A couple summers ago I walked away from my life. No office, no traffic jams, no Georgia summer heat. I spent a month with my dog Ana in our old family hillside farmhouse in Vermont. In contrast to my normal everyday life, this gave me a chance to escape to a place where I could focus on my artwork without interruption. This is a place of wonderful memories, a place that my family traveled to nearly every summer into my adult years. It was my dream for years to move to Vermont, a dream that has finally been fufilled.
The idea of incorporating the Vermont landscape onto my pottery came as a natural progression from my painting and photography. I love both painting and clay, so painting the bisque ware with a wax resist designs is a wonderful way to combine the two. As time has past, Ive added animals to the landscapes with increasing frequency.
I salt glaze my work. This is a process of adding salt to the kiln firing just as it reaches its hottest point. The salt creates a thin layer of glaze to the surface of the pottery enhancing the designs and creating a varied surface to the pottery. Salt glazing is rich with history dating back hundreds of years to European pottery. It was common in the northeast and southern parts of the United States until the turn of the past century.
Have you ever stopped to tie your shoe and noticed a wilting flower, a green tipped penny, a crumpled tissue, something that just changed your whole perspective of where you are and how to look at the world? Youre down on one knee, feeling the concrete sidewalk digging into your skin, fingers wrapped around the cotton laces and you notice a different world. Focus changes from the far and large to the near and small. Just for a moment you might see the wind blow the grass, feel the sun on your neck, or note the sound of your breath. You might think of a different time and place; you might feel cold or warm, discontent or passion. Youre not where you just were.
But then you get up, resume your walk and forget.
This is what happens when I pick up a cup of coffee in the morning. Just for a few minutes Im completely aware of the mug in my hand. Most likely it isnt my mug, I have very few of my own. A good sturdy mug, a thin delicate cup, a tall handsome mug; all can move my focus from the big picture to the small. I see more than a vessel; Im aware of the size, texture and the feel of the form. I think of who made it, and why its important to me. I take a trip away from my kitchen, just for a moment.
I want my work to encourage a mental vacation in this same fashion.
I want my pottery to blend in, comfortably appear to be part of a whole, not stand out and shout. But once picked to be used, or noticed on the table, I want it to engage the audience with a quiet power, move them to a different place and time.
The salt kiln does most of the work for me; it softens harsh lines and adds earthy colors and textures to the flesh of my pots. I stick to simple patterns and images, maybe a touch aboriginal in appearance. I often fill the negative space of the pottery surface with rhythms of dots and patterns, no longer always relying on the good graces of the kiln gods.