Dark Brown Clay

While the Art Institute of Chicago has been closed due to Covid-19, I have been working from home. This is challenging for me as I work primarily with the collection of Prints and Drawings and I don’t have access to the collection at home. As with most people working from home, I have been to many zoom meetings and taken advantage of many webinars. I’ve also had a few box making projects and created several box making tutorials on YouTube. But this time has also given me many free hours to make art.

Cephalopod bowl

As seen in previous posts, I began making a Covid Journal very early in my Stay at Home period. It was an immediate way for me to respond to all that was happening around me and a great outlet for my thoughts and observations. During this time, the clay studio that I work in was closed as a non-essential business, so I wasn’t able to work in clay. This practice of digging in the mud and experimenting is something that feeds the rest of my creativity. I feel it keeps me connected to making, but I don’t usually think of this work as art. These are functional pieces and I often make what I want in my own kitchen. That being said, working in clay keeps my hands busy and my creative mind engaged, often leading to bigger projects.

I hadn’t worked in clay for many weeks, when Joanna Kramer offered online classes at Ware with contactless pick up of materials at her studio. I have often envied her use of a rich dark clay, Standard Clay #266, so I signed on and began hand building at home.

This woven tray was the first piece I made during her class and I continued working on my own afterwards. I love the way the white glaze breaks on the texture and shows the detail nicely.

I bought underglaze colors that can be applied to greenware, before bisque firing, and began making butterflies and moths. I was inspired by a wooden tool I bought in India years before. It looks like the body of a butterfly so I pressed it into the clay to form the center of the Monarch. It felt good to make something colorful, and purely beautiful. The first two trays are quite large.

The underside of the large Monarch with ‘caterpillar’ feet

The next two are brush or chopstick rests and I love the small size. I plan to make many more moth and butterfly varieties.

Sometimes you just have to make what you have to make and this sperm whale butter dish happened. I approach ceramics from the perspective of a printmaker and I love the sgraffito effect. It is similar to carving print blocks and I think the contrast between the dark clay and the white underglaze is beautiful. Although the Pot Shop in Evanston has re-opened, I hope to continue building some pieces from home using this beautiful clay!

Text is from Moby Dick by Herman Melville

4 thoughts on “Dark Brown Clay

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