“Clay is a very interesting and fundamental material: it's earth, it's water, and - with fire - it takes on form and life.”1
Inspiration Meets Opportunity
Betsy Williams, a native Georgian, knew that New Mexico was where she wanted to set up her home and studio practice. She was familiar with the land, having spent four years as an undergraduate at St. John’s College in Santa Fe. After working at a Japanese bank in New York City for almost five years, a twist of fate led her to spend the next four-and-a-half years as an apprentice potter in Kitahata, Japan, under master Yutaka Ohashi. Emerging from the apprenticeship, Betsy knew the next step was to establish her practice in New Mexico. She bought undeveloped acreage in a private holding nestled deep in the Carson National Forest in northern New Mexico and built a home; met and married her partner, stone sculptor Mark Saxe; constructed her wood kiln; and established enbi studio. Later, with her husband, she opened Rift Gallery. She is widely known for her woodfire ware and the tiny plates that she decorates with brush work capturing intimate glimpses of nature. But now she is re-inventing herself as a seeker of wild, high-fire, New Mexican clay.
Because of her work in the upper temperature ranges, it had always been in the back of Betsy’s mind to look for high-fire clays in New Mexico. The pandemic provided the impetus. New Mexico is known for its extensive and rich history of indigenous pottery made from wild earthenware clays, but relatively little research has been done into the high-fire clay deposits in the state. And because most deposits of high-fire clay in New Mexico are small by industry standards, neither have they merited commercial exploration. With the lockdowns, deadlines for shows and sales were cancelled or completed; most of the galleries representing her work were closed, including her own, Rift Gallery. It seemed somehow ridiculous to her to keep doing the same thing she had done pre-pandemic.