I have had a lot of time lately to make work, fire, and reflect
on everything that I have been experiencing. At this moment I am firing the soda kiln…I started at 6am this morning and it will probably be a late night. Some recent conversations have brought on a lot of thoughts about my work and why it is that I do what I do. I had just finished two firings in one weekend…a wood firing at Baltimore Clay Works and a Soda firing at Hood College. Sitting in the studio with those pieces spread across the table I was having a conversation with my good friend and potter, Lisa. She asked me while discussing our work if I would ever consider firing differently such as electric or reduction, and step away from wood and soda firing. I immediately said no. And when she asked why, I knew exactly the reasoning behind my abrupt response. I know the hard work involved in these firings, the hours invested, the materials, the money, and the dedication and precision.
Firing now, I am feeling the heaviness in my eyes from lack of sleep and the frustration of knowing I will probably be here past midnight because of struggling with temperature and the necessity to take my time due to the difficult stack. In addition I know the feeling of losing pots in a firing…especially ones that take your breath away. But even with all of these struggles, and what someone may consider to be negatives or even a reason to completely avoid this process…I instead, see value in it. Although there tends to be loss and labor involved, there can also be an immense gain from
atmospheric firing. That one magnificent pot, possibly two if you are lucky,
reminds you that the long duration of time and work was well worth every single second of struggle and doubt. And if it were not for those hours invested, the frustration while firing, or lost pots, that specific piece may not seem as beautiful or valuable. It may be tossed aside as typical or predictable. Just as in life, I believe it’s the moments that don’t work out, that make you appreciate them when they do…as well as recognize them.
In addition to my contemplations about specific firings, I have been feeling the pressure of color. Yes, color….the color of my pottery. Do I stay with the textured, raw clay surfaces that map out the entire path of the flame around that pot as it’s engulfed in the fire and soda? Or do I venture out and glaze my work, sealing the surface with a smooth glaze of a specific pleasing color to the consumers….yes, those blues and reds and greens….those that I have for some reason avoided like the plague. I have been asking myself for so long. Why it is that I am favorable to the raw clay body, when everything else in my life is full of color? Living in Mexico for a year I began to really appreciate the beauty of color and variety…color consumes everything there, and I personally incorporate it into everything in my life. But, looking at my work, I couldn’t help but say…why cover it up with color??? I feel like that glaze just covers up and hides everything that pot is representing…the surface shows everything it endured during that firing and how it withstood the intensity of the flame striking it. There is a rawness that exists, a brutal beauty. A beauty of aggressive imperfections…a map and a story engraved in the surface of that clay.
As I sat there for quite some time and took in the work that was
surrounding me…my work that I had spent countless hours and efforts creating I was taken aback by the emotion that overwhelmed me. “I made these.” I became so emotional studying my pieces and realized I never want to lose that ability…the ability to sit there and be affected by what I see in front of me and most importantly to connect with it. If I can’t connect with my own art, than how can I ask anyone else to? I see a piece and I can recall the moment I made it, and the thought I was contemplating, and the emotion I was feeling. I see myself in my work and I feel an inspiration and a strength from creating it and I think, “I found it…I found exactly what I want to do and why I want to do it. I found what will keep me going no matter what struggles are placed in my path, whether it be in life or in clay. That is a great gift.”