about the work
All of these pieces are handbuilt ceramic vessels. I construct each one from the bottom up, layer by layer, pinching and smoothing on long narrow coils of clay. As it builds up I continue to smooth the surface and consider the form. I usually have only a general idea of what I want in the form when I begin. As the shape develops, I recognize what feels right for the piece and I work to further that quality. This process is very time consuming but is crucial to what is meaningful to me as an artist and how my work is evolving. This technique gives me lots of room to play and experiment and surprise myself. I tend not to overly define the form so there’s a lot of space for the image to arise in the painting of a figure. If every detail were put down in the clay, then the decorative process would be more like filling in a coloring book versus painting an open canvas. When I grab a chunk of clay, there’s nothing predetermined. Sometimes in the middle of building a piece, a new inspiration will strike, and I’ll head off in a new direction.
There is a lot of ceramic sculpture in the market that is press molded or slipcast, not truly built by hand. These techniques allows for fast production of forms and are a completely different genre of ceramics. I never use any type of molds; each piece is truly unique. Handbuilding by pinch and coil requires the individual attention that produces a one of a kind work of art.
The clay that I am using is a high-fire sculpture clay, fired to over 2000 degrees. Sculpture clay allows me to pull off the more dramatic styles that I am doing. Most other clays would slump in the kiln during firing. This stoneware clay is far sturdier than low-fire terra cotta. The finished piece is quite strong compared to most ceramics though reasonable care must be used when handling them.
Each of my sculptures is a vessel. Over the last 30 years my work has evolved quite a bit but the character of my forms as vessels has been a grounding theme throughout. I love the poetry of this form--the quiet space contained in the vessel of the body, the peace within. I often whisper prayers into my work.
All of these pieces are once-fired. This means that the decorative slips and glazes are applied to the dried unfired form. By applying the glazes onto the dry clay, I have the liberty to work and rework a piece until I am completely satisfied. I build up the colors in layers, which when fired, all fuse together to create a rich and painterly palette. The quality of the surface that I get is so important to me. This once-fired technique is not commonly taught, so I formulate my own glazes and have developed my own technique over the last 30 years. I love to experiment and am constantly mixing new colors, which keeps the work really fresh and exciting for me.
My decorative style has evolved from a number of lifelong inspirations including an American folk art style found in Vermont’s Bread and Puppet Theater, ethnographic costumes and textiles, and painters like Chagall and Gauguin. The Bread and Puppet style is earthy, loose and full of heart. My travels have exposed me to colorful textiles where plant and animal imagery is stylized to create pattern, and the artists weave in the elements of their world that are important to them. The painters that I love create both a palette and surface quality that I can look at forever. All my inspirations value simplicity, beauty, earthiness and joy. From these many sources, my personal style has developed and continues to grow. The birds on the wires, for example, used to be only found in the design-- then they started flying! My style is considered to be Contemporary Studio Craft.
Care of work:
This stoneware clay is worlds sturdier than low-fire terra cotta. The finished piece is quite strong compared to most ceramics though reasonable care must be used in handling.
All the colors are glazes fired to 2200 degrees so my work is completely fade proof and can be displayed in a sunny window. To clean, you can simply dust or you can remove each head, and wash off the dust by running water over it.