I am reminded of the “power of she” every year when I steal away for the weekend with my childhood girlfriends. This year, we included a trip to the Peabody Essex Museum to see the exhibit of Empresses of China’s Forbidden City. I was immediately drawn into the lives of these women and as curator Daisy Yiyou Wang said, “the broader reflection on the position of women in society and a sense of commonality and connection across time and cultures”
When I viewed the exhibit, I was already working on my spring collection. The peony was central to my theme. From the exhibit, I learned that Empress Dowager Cixi favored the peony, known as the “king of all flowers” and the flower of China, because the bloom signifies beauty and prosperity.
I found myself reflecting on women and the power of she. My spring collection widened as I chose an image that would live on and in the surface of my wheel thrown vessels and gave a second dimension to my collection.
The Pottery in Bloom collection and the Power of She collection become my spring collection together. Women have their own stories, shared in the company of other women. The power of she collectively creates strong, beautiful, feminine women who won’t be forgotten as these empresses might have been. The symbol of the peony bloom reminds us of their stories and of our own.
This collection will make its debut this weekend at Potters Place Spring Show and Sale, May 3-5. It is a small and intricate collection that begs to be touched as well as pondered intellectually.
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.
“Flowers”: a summer collection installed at the Dedham Square Artist Guild located in historic Dedham Square, Dedham, MA
In the summer months, I enjoy working with low fire clay. A lower firing temperature allows me to utilize brighter colors that can “burn out” when the temperature in a ceramics kiln is higher. I began creating my “Flowers” collection while working on my summer art classes curricula.
I spent time at my local library, pouring over books to come up with new and exciting ideas for my students and found myself interested in learning more about certain flowers.
Vessels were hand built and ready for surface decoration. Slips, textures, carving and underglaze ceramic paints were used to create imagery; low fire glazes completed the vision.
“Flowers” can be functional for bouquets in water, food for a party; or, individual pieces can be hung on a wall or displayed on a tabletop. My ceramics are meant to be picked up and explored. Textured surfaces to the finger tip are a delight. Three dimensional art begs to be touched, picked up and interacted with. Ceramics is functional art.
Please visit the Dedham Square Artist Guild to purchase a piece from “Flowers”. Each piece is one of a kind. The collection is small but varied. Each piece stands alone but works well together. “Flowers” is perfect for the collector and just right for a wedding gift.
Potters Place Open Studios is two weeks away. A cooperative studio where I teach and create, Potters Place will open it’s doors to the public for Spring Show & Sale 2018 on Friday, May 4th at 5:30pm and close on Sunday, May 6th at 4:00pm. Details
Buy handmade for Mother’s Day, Spring & Summer weddings & birthdays, plus graduations & bridal showers. Enjoy one of a kind functional art that can be hung on a wall, and used with food and drink. Celebrate Art with your purchase of locally made wares. At Potters Place, 23 clay artisans will be participating in this amazing spring sale – join us for fun and find something to celebrate your special occasions with!
Trips inspire new art from a city filled with it: New York City
1. Sara Japanese Pottery 2. Wood fired pottery upper east side 3. Odilon Redon early 1900s 4. Colorful handblown glass vases in a city window 5. Van Gogh 6. Pork buns at Red Barn dim sum, Greenwich Village 7. Van Gogh at The Met 8. Handmade Ceramics in Soho 9. Faceted bowls
Inspiration for my Holiday 2017 Collection comes from my summer trip to Portugal.
Bolsa Palace in Porto
Bolsa Palace oblong
Ceramic Fish in Porto
Porto fish — set of 3
Bordallo Pinheiro Dragonfly Pottery
Dragonfly set of dishes
Bordallo Pinheiro double leaf serving dish
2 part leaf dishes
Belem district of Lisbon
Padrão dos Descobrimentos
compass rose tile
Padrão dos Descobrimentos
Pastel de Nata
Pasteis de Belém
Portugal Tile ornaments
Join me for the “first look” on Friday, November 17th 5:30-9PM at Potters Place opening reception for Holiday Show and Sale at 127 Old West Street, Walpole, MA. Show continues Saturday, November 18th 9AM-8PM and Sunday, November 19th 10AM-4PM. More information can be found at http://www.pottersplace.info
The apple blossoms this spring were everywhere… perhaps it was the wacky weather or the fact that spring seemed to take forever to get here, all I know is that everywhere I looked, the flowers were blooming. The tree in my own front yard brought a smile to my face every time I returned home.
Life inspires art and as I sat down to create new work, the apple blossoms collection began. Using an actual twig from my tree, assorted hand carved and purchased stamps, I “drew” my clay pictures taking inspiration from shapes of my molds.
Once the clay was bone dry, I used my watercolor underglazes to add color to the images before loading them into the bisque kiln.
Out of the first kiln, the collection was glazed and loaded into the 2nd kiln to add functionality to each piece. At each stage, the flowers welcomed me and provided a memory that symbolized spring, rebirth, change, peace, beauty and more.
Imagine! The theme for Potters Place spring show is “Imagine”, inspired by a favorite quote from Albert Einstein, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” Show coordinators, Ronda & Helayne asked Potters Place members to “Imagine” what would happen if they took a piece that they make on a regular basis and did something different with it.
“Imagine!” prompted a collection for me…. I began experimenting with some new floral stamps on both wheel thrown and hand built forms. As I began pressing into the clay, I embraced its malleable surface and began creating a new surface filled with flowers. I used colored slip trailing and carving to further decorate and then turned to watercolor under-glaze for color. After bisque firing my work, I found the glaze I planned to use was contaminated so I had to “Imagine!” using another glaze. By choosing Opal, I needed to embrace the characteristic of a glaze with movement. Knowing my vertical pottery would be affected; I decided to match my watercolor underglaze with actual glaze. The result was better than I imagined and my favorite piece in the collection emerged (see inserted photo).
Photos of the process…
Potters Place Spring Show and Sale 2017 weekend starts tomorrow, Friday, May 5th. Doors open 5:30PM til 9PM. Show continues Saturday, May 6th, 9AM til 8PM and Sunday, May 7th, 10AM til 4PM. We are raising funds to purchase ceramics books for the Walpole Library in addition to thousands of handmade pieces for sale from our 23 clay artisans. More information is at http://www.pottersplace.info.
Photo by Dave Bradley of my green square plates with prelude red petal motif.