Threewalls invited me to create an edition of 30 bowls for their winter 2012 CSA (Community Supported Art). I created an edition from mass-produced ceramic bowls which I refired at cone 6, with varied results.
From the Threewalls website:threewalls is pleased to announce a new annual special edition of our successful Community Supported Art program, featuring artist-designed place-settings. For $400, a share includes a full setting, all hand-made by Chicago contemporary art luminaries; a unique placemat by Karolina Gnatowski, bowl by John Preus, plate by Christine Tarkowski, and cup by Mindy Rose Schwartz. This package will solve all your holiday gift needs! The Winter CSA is also paired with a holiday meal at an artisan business we love and admire – this year featuring the underground pop-up restuarant, Stew Supper Club, the brain-child of Crumb Chicago bakery and local favorite Co-Op Sauce, an artist-run business who donate half their proceeds to Co-op Image’s free youth art center and community arts initiatives in Humboldt Park. Join us to celebrate the holidays with threewalls friends and family on December 15! If you can’t make the dinner, CSA shares will be available for pick-up at threewalls starting on December 8th.
from Threewalls Blog
Spotlight on CSA artist John Preus
The pieces in this season’s CSA are all objects designed for everyday use – a placemat, a plate, a cup, a bowl. Do you see your piece for the CSA as a work of art, a designed object, or both? How does this reflect your practice as a whole?
I love this idea of a place setting, put together in some ways like an exquisite corpse. We don’t know what the other objects look like, or how they will visually work together. The bowls that I am using were found at a thrift store, and modified so as to re-invest some degree of subjective agency back into their mass-produced perfection.
The function existed prior to my intervention, and I have in some cases made them somewhat less functional, or at least more awkward to use.
It is both a work of art and a designed object. I don’t think that the distinction between the two worlds really holds, nor is very interesting to insist upon. Art objects are undoubtedly designed objects, functional or not. The distinction remains a loose one that is more useful for defining the general activities of educational departments. But I think what the question drives at is, how it changes a things ontology, its particular form of being, and therefore the sort of attention that it asks of us. An art object asks to be looked at and thought about. A functional object asks to be used, and falls back into the world of craft and design. Can it be used easily, efficiently, and does it disappear once it is employed? And if not, is that by some failure of the designer, or a deliberate effort at troubling the thing’s equipmental nature?
My practice generally fluctuates between making functional things and spaces, working as a builder, an art fabricator, at times making speculative objects, but almost always considering function, and the loss of function in some way. I am interested in how the poetic or aesthetic gesture trickles down into pragmatism, and how the preconfigured world that we are all thrown into, can be reclaimed and reinvested, slowed down, and drawn out. Much of my work revolves around forms of attention, how places receive attention and care, how things command attention and care, and how this reflects more broadly on who we are and what we are doing here.
For you as the maker, what is the significance of these items being artist-designed and handmade rather than commercially produced and store bought?
The objects that I begin with, are in fact mass-produced and store-bought. My intervention takes a mass-produced object, a ready-made, and modifies it, more or less subtly, to reinvest the thing with the mark of the hand.
I am not convinced of the intrinsic value of the handmade thing as opposed to the mass produced thing, per se. The mass-produced thing also includes a human hand running the machine, or keying in the program, or packaging the object, or driving the forklift. I do not want to undermine these forms of care and investment.
The thing that i find most troubling about mass production is the way in which it skews the process and the productive act away from an encounter, toward a set of proscribed transactions; the way a thing no longer becomes a means of meaningful exchange and interdependence, but is simply one of a series
of disengaged means to an end.
What I think is valuable in the exchange of objects in general, is that things that are chosen and made as gifts, or bought as gifts are invested with some degree of intentionality and care, and some thought has been put into the receiver, and into the way in which the receiver will engage with the object. A human relationship is created/enriched and mediated through an object. The object becomes an investment of thought, and care between a maker and a user. This is in my view the basis of an interesting economy, a set of weighted interdependencies that have engagement at their core.