artiFACTS-Tidbits in Evolving Artifacts: A Potter's Journey in Clay


People find it curious that I don't "sign" my pottery. I don't for the simple reason that it isn't my Artifact to sign, but a collaboration between the clay, the wheel and myself; all 3 in synchronicity. To claim it as mine would be a good reason for the clay to file a lawsuit! It simply is ours.

Each Artifact usually takes much longer to make than the time it takes a lot of potters who throw off the wheel. I have a passion for, am in LOVE with layers and texture. To get a textured piece I usually wet trim, that is using a trim tool on wet clay so the marks the tool leaves on the clay become really prominent. Once dry the surface cries out "carve me!". Using my symbols that have become my language of sorts (scribes used to practice their writing on broken pieces of incredible is that?) I comply. To enhance the carvings I paint glaze on the piece, wipe it off, repeat as often as necessary, then paint with underglaze and glaze, which results in a richly textured piece.

The name of my business, Evolving Artifacts, is a collaboration between my dearest friend Judith and me. I knew I wanted Artifacts...something Artifacts and I just couldn't come up with it. After mulling it over for a couple of days Judith came to me with "Evolving" and I knew! It hit me in the gut...I had the name of my business. Not only does it shout out how I feel about living-that we should be constantly evolving in every way as humans-but it also directly connects me to all the past artisans and how I am but a link in a long and storied chain. And the Artifacts that the clay, wheel and I continue to make will also be evolving as the clay and I learn and grow together.

In this day of noise and technology the handmade, both in the making and the buying, is increasingly precious. The internal peace and quiet (and to be truthful sometimes frustration) in making pottery, of using my hands and feeling the intimacy with the substance I am working with, is life giving. The irregularities and idiosyncrasies that come with the handmade so reflect our human lives with our own bends and twists of everyday life. Technology can be wonderful and I am in love with it, but holding a handmade Artifact is priceless in how it connects us-human to human.

Throwing with clay is like dancing with the perfect partner. If I listen with my fingertips it tells me exactly how we should make the pot grow. For me it is like reading terrain with its peaks and valleys. Clay has peaks and valleys, too, and if I read them right, we go on an adventure together. How magnificent to have this miraclous substance in my hands, this earth once a lump be so responsive, so malleable and yet become indestructible once fired. Truly a miracle!

Artifacts! How we human beings are all so connected through this history. I feel this intensely when making pottery imagining what our ancestors looked like making vessels for their community, how clay's indestructibility once fired was discovered. How poignant that a human being can make functional pots for others to use-functional and beautiful! The unspeakable thrill I get when someone purchases a piece of "our" pottery is just that...unspeakable. And when someone buys an Artifact he/she/they becomes a part of this amazing journey created over 10,000 years ago!

I often use the tag lines "relics for a modern soul" or "because everyone needs an Artifact". For me holding a piece of pottery connects us as humans so deeply to the past and how we evolved to where we are today. Modern souls, US, need those archetypal connections. When you hold a a piece of pottery you have history in the palm of your hand and all sorts of associations pop up...our cave painting ancestors, our early human brothers and sisters around a fire telling stories, the potters in Africa making a massive kiln to fire their pots for their communities. How enriched our lives become when we connect with ourselves of an earlier time.