There comes a point when you notice the difference between the amount of time you’ve lived … and what you have left … which makes you say enough to things that don’t give your life meaning.
I used to do clay. There was a studio, and festivals, and galleries and years of making a living from what I created with my hands. I loved that part of my story. Then a downturn in the economy prevented me from continuing that. I had to go get a real job. But I always dreamt about coming back to having a studio again … because those were really good memories.
But then there was a thirty plus year hiatus. Doing something else. Not as fun.
My hands missed making things. They wanted to feel the creative process again. Wanting to feel whole once more and to fill the hole that not creating had made.
Then the opportunity came to walk away from the empty business life I did for thirty years, to stop ghosting my own life, and step back into into a creative one filled with light.
I‘m no longer dreaming but back standing in front of my studio, in a little beach community, swinging the doors open again.
Each step of the ceramic process fascinates me. Developing the techniques, that in turn creates a process. Will it be wheel thrown or hand built piece? To that comes the application of whatever design, or other decoration technique, which gives the piece a unique voice. After that there’s the gas, electrical, wood or sawdust firing. The fire, and its’ tremendous heat, brings a finality to the process. Through it all, the potter leaves a lot to what just happens. The acceptance in this process of the transience and imperfection. It’s in that imperfection that a potter finds inspirational and creativity. To let go of control and embracing the mistakes is the ultimate way for creativity to take over. Even if you try to hold on through all other disciplines of creation, you can’t control what happens in the firing, you can only let go and let the pot do what it wants. Embracing the chaos of fire. That’s why there’s a love of pit and/or wood firing.
The process is what’s important and in the end, the result had better be able to stand on its’ own two feet, because the work has no reflection on its’ creator. To create something, which is aesthetically pleasing to one’s sense of design, without bringing the ego into the mix is all important. I owe that to Doug Smith, a brilliant life drawing teacher at CSF who got to me early on, and helped in disconnecting the ego from what I do, to make me live fully in the process, without feeling that the work has anything to do with me once it’s done.
An artist can only hope that the work that leaves their studio, brings the collector as much joy as it took the artist to create.
:: Pit Firing
My choice of pit firing comes from wanting to get back to the most basic form of making pottery. To understand the correlation of mud and fire at it’s most basic level. A grounding of the creative process.
Pit firing is “the” original way of firing clay to maturity going back some 30,000 years. The process is typically done by digging a hole in the ground, a pit, and the pots are placed into this pit and combustible material is placed around them and burned. Pit firing is also an atmospheric process where the elements used to burn influence the pottery by adding color and patterns. By using known colorants, wrapping the pots with material to create a sagger (walled barrier) to separate the fire from the pot, one can control a little of the process and influence the works outcome. But only so slightly. As with any firing the fire really does what it wants, it only lets you think you have a say.
Colorants can be copper or cobalt, seaweed or kelp, pine needles or sawdust, and with those the wood that is used to create the fire be it soft or hardwood. All have an influence on the coloring process. All are in abundance here in the PNW.
Firing is done with 55 gallon oil drums for now, but there are plans to build a permanent brick pit firing station at some point next summer, but it will require building a lean-to over the top to keep the rain, that is Seattle, from interfering with the firing process.
In the beginning there was always clay. First there was the backyard mud where creatures were conjured up out of nothing. Then making pinch pots in grade school. When I was fifteen years old I lied about my age to get a job at the Northfield Pottery Shop where I poured slip into greenware molds and made sure that there were enough pieces for people to buy and work on. That job lasted about six months or until the massive Christmas tree mold snapped its’ bands and slip inundated the entire studio where I worked.
This set back did nothing to damper my enthusiasm. Throughout high school I lived in the art wing where clay was my speciality. Literally the day after I graduated I moved to Southern California and started taking ceramic classes from Larry Friedman at Fullerton College. That led to classes with Stokesbury and Rothman at Cal-State Fullerton as it was called then, and the brainwashing into a life of clay was complete. After college I moved to South Laguna and set up a studio in the garage of a little beach bungalow just up from A Thousand Steps beach. The year was 1976.
The first business break was getting into the Festival Of The Arts in Laguna Beach. Later I was invited to have my work at Vorpal Gallery (known as the Escher Gallery) which was also in Laguna at the time. The fun lasted until the economy tanked in 1981. No one was buying art when food on the table was a little more important.
That led to my working in the photo industry for thirty five years. During this expanse of time I met my wife, we had two kids, bought houses and dogs and moved multiple times. A long 37 year hiatus from clay. Then last year I had a falling out and I said that’s it, I’ve done what I can in the photo industry, I’m returning to my roots.
Originally from Seattle ... and residing there once again ... after side trips to Los Angeles, Chicago, South Laguna, and Kansas City.