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How Clay Has Shaped You?


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#1 harleyweigle

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Posted 10 May 2017 - 11:05 PM

Hello Everyone,

 

My senior year of high school I saw a potters wheel for the first time.I can strangely still picture it like it was yesterday. I was looking at this clay boss wheel white with a brown splash pan. Sat on cardboard to catch any mess thrown from it's surface. In that very moment and up until then I had NEVER seen anyone use one or had I ever paid any kind of attention to ceramics. But there was the strangest sensation that had rushed over my body. I NEEDED to figure out what this was and how I could use and make with it. I had the strangest connection with this machine that I had never seen before seen or used but undoubtedly there was a connection. I signed up for a class and have been with it ever since. Now I am days away from the end of my bachelor's degree in Fine Arts concentrating in Ceramics, I have demonstrated for other students at that very same high school, I have studied under a master potter, I have gotten the pleasure of meeting masters in the field, and I have even been blessed to present undergraduate research at an hour co-lecture with my professor at NCECA this past year in Portland Oregon. For the past five years I have been fortunate and naive enough to think that I have been able to shape and form clay from this earth on a potters wheel all why this same machine has been shaping and forming me into the man I have and will continue to become. 

 

 

With all of that said; what is your story? How has clay and the potters wheel shaped you in ways that you could never imagined? 

 

P.S. Please don't hesitate to tell us your story. I would love to read where you have been and where our journey has taken you. 

 

-Harley Weigle

Shippesnburg University 2017



#2 oldlady

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Posted 11 May 2017 - 12:21 AM

congratulations on finding your life calling at such an early stage and going ahead and completing a degree.  it seems that everyone who really loves clay finds a way to work with it.  some may have detours along the way but it looks like you are putting one foot ahead of the other on the right path.


"putting you down does not raise me up."

#3 Marcia Selsor

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Posted 11 May 2017 - 05:21 AM

Clay has shaped me into an international traveler seeking out Ceramics, its history and development. I am a Ceramics teacher, practitioner, and historian. I received two Fulbrights Scholars' Awards to do international Research in Spain and Uzbekistan.I photographed women Potters in Moveros Spain using a type of wheel similar to the first wheels used in 2700 BC. (check out the photos at the bottom of this link) http://www.marciasel...blications.html I saw a replica of the early wheels in the Museum in Yerevan, Armenia.I have watched very old potters throw loop handles with two very quick hand movements.I have hosted many potters in Montana including Juan Quezada's brother, Nicholas, Clary Illian, Rick Pope,Kurt Weiser, and numerous others at MSUB. I have traveled for residencies to Europe and Asia researching ceramics history. Met many potters from traditional
Spanish folk potters in 48 pottery centers, to ceramics artists of the former Soviet Artists Union. I have given lectures on such topics as Fulbrights, Architectural Ceramics from Asia to Hollywood, traveling the Silk Road, Why make pots in the 21st Century. I have been writing about ceramics since 1972 and published in numerous magazines, journals, books and the British Archaeological Reports. I began working in clay in 1966 in College. I am still working in Clay after 50 years and have no plans to stop. Just set up my final studio in a beautiful town of Red Lodge Montana. It has shaped me in these ways. I feel blessed to have been able to follow this trail through life. My favorite place clay has taken me is the Pryor mountains where I took a group of students to dig clay. While we were driving along a rutted road towards Dryhead overlook, , a Vision quest site, we were surrounded by a herd of wild horses with Spring foals . That was a life changing event. I began making my horse slabs
Marcia
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#4 glazenerd

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Posted 11 May 2017 - 06:28 AM

Harley:
Glad to see someone from the next generation that will carry the torch forward.

Nerd

#5 oldlady

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Posted 11 May 2017 - 08:36 AM

harley, if you spend a little time reading the posts on the forums, you will get to know a lot of potters by what they concentrate on.  if you click on the avatar of one whose comments are of interest to you, you can read their profiles.  at least the ones who have been here awhile.  many new people cannot figure out how to get an avatar up and cannot get their locations to post.  it is not easy but for those who have done it you can learn a lot.


"putting you down does not raise me up."

#6 Denice

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Posted 11 May 2017 - 12:59 PM

I fell in love with clay when I was 12, took a lot of pottery classes in high school.  Won some awards, even got a scholarship for college because of clay.  It is hard to imagine my life without clay in it.  I have worked at other jobs but I always had a clay studio at home to decompress and escape in. Have tried other arts but always come back to my clay.  Right now I have taken my love for ancient pottery and coiling and creating Mimbres style pottery.  I have been potting for 50 years and hope to be like Beatrice Woods and pot until the end.   Denice



#7 RonSa

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Posted 11 May 2017 - 03:17 PM

Honestly, I thought I was the one shaping clay?

 

Joking aside, for me its just another way of getting back into working with and being connected to earth.


Ron


#8 High Bridge Pottery

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Posted 12 May 2017 - 09:21 AM

I had never even really thought about clay up until the age of 19. I arrived at a new school to study a year of art stuff, including ceramics. The main teacher of the course was actually the ceramics teacher and I remember listening to a story he told of how they accidentally ended up studying ceramics and how great it was. I was there to specialise in graphic design and thinking 'yeah right, how can ceramics be that good you just swap to study it' 

 

After two week in 10 different subjects I had dropped any idea of graphic design and spent the whole year working with clay. Although looking back it was probably one of the best times I went on to study computer animation at university with a romantic idea about making great films. Messed that up and only just got the piece of paper, since then I have been trying to work out how to be a studio potter and failing badly at that. Thinking about clay is probably most of my day.


One physical test is worth a thousand expert opinions.

 

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#9 ChenowethArts

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Posted 12 May 2017 - 02:23 PM

Harley,

 

Congratulations on the completion of your undergraduate studies...certainly in the world of clay arts, this is known as the commencement of life-long learning :)

 

I didn't know what to think when I would discover ancient pottery shards in the red clay creek banks where I grew up in Middle Georgia. Visits to museums probably opened my eyes to the vast history that clay has played in civilizations past and somewhere along my path in architectural studies, I ventured back (mentally) several hundred years and wondered what shared experiences we all have had (to some degree) in working with clay.  That historical connection continues to contribute to my growth and learning. My questions have lead me to historical sites on three continents, archeological digs that I found hypnotic, and more museums than I even want to think about.  I may have several answers to  the "How Has Clay Shaped Me?" question, but I seem to return to connections that I make with clay today with the hands of those from ions ago whose shards I found on the banks of the creek. I have been humbled many times by thinking that something I have done is fresh and new, only to discover that someone several hundred years ago created something frighteningly similar and with far less sophisticated tools.

 

My friends here on the forum would understand a simpler pun for my answer..."Clay just keeps me grounded."

 

Peace,

-Paul


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#10 LeeU

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Posted 12 May 2017 - 03:32 PM

How does clay shape me? Clay is like a dance instructor that helps me dance with life and helps me dance with death. I prefer dancing with life, most of the time, and working in clay/with clay keeps me engaged in my own future, regardless of whether I trip over my own feet in the process. 

 

There are times, though, that I feel like I'm trapped on a sunken submarine (I just read The Terrible Hours/Peter Maas). I have found when I am in that place, dancing with death, focusing on all-things-clay and the process of working, planning, doing, dreaming, creating, trashing, rejoycing, building, reviewing, rethinking, tearing down, discussing, avoiding...whatever ...seems to result in muting the potentially dangerous/painful effects of whatever the obstacles to survival of the Self are, so that the dance of problem-solving and the dance of persistence can work their magic and metaphorically lift that disabled sub finally, safely, to the surface.  

 

As Paul sez--clay just keeps me grounded. Right now I'm working on a piece that has been going through transformations for a year now...multiple firings, reglazing, and reconfiguration of the elements. It has been an inner journey with outward manifestations. I don't know how the piece will turn out, but the clay is definately shaping me, for the better!    


Lee Ustinich

 

 

 

 

 

#11 Babs

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Posted 13 May 2017 - 03:27 AM

Clay just makes me look myself in the eye/brain.

No hiding from self in that space.



#12 Pres

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Posted 13 May 2017 - 03:52 PM

Hi folks,

You know me as a retired art teacher. I grew up in a family where my Dad had two wives, my Mom and the Air Force, or rather flying. We traveled all over the US, with stations every 3-5 years starting in Washington DC, to McCord, Washington, to HIckam, Hawaii, and to Warner Robbins, with short stops here and there all over. He retired in the 60's, just before I started my Senior year, and moved to Mansfield, PA.

 

While in GA, I dug some red clay to make a model for an Industrial Design competition, never finished it, it cracked apart. Until then I had only had a few Elementary school experiences with clay, nothing of consequence. All through HS I had Art classes, except for the Senior year at Mansfield, where it was not allowed for the College track. Never much showed in the way of talent, just really enjoyed art. Come senior year and graduation at the small HS, very little to say about performance. Went to a Community College in Williamsport and after two years of Math and Science, took a deep dive in the grades. Begged my way back in under probation, met a nice young lady later to marry, aced the new year, and transferred back to the Mansfield area to the state college there, Art Education. Found something that I didn't have to work at, it just happened. I really wasn't the most creative, or the most skilled, or anything else not even the highest grades, but put 100% on the line everyday, every class. It was easy, I loved it, and then I took a Summer class in Ceramics, and I was totally seduced by the clay side! I had to have every waking moment in the pot shop, throwing, wedging, pulling handles, anything and everything, felt like a kid that had to go to the bathroom, but couldn't leave because I would miss something! 

 

I had a colleague later in life tell me that I drew to many mandalas, and circular patterns that were spirally concentric, not a good thing. He was majoring in Art Therapy, and tried to analyze everything. I told him one day when he was going on about this that it was perfectly logical, my doodles were that way because of the wheel, the wedging in spiral shapes, the way I centered, and looked down on those circles in the clay to the extent that I even dreamed about them, or had nightmares of the piece of clay that I could not center constantly throwing my arms out of place and the bucket of water out into space. Like a dog with a bone he would say see, you need help!

 

Clay has shaped my life in so many ways, and made so much of the rest of it better also. My wife, whenever I seem restless even after working week and coming into a Thursday would say, you need some rest go out an make some pots. Like a charm. For me the question would be how hasn't clay changed your life?

 

 

best,

Pres


Simply retired teacher, not dead, living the dream. on and on and. . . . on. . . . http://picworkspottery.blogspot.com/

#13 glazenerd

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Posted 13 May 2017 - 11:11 PM

How has clay shaped my life?  Hmmm.. I was thinking more in the terms of "ruined my life." I had a life, was happy, content, and went fishing often. That was until I saw a crystalline vase in Williamsburg, Va. back in 2007. I spent over a year doing online searches trying to figure out what I had seen. After I figured that out, I spent a few months researching it until I dropped a rather tidy sum buying kilns, rollers, chemicals, and the other necessary sundries required to make crystals.

 

I went from never working with clay to firing crystals on porcelain clay. I learned to make my own glazes, and have never bothered with premixes. In 2012 or so I began to realize through extensive experimentation, that the clay was effecting crystal growth. So I began researching clay formulation, only to realize there was no such thing as clay formulation.  Hey- that was fun. So I spent several years reading research documents on any and all aspects of soil sciences and elemental studies. In 2015, I had the pleasure to met and study with Ron Roy at the NCECA conference in KC. I have spent the last two years working on formula limits for porcelain and stoneware clay bodies. I am currently writing a book on clay formulation, which I fully expect to sell ten copies.

 

I prefer to look at it as: shaping the future of clay. My only other option is to accept the fact that I have become overly obsessive about clay.

 

Nerd



#14 Joseph F

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Posted 14 May 2017 - 08:19 AM

Clay shaped me. I started out of sheer boredom. Had some health issues and was home all the time going insane. Decided to take an 8 week pottery course 3 hours a week. After the 4th week I dropped out and bought a wheel, it all went down hill from there. 

 

You could say that clay taught me to appreciate the individual aspects of a person. The appreciation of flaws in nature, people and life. I enjoy looking at something and wondering what happened there? Why is this rock colored this way? Why did that tree grow like that? I can honestly say that clay has mostly made me slow down and appreciate things that I didn't before. 

 

An example of something that happened: My son is Korean German Irish, he has a random distribution of 6 freckles on his face. I love them. He had kindergarten pictures this year and my wife checked the touch-up box(not knowing what it was). When we received the photos we realized they photoshopped out his 6 freckles! It is a great picture of him, but it doesn't have his unique face. Instead it is just a perceived "perfect" face. Anyways. We wont be checking that box anymore!

 

I prefer life without touch-ups. We are much more beautiful!



#15 Marcia Selsor

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Posted 14 May 2017 - 10:58 AM

Joseph

you said:You could say that clay taught me to appreciate the individual aspects of a person. The appreciation of flaws in nature, people and life.
I agree with you 100%. When I wrote recommendations for students taking ceramics as an elective I started out saying "Although I am merely a pottery teacher, this class allows me to know and understand the character of each student in how they deal with the complexities of clay." It shows their perseverance, character, and work ethic. I could write some pretty strong recommendations for these kids whether they were applying for teaching jobs, medical services or social services. I think Clay does open your eyes to others and their character.
Marcia
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#16 yappystudent

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Posted 14 May 2017 - 12:11 PM

Clay allows me to make some of my personal, deepest thoughts real in three dimensions, in a material that will greatly outlast this body's ephemeral blip in the history of the Earth.

 

I'm a sculptress and hand-builder, for my part I feel no affinity for the wheel whatsoever, <_< .


If nothing breaks you're not really trying.


#17 rakukuku

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Posted 14 May 2017 - 01:34 PM

Well I studied art and ceramics in college and knew I always wanted it as part of my life. But felt the need to get a decent paying job in the business world and got an advanced degree. Interestingly, the creativity of my art background was very helpful in the business world. I was a creative problem solver.  Having retired from business I jumped back into ceramics asap. I really don't know what I would do all day without it. I am a sculptor and hand builder and don't do the wheel any more though I used to. Used to raku a lot but now am doing more high fire as I get more comfortable with the glazes. I am always looking for some new technique to try - Obvara being one of them that was fun. 



#18 Joseph F

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Posted 14 May 2017 - 04:00 PM

But felt the need to get a decent paying job in the business world and got an advanced degree. Interestingly, the creativity of my art background was very helpful in the business world. I was a creative problem solver.  Having retired from business I jumped back into ceramics asap. 

 

I am sort of doing this as well. I plan on working on corporate security while pursuing ceramics as a lifestyle of peace and creativity. Mostly to clear my mind of work and all that goes with it after a stressful day. Maybe one day I will retire and sell pots. That is the hope anyways.

 

Glad to see it worked out for you. Keep up the journey.



#19 Diesel Clay

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Posted 14 May 2017 - 08:58 PM

Clay just makes me look myself in the eye/brain.
No hiding from self in that space.


So much this.
There is no way to avoid yourself when working clay. Good, bad or apathetic, as within, so without.

#20 GEP

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Posted 16 May 2017 - 10:31 AM

As an unabashed control freak regarding most things, pottery has taught me the limits of my control. And when my mind was exposed to this idea, that the subject of pottery is so much larger and greater than I realized, and can't be completely controlled, it opened up a whole new universe for me. Another way to put it is, if you foolishly believe you can control everything, you will confine yourself to making only mediocre pots. I came from a career as a designer, where everything can and must be controlled. I enjoy my current perspective much better!


Mea Rhee
Good Elephant Pottery
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