Passions, Pleasures, Travels and Inspirations

Meeker/Musings... on working with clay-July '96

What part of CLAY is pyromania and/or some form of masochism?

I really wonder sometimes... how often am I creative versus just using skills and discipline? This is just one of many thoughts that go in and out my brain when I want to work on new "work" and instead find a zillion other things to do -dancing around the issue ...just trying to get closer to that time of inspiration ...

And then you have it ...have it all, and then it disappears again. Whoosh. Gone in an instant and the process starts all over again.

First you need great clay...clean, aged, wedged and ready to go...those are not 4 simple things to put together. Then there are the technical or "clay" qualities to deal with. There are so many things that can (and do) go wrong with pieces through every step of the making process...

And you have to be physically fit and "sound" in order to sit and throw for several hours. That it used to be easier is not an understatement. Now there are sore joints like hips, fingers and ones whole spinal system and then also the tendons, muscles and ligaments that hold the whole skeletal system together. I took my body so for granted.

So, how much has my sense of form developed over the years as my skills on the wheel have gotten finer and finer tuned...That makes me grin because once again, it is sometimes the mistakes that show one where you should be looking and working and heading. An almost collapsed tall bowl was the epiphany moment for the Alien series. (as was a fingernail gouge the start of the Dry Etched series back in the early nineties.) And it was the lid of the sawdust kiln that blew off during a "Nor'easter" that precipitated the experimentation that is now the Rainflashed series. And just 2 weeks ago it was in a moment of total and complete frustration that a shift took place and the Leaf Relief series was begun.

There is nothing better than having a pile of pugged clay in front of you and feeling strong and centered and ready to let the clay turn into the forms that are dying to be released (from the 'primordial ooze' and my hands). Hours later...Clay in your hair...up and down your arms...smudges on your face where you have scratched or rubbed...the apron is caked with wet and dry globs of clay... And what is on the table and shelves? Some days it is a lot of warm ups....small and tiny pieces to get the juices going again....Later in the cycle, the big full forms have come to fruition...sort of...

Because: IT IS JUST THE BEGINNING!!!

Now each piece has to be trimmed...exactly / correctly so that the vessel is now like a primed stretched canvas...just waiting for the hand and eye of the artist to commit to the surface. And sometimes having a whole table covered with these "stacked canvases" can be rather intimidating...(Like where do I start or even HOW do I start?)

And then we come to the fire and the "passion and heat" part of the process. Whew. I am not sure if this is where most people fall in love with the clay, but it has certainly grown on me. The spinning wheel was what first mesmerized me, but the alchemy is what has kept me.

And letting go...walking away from, abandoning, forgetting the failures and screw-ups...How early in the learning of working with clay did I learn this. Somehow it is easier with pots than with life. Sure there are pieces that I really want to come out and work and be beauties...but there is this disassociation with the pieces as the work goes through its various stages. Does that make sense?? I learned to look at at the pieces in progress with an askance view...sort of sideways or from a distance...so that you keep seeing the series at each critical point, but you don't get attached to the specific piece until it has come out of the kiln in one piece for its final judgment. And boy oh boy is that moment filled with expectations that one has to try and hold off ...Because the secret here is to see what you have ACTUALLY gotten and not what you expected or WANTED... ha ha ha ha.

Over the past twenty five years my work developed from simple geometric designs into heavily carved geologic lines and ledges. Now, after an extended break from clay, my new pieces have a softness, movement, and flow that I feel reflects my world travels and wanderings. This New Leaf series brings together elements from several past periods.

The colors - and shine - on my work are the result of stone burnishing terra sigillatas made from clays that I have collected around the country and the world. This piece was pitfired in exotic hardwood sawdust, recycled from furniture makers.

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