Each year, my pottery studio, Potters Place announces a theme for its spring show and sale. It’s a creative prompt that sparks ideas for me and my studio mates. This year, the theme is “Pottery in Bloom”, a play on “Art in Bloom” that takes place at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts at the same time.
During the time the theme was announced, I was beginning my second of two drawing classes in Newton; a class is a perk of being an instructor for Newton Community Education where I currently teach clay to all ages. I was humbled and frustrated by the place I found myself when I arrived at my drawing class this fall, but by spring these two teachers had lead me past mental roadblocks and set me on the path of rediscovering my voice with skills that I could take to the clay surface.
I began working with a drawing of my hand holding the stem of a peony as a self portrait. The peony is the flower that blooms every year around the time of my wedding anniversary; it signifies the memory of the transition into a new role of wife and subsequently motherhood in a year that my children have left home. The negative space around the image in white is the silhouette of a woman’s shape. The pink of the peony, the gentle grasp of the stem, the soft form all suggest femininity to me. I worked on these two pieces at the same time, starting first with the bowl and moving to the plate.
When I look at the two pieces side by side, I see a bowl with an image on the left and a ceramic statement on the right. The bowl is a piece you might hang on a wall and contemplate in an intellectual manner. The plate is a form and image interacting as one. An only a utilitarian form can do, it invites you to interact by touch when the surface image draws you in. The two pieces together are a metaphor and entrance to my storytelling in this self portrait. Other pieces will follow to create a larger collection.
My process for creating these two pieces began with wheel thrown well made forms with a handmade swirl in the center to emphasis the human component of pottery. Once trimmed and in a “suede” state, I use a pencil to transfer my drawing. The lines are carved and then inlaid with green underglaze. Masters of this technique are Kristen Keiffer, Michael Klein and Julia Galloway, contemporary ceramicists who use Mishima in their work. Space is defined by layers of white and blue underglaze before the forms are dried and fired to bisque. Glazing has three layers and uses the characteristics of a clear glaze in conjunction with other glazes to enhance the surface decoration.
These two pieces are one of a kind and will be for sale at Potters Place Spring Show and Sale over the weekend of May 3-5. I think either piece will make the perfect wedding gift for a woman transitioning into the partnership of marriage, the celebration of a relationship.