Thursday, August 22, 2019

jungle living

In January through February of 2009, I had the honor of living in the Amazonian rainforest for three weeks. I wanted to repost this blog entry as a reminder of what is being lost right now as the forest is being burned down. My heart is breaking.

02.19.09 For the past two weeks I have been living at a science research station located in the middle of a nature preserve deep in the rain forest. The jungle is rich with inspiration for my ceramics, from the voluptuous trees to the exotic insects and flowers. This is the only place in the Amazon where our little camp and the sister camp a few miles away are the only human dwellings as far as the eye can see. We are the intruders here, nature is quick to disassemble anything we erect. It is truly a humbling experience. I can't even bring myself to squash a cockroach, knowing that I am in his house.

The Inselberg and Pararé camps are well stocked with food and alcohol. A nightly ritual is to enjoy a small cocktail: rum, sugar, and lemon right off the tree. Everyone takes turns cooking dinner. Meals have been buttery, and yummy.

Sleeping in an open carbet (four posts and a plastic roof, no walls) in the jungle is quite the experience: it is never quiet, filled with frog, cricket, bird and cicada calls. The howler monkeys are probably the most startling. They sound like a soundtrack to a haunted house, a howling growling spooky wind. Last night their call sounded so close, as if they were perched on a tree above our carbet. They were incredibly loud. This afternoon they hung out in the trees eating leaves very near camp. The howlers' gentle ways are in stark contrast to their ferocious call.

Surrounded by scientists from all over the world gathering specimens for their Masters degrees and PhDs, the conversations are spectacular. I have learned so much about the insect and mammal world. I will spend months digesting this trip, and exploring it through my ceramic work.

jungle in hand

During my walks through the rain forest of French Guiana, I came upon fascinating flora, the shapes and textures of which endlessly provide inspiration for my work. Here is a small sampling of the incredible diversity I experienced there. All were quickly returned to the forest floor where they were found. Click on the images for a larger view.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

behind the scenes

For me, it’s the process that keeps me making. So much beauty happens before the finished piece comes out of the final firing. Here are a few moments from behind the scenes:

The handle of the mugs is attached when clay is in “leather hard” stage, a gorgeous matt finish, which is a pleasure to work with.

After the piece is dry, it is loaded into the first firing, the bisque. I try fitting as many pieces tightly together as possible. In this firing, sides can touch without getting stuck together – there is no glaze yet. Lovely patterns emerge as each kiln shelf is filled up.

I apply wax-resist to the bisque pieces wherever I don’t want the glaze to soak into the surface. Glazing usually takes two days, the insides are glazed first, dried overnight, and then the outside is dipped.

After the pieces are dry, they are loaded into the second firing, the glaze firing. Again lovely patterns emerge as I fit as many pieces as possible on a shelf, sides cannot touch in this firing.

And opening the finished glaze kiln is always a joy. Even if pieces don’t turn out as planned, it is a learning experience. The anxiety and anticipation has not diminished over the years. Which is a good thing. Some pieces will remain with just glaze, and others will have an image applied, and fired one more time.

Lately, I am moving more toward no imagery on my work. I just love the feel of porcelain well-functioning form, with a gorgeous glaze. Simple, with a complex process.