Time flies…

OMG! It’s been almost a year since our last blog post… The EC artists have been busy, and yes, having fun!

Here’s what’s new…

When you want some EC art, but 18″x24″ is just a tad too much…

We’re upping our game… The EC will now be offering matted prints of artworks by selected EC artists, in addition to individual and boxed sets of note cards. Images, sizes, and prices to come.

Trying out new boxes for our sets of note cards.

Trying out new boxes for our sets of note cards.

2015 Holiday Artisan Fair

The EC artists will be selling prints and note cards, along with ceramic ornaments– letters and hearts– at the 2015 Holiday Artisan Fair.  If you’re looking for a gift, be it for others or for yourself, come to the Merced Multicultural Arts Center at 645 W. Main Street on Friday, Dec 4th, 11am-6pm, and Saturday, Dec 5th, 10am-2:30pm.

Makin' tags for EC artworks.

Makin’ tags for EC artworks.

Paper clay ceramics

In addition to the goods for sale in our booth, we will have more amazing ceramic creations on exhibit, which are also available for purchase.  The EC artists have spent the last few months working in paper clay, and the results are beautiful. In the glass case on the 2nd floor landing– paper clay houses and buildings.  In the glass case on the 3rd floor landing–  paper clay bowls and vessels.  We’ll have more details about EC art on exhibit next week… WE PROMISE!

Paper clay bowls by (l-r) Yadira Prado, Arnold Hernandez, and James Brizendine.

Paper clay bowls by (l-r) Yadira Prado, Arnold Hernandez, and James Brizendine.

2014 Holiday Ornaments

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Rows and rows of letters strung and hung and ready for sale!

Here they are:  the 2014 Enrichment Center ornament… LETTERS.

This year, the EC artists’ ornaments offer a new way to personalize your holiday (or any-day) gift giving and decorating. Our 2014 ornaments go everywhere! On inside trees and outside trees, garland, gifts, and stockings… boxes, bags, hooks and bottles… chains, pins, collars, and key fobs. Personalize your holiday gifts this season, with handmade ceramic letters which can be used year-round.

The letters have been cut from slabs of firing clay and decorated by the artists of the Enrichment Center, with imprints and relief.  They (the letters, not the artists!) were then fired to bisque in our kiln. The artists then spent two weeks painting the letters with glaze, before firing up the kiln again during the week of Thanksgiving.  Continue reading

Art for the Heart: Pick-up Schedule

Thanks to all who participated in our Art for the Heart fundraiser for community heart health.  We raised $1200 for the Mercy Foundation to use for the Cardiac Rehab Department.  The funds will help people with heart disease, who do not have a funding source to pay for their rehabilitation.
The exhibit was up at Mercy Medical Center on February 14th, and we’ll be taking it down on Tuesday, March 5th. If you are a Mercy employee, and would like to pick up your heart at the hospital, please let me know by Monday, March 4th.  All other hearts will return to the Multicultural Arts Center.
You may pick up your hearts in the Enrichment Center office, in Room 6 of the 3rd floor of the Multicultural Arts Center (645 W. Main St.), at the following days and times:
Wednesday, March 6th – Friday, March 8th:     9am to 6pm
Monday, March 11th – Friday, March 15th:       9:30am to 3:30pm
Please remember that the Main Street entrance of the Arts Center is only open during Gallery Hours:
Tuesday – Friday 11am – 6pm
Saturday 10am – 2pm
Sunday – Monday Closed
However, the back entrance on Arts Alley is open Monday through Friday during all Arts Center hours, including when the galleries are closed.

On Saturday, March 9th, the hearts will be available at the front desk in the main gallery on the 1st floor, during business hours– 10am to 2pm.  Front and back entrances are available.

Hearts must be picked up by Friday, March 15th.
Thanks again to everyone who participated, making this a successful fundraiser for community heart health.  See you next year!

Project: Art for the Heart

Phase 5:  Hearts on Fire… Into the Kiln

1830° is too hot to cook James and Shirley’s peanut butter cookies, but it is the perfect temperature for firing our glazed hearts.

It takes an entire day of carefully orchestrated adjustments to bring the kiln up to that temperature.  By the end, a view through a peephole reveals an orange glow reminiscent of the surface of the sun.  It then takes another two days to cool so the pieces inside can be removed.  Kristine, our Clay/Ceramic Arts instructor says, “It’s like Christmas!” We practically hover around the kiln, checking to see if the temperature has cooled enough to open the lid by another glorious few inches.  If we open it too quickly, the fired glaze, which is like glass fused to the clay, may crack and chip.  If we open it too slowly… we may die of anticipation.

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We know that the pieces will be fantastic, but because the glaze is so chalky looking, the final image is like a secret.

Before going into the kiln, each heart is covered with a clear glaze, which goes on blue.  This makes the hearts almost completely anonymous. It’s terrifying, really.  After watching everyone who participated in the workshops put such time and attention into their hearts, to then cover them up with 2 layers of BLUE was sometimes difficult.  Though it’s the same clear glaze we always use, I repeatedly checked the label on the jug to make sure it said “clear.”  130204_AFTH_before after clear glaze_web

The hearts have gone into the kiln. When it cools, we’ll remove them to see the vibrant color of the formerly chalky glaze, and awesome art of the artists who glazed them.

Project: Art for the Heart

Phase 3:  “Glazing” is painting…

Technically, you’re painting a coating of silica-based fluid (glaze), which, when fired in the kiln, will fuse to the surface of the clay heart… now you know why we just refer to it as glazing.

From our first glazing workshop. Glazing is just painting. Harrison chose his heart, his colors, and his brushes. Photo by Melissa Kelly-Ortega

From our first glazing workshop. Glazing is just painting. Harrison chose his heart, his colors, and his brushes. Photo by Melissa Kelly-Ortega

When you spend as many hours as we do surrounded by art, making art, promoting art, talking about art, art becomes such a natural part of your speech and action, that you may forget the large number of people who may perceive art as being slightly foreign– a special skill, unique only to those gifted with a sense of creative genius.  Not so!!

When you ask people who feel that way to engage in artmaking, many of them may imagine that you are asking them to do something they aren’t qualified to do… like auto repair, networking the office computers, catering a wedding, or teaching high school math.

For this project, especially given the short time we have before it concludes, convincing people that they are fully qualified to participate has been important, and involved making a few assurances:

1. You don’t have to worry about your skills.  We will introduce you to the materials, how to use them, and be there to provide assistance and answer questions.

2. We’ve set it up so that it is only as complex as you want it to be.

3. It doesn’t matter how you paint the heart, as long as you paint the heart– whether you spend 2 hours perfecting every detail, or 2 minutes applying slapdash one-color coverage.

Answers to other questions people have had are:

  1. The funds we collect will be going to the Mercy Foundation to be used in the Cardiac Rehab department, to help people with heart disease who do not have a way to pay for their rehab.
  2. You should give yourself about 1 hour to select and glaze your heart.  Those who have come in expecting to do it in 30-45 minutes tend to run out of time.
  3. The glaze goes on looking very chalky, but firing reveals the vibrant color and glossy texture.
  4. Drop-ins are acceptable, but reservations are a good idea.  If you drop in, and there is no more space, you may have to wait.
  5. We do not have a credit card machine. We accept cash and checks.
  6. The cost is a $10 donation per heart.  We also have a few small hearts, which were designed to be glazed as a pair for $10, but which may be glazed individually for $5.

Fortunately, except in rare circumstances (usually involving a professional artist who is trying to become rich and famous, or doesn’t learn from his/her mistakes), there is no failure in art.  It is what it is.  Most artists will tell you that mistakes are gifts you give to yourself.  Making a mistake, you will either learn a valuable lesson—how not to do something, or you will learn something new—how to do something you didn’t intend to do… but will totally try again.

Glazing workshops:

Saturday, January 19th          10am – 1pm

Saturday, January 19th          5 – 8pm (ART HOP!)

Tuesday, January 22nd          4 – 6pm

Saturday, January 26th         10am – 1pm

Wednesday, January 30th     5 – 6pm

Saturday, February 2nd         10am – 1pm

All workshops are at the Enrichment Center in Room 1, on the 3rd floor of the Multicultural Arts Center– 645 W. Main St. Merced

Project: Art for the Heart

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Putting the pieces together is difficult when your partnership doesn’t yet have partners.  We knew we wanted to work with Mercy Medical Center, but we didn’t have any contacts there.  Our good friends Monika Modest and Melissa Kelly-Ortega came to our rescue, providing awesome contacts.  Now we’re collaborating!

We wanted to work with American Heart Association, but they no longer have a local chapter.  It was important to keep the funds we raise local, so we’re working with our new partner– Mercy Medical Center– to identify a great organization to use our funds– promoting and advocating for healthy hearts, and supporting people making heart-healthy changes.  Now, on to the workshops!

This is a link to the poster, if you’d like to print or share it:  Art for the Heart 2013 poster 02

Project: Art for the Heart

PHASE 1: Preparing Clay Hearts…

Pounding, rolling, slabbing.  Cutting, smoothing, drying.  In late November 2012, the artists of the Enrichment Center began preparing clay hearts for a project to promote health and wellness in the New Year.

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Artist Denise Saelee carefully smoothing clay hearts for the Enrichment Center’s collaborative project Art for the Heart. December 2012.


Artist Richard Chavez cutting hearts from clay in preparation for the Enrichment Center’s collaborative project Art for the Heart. December 2012.

Sadly, most of us have lost someone we care about to a heart-related illness.  The New Year is the natural time for reflection and making changes for a better year.  Health and wellness generally top the list of areas where we focus those changes.  The artists and staff of the Enrichment Center, like everyone else, recognize the changes we could make to promote our own heart health.  We also recognize the therapeutic qualities of the arts, and thought it was about time to make our own collaboration with the local health community.

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These hearts have been dried and stacked, waiting to be loaded into the kiln for firing to bisque– the stage when clay can be glazed. December 2012.

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Clay hearts drying on shelves in the EC kiln room. Hearts on the top shelf are dry enough to fire, while hearts on the lower shelves are still too wet. Another week and they’ll all be ready. December 2012.

The artists worked throughout December to make hundreds of clay hearts for the Art for the Heart project.  People are invited to glaze a heart for a $10 donation, with proceeds going to a local organization which promotes heart-health, and assists people with making healthy changes.  As part of glazing their heart, participants will be encouraged to dedicate their heart to something meaningful– a loved one lost to heart disease, a personal commitment to change unhealthy habits, or some other goal that will improve their health and well-being.

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The first batch of clay hearts for the Enrichment Center’s collaborative project Art for the Heart. The kiln was fired the day before. Once we were sure we wouldn’t burn our faces off while opening it, the lid was propped open to allow them to cool.

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Clay hearts sitting on the edge of the kiln during unpacking.

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Over 300 hearts, just unpacked from the kiln after firing to bisque. They’re ready for glazing during the Enrichment Center’s collaborative Art for the Heart project. January 2013.

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This is just a sample of the clay hearts we’re offering for glazing to raise money for heart-health and a healthy New Year, with our collaborative Art for the Heart project. January 2013.

The first batch of over 300 dried clay hearts was fired to bisque in the kiln this week, and are now ready for glazing.  Though clients used a general size template, each heart is different.  Since we have sooooo many, there should be no lack of choices– a heart for everyone.

Contact the Enrichment Center for more information, and to sign up for a glazing workshop. Art for the Heart!

Sgraffito Tiles

Sgraffito is a clay decoration technique involving a combination of painting with colored slip and scratching the surface of the clay.  The EC Artists’ sgraffito work began with tiles, as part of a unit in slabbing clay.  The result was a large collection of sgraffito tiles which the artists agreed would be good as coasters or trivets.  Each one is a handmade tile of approximately 4 inches square, coated with clear glaze, and backed with protective felt pads.  Sgraffito designs are unique and reflect the individual style of each artist.

When our managing organization, the Merced County Arts Council, made the announcement that they were having trouble keeping the Multicultural Arts Center going, the artists asked that we sell the tiles to raise funds to keep it open.   While the program could survive in another location, the Multicultural Arts Center has been the Enrichment Center’s home since the program began in 2000.

Our “Buy 3/Get 1 Free” holiday ornaments campaign was so successful, that we are repeating it with these tiles.  $2 each.  Buy 3/Get 1 Free ($6 for 4)

If you’re interested in purchasing sgraffito tiles, call, email or visit, Monday through Friday 9am to 3pm, or by arrangement.  We can reserve tiles for youSee our Contact page for more information.