I never know exactly how to describe my “art background” since I have an MBA, not an MFA.
The truth is I have no art background.
No formal one.
Or even an informal one.
I was never someone who did a lot of art on the side, fitting it in after work and on weekends. I was never really passionate about art. Never knew much about it, never gravitated towards it.
Until a few years ago.
When something that I can only describe as volcanic started to erupt and a part of me, deeply buried, began to emerge.
I now can say with clarity that as I find myself in clay I am, quite literally, finding my self in clay.
At first I didn’t quite understand what was happening other than to say that when a friend introduced me to ceramics, nearly every cell inside of me began to light up.
It was beyond a subtle instinct; it was more like a sledge hammer of a message from my brain that I couldn’t ignore.
I signed up immediately for my first ceramics class about five years ago at Studio One in Oakland.
My days on the wheel were numbered (to about three.) I didn’t exactly gravitate towards throwing (to put it mildly.)
So I sat myself over at a table, at first and for a few months alone. And I began to sculpt things—things that felt alive and in turn made me feel alive.
As time passed and my hands made their way through hundreds of pounds of clay I began to connect with the clay community and discovered what nearly everyone else finds to be true: that clay people tend be generous and nurturing.
As my journey continued I stumbled upon a passion for making salt and pepper shakers; I always liked shakers because I love the idea of my work on people’s dining room tables and becoming a part of their routine and their family.
I also like the size of shakers, each one a unique exploration. Each one a lesson if you’re willing to step up and learn.
I soon recognized that my favorite place to explore is in the endless subtleties and vulnerabilities of facial expression.
“For the longest time I thought I was just an internet sell-out. Till one day my volcano erupted. And out came these creations in clay. It’s been about five years now and I cannot imagine life without clay. The meditation has currently landed on salt and pepper shakers, piggy banks and cups and bowls. I find that my work tends to live at the crossroads between art and function, often times hanging on by just a thread to the function part.
Every piece I create is unique. And for a short while I named every one of them. Until my obsession making work outstripped my naming endurance. Anyway, each piece is pretty personal. One customer remarked when buying a pair of shakers that it was more like an adoption than purchase. And for me, each sale feels like finding home once again. The shakers are around three inches by three inches with a filler hole in the bottom. Spice comes out their nostrils. Piggy banks come in two sizes: small-ish (3x5x7) and largish (5x8x7.)
In terms of firing and clay bodies, I mid fire my pieces, working with porcelain, a thick dark clay body called Cassius and a gorgeous speckled, sparkly brown clay named Dixon. Mid fire offers a wonderful mix of strength and brightness. .
As far as what I put onto the work, for color I sometimes use underglaze. On top I apply clear glaze. Or no glaze at all. My goal, always, is to expose each creature’s personality and aura, to let it shine versus covering it up.
My favorite quote these days is by abstract painter Joan Mitchell, “If I could say it in words I’d write a book.” Art to me, at least my art, allows there to be no space between me…and me. Everything I want to say and express is simply…there. ” – Sue Levin, 2017