By myself, I cannot fire the wood kilns I love so much. Nor do I create enough work in a reasonable amount of time to fill a wood kiln. I am resigned to the role of interloper: showing up to a firing with my modest collection of objects, sleeping on the floor, and taking the night shifts. All worth it because the information left on an object through wood-firing is something I respond to deeply. So much so, that whether I am wood-firing or not, I work to create surfaces with evidence of tension and time that remind me of the process. These surfaces coincide with the underlying conceptual ideas that I am working towards.
It is easy to fall into a routine or rhythm in the studio. Sometimes this is ideal. One idea builds on another, ideas lead to bodies of work, and so forth. The Catch-22 in ceramics is that we develop “a bag of tricks,” or have techniques we master that generally earn us the well-worn label of “craftsman” in the greater art world. Without chasing rabbits for too long, the term craftsman (or craftsperson) and artist were generally synonymous before the 1900s. The philosophical debate today between art and craft is fairly tired yet omnipresent and to some, a very important distinction. For example, non-ceramics artists attempting to make heroic ceramic objects are in vogue. To the craftsperson, this is sacrilege. To some in the art world, this is just another seizure of material in order to create expression.
For myself, I cannot help but find my footing somewhere in the middle of it all. The allure of the vessel is real. To me, it is the ultimate sculptural object: with or without function or utility. But that’s where it ends. I love drinking out of handmade cups and eating out of handmade bowls. The conversations created around the object and about the intention of the object fascinate me more than the objects themselves. Furthermore, I would never put myself on the Mount Olympus of ceramic chemists or glaze and kiln masters – but I know my way around a studio and enjoy the conversations and debates surrounding glazes, reduction, oxidation, firing speeds, et cetera.