Alfred Summer Session 1994 • Val Cushing & Anne Perrigo
I was very fortunate to be at NY State College of Ceramics @ Alfred University. I had started working with clay only a few years prior to being accepted at Alfred as an undergrad ceramics major. The body of work I created in only 8 months at Brookdale Community College in Brookdale, New Jersey, under the tutelage of Lynn Peters (an Alfred alumna) and shown at my one man show “Running Men & Other Wonders” was what got me into Alfred—along with an interview with Val Cushing & a glowing letter from Lynn. Ooooooow.
In one of my first two semesters at Alfred I was lucky to be able to take a throwing class with Val Cushing. As much as I might have wanted to become a potter—like Val—my body wasn’t having it! The tendons in my elbows just would not cooperate. Throwing caused a lot of physical pain. Hell! I was only 35-ish & my body was already pooping out—harrumph! But Val championed me on. He came from a place of support and encouragement, very much like Lynn had shown me previously. Even in critiques he’d say something positive before saying something negative. And even in the negative you knew it came from a place of support & wanting you to be better.
Sadly, after only one semester of throwing I realized I’d never be able to withstand the physicality of becoming a full time potter. Luckily I was also taking hand building with Anne Currier. Let’s just say that’s Anne’s teaching style was not as “comforting” as Val’s. It was after the realization that I was not going to be able to throw full time I decided to put my full focus on hand building. Mind you—I loved hand building. It’s how I made all of my work when I was at Brookdale, even my bowl & vessel forms. Hand building is how I came to ceramics.
Fast forward to Alfred Summer Session 1994. I was living full time in Alfred from my first week there. I had a one bedroom apartment at 134 N Main Street next to the basball field. Because I already had a BA in communications & film from CW Post Center of LIU I only needed to do art, studio, and art history credits to complete a BFA at Alfred. Doing the summer session in ’94 was part of the studio credits I needed to graduate, as was the art history course I also took. But the hand building summer session was going to be with Anne Perrigo. I didn’t know much about her before that summer—but I knew plenty when it was done! I also figured if Alfred asked her to teach—that alone gave her mondo street & or studio cred!
She and I hit it off. I think part of that was because of my age and being a student. She was also off the wall and I could relate to that! I have to credit her with pushing me and prodding me to work outside of my comfort zone & make the kind of work I was supposed to be making. Even though there was a bit of the student/teacher dynamic—she also treated me as a peer—which was a dynamic I was not use to—yet.
Summer session was fun. Not only because it was short and intense, but also because there were so many more people of all ages from many different countries. During normal school semesters there were only two to three other undergrad students over the age of thirty. So it was nice to see the range of age and culture. Outside of studio and class we bonded, sharing history, hopes, dreams, art, and many conversations—which was informative and fulfilling. For some it was a once in a lifetime event to be at Alfred. Alfred was & is Clay Mecca; and Val a ceramics legend.
As we got to the final weeks of the session, people were asking: “Will there be a t-shirt?” The answer was: “No.” I could see how disappointed these attendees were. So in the spirit of camaraderie and good artistic will—I offered to design and create a t-shirt to commemorate our shared experience. I did my research with a local shop right in town that could silk screen t-shirts. I got pricing, t-shirt choices, and an estimate on turn around time, and I was off! I had some ideas for the design swirling around in my head. But as a photographer, I certainly wanted to get a studio photo of Val & Anne together to use in the design.
So I set up my studio strobes & umbrellas (yes I came to Alfred equipped) and got Val & Anne to pose. We were lucky at Alfred to have a nice room where students could do photo shoots of their work. What was even better—there was at least one ceiling to floor seamless paper backdrop and stand too. Bonus points! There were plenty of “props” lying around—objects and artifacts left behind—for whatever reason—by other students. We used many of them … pots, hats, glasses, and then some!
I was also wearing many hats that day: photographer, art director, stylist, and provocateur. But to my great surprise and delight I got to see a side of Val outside the classroom and studio. He too was like a kid in a candy shop. I also think he was trying to help drive my creative muse and push me as did Anne. They both gave so much of themselves when they really didn’t have to. And all the time Anne was being Anne—quirky, lovable, artsy, opinionated, and downright fun! And it shows in the photos. The chemistry between Val & Anne was eclectically electric! You really can see the great fun they were both having; giving, taking, riffing off each other. Part of that was my direction, asking them to do things they may normally not have—and the resulting interactions and juxtaposition is scrumptious. Though there are many quirky images I LOVE … there are 2 or three that were more candid shots inbetween direction where honesty, heart, and vulnerability just shine. What’s more wild is not really being able to SEE these photos previously in this (digital) manner & this size to really drink in & appreciate what was there.
Once the shoot was done I sent off the negative film to be processed and proof-sheeted at an area custom lab that I had used before. When I got back the negatives I chose the photo that I thought would work and did my bowl design, lettering, and all other graphic design exclusively on my computer. I don’t remember if I scanned the image or I had the image I chose scanned by someone else. I used a digital stylus and pad to create the line drawing. Yeah … I had all that in 1994. I had been a Mac user since 1986 and accumulated a lot of equipment during those years; including the DeskJet printer I used to print the design to clear acetate to use in my final two color design. I have to say—even the printer was impressed!
All that was needed now was for me to collect money, get shirt sizes, and other assorted info from all the people who wanted shirts. Once I had cash in hand I gave the printer the go, paid him & waited for the magic to happen. Many of the participants were able to get their shirts before session ended. And for some who needed to leave early to catch flights etc, I got addresses and mailed them their shirts—there might have been five.
The entire summer session was a blast! I learned so much from Anne & others there. I certainly learned a lot about myself and it pushed my work even further. We all taught each other; sharing techniques, or glazes, or wonder-filled stories from our lives. And the icing on the cake was not only designing and making the shirt … but the shoot with Val & Anne was something that I will remember for all my remaining days.
Enjoy the photos! And if by some small twist of fate—you were there—PLEASE—leave a comment!