Daily Archives: September 8, 2016

Timeout for Art: Clay


clay work 003

I fell in love with clay while working on a degree at Michigan State University. The painting class that I wanted was full; I took a ceramics class instead. Clay grabbed my interest, and held it! Some of my fondest memories are of my little studio there, and the work that I did.

I like the strength of the medium, and the tension, and the way it will sag with it’s own weight. I like the challenges and the possibilities. I always pushed it…often to the point of no return. How thin could I scrape a vessel? How wet – because the wetter the clay, the more lively the coils nestled in to the shape – could it be, and still stand? How large could I build a piece? How many openings could be cut into the surface?

I dissected glaze recipes and painted each element onto the pieces individually. If the conditions were right, the ingredients would merge inside the kiln and give up bursts of color in the sweeping lines of the brushstrokes. I embedded pyrometric cones, wire, low-fire clay, marbles and other bits of glass between the coils of my sculpture, so that they’d give up their magic, too, inside the kiln.

I built special stands to build my large sculptures on. They could be wheeled right into the kiln, and would burn up in the heat of the fire as the piece turned from raw earth to stoneware. I experimented with raku and other primitive firing methods: sawdust; pit-fire; soda fire; low-temperature salt fire; wood-fire in an anagama kiln.

I miss having my hands in clay!