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_Winston

winston.struye@cca.edu
EMIGRE
EMIGRE
EMIGRE
EMIGRE
EMIGRE
EMIGRE
Interview begins by scrolling down
MORE
THAN
FONTS
AND
A
MAGAZINE
an interview with
RUDY VANDERLANS
ON  PHOTOGRAPHY

and
ZUZANA LICKO
ON CERAMICS
MORE
THAN
FONTS
AND
A
MAGAZINE
an interview with
RUDY VANDERLANS
ON  PHOTOGRAPHY

and
ZUZANA LICKO
ON CERAMICS
ZUZANA LICKO
ON CERAMICS
Interviews by Winston Struye
January 2019
W‍
Zuzana, your garden cones (pictured at right) look so interesting and like nothing else I can think of, where they inspired by something? How did you arrive at this final form?
ZUZANA
I was inspired by cairns, which are the carefully balanced stacks of rocks that people leave as markers.
ZUZANA
At first, I made rock-shaped ceramic pieces with holes, to be stacked onto a pole in gravity defying arrangements. Being strung like beads, the idea morphed into making large bead shapes. I wanted to play with repetition of elements, and to get consistency of shape and size, so I turned to using molds. Instead of using traditional plaster molds, I threw the counter shapes on a wheel, then low fired them. I used these bisqued pieces as the mold forms. Working with forms in this way lead me to the cone shape, perhaps because it is the simplest shape, and fun to work with.
I settled on 3 different cone shapes that share 2 different widths and heights. Roughly speaking, the small pointed cone is the same height as the small wide cone, and small wide cone is the same width as the large pointed cone.
ZUZANA
As the cast pieces come out of these molds, they are open and unfinished on the wide end, so I made disk pieces to close them up. I make these elements separately, and join them at the "leather hard" stage, when the clay is still a bit pliable, but can stand gentle handling. This lead me to leave some disks on their own, which became part of the stacked elements, to which I added spacers. By graduating the disk diameters, they are arranged to imply cone shapes, while adding some breathing room and surface interest.
To figure out the arrangements of the elements, and to decide how many of each element I would need for a sculpture, I first made sketches on paper, and then realized this could be done far better with a font. So I made a font with a different sculpture element in each keyboard character, with which I can type out, repeat and recombine them, rearranging the same elements into various compositions.
WINSTON
After working with digital 2D surfaces (type) so extensively, were there any new challenges as you've started working in physical 3D objects?
ZUZANA
The potter's wheel naturally translates 2D into 3D. As it spins, the motion makes a 360 degree symmetrical shape, which is guided by the 2D line being formed by the potter's hands and tools.
So, interestingly, this relates back to 2D letterform design. When throwing a vase, I am resolving the transitions of curves in much the same way as designing the curve transitions in letterform construction.
You contrasted type design and ceramics beautifully in your essay Ceramics and Type Design: Differently Similar, but after reading that I couldn’t help but wonder about color. When you’re designing a typeface, you obviously can’t decide a color, but with ceramics, you are forced to, and if you don’t the clay will decide for you by having its own color. Was it nice to be able to decide the final color for your ceramics or other objects? - Or, is there some other formal aspect that you do/do not have to worry about when designing ceramics compared to type?
WINSTON
With vases, I do like to add color and texture with glazes. I'm experimenting with some new ones right now. The glaze and it's application can really change the piece, just as a color change affects a typographic layout. And vases are handled, moved around and washed, so a glaze adds both protection to the piece and a tactile experience when handling.
But I prefer the Garden Cones sculptures unglazed. I like the raw texture of the clay. It blends so well into a garden setting, which may contain other raw materials like brick, concrete or terra-cotta planters. As with these materials, I want to allow the exposed clay to develop a patina over time.
ZUZANA
Another reason for not glazing is that I want all the elements in a sculpture to be the same because mixing different colors would break up the overall form. The individual elements would appear more distinct, which would make the overall sculpture less cohesive.
ZUZANA
RUDY VANDERLANS
ON PHOTOGRAPHY
After making a magazine with type for 20 years, I can’t help but notice that your recent photo books have almost no text except locations, dates, and maybe an intro paragraph or two. Can you explain your decision for just letting the photos be without any text?
WINSTON
That’s a little bit like asking Hemmingway why there are no pictures in his novels. Not to compare the quality of my images to the quality Hemmingway’s writing, but obviously I presume that the images in my recent “Still Lifes" books don’t require any text, that they provide enough content for contemplation and intrigue to stand on their own.
RUDY
I’d hate to explain my pictures. Each image is carefully composed and selected from dozens of alternates and, as much as I’d like to, I know I can’t match that level of specificity by writing about them. Plus, it seems redundant to do so. I also don’t want to step on what these pictures may mean to the viewer.
Also, these particular books are not monographs or catalogs to accompany exhibitions, which would be more appropriate to feature texts to explain the images and provide context. I’m not reproducing originals that require an explanation. For me, books are the primary vehicle to show my photographs. The book is the original.
RUDY
WINSTON
You spoke about your influences (such as Hard Werken) in Emigre, who are some of your photographic influences? Do you have any favorite photographers and what is it that you like about their work? - And, do you ever look at designers for inspiration for your photographic work?
Initially, I was influenced by particular photographs, more so than by particular photographers. For instance, Robert Frank’s “Covered car — Long Beach California” or “Drive-in movie — Detroit” from his book “The Americans” made a big impact on me early on.
RUDY
I really like the dark, brooding mood and the powerful compositions in both those images. And in the mid 80s I was able to obtain a copy of “Every Building on the Sunset Strip” by Ed Ruscha, and that made a huge impression on me. I like the concept and the manner in which it is executed. Later, Richard Misrach’s work was a big influence, particularly his book of black and white strobe light photographs of desert cactus that was published by the Grapestake gallery. I’ve always been intrigued by the desert, so there the subject matter really is what drew me in. I’ve since caught up with the history of color photography, and it’s probably obvious from my own photographs who I like.
Regarding inspiration, I look at a lot of different stuff, including design. I read, I visit galleries and museums, I watch movies, I listen to music, and I’m sure it all feeds into my work to some degree. But almost more important than inspiration, is working away at what you’re doing, with a vengeance, and producing and experimenting and making. In my case that means going out constantly to shoot pictures and work on my books as much as time allows.
RUDY
Are you the type of photographer that captures everything in camera and in one photo? Or do you do a lot of selecting and editing afterward? - And, do you ever miss the “darkroom days” of photography that you experienced when you were getting your MFA in Photography at UC Berkeley?
WINSTON
When we started using the computer in the mid 80s, that is what set our work apart from most other designers. The work looked different because the tool we used was different. That’s no longer the case. Right now the computer is a tyool that everybody uses. My relationship with the computer and my photography is that I use a Nikon D5100 SLR which, in a sense, is more like a computer than a camera.
RUDY
Regarding my process, I’m not much of a photographer in terms of technique. I always have my camera set to automatic. I use a standard issue zoom lens with a plastic body, which is nice and light to carry around. I take anywhere from one to dozens of shots of each scene. And while I do try to capture everything in camera, and rarely crop my images, I’m not at all a purist about it. After shooting, I upload the images to iPhoto where I organize and pick final images. The selected images I manipulate in PhotoShop, but it’s mostly the color that I fiddle with.
What matters to me most is the final image and how it appears in the books I publish. In that respect, you could make the claim that I’m not really a photographer at all. For instance, I don’t shoot in RAW format, and I’m not interested in making photographic prints. I like making photo books which concerns itself with a different set of technical requirements.
RUDY
I enjoyed working in the darkroom, but I don’t miss it. As a graphic designer, before the computer, I used to do paste-up and pre-press, which also required a lot of darkroom work. There’s a certain romance to that notion, all the craft and tools and machinery that were involved, and all the different tradespeople you had to work with, so the process certainly influenced how the work ended up looking. But the computer made all those processes obsolete and replaced it with all kinds of other opportunities and idiosyncrasies.
RUDY
One of those opportunities is that making books and reproducing photographs is now much cheaper and allows so much more control over every step in the process of making a book than in the old days. And that’s right up my alley. So I can’t say I miss the “darkroom” days. And at the very least you can say that’s it’s all much more environmentally friendly now.