It all fits together....eventually
It is all a journey of putting the pieces of the puzzle together. Where we are headed is not always where we wind up, and if you are open to the adventure, many interesting surprises can occur. I begin my story in the middle, for the beginning could be very boring, but here I was, taking a clay class at the Wayne Arts Center in Wayne, PA. (It's a great place to learn and share your knowledge with others.) This class was in conjunction with the University of the Arts. Before I headed out for the week's class, I called to make sure I didn't leave without some needed tools and materials. I was told everything would be provided. I was staying with a friend in Philadelphia and was looking forward to not only the classes but the evening of sampling so many different ethnic foods, something I don't get to do in my home town of Honesdale in northeastern Pennsylvania. When I arrived to class, the agenda had changed and I was now taking a raku class. This may have disturbed others, but I had not worked in raku for some time and had enjoyed the process years before. I was excited, until I found out we would each get only 25 pounds of clay for the week. I was concerned, for I could eat that much clay for breakfast and then what would I do! After letting it all settle, I took the opportunity as a challenge.
I usually work fairly large and this caused me to take a new approach. I focused on making small jars with lids. And so, I set about making them on the potter's wheel. I quickly had a dozen jars with their matching lids in front of me and it was only Monday morning. I knew I had to do something to slow myself down even more. I turned to handbuilding and taking my experience of traveling to South Africa, I began to form primitive African animals on top of the jars. These pieces were only 6 inches tall.
When I returned home after the week, I began making these jars larger, playing around with waxing the surface before applying the glaze. I was pleased with the outcome and varied the shape, making some tall and others rounded, with each vessel guarded by another African animal.
The next year I found myself at the Sierra Nevada University in Lake Tahoe, not a bad place to take a class. I would recommend those classes to anyone. I signed up for the Fast Firing class with Randy Bradnox and Don Ellis, two wonderful entertaining potters. We not only worked by day, but they catered our dinners each night which allowed us to bond as a group. We certainly enjoyed a fantastic week together with lots of joy, clay and delicious Cajun food! But, once again, I was challenged with how to get my pots home, being so far away and having flown. Learning the technique was one thing, but making it my own was something that had to come from within. I once again turned to handbuilding. That slows anyone down! I began to push the pot out from the inside, creating the beginning of an octopus emerging from the pot. Clay excitement erupted and I began fusing the animal with the pots I was making. Thrilled with my clay journey, I returned home and ordered a raku kiln built by Randy Bradnox and my voice continued to combine throwing with handbuilding.
Creating the animals kept me busy for a time, but I am always looking to grow and challenge myself. Nature has always been my inspiration. Pods, cacti, ferns, rocks…they all have their intrigue. I pushed myself to explore decorative lids for my vessels influenced by natural elements. This took me back to some earlier work I had done with Majolica glazes. Interesting how work develops but keeps evidence of your voice.
I have been a high school art teacher for over 15 years. Taking art classes to earn more credits has always been fruitful and a joy. Another lifetime passion of mine has been in textiles. I began sewing at a young age. This helped me understand building and structure and the creation of three dimensional form. A felted jewelry class introduced me to yet another textile artform….the wet felting technique. After that class I always drooled over felting classes and when ever I could, participated in workshops and learned how to felt on a larger scale creating textures and forms with felting.
The summer of 2015 gave me a strange gift. Shortly after taking another felting workshop, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Luckily it was found at an early stage. By this time I had many raku vessels I had fired earlier in the summer, but being treated with chemo, I couldn’t use clay for the possibility of being exposed to mold and other germs. Another challenge, another opportunity!
I had returned from my felting workshop with ideas and inspiration to combine my two passions. It was almost as if I set myself up for just this moment! I was able to felt during my treatment. Art Therapy is a wonderful thing!
I feel it is the natural world which gives us our life, our breath, our existence; to think we are the masters of our universe is quite wrong. Nature has its plan and we must respect what we have. My pots reflect the awe and wonder I have as I find my place here on earth. Retired from teaching in 2016, my time is devoted to my new work.
Grateful, each and every day!