I have been making pots since 1972. Over those years, many changes have taken place on the national and international pottery scene and in my own adventure within that scene. My work has evolved along with these changes, although I have always spoken with my own voice.
I left an academic career in biology to immerse my hands and head in the making of pots, first in Fairbanks, Alaska and now on Saltspring Island, B.C. I learned the basics, and much beyond, from Al Johnson at the University of California Santa Cruz, and from Dean Schwarz of Luther College, Decorah, Iowa. Both were steeped in the Bauhaus tradition brought to this hemisphere by Ms. Marguerite Wildenhain. Serendipitously, one of the many workshops important in my development was given by Ms. Wildenhain. But most of my understanding of clay as an artist’s medium has come from the mistakes, failures, hopes and successes the willful clay throws our way.
My work always has been informed by a functional component. Over the years a decorative element has also become a major focus which allows me to speak beyond strict functionality. The pots have become a canvas expressing my own relationship with the powerful natural world around me and my experiences in it. This canvas includes not only the life I see outside my studio window, but my own inner landscape with its needs for linearity and order, compassion for beauty and light, and dedication to creating my share of these in the world. Ultimately I hope my pots speak for themselves with independence and fearless honesty
My primary goal is to create work that synthesizes beauty and harmony both in a functional and a decorative context. My earlier work centered on wheel-thrown functional forms decorated with the geometric and organic/abstract patterns that I love. Now my pots span a broader range of shapes using a variety of forming methods and serving more decorative and ritual ends. Surface decoration is still a primary creative outlet and it is achieved both by slip-carving and impressing the malleable clay. Occasionally pieces are finished by glazing or by smoking in a saggar.
No two pots are ever alike. Pieces are either thrown, thrown and altered, slab-built, slump-molded, or pieced of several components — whatever it takes to achieve the conceived form. Surface decoration is of primary interest to me and involves the largest portion of my creative time. My major decorative strategy is slip-carving and impressing.
Decoration serves to give the form definition. Surface decoration occupies the largest portion of my creative time. My major decorative strategy is slip-carving or slip inlay at the leather hard stage. The work is then bisque fired to harden it for the remaining steps in the process.
Following the bisque, pieces are covered with terra sigillata made from red firing clay or a felspathic glaze.
Recently, I have begun using underglazes in painting nature motifs on the pots. I like to restrict these colourful paintings to “windows” on the surface of the pots which requires making the pot with that in mind. Underglazing happens in the bisqued surface.
All stoneware pieces are fired to cone 10 in a propane kiln.