It’s actually a mystery to me; I make things because I am compelled to do so. It has probably been bequeathed to me by a DNA legacy of a thousand incarnations. My being and making are of the same stuff.
While I am content to make things from a wide variety of materials, it is in clay that I find the most satisfying properties and potentials. Clay yields to a huge variety of pressures: pushing, pulling, stretching, compressing and carving. And yet, it can rebel at its limits, sometimes quite dramatically, more often, peevishly.
My first memory of a clay project is from childhood. A construction company had been digging out a foundation for a new building in my neighborhood and had left a huge hill of red clay by the excavation. It at first provided an excellent ramp down which to slide in a cardboard box. But then, I discovered its amazing potential for building materials for miniature villages, dams, castles and moats.
This kept my rapt attention till well after suppertime when my sister was sent to drag me home to undergo a scrubbing.
Throughout school I was called upon to make models of such great monuments as the Great Sphinx of Giza, the Colossal Inca Head, and the kings, queens, and other venerables guarding the doors of Chartres Cathedral. I also made a rather nice statuette of Ulrich Zwingli which was well received. (Needless to say I was an odd child, tolerated by my peers and encouraged, if not exploited, by well-meaning elders.)
As many potters have experienced, there is a satisfyingly meditative consciousness which arises out to the process of centering, opening and forming of clay on a wheel. A vessel with simple Shaker-like utility and form can have great appeal in itself. There is a grace which comes to form which is derived from direct and uncomplicated functionality. “Art for art’s sake” and functional craft need not conflict at a basic level. That said, however, I find I am fascinated with surface design as an atavistic voice which helps me make connections to distant and ancient promptings. (Expressions of surface designs seem to be as old as ceramic itself.) I take my lead from the thousands of stylistic expressions throughout the history of art and culture. Often the myriad forms of nature will be my starting point.
In all ceramic creations there are elements of satisfaction when an object turns out as planned along with accidental qualities which sometimes delight and sometimes disappoint. Earth, water, air and fire sometimes cooperate to create something of beauty but too often they conspire to make a mess. There are always things to learn about the variables of matter and soul. This is the seduction which keeps me going. The craft is in the balance.