of how Hubble images manifest as abstract glaze paintings. It shouldn’t look identical, but it should feel similar.
Cosmic Mugs are…
- Durable: Stoneware pottery is very hard and meant to last a lifetime.
- Functional: 100% non-toxic and dishwasher safe.
- Handcrafted: I make each pot from a lump of Stoneware clay on a pottery wheel.
- Complex: Every mug is brushed with up to 5 different glaze colors.
- Earthen: Raw iron, copper and cobalt are harvested from the earth & fired in a kiln to 2400 degrees F to seal colors with silica glaze for non-toxic, food-safe surfaces.
- On of a Kind: Each firing results in glazes that I can never duplicate exactly.
We can look closely with detail shots, extreme zooms, and even a microscope to get a better understanding of the subtle textures that can’t be seen with the naked eye.
Even simply enjoying a cup of coffee outdoors in bright sunlight can reveal new subtleties.
Hubble images are free for anyone to use in the public domain, as long as proper credit is given. I sent a mug to the Space Telescope Science Institute as a thanks for freely providing such beautiful images, and hopefully to build bridges between art & science.
Stay tuned for just a few new jewels popping up in my online store in the coming months!
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