In my work, the creative force comes not just from the mind of the maker, but from the physical interaction of maker with materials and processes. This “handling of materials” has partly been passed on to me from the potters that preceded me, so mine is an engagement of maker with material, process and history that brings forth new objects. As an undergraduate art student in this country, I was taught that the purpose of art making was self-expression and that the materiality of art had no inherent character or personality. As a student of ceramics in Japan, I learned rather the opposite—that it is the potter’s work to bring out the character and power of the clay and fire in the finished pieces.
As I have pursued my pottery as an art form for three and a half decades since, I have come to realize that the roles of medium and maker are shared between myself, the clay, and the fire. We are formed through forming each other, just as the mountains channel the rain and water that erode and shape its landscape. The shapes I dream of and try to shape the clay into will sometimes be realized (though just as often not), and the clay teaches me how it likes to be handled.
The fire then transforms and melts the clay, just as it transforms me and the others who gather around the kiln. When the kiln is fired, the pots are fired, but the humans are also fired! It is a primitive ritual and celebration, creating camaraderie and a softness in the pots unachievable by other means. Using mostly wild clays and firing with wood requires much more physical effort and engagement, but the richness and flavor of the materials and process is evident in the finished pieces.