Voice in Art – My Particular Style?

I have been so enthralled with watching Periscopes (if you don’t have the app get it) in which potters talk about the behind the scenes ideas in how to develop as an artist.  There have been so many I have watched, but in particular there are two I happened to watch about voice and style.  I was struck by what Lisa LaPella said in one of her scopes. I can’t remember exactly what she said but I ran for my neglected sketchbook and I started to make a list of things I love to do when making beads:

1. Bright colors
2. Repeating patterns
3. Drawing flowers to represent people in my life
4. Iron oxide decals
5. Applying and texturing sprigs

My background: I grew up in the southwest and the late 60s and 70s …love all things mid-century.  Being eclectic, it’s been especially hard for my pottery to develop a particular style because I do love so many different ideas/colors/techniques …. later that evening I listened to Jessica Putnam Phillips and her story about how her particular style developed out of her life in the military. Her focus was on the women who serve our country and I was further convinced that whatever I focus on that it must be something that is personally important to me.

 I examined my recent green-ware mugs (red stoneware clay) I’ve been working on and wondered how I could bring some cohesiveness to my art.  I went through this list and began sketching ….  I wanted to draw lines in a curved downward position to emphasize the drawing as well as emphasize the curvy mug shape … I wanted to fill some of the same background in other areas with small hand drawn daisies … bright colors (check), repeating pattern (check) …applying and texturing sprigs (too late for that at this stage, maybe next time).

Because this mug is a red stoneware, I had to figure out the firings …all that under-glaze, over-glaze, and decals!  I decided to start out with the under-glazes. How many firings would I have to have?

I finally decided that if I timed it right that I would only have to have three: one for the bisque fire with under-glazes already applied, one for the clear glaze firing, and one final firing for the hand-drawn iron oxide decals.

When I finished with the under-glazes I started laughing because I had been thinking about the repeating patterns in the stripes but it didn’t actually dawn on me that it was kind of a ‘southwestern-y’ type pattern until it was finished.  I had written that down for one of my background influences, but it came out all on its own.

I began sketching again and as I did, I thought of my mother.  She has always been such a strong and bold figure in my life.  I usually draw daisies but she doesn’t remind me of a daisy, she’s more of a zinnia.

Zinnias have a strong stalk and hefty leaves.  They are showy as all get all (my mother refused to leave the house unless her hair was perfectly coiffed).  I grew in her womb and now that I’m grown, all that she is continually grows out from me.  I mean, who doesn’t look in the mirror at some point and see their own mother in the morning or find themselves saying those same phrases they never thought they would say?  “Six of one and a half dozen of the other” and so on and so forth.  It dawned on me that the roots of her ‘zinnia’ could be anchored on top the ‘belly button’ potter mark, because her roots are intertwined in every aspect of my life (whether I like it or not).  Note the tension in the mother/daughter relationship.  Last time I was with her, I was helping her eat and she muttered, quite loudly, “Well, isn’t this just a fine mother/daughter moment”.   My mother’s best humor comes out in her sarcasm. I laughed so hard. Then I cried. Then she cried.  When we wiped our tears, I handed her the fork.  “You can just feed yourself then,” I said.  She picked up the fork and finished her supper.  It really was a fine mother/daughter moment.  I treasure it.

 I am looking forward to enjoying my morning coffee out of this mug. I plan to make more and I don’t know how long I will make them.  Styles grow and ‘voice’ changes. Is this my ‘style’?  Have I found my ‘voice’?  I don’t know.  But I do know that I am emotionally attached to this work and that doesn’t happen often with the pottery — it does with my beads I create, but not often the pottery and perhaps it is because when I am creating beads I am often thinking about things that are going on in my life and when I have made pottery in the past I have thought, “Is this going to sell or simply take up space on my shelves?”

Maybe developing your own ‘voice’ starts with asking yourself questions.  Thank you Lisa and Jessica for your thoughtful scopes.  There are others who have scoped on this topic, but these were the two I happened to watch.


Happy New Year!

Ok, so it is May.  Not January.  What does that say about me?  I’ve been busy in my new studio  It is insulated and has a heating/cooling unit.  There was electric out there and so hubby ran a few outlets for me so I could plug in the wheel or the pugmill as needed. 

It has a ‘modern’ feel to it. It’s not big, only 10 x 12.  I have everything on wheels (except for the wheel) and if I am working on handbuilding, I can move everything over to one side or the other fairly easy.

I put in an air filtering machine that runs 24 hours a day and at the end of each session I put away scraps, clean off the wheel or table, and right before closing the door, I fill up my Scooba’s tank with water and set it loose. 

In the morning when I go back out to the studio, the floor is dust free, the air is dust free and I’m ready to go again.

I’ve always been relatively clean in my home studio because ceramic dust is very dangerous.   I joke that this is my 3rd studio. Studio 1.0 was the corner of my hallway. No kidding.  I had my wheel shoved there and kept my clay and tools underneath.  I would clear off the dining room table to set things and couldn’t make much at one time.

Then my son moved away to college and I took over his room (Studio 2.0) and I’ve been happy there, mostly.  But I got into metal work and soon the space really dwindled.  Between the tools for that and the pottery clay, it was hard to keep certain things dry when other certain things needed to be wet.

Now I actually have two studios. Studio 2.0 is now used exclusively for shipping, storage, photography, and metal work.  All the pottery stuff is in the (as my hubby calls it) “She Shed”.

Wanna see the inside?  It’s girly… Girly Whirly.  I love avocado/peridot green.  And I adore turquoise blue.  And I couldn’t decide.  So I painted each color on opposite walls. I have since moved the pottery wheel around and the arrangement is completely different.  I used a brick red as an accent color.  I will have to find a picture of that later.

So …. about the time we started this project my mother suffered a major stroke.  That’s the sad part.  She’s never probably going to walk again because she lost use of her right arm and leg. Her speech is spotty. Every so often she can say a few words.   

Here’s where I proselytize about stokes. They are 85% preventable.  Take the baby aspirin at night with 8 ounces of water.  This thins the blood so that clots don’t form.  Exercise a few times each week at least 20 minutes to get the heart rate up.  And here’s the most important thing: STOP SMOKING!

Okay. I’m done.

Thanks for stopping by!