...imagination bodies forth the forms of things unknown [Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night's Dream]
A blog of discovering clay. A chance to explore the philosophy and practicalities of twenty-first century pots. A collection of leads for my students and myself.
intended to be good to live with and interact with on a daily basis. They
are made with others in mind. For me, good pots spring from compassion.
…from Bede Clark’s artist statement
I gave my students two assignments at the end of this fall session to work on over the break. One comes from one of my first ceramics teachers, Walter Hyleck:
Take your favorite pot from this semester and use it every day, at every meal for two weeks. Say it’s a mug: drink everything out of it. Sleep with it. Really use that mug and get to know it. My update on this assignment: first draw a sketch of it and list its best features and drawbacks, and after two weeks of use, draw it again and note what you know now that you didn’t before from using the pot. Take the DNA of this pot and sketch its descendant, the next pot you’ll make with your new awareness.
The other was for students who may not take another clay class soon. It also was a two week assignment:
Every night as you’re brushing your teeth before bed, ask yourself, “How have I engaged the world with my hands today?” (Typing on a keyboard doesn’t count.)
It is the space within that makes it useful.
Cut doors and windows for a room;
It is the holes which make it useful.
Therefore benefit comes from what is there;
Usefulness from what is not there.
“Ido Tea Bowls: Treasured Possessions of Muromachi Daimyo,” currently showing at the Nezu Museum, presents an array of 72 rare tea bowls that were once owned by renowned warlords, tea masters and Buddhist temples. Produced by country potters in kilns in Korea’s South Kyungsang province, these bowls were originally for domestic use and became treasured by Japanese tea masters and Muromachi Period (1338-1573) warlords for their rustic simplicity and rarity. They came to play a pivotal role in Japanese history.”
[full article in Japan Times]
Majolica is an ancient technique (going back to the Persians) which employs a full palette of watercolor-like brushwork on a thick white glaze, usually on a buff or red earthenware body. If you think of the gorgeous tile work of Mexico, Spain and Portugal or of lively Italian pitchers and platters, you are probably thinking of majolica.
Majolica has its own quirks and demands. I’ve worked with it for over twenty years and I’ll be sharing my know-how at Sarratt Art Studios Saturday, September 21st. We’ll supply bisqued tiles, glaze and stains and I’ll have handouts to help you explore majolica further in your own work. Bring your ideas, sketches and source materials, your favorite brushes if you have them, and be prepared to leap into a part of the ceramic world that offers brilliant colors.
[Images: Kessler, Linda Arbuckle, Spanish majolica, Mexican majolica, Posey Bacopolous]
Each day we slaughter our finest impulses. – Henry Miller
My work is a call to action. My search, in the dark, in the past, in the world, and in the mud, is for resonant forms and their negative spaces. These forms and spaces are made real and lasting through the agency of clay - the earthiest of materials – in order to engage the senses.
I use familiar but half-forgotten imagery to bypass easy recognition, inviting investigation and encounter. I make specters, clay specters, figures of loss, figures of promise and hope that fail to come to seed, ideas passed down over generations but tossed to the margins. They stand soundlessly. I make buds swollen and ready to burst and held in a freeze frame of fired clay, always on the brink of revealing themselves. These organic forms are stripped of surface or of color. The vibrant green each bud cries out for is displaced to the flat wall. They speak of growth but read as anthracite, living material so desaturated by time and pressure they can only lie buried or burn to ash.
I choose this dichotomy, this out-of-phase shift of surface to form, to draw an analogy to my larger concerns: our cultural false dichotomies of Humankind and Nature; Mind and Body; Life and Death. We hold these entities to be separate and antagonistic, and we wreak havoc with this belief. These all are the same abstraction played out in different arenas.
To believe in an intrinsic difference from all other life forms is to unhitch the tether tying us to the consequences of our exploitative actions. The mind has been made to pre-empt the body and death has been sequestered from its central role in life, a full-on abdication of the connection between our mortal selves and all other living things. With these abstractions we create a gulf. As we lose access to our senses and the sympathetic resonances our perceptions stir within us, we lose hope of drawing on wisdom deeper than the current ticker-tape mentality. We lose any counterweight to the widespread narrative of violence, overconsumption, and devastation of life. We lose our common senses.
I make the work from a spirit of commonality, so that I might give heart to others on the same search. It is possible to revive our birthright of infinitely nuanced senses and, in doing so, regain a grounded internal compass.