In my larger pieces, I usually start in about the middle of the pot and work upwards to the base. I do this because gravity helps rather than fights me and I have more control of the lift of the pot. The meeting point of the finished pot and the horizontal surface upon which it rests is incredibly important--the sense of energy coming from that moment is what sets the tone for the final piece. I strive for an elegant grounding, like a dancer with excellent posture reaching upwards. The viewer can feel the tension of the potential movement. I’m not always successful in finding this– it is one of the perennial challenges in working three dimensionally-- but I am thinking about it constantly as I work upwards, trying to harness this feeling.
This initial central coil that I place on the bat is often the only thing I know about what is to come. I like to coil rather quickly so the clay gets a little floppy, then follow the natural curve from gravity until I figure out where I want the form to go. As I coil, I think of letting the clay itself lead me in an intuitive and meditative process. My body knows about the piece before my mind does– my hands feel what is right before I see it and there is a fair amount of stepping back and looking at the piece, letting the clay offer guidance. Once I get a sense that I have reached the base, I attach a slab bottom. I leave the piece uncovered and let it firm up for several hours to a day. An added benefit is that in adding the bottom, an internal air pocket has been created and that air pressure helps to hold the walls of the pot where I want them as the clay firms. This time for the clay to firm is a key part in everything I make as there are moments for each action in the clay; working immediately from start to finish isn’t possible. I end of up frequently hopping from piece to piece with multiple works in progress as I need the clay to be at specific hardness to proceed to the next step. Knowing when a piece is ready to move on is a sort of muscle memory– my hands know the feeling of it from experience, it is not something that I could explain.
When I feel that the clay is ready, I flip the pot over, usually holding my breath as it it quite awkward. Then I begin working upwards towards resolution. I have realized that many of my pots have the scale of my torso– this hasn’t been a conscious decision. I think it is because I like the intimacy of making at that personal scale but also because I haven’t figured out how to flip larger than that comfortably. Wet clay is very heavy, another factor in this. I am guessing that this piece weighs 20-30 lbs at this point; larger than that is rather difficult for me. I will add too that I rushed this process to film it. I planned to include finishing the top of a piece but as soon as I flipped this, I could feel it wanted to slump down. It needed more time so I left it alone.
The final step is drying, also a controlled process as drying too quickly can cause cracking. Plastic dry cleaning bags are a studio tool. As the clay dries, it shrinks with the water evaporating; that shrinkage creates an interior tension that needs to be moderated. I find clay to be a simple process yet very considered with every step.
Clay is a very sensual material and also very dynamic. The artist can build, shape, cut and reattach, and use reductive or additive construction methods; it can also act as a surface for drawing and painting. I enjoy exploring these possibilities.
Have any questions about my process? Please don't hesitate to ask, either as a comment or shoot me an email. Thanks for the interest!