pottery: October 2010 Archives

At the end of August I was honored to be commissioned to make canisters to store chamomile tea grown in the White House garden. On Friday, September 24, in honor of the 65th anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly, First Lady Michelle Obama presented gifts that reflected her past twenty months in the White House.  The press release noted that, "gifts to visiting foreign dignitaries is a time-honored tradition that helps transcend cultural barriers and offers a symbol of peace and friendship." This year's gift was a basket that centered around the White House garden.

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Now that these canisters have been given away and entered new homes I have been thinking about the nature of the project. The jars were thrown out of porcelain and fired in an electric kiln. It was an interesting departure to work with such a refined clay and reliable firing technique. After the summer's experiments with brick clay and low fire soda, the collaboration between hand, clay and heat had a very different balance.

In the span of two weeks I threw, trimmed and fired more than one hundred four-inch jars and lids. Nearing the end of the project I cleaned and sanded the fired clay of the tea canisters. As each one was caressed, I reflected upon creative rhythms. Each time I started at the wheel the challenge became how to be awake; how to recapture the idea 100 times and still keep it fresh yet repetitive. The daily dynamic worked best in groups of twelve. I could start one dozen jars and make the lids before taking a break. Then I could freshly get another group started, and have energy and time to finish off the initial twelve.

Each jar has markings, indented lines and slight irregularities to intentionally reveal the touch of the hand. I see the various angles on the lids like fluctuations in facial expression, human-like variations in form. The tight white clay without glaze creates a smooth matte surface that allows the malleable nature of the wet material to show through into the fired state. The canisters speak of movement in their vitrified stillness.  A canister's subtle glow might remind one of the moon or an egg glowing in the shadow of a nest. I hope that the individual character of each canister speaks to the diversity of the recipients as they experience the resonances of the handmade object.



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This page is an archive of entries in the pottery category from October 2010.

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