My work in ceramics explores four different genres of the medium; ceremonial objects, sculptural forms, utilitarian pots, and large vessels.
For the past several years I have focused on reliquaries that reference ceremonial alters and discarded artifacts. The reliquaries function as a pedastal for supporting mezcal cantaros. Mezcal cantaros are simple earthenware vessels that were traditionally used to store and transport mezcal. These bottles became obsolete during the 1940’s. By making pieces that refer to cast off functional objects and placing them in context with a truly antiquated relic, I am encouraging the user to ask questions of this relationship. Some of the questions may cause one to ponder objects they themselves use on a daily basis. What rituals do I employ in my daily life? What is my relationship with the past? How do my interpersonal relationships function? What is my purpose, and how will I avoid becoming obsolete?
I am interested in creating a ritualistic setting for consuming mezcal. Keeping the traditional form of the round-bodied mezcal cantaro necessitates an altarpiece to keep the mezcal from spilling. By creating a reliquary that functions on a basic level to hold the cantaro up right, I am grounding the dialog between the users to a certain location in hopes to mandate intimacy. Users of the cantaro and reliquaries will hopefully incorporate a respectful reverence for the dialogs that ensue.
The sculptural forms are both a physical and metaphorical reference to a machine’s gear relationship. I am interested in how these objects imply a relationship between two components in a system. A solitary gear appears to be a relic of some machine from the past. What machine? You might ask. What was its purpose? Why is it no longer in use? What did the other mating gear look like? It is my hope that my pieces will generate a point of reflection for viewers, to ask themselves about their relationships with friends, family, community and their environment. This idea of reflecting upon a relic alludes to the idea of a legacy, and will hopefully give the viewer a chance to consider his or her own legacy.
The process used to create the sculptural forms and ceremonial objects employs wood firing an iron bearing clay to a temperature of 2200 degrees Fahrenheit, and then maintaining that temperature for a minimum of six hours in order to build up ash deposits. During this six-hour time frame, the kiln is continually over stoked with wood to build huge coal beds that engulf the pieces. These beds are then allowed to burn back down at regular intervals, which add more layering of ash and color to the surface. The pieces develop dramatic markings of sintered ash that references the low point of the ember building and burning cycle. After the temperature has been maintained for at least six hours, the cooling happens in an active process where too much wood is introduced into the kiln to create a reduction atmosphere, similar to the black smoke of a big diesel truck that is not running efficiently. This reduction is maintained with rhythmic stoking of the kiln until the temperature falls to 1500 degrees. The surfaces created by the use of this technique look like objects that have been unearthed at an archaeological dig.
I make pottery because I enjoy good tools. Pots are important tools of domesticity. My passion for good pots and well-made food combines to create an experience that elevates the normal daily routines to a higher level. I enjoy the time spent preparing a meal, picking out serving dishes, and plating the food. These aspects combined with good company at the dinner table can transform a mundane routine to a level of casual ritual.
I am particularly drawn to the atmospheric firing techniques of wood or soda firing. I have found that these firings add layers of pattern to the surface of the forms. The layers imbue the pieces with a sense of history. Like some of my favorite hand tools that show the history of use through the repetition of markings and patinas that develop over time.
These pieces are inspired by the technique used to make Chinese water storage jars. Traditional water storage jars are humble pots that simply collect and store water from rooftops. The forms that I create diverge from the traditional forms to incorporate formal influences from many cultures. I am particularly interested in a sense of dynamic symmetry and subtle undulations in the form while maintaining a sense of integral strength and purpose. It was more the construction method than the actual form of the water jar that piqued my interest while studying in China. It is fundamentally a simple technique but very difficult to master. The process does not employ a potter’s wheel and very few tools are used. To build and shape this style of vessel the potter walks backward around the pot. My pots were constructed using large coils of clay. Three-inch thick coils of very soft clay are added on top of the walls of the pots while being compressed and blended into the clay below. Each successive coil of clay adds about six inches of height to the pot. After the clay has stiffened up, it is then hammered with a paddle and anvil. The paddling adds strength to the clay while refining the shape and creating texture on the surface. I have a number of paddles with unique patterns to create the textured surfaces on the pots.
The process used to finish these pieces employs wood firing stoneware clay to a temperature of 2350 degrees Fahrenheit, and then maintaining that temperature for 72 hours in order to build up ash deposits. During this time frame, the kiln is continually stoked with wood to build huge coal beds that engulf some of the pieces. These beds are then allowed to burn back down at regular intervals, which add more layering of ash and color to the surface. The pieces develop dramatic markings of sintered ash that references the ember building and burning cycles. After the temperature has been maintained, the cooling happens in an active process where small amounts of wood are stoked into to create a reduction atmosphere, similar to the black smoke of a big diesel truck that is not running efficiently. This reduction is maintained with rhythmic stoking of the kiln until the temperature falls to 1500 degrees. The pots develop deep rich hues created by the use of this cooling technique.