Jars of Clay

September 4th, 2014:

I was a dirty child.  My favorite place to spend a Saturday afternoon was with my knees in the dirt of my mother’s garden.  Nothing was greater than making whatever you wanted from the earth; obstacles for my Hot Wheels car, mud pies, or just feeling the squish in your hands.  It was a very engaging and messy medium to work with but eventually I left the dirt behind.

Flash forward a dozen years or so and I find myself enrolled in the school of design at Appalachian State University.  A large focus of the program at App State is to pair design theory with various materials courses, which aims to give students an experience with different methods of crafting and manufacturing methods.   As one could expect, being situated in the mountains of North Carolina, there is a considerable exposure to the traditional crafts and materials of that region; wooden furniture, bluegrass music, and ceramics.

During second semester, ceramics was among one of the materials courses offered (bluegrass was full), so I registered.  Now, up to that point I hadn’t made more than small pots and sculpture or two, never anything I would truly call “pottery.”  The class was a highly developed examination into the different methods of working with clay; hand-building, coils, extrusion, slip casting, and, my favorite, the wheel.

Learning to throw clay on a wheel was like using your hands to keep a tiny helicopter made of cream cheese from spinning into orbit without crushing it.  Once I figured out that trick, throwing became a great way to quickly explore new ideas, shapes, or simply relieve stress.  Feeling the wet clay slip through my fingers took me back to Saturday afternoon. Happily, I ended up just as muddy as back then. However, instead of creating mud pies, I walked away with a new skill and appreciation, as well as, some unique work as a result of my exploration with the use of different clays, glazes, and styles.

I hope to get my hands dirty again soon, but until then, I'll leave you with this color theory gem from my professor, Eric Reichard.

"Everyone wants to make a big pot, but not everyone can make a big pot.  If you can’t make a big pot, make a small pot. If you can’t make a small pot, make a bowl.  If you can’t make a bowl, make a plate.  If you can’t make a plate, make it blue, because everyone likes blue. "

- Marshall Dean, Junior Industrial Designer, Goddard Inc.