Having spent 7 plus years living in Japan, the experience fundamentally and profoundly changed not only my work, but my outlook/view on life, and this is further reinforced with my continued work in my studio in Seattle Wa, as well as my yearly trips back to Japan to recharge and absorb.
While in Japan I was making primarily works for the table and as such I became keenly aware of the interaction between serving piece and the food that it contained. Form and function were paramount as well as weight and balance of the ware due to the fact that many of the pots were held in the hand while eating which generally is a custom that we don't have in the West. Along with this was color, and after a number of years working there, my color palette gradually came to focus on the extremes of the color scale, black and white. As well, when venturing into Tokyo from my countryside studio, I often found myself in a wonderful calligraphy museum located in Uneo Park, where I would sit in silence looking at the work as well as taking respite from the cacophony of Tokyo outside.
These experiences would have a strong influence of my work which continues today as I find myself working in clays of black and white, utilizing white slip as surface decoration, and finally choosing a color palette of glazes that in base forms by themselves tend to be black and white. However when fired in a variety of atmospheres and temperature ranges, working the edges of their respective firing ranges, a variety of subtle colors can be coaxed from these few base glaze formulas.
The work presented here, while small in scale, is an attempt to add a somewhat sculptural and intimate take on sake ware. The porcelain clay is worked in a variety of stages of moisture content, with breaking/fissuring as well as cutting before carving out the body of the piece. Left unglazed, I would hope that the user enjoys the heft and balance of the cups as well as their tactile qualities.
Growing up in Minnesota where, via the influences of the many local potters, the climate for making pottery has a distinctly Japanese folk pottery or mingei air to it, I began my work in high school making “Japanese” inspired functional pots. As the years progressed my work turned to non-functional, and then, to purely sculptural concerns until my first trip to Japan in 1987 when the circle began to close. My residency there lasted from 1988 to 1996, and during that time I came to realize how deeply ceramics were imbedded in the culture via the tea ceremony, flower arranging, the various styles of regional cooking, etc. I became drawn to Japanese pottery such as Oribe with its painterly playfulness, to Shino, with its soft, rich textural surfaces, and to Shigaraki/Iga, with their truth to materials/process approach. More recently, via my interest in making wares for the tea ceremony, my attention has turned to Korean influenced work, specifically Hagi as well as Karatsu style ware. In contrast to Mingei style pottery where the artist tends to express himself consciously via decoration such as brushwork, I try to let my work carry more of a truth to materials approach taking the role of the enabler, rather than that of the creator. Coming from more of an abstract-expressionist approach, as well as consciously stepping back to let the materials speak for themselves, I look to find and use materials in a rawer state in hopes of allowing the clay and fire their voice. Although it may sound like an oxymoron, most of my work is completed unfinished, or in a state where hopefully the viewer/participant completes the work via the type of food or drink served or the flower arrangement created. This approach allows more interaction between pot and participant as well as allowing the various aspects of each pieces’ personality to emerge over time and with use.
Materials and Processes
Working alone in my studio, my thrown work is either created on an electric wheel or, in the case of my tea ware, on an old momentum kick wheel. There is a certain pace to throwing on the kick wheel that gives a special quality to the tea bowls as they emerge one by one from the hump of clay before me. Clays I use in my work include a dark brown high iron body, a black body, as well as a buff body which when fired approximates the mogusa clay used for Shino ware in Japan. Local clay which I dig in the area is added in percentages ranging from 10% – 50% depending on the color palette as well as textures that I seek to achieve. Additionally I procure ash for glazes locally as well, using various types of ash including apple wood, black pine, and alder as depending on the type of tree or plant and where it grew, I can achieve differing color and surface quality. The worked is either single or multi-fired fired here at my studio to cone 7-9.
BFA - Summa cum Laude - University of Minnesota
MFA - University of Washington