Twenty-five years ago, I decided to quit my day job as a partner and
creative director for a small advertising agency, which I had started
four years prior, to get back into design, from whence I came. My
reason at the time was to get my hands dirty again. I was sick of the
management responsibilities and politics that came from the ad game,
not to mention the creative compromising that was part of everyday life
at our little shop. But the biggest reason was that I wasn't really
"making" anything--I don't mean money, I mean "stuff."
Back then, "getting your hands dirty" meant exactly that. Before the
computer, we quite literally made our designs with messy stuff like
markers, paint, and even the occasional really messy pastels. When I
look at the finished work from those early days at Duffy Design, what I
remember fondly is the cutting, the pasting, the drawing, the painting
and going home at night with dirty hands. I miss those days.
Not too long ago, I decided to get my hands really dirty with the help of my good friend, Ron Gallas,
head of ceramics at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. I hadn't
worked with clay since my art school days and I was somewhat
intimidated at that memory--trying and failing to center the clay on
the wheel and the serious mess I created every time out--but what the
hell, if a little dirty was good, how bad could a whole lotta dirty be?
I hauled off and invested in a wheel, a huge kiln, and all the clay
and glaze our cabin studio could hold and we set off to make some
"real" art. Wow! What fun. We invited a group of designers, along with
the kids, Ron and his lovely wife Nancy (also a ceramics teacher) and
started on the first of many group art projects--a great big ceramic
totem pole. The results were almost as cool as the experience but the
fun we had, collaborating on the art as well as the meals, the
cocktails, the stories, and outdoor fun, made it a forever after
regular cabin event.
Sorry for the long prologue but what started me thinking about that
dirty stuff from my life was an amazing new show at The Walker Art
Center in Minneapolis titled Dirt on Delight: Impulses that Form Clay.
Delightful it is. The show contrasts the formal aspects of the process
of ceramics--various clay, firing and glazing techniques--and its
functional forms, with the wild visions of sculptural artistry. Also
interesting are the connections between various ceramicists, their
teachers, mentors and contemporaries.
Our entire group visited the show, with a personal tour given by Gina
Demm, volunteer Walker docent and Duffy & Partners design intern.
We all walked away inspired and anxious to get out there and get our
1. Art Camp :: Work in Progress
2. Art Camp :: Final Totem
3. Dirt on Delight