Coming to Grips

Back in college I had an Art History Professor who used to tell us that "...artists have to come to grips with their materials." That one phrase has stuck with me through the years. And, now that I've been working with clay for over 30 years, I understand what he meant. Clay can be such a marvelous challenge, going from soft and softer with the addition of water, maleable to hard just from sitting in the air and then harder through the fire and the addition of glazes to join clay and glass to make a finished piece that you can drink or eat out of.. my hat's off to the first people that said "hey let's try this." Most of these amazing discoveries came from happy accidents, but to have the vision to see the potential, that's brilliance.

Just to make one thing clear, whimsy is not a four-letter word. I've been working in the realm of whimsy since my college years. It happened by accident. Our Ceramics teacher gave us a first assignment in Ceramics 101 to create a bottle. He didn't care how we made the bottle. So I handbuilt a square bottle, it was pretty awful. During our class critique, the teacher looked at my awful bottle for a long, long time. He finally spoke and said two words, "gingerbread house." I was dumbfounded and as he explained to me that my bottle had the bones of a gingerbread house and that if I went to work carving and cutting and handbuilding that this could be an awesome piece. So I went to work on my first whimsical piece, a gingerbread house. This is the path that I took and I haven't looked back.

There's usually a rhythm to my process. I say usually because I've discovered that I'm easily distracted. I may have a day where I have to sit down at the wheel and throw mugs, that action creates the need to think about the schedule of the following steps: clean the bottoms and add handles, then to the drying rack, then to the kiln, then to the glaze room, then to the kiln. If I let the mugs dry too long, I can't add handles so the process is out of rhythm. If I fire the mugs too soon, the mugs could explode, again out of rhythm. Back to coming to grips with my materials.

I have a garage studio where I do my wet work. This is where I have my work table, potters wheel, and slab roller. We're lucky to have found a house that has a little cubby space in the garage that's just perfect for my garagio. My space is small but when my dear husband leaves for work, I can spread out, set up my slab roller and extra tables, open the garage door and get to work. When it gets hot, I put a fan on and sweat. But with clay all over me, it's the best sweat ever. Part of my rhythm is filling my drying shelves. So when I'm doing wet work, I working at filling the shelves so that there's enough pieces to fill the kiln. After the first firing, I take it inside the house, where I've taken over our guest bedroom for my glaze room. This is where I paint the glazes. Because of the designs on my finished pieces, I handpaint each piece. Even the clear glaze is two to three coats hand painted. Time consuming, but the finished pieces are well worth it.

Over the years I've expanded my interests. I think it's natural, as an artist, to explore new techniques and media. I've branched out into painting acrylic on canvas and I've had a love for photography since my college years. I'm including some of my sculptures in polymer clay and I've added a new line to my shop that includes notecards that I've used photographs of my paintings as the design. I use an outside manufacturer to make the cards using my designs. They just do such a better job at it than I ever could on the finished product. The name of the manufacturer is Snapfish.com and you'll see that they're listed as an Etsy approved manufacturer for my shop. I think there's a certain amount of synergy when you have a company called Snapfish creating your fish notecards.

I can't think of anything better than being lucky enough to be able to follow your dream, live your passion and all those other cliches. If you love what you do, it won't be work. No matter how sweaty or messy I get, I keep saying that clay (after my dear husband) is my perfect match.

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