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.
Making clay baskets can be complex forms to create. They are born on the potter’s wheel, the place where I do my best thinking, as small shapes that begin as bowls and then transform into objects of whimsey. The rim of the pot becomes a place to alter: roll it, split it, cut it, pinch it … each action creates a different result.
Once the wheel thrown pieces are trimmed or finished, hand pulled handles are added to each piece. The shape of the basket determines where the handle is placed in order to create a functional form.
When the clay is still malleable, I take the opportunity to add decoration to the surface. Handmade, found and manufactured stamps are added to make each piece unique.
Once bone dry, underglaze colors are added to “pop” the pieces. These one of a kind baskets are now ready to head into the kiln where they will be fired to cone 06 and then be ready to hold glaze.
I decided on a satiny white liner and an opal glaze to emphasize the underglaze colors. One characteristic of the opal glaze is its movement; it can drag or pull the color down the pot that is vertical. I use this knowledge to create the effect I am looking for. The baskets head back into a kiln and are fired to cone 6.
The baskets are now completed pieces of pottery. They are ready to make their way out into the world as useful and beautiful handmade objects.
Five years ago, I wanted to sell my handmade pottery in my hometown of Westwood, Massachusetts. I created a few dishes and approached Decor & More, a gift shop in the center of town to see about a partnership. Since then, there have been Westwood dishes of all kinds, Westwood grad dishes and most recently: Realtor dishes with town names.
These dishes are created from white stoneware clay, hand cut, smoothed, hand stamped and set to dry before hand painting each individual letter and design with an underglaze paint. Dishes are fired in a kiln, glazed with a clear and fired for a second time to create a piece that is both durable and functional for food. No dish is alike and can vary year to year as changes to color and design are updated. They are fun to collect!
My fall collection is dishwasher and microwave safe. Caring for your artwork details are located on my website. This collection is high fire stoneware that has been wheel thrown and fired in a cone 6 kiln by the artist.
“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.