I assemble puzzles.
Usually puzzle pieces fit together in a prescribed manner, there being only one correct position possible for each piece. The opposite is true with my work. My puzzle pieces are clay sketches. I make them for the interiors of framed bas-relief tiles without knowing where or exactly how they will be used. Some sketches are pushed and stretched to create visual softness. Some are textured or cut and reassembled, some consist of
multiple forms reminiscent of vegetation or geological features.
While some tiles consist of framed interior spaces, other tiles are not framed. Their surfaces are pinched, stretched or pierced.
I build series that consist of groups of two, or three, or more tiles. I preplan the sequential steps of how I’m going to build a series, but the outcomes are not preplanned. As I work, I make numerous small decisions. The process is deliberate and spontaneous, slow and satisfying.
I am drawn to:
• juxtaposition, shapes nestled next to one another
• creases, seams, edges, bulges, containment, concealment, pressure, repetition, folds and unfolding
• the illusion of flesh making contact with flesh, the softness of the interior of a closed elbow
• the growth of buds, pods, bulbs, roots, stems and shoots
• niches, caverns, underground chambers, cave paintings
I am drawn to:
• the contrast of light clay, dark clay, smooth clay, grogged clay
• the immediate response of wet clay to my touch and the delayed touch of a flame carrying soda, salt or wood ash
• My pieces are not decorative, narrative, or political. My hope is that they are evocative, allowing viewers to bring their own associations to the work.
I started firing wood kilns when I joined the Boulder Wood Fire Group in 2005. We built two wood kilns, an anagama and a bourry box kiln. The anagama was large, taking four days to load and four days to fire. We did salt and soda firings in the smaller bourry box.
Before firing with Boulder Wood Fire, my work was sculptural and was fired in electric or gas kilns. Faced with newly built wood kilns and an unknown firing process, I decided to make hand-built functional tableware, which allowed me to work more quickly and use a variety of clay bodies, slips and glazes. Also, I felt I had more freedom to load small functional pieces experimentally throughout the kilns than if I had limited myself to sculptural work.
After making functional work for about three years, I made a set of heavily textured wall pieces that had recessed windows with images inside the windows. I loaded them into the anagama almost as an afterthought, leaning them randomly against stilts in the kiln—wherever they would fit. They were the last pieces to go into the kiln before we bricked the door. When I saw how the pieces fired, I realized I could fire my sculptural wall pieces with wood.
I loaded those first wall pieces with little thought about the direction of the flame or how it might affect the work. To gain more control of loading, I built stacking holders and glued and wadded the pieces into the holders. This allowed me to load the pieces so that the flame would pass by them rather than hit them head-on. Loading them in this way set up the possibility that the flame might leave the mark of its travel from edge to edge across the piece.
I build work with pieces, parts and sections. While making tableware for the wood kilns, I learned that those sections can be made of different clay bodies. I also started to inlay contrasting clays in bowls, teabowls and candleholders. As a result, I began to combine light and dark clay bodies in my sculptural work. Because light and dark clays react differently to the same flame, juxtaposing them created contrast between the interior and exterior of my sculptural pieces without having to use slips or terra sigillata. I doubt I would have combined clays in my sculptural work if I hadn’t first mixed them in my functional work.
I am now building both handbuilt tableware and sculptural pieces, something I never imagined I would do before I started to fire with wood.