Sometimes the making comes from the urge to get a new and personal idea down, to advance a form in a new direction, to bring a surface to life in a specific and inspired way. Other times, the making comes from the intention to be an engaged community member, and to do it in the way that I can contribute best…by making good pots.
This intention does not always come easy, but by not compromising on my skills and interests, I find that there can be a wonderful balance of true community utility (mugs and vases and race medallions that get the job done), and artistic expression and satisfaction, (taking the time to fit the form to the situation, and making sure that I love what I am agreeing to make).
This year’s Community Wares have taken me in a few new directions….one is the 25th Anniversary commemorative mug for Shepherdstown Farmers Market. The form was an intentional choice, as it is not only an historic form, but also one of the earliest forms found in pottery, across cultures. There is always something that has the ‘arms up’ form, as I call it: a slightly bulbous vessel towards the base that ends at the top in the shape that we make if we raise our arms over our heads in pure joy. There was no other form to even consider. (smile)
The images and writings on the surface of Community Ware bring a different kind of focus and pleasure…one of slowly writing and drawing, noticing and encouraging the slight variations of the hand. From Middleway Days written in my own script, to the Mellow Moods or Sustainable Solutions logos, the process of interpreting the design, writing in liquid wax with a bamboo brush, rubbing away the surrounding clay with water and sponge (wax erosion), and glazing with a glaze that I formulated to break on the newly exposed edges continually amazes me when the kiln lid is lifted and the design is there, both recognizable and my hand’s interpretation.
Medallions are becoming more important in the studio (thank you, race organizers, for working with local makers!), and the process that I am working to hone, little by little, is also ancient. It involves making a ‘positive’ of the medallion, just a little larger, carved by hand. The second step is to fire the positive, make a set of press molds (clay pressed around the piece, then released), and fire them to a low temperature. Thirdly, I make the actual medallions hand-pressing small balls of clay into the molds, over and over again, pop them out, let them dry a bit, hand finish and poke a hole, add my studio stamp…..you get the idea. Many steps, each and every one of them done in the same way since the beginning of humans making things with clay.
So, I owe my community a heartfelt Thank You, for the opportunities to make things that matter to you, for the gift of being part of our community in the way that I know best. For being greeted with a smile, and introduced as ‘the potter’ or ‘the one who made that mug that you love.’ For the children who tell me that they wear their medallion to school. You make it worth the effort, each and every little ball of clay.