I am very interested in the complete cycle of creating clay objects. Working on the wheel has provided a framework, grounded in functionality, which allows creativity to flourish. Functional demands inform aesthetics and vice versa creating an evolution that hopefully moves forward to better work. Imperfections that occur while aspiring to perfection are exciting and learning to let them be has been a challenge. Not setting out with strict limitations always allows some wiggle room to let something become something else. This makes each object’s creation different and the immense frontier of possibilities provides exhilaration. Wondering about the unknown results in the coming years of trial and error, a period that all potters eventually get under their belts, appeals to a sense of anticipation about the promise of the future.
I’ve written statements about my work over the years and as I’ve matured I’ve come to look at what I do in the broader context of what all artists, craftspeople, writers, musicians, etc. do. After attempting to distill this all down to a somewhat simple explanation and thereby jettison the inevitable “artspeak jibberish”, what I’m left with is this: Making things (and living life) is essentially a series of decisions, each one contingent on the previous. Evidence of those moments of decision (or the concealment of said moments) represents the object’s evolution from idea to its final state. Consequently, the work done on the objects themselves can be viewed as a metaphor for existence. In the microcosm (my work), the calligraphic brushwork includes obvious examples of my decisions represented by each brushstroke’s change of direction. I try to make these quickly so that the results are almost a presentation of many decisions skirting the boundaries of my subconscious.
I've come to believe that I've always just been in love with what happens when a brush, pen or pencil makes contact with another surface and using shellac as a resist on dried, unfired clay allows the surface to be etched without losing the immediacy and spontaneity of such brushwork.
Sculpture was the area of fine art I pursued in graduate school and this nonfunctional 3D experience provides a subconscious foundation to decide whether a form satisfies my internal aesthetic or not and allows me to trust decisions made on the wheel without dwelling on them overtly. The decorative motifs and the evolution of those motifs are inspired by admiring natural beauty as well as the gamut of manmade visual vocabularies. There is a certainty of action that is apparent with many painters, sculptors, calligraphers etc. in their brushstrokes or marks in clay that is evidence of a wealth of experience I always respond to and I aspire to have that quality show up in my own work.
Q&A WITH THE ARTIST
Question 1. How do you think your work stands out and is specific to you; either the way you create, the forms, the glazes, the concept, etc.?
A. I believe my work stands out in different ways. As far as the forms are concerned, they are subtle and well-dimensioned and hopefully elegant. The glazes are simple and only serve to reveal the decorative motif underneath. The concept and the decoration are essentially the same to me. Deco is expressive, immediate, ornate and not subtle. I recently found out that this type of "writing" or "calligraphy" has its own history and name. It is called asemic writing. The qualities that I like about it are that each mark is a commitment that cannot be undone and like events in every aspect of life, one action is contingent on the preceding action.
Question 2: What do you enjoy doing outside of the ceramic area?
A. Mostly I enjoy spending time with my 11 year old daughter. I'm interested in many other things that I don't have time to pursue. I have honeybees on my property. I am passionate about listening to music which is always playing loud while I'm working. I have a small group of close friends that I enjoy hanging out with and discussing things of mutual fascination that include but are not limited to evolution, our imminent extinction as a species, our almost total denial that we are in fact animals, recent progress in neurological science which suggests that reality is an illusion and that our behaviors are controlled mostly by our subconscious and and not our conscious minds. I enjoy traveling although I'm getting to the point where I don't travel well. (Kansas City NCECA just about killed me by the last day) I used to run, then switched to cycling and now I mostly just take long walks for exercise. Love doing crossword puzzles and other word games like scrabble. Hope to do more gardening as I just moved out to the country with a bit of acreage.
Question 3: Who/what would be your 3 most important influences either as an artist or as a person (or both)?
A. I think my favorite clay artist is Arne Ase. He's Norwegian and has written an encyclopedic book on chemical salts. He is also who started me down the road with the shellac technique. Although there are many more clay people I love, over the years I've mostly been inspired by painters. Cy Twombly probably the most. Constantin Brancusi and Isamu Noguchi were big influences when I was younger.
Question 4: What are some areas you would like to explore in the future regarding your work? (different kind of firing? any glaze types you’d like to try? more sculptural / functional work? ….)
A. This is a difficult question because clay is so limitless in its possibilities. That being said, when I started making pots 11 years ago I promised myself I would not succumb to the urge to hand build sculptural work because I'm always fantasizing about it and I knew that I would never become proficient at throwing if I allowed myself to be seduced by it. Of course, lately I've been fooling around with some different ideas and would like to tentatively explore making flat wall pieces or large shallow platters that essentially read as paintings. I occasionally put pieces in the wood kiln near my home (have pieces firing as I write this) but I'm not really enamored by the process or the results. Casting pieces is also kind of interesting to me but there are only so many hours in the day.