While I was home briefly in Philadelphia, after time with my father in Oregon at the end of his life, I rediscovered discs with photos of my ceramic work. For 35 years I was a potter before moving to Mexico. When I started university I loved books and thought I wanted to be a librarian. But a good liberal arts education taught me otherwise. I needed one class from the art department to graduate so I decided on Ceramics I. At the end of a month I had discovered what I wanted to do with my life: make pots. So I spent my last year of college taking art courses, but graduated with a degree in English. The following year I was granted a position as Resident Potter at the Contemporary Crafts Gallery in Portland, Oregon and with that experience I started graduate school in Oakland, CA the next year at California College of the Arts studying with Viola Frey.
I love clay and working with my hands is very satisfying. All the work pictured here is hand built of coils of low fire white clay. Each coil was pinched repeatedly between my left thumb and forefinger leaving the texture on the inside of every vessel something like pie crust. This is my distinguishing trademark and perhaps one the FBI can use someday. I would built about five layers then let it rest and firm up while I moved to the next piece. I usually worked on 5 or 6 pieces simultaneously. When I was finished with the last, the first would be ready for more coils. Many, many days I would work 12 hours a day, forgetting to eat lunch and only stopping when my children would call from the bottom of the steps, “We are hungry.”
After several days of building a series of pots, I would begin to paint them. At first each coil was left obvious on the outer surface and were painted alternately black and white with tiny patterns in bright colors. After too many years of this design, I began to smooth the outer surface, paint it black and scratch through the paint with metal tools to create drawings in white. Complicated patterns using this same technique (called scraffito) followed and then my Ladies appeared. They usually appear in columns around my pots, each with her job identification atop her head: butcher, baker, candlemaker, carpenter, hat maker, farmer, potter, cook, knife sharpener, etc. and all wearing sneakers. They started as alternately black and white ladies, but the white ones simply looked anemic so they all became black.
I sold my work at various high end craft shows from Virginia to Massachusetts. I still had children at home so did not venture too far, but I spent many nights on the road. Craft shows simply rent craftspeople a square of space on the floor of the hall they have rented. One arrives, puts down flooring and walls, and begins to construct one’s display and lighting. Finally after hours of construction details one’s work emerges and begins to be placed. Most shows I did were 3 or 4 days long. Some people enjoyed partying after a day at a show but I usually had had enough of smiling and talking, and would return to my hotel room with some take out food. The market for hand made craft objects has dropped way off in the past 10 years. The people who come to shows are, for the most part, older and many already have their houses full. Few young people express much interest. My own offspring are good examples; their extra money has gone into electronics for the most part. The world is ever changing. So, when we decided to move to Mexico, I sold every last pot I had in the studio, sold or gave away my equipment to young people, and started painting with oils. When I first arrived I missed clay something awful and wanted my hands to be busy continuously. I painted a series about my hands and then a
series with an old pot of mine in the foreground and a window overlooking a Mexican cemetery decorated for Day of the Dead. I think I was finally letting go of my pots.