The slab roller is not my natural choice for pottery tools. The wheel is where I am at home. Yet, I can’t get the idea of tiles, or more maybe more appropriate – wall sculpture – out of mind.
The seed was first planted at the Smithsonian Crafts Show a few years ago when I saw Natalie Blake‘s sculptural wall tiles. I loved the undulation of the tiles and how they came together to make a scene or could stand on their own.
I then saw a Japanese-style platter of Catherine White‘s. It had been fired in her anagama and was incredibly rich in color and texure. I found myself drawn to the flat surface as a canvas. Yet, I also found myself thinking back to Natalie’s tiles. There had to be a way to combine the two things I was most drawn to in each of these potter’s work.
That notion has been rolling around in my mind for almost 2 years now. I have yet to really act on the ideas, much less sketch them out. The only thing that is certain is that they will be wood fired. I can’t see it any other way.
I did let myself experiment a bit with going flat last fall when I made a few pocket vases like the one above. I was worried as hell that the piece would warp and come apart in the kiln. So it was a test of firing integrity for sure. It turns out, they held up just fine even with a pretty thin backing. Even with the success of this test, I have yet to explore the ideas that marinate in my imagination.
Why haven’t I acted? I think it is because I have been so wedded to the idea of functional and utilitarian pottery. Can I really go non-functional? Can I really go sculptural, since that is more what is in my mind’s eye? I have hesitated. I don’t think of myself as that kind of artist (whatever that means). I am unsure of myself going down that road. Where will it lead? Yet I feel the pull. And my mind’s eye certainly keeps going back there.
The pull got stronger this weekend. While glazing some bowls for an upcoming fundraiser, a couple of my studio mates began talking tiles. Having never made a tile, I stopped glazing and pulled up a chair. The ideas that I had shoved to the back of mind, bounced right back.
So as I head to the studio today, I will give in. I will make friends with the slab roller and experiment with the vision I have. I’ll keep you posted on the progress.