My love and regard for clay probably started when as a young boy in the early 1940s, my Methodist minister father was sent to Ducktown, Tennessee. This small town is situated in what is called “The Copper Basin” located in the southeastern corner of the state. Due to the smelting of copper and the resulting acid fumes, this area was denuded of vegetation leaving bare and eroded clay hills. My brothers and our friends would roam these hills all day long. At one intersection of hills and valleys was an artesian well, a big pipe taller than we were, sending cool clear water into the air. This water mixed with the red clay, made a naturally wonderful, slippery, muddy, fantastic place to play. It must have gotten into my blood.
I feel that clay is one of the most exciting, stimulating and yet difficult mediums in the arts. Success with clay requires knowledge of form, shape, texture, color, geology (mixing clay), chemistry (mixing glazes), and kilns (building and firing), as well as various processes and techniques of construction. Clay, as a material is natural, honest, pure, direct, demanding integrity and respect from the creator of the work. Dishonest and unnatural use of the clay will be rewarded with cracks, distortion, or destruction when subjected to the intensity of the fire in the kiln. The form can be lost at any stage of the process. Clay will not be forced to do what it cannot do. The potter must become one with the clay, forming a natural working relationship, an extension of self. That is the quality of, the beauty of, the joy of CLAY.
Clay as an art medium fulfills two basic needs I have as an artist/potter. Those needs are concerned with the utilitarian and the aesthetic quality of the products that I create.
Utilitarian considerations involve whether a piece will function successfully as a useful container. Answering questions such as: How much liquid should the pitcher need to hold? Will it pour well? Is it well balanced? Is the handle comfortable to hold? How heavy is the pitcher when filled with liquid? If a piece is to function successfully as a useful container, each of these questions or similar ones depending on the form, must be asked and answered by the maker.
Aesthetic considerations are a very significant concern with when working with clay or any art medium. In clay, it involves the sculptural quality of the piece. Whether the forms are utilitarian or not they must conform to the principles of good design such as balance, rhythm, harmony and emphasis. Forms should stimulate the visual and tactile senses of any viewer. The aesthetic response motivates verbal reactions, elicits questions, and develops a personal relationship between the viewer and the work of art.