South 12th Street in San Jose is tree-lined and lovely and quiet and kept-up nicely but not obnoxiously. That’s Marcia Donahue standing in from of Ted Fullwood’s house in the top photo and standing at the foot of the front porch stairs in the bottom photo.
Those are malas made by Marcia Donahue draped over the tiled porch balcony rail. The tiled railing and malas are a hint of something different here. That and the large ceramic sculptures lining the driveway.
Today is Easter – a holiday. Which means, in the world of Quirky Berkeley, a field trip. Marcia Donahue arranged this visit to her longtime friend Fullwood, as well as a visit to Cevan Forristt who we will go see next holiday.
Fullwood’s house and garden are filled with his art. He works in ceramics, weaving, and tile – all visible in this living room photo.
After bouncing around with his family, Fullwood settled down in Palo Alto for high school.
He went to Cubberley, an experimental public high school. You may or may not remember hearing about the Third Wave Experiment led by teacher Ron Jones. It was the type of place that would let someone like Fullwood do nothing but ceramics for the last two years of high school and give him good grades in requisite scholastic subjects. A place that recognized genius.
Fullwood earned an MA in art history and an MFA in sculpture from San Jose State. His lack of academic classes in grades 11 and 12 was not a problem.
San Jose was now home. He bought the single-story 12th Street house in 1995. He jacked the house up, dug down, and a few years later moved into his two-story home.
Let’s start with the tile.
Fullwood bought tile at Fire Clay Tile.
This was Ground Zero – a small alcove/room under the stairs leading down from second story to first story.
It worked, so he kept going – an understatement of enormous proportions. Hundreds of thousands of tiles. Thousands of hours. No surface safe from tile, with or without third dimension alteration of the surface.
Some of the result:
In the backyard is a studio. A tiled studio.
Fullwood tried the studio out for his ceramic work, but it did not pass his three-part test for ceramics workspace.
He has not been tiling recently.
His time has gone to weaving and ceramics. But the tile shards await. There will be, I am sure, more tiling.
As for the three required conditions for ceramics work, they are:
1) High ceiling
2) Good natural light
3) Big monster tables that don’t jiggle. Fullwood uses what he calls the “patty-cake” method, and neither an extruder nor the pinch-and-coil method. He needs a sturdy table.
None of those conditions were found in the backyard studio so it is not used much.
Fullwood’s sculpture is seen throughout his garden and throughout his house.
So where does Fullwood go for high ceilings and natural light and monster tables that don’t jiggle?
He does much of his ceramics work at San Jose State, which is home to one of the top ceramics programs in the state. Around nine years ago, then-head of the ceramics department Stan Welsh gave Fullwood working privileges in the ceramics shop.
We visited San Jose State. A field trip within a field trip! It was a quiet day to visit. Mostly just Ted and his sculptures-in-progress.
Good monster tables and tools and kilns. Dig the tools!
While there we met Jeff Whyman, visiting artist at the moment.
I mention Whyman because he was once a son of Berkeley – MA at Cal 1980, MFA at Cal, 1981. And then he lived among us, on 7th near Delaware. Berkeley’s Peter Voulkos was an important influence, and Whyman was excited to learn about the Voulkos bronze “stacks” on Heinz Street.
Back on 12th Street – and back to Fullwood’s weaving. Fullwood weaves by hand, without a loom. He retreats to the weaving room and enters the Ted Zone. His hands fly as he weaves the pipe cleaners or scraps of cloth that he is working with. He can do it without looking.
The pipe cleaner pieces are far out. Very far out:
The cloth-scrap weavings give some of the look and feel of an old-fashioned braided rug.
Fullwood is wicked smart and wicked focused. He doesn’t sketch out his work – “I see it better in my head than I could on paper.” His father was a nuclear physicist which I take to mean that Ted comes by his intelligence and drive honestly. He accomplishes a lot every day. He makes art for the sake of making art. And he is a friend of Marcia Donahue, a rock solid voucher as Good People.
Visiting Fullwood’s house and garden, I felt inspired. I felted awed. I felt lazy and unaccomplished. But it isn’t about me, is it? It is about Ted Fullwood and his very awesome awesomeness.
I showed my friend the photos. He regretted not being able to come with us to meet Fulwood. “I’d like to see him weave without looking. It’s like the dudes who blow through Rubik’s Cube real fast. Ever seen it? Half the time they are flipping away without looking. They SEE without their eyes. Sounds like Ted.”
Good point. What about the photos?