Background and Creative Process
It seems like I've always been making pottery. The first pinch pot I made in Kindergarten is sitting on a shelf next to some pots I made a few weeks ago. It's always been a part of my life.
In 2009 I decided to make it my main focus and started my business. First working independently, out of the studios of the Newaygo County Council for the Arts, in Fremont, MI and then as an Apprentice to Master Potter Peter F. Johnson at Terrestrial Forming Pottery Studio in Whitehall, MI.
When my apprenticeship ended I moved to southeast Michigan and became a member of the Ann Arbor Potters Guild. There I have served on the Board, participated in spring and winter sales and also in the Guild booth at the Ann Arbor Art Fair. From 2011 until 2019 I made all of my work at the studio on Hill St.
Working at the Ann Arbor Potters Guild and the Ann Arbor Art Fair
In September of 2019 I set up my own studio in my garage and it is an ongoing work in progress.
The new garage studio
I make my work using a potter's wheel. I use a white stoneware clay body, and throw different forms using the wheel. Some simple pieces, like small bowls only need to be partially dried and then trimmed to finish the foot. Other items, like coffee mugs, need to be trimmed and then have handles or other parts applied. Once all the parts are put together, I dry my work slowly to prevent cracking. Then they are fired without glaze up to 1826 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the bisque stage of firing. The wares are still porous enough to accept liquid glaze, but partially vitrified so they won't disintegrate in water. Then, I apply food safe glazes to the bisque ware, using wax resist to make most of my designs. The glazed pots are then fired a second time up to 2345 degrees. Once they are cool, they are ready to use.
All the work I make is food safe, microwave safe and dishwasher safe. I avoid using lead and barium in my glazes. I make my work to be used, enjoyed and given as gifts.
My work, at first glance, may seem simple and utilitarian. It is functional dinnerware and made to be used. Although every piece is hand thrown and unique, they are production pieces. Like any piece of well conceived art, however, a great deal of thought and many years of learning had to happen for my work to be the way it is. This could be truthfully said of any mass produced item, as well, but there is something lost in the automation of making. There is a reason so many of us are continuing to make pottery by hand, when technology has made it obsolete to do so.
My reasons for making pottery are diverse. I enjoy using my hands directly to create the basic shape of a piece, but I also value the disconnect that comes with the many steps involved in completing a ceramic work. It forces me to step back and think for a time about what it is I am making. Most essentially, I like repetition. The visual impact of repeated shape is satisfying. My attraction to the multiple is a unifying theme that presents itself in many of the creative things I do: printmaking, knitting, baking. Of all the mediums I have investigated pottery has become the one that best exhibits my skills as a craftsman and my opinions about art and craft.
Justifying hand crafted functional objects in an industrialized society can be tricky. We have always needed things to drink and eat from. Lately, these containers are made of plastics, Styrofoam or glass and have been so well engineered that the process of producing one is unknown by most people using them. Because of this and other factors like disposability and over-abundance, hand made pottery is no longer the most cost effective or efficient material for producing the necessary eating and drinking tools that we use everyday. Investing time and creativity, however, elevates a simple drinking cup from an overlooked, utilitarian object. By investing great care and enjoyment in the making of an object, users will find reason to take great care and enjoyment in it's use.
The functionality of a piece of pottery makes it a more accessible and a justifiable purchase for a wider variety of people. Not everyone has the education or interest necessary to appreciate some of the very inaccessible conceptual art that is being created today. Yet, everyone should have beauty in their lives. A well crafted, functional object can provide a little beauty, even in the midst of mediocrity.