Pottery

 

Interview with Elizabeth Kendall

What projects are you working on at the moment?

I just finished a ceiling sculpture for the MGM complex. I moved here over a year ago and didn’t have a studio. I was between projects. Then, a neighbor introduced me to someone who asked for Maryland artists for the MGM project. I got the residency here and everything has snowballed and developed since then.

If I didn’t have a studio here the MGM installation couldn’t have happened. It was great because it was something that will open up a bunch of new ideas and projects. Glass and light are new for me. I just finished a piece through an art consulting firm in Atlanta. Now that those things are over I am focused on ideas for my show at Maryland Hall next November. My framework for that is observations and experiences between my home and the studio.

What are the primary materials that you use?

Clay. I am using more glass and I have used fabric in the past. What I love about any material is that it requires you to use specific tools. you can exchange tools for different things - a belt sander to sand clay, rolling pin from the kitchen. I look at clay like fabric and I am referencing fabric and things from the sewing room.

My grandmother did knitting ,weaving, sewing, basket weaving, etc. so my memories are all of the things from her sewing room. She made clothes for my dolls and such. I don’t like the process as much as I like it in pottery.

What’s your earliest memory of art?

It is a frustrating memory because I had this idea of what good art was. I came to art through craft, through process. I had to get technique into my hands before I could get emotion into the work. I started off at a community center taking a ceramics class. I had a five year plan to become a potter and it evolved from there.

What work of art do you most wish you’d made?

I feel that all the time when I see things or you look at something and it resonated with you. But almost inevitably when I am done a project then the next the piece is the one I wish I had made. You solve a problem or you work through a process . or you learn something right at the end that you want to put into the next work.

How do you know when a work is finished?

There are stages of doneness. throwing, trimming, rolling it out, drying it out.. all different stage. I don’t always know until the deadline is done or until afterwards. And, often times I think that is what keeps me coming back. Especially with ceramics where you rely on the kiln to help you finish it, things come out unexpected. That’s OK. then you can look at it and say oh that's cool how that came out. I love the serendipity. I also love the control you can get.

How has your time as an AIR been? Was it how you expected?

It has been great to meet other makers and people who are just involved with this community. I moved and it’s far enough that I need to make a new set of paths. I have always enjoyed having my door open. that’s the challenge of working at home is that you're alone. Every place has it systems. you take what you need and don’t take what you don’t need.

When you work, do you love the process or the result?

Typically I would say process, and that is what initially drew me in. But, I also find it very hard to let go of things that I make for myself. It is probably a reflection of the process.

What is your ideal creative activity?

Yoga is a really good time. It’s a time where I let go. Somebody else is telling me what to do and in a way I am not in charge. I really think that every single moment there is Something there. Even if you are just at the bus stop doing nothing there is still something there that you can take away from it. if you don’t take-in the moment then you are just going.

Which artists do you most admire?

It changes but I always resonate with performance and installation artists. I like things that are temporary and relevant to space. The short term nature of things sets up interesting responses.

What is your creative ambition?

I want to make what I am doing now and figure out how to change it. I want to change the pace and the scale. Right now I make things fast, small, and in multiples to make a large piece. I want to slow down the making -- I don’t know where that is going to take the work necessarily.

What are the obstacles to this ambition?

I like making and I will just make as a default. I should think during that time and slow it down. You go to what you like to do. I need to say ‘this is the time for stretching a new muscle.’

How do you begin your day?

I try and have a period of time where I am not doing anything. I am not talking to anybody. Our home looks out at the bay when the sun is rising. The color change on the water is just amazing. And I am trying to do a little more listening, specifically to podcasts.

 

What are your habits? What patterns do you repeat?

I don’t think I do. I really like doing things differently, not that I always take different routes. I used to be very into control but I really like change. You can’t stop it so instead of fighting it just know things can be fresh and fun. My goal is to embrace it and find ways to change something.

Is a creative dialog important to you and if so how do you find it and with whom?

I don’t seek it out. I enjoy it. I think a lot of times it comes out and it sounds good. That's a good creative activity but I don't know it always translates into anything. it can be forced.

“My door is always open. I am perfectly happy to have people stop by. You never know who you are going to meet are what’s going to happen.” If you should find your way up to the third floor at Maryland Hall feel free to peek into Elizabeth’s studio! Studio 310 B.

 

A Connection in Clay artist Hank Murrow will host a gallery talk and slide presentation in the Chaney Gallery on Thursday, October 1 from 5:30–7 pm. 

About Hank Murrow


 

My three younger brothers and I endured a Jesuit education which was classical, vigorous, and abstract; so I was a sitting duck for the simultaneous encounter with Bob James and clay at the U. of Oregon in 1958. I was ripe for the idea of developing something from raw materials to an object transformed by the fire. At my first review, Bob turned over each piece to carefully regard the bottom before he looked at the rest of it; and I marveled, 'Hey, there's more to this than I thought!' ... which has continued to be true for 58 years.

David Stannard joined the faculty as I was beginning graduate work, and his gorgeous pots and profound understanding of materials perfectly balanced Bob's commitment to subject matter enfolded in rich metaphor. Together, they created an atmosphere of inquiry in the studio which encouraged us to share and learn from each other while remaining alert to our own calling. I was also very lucky to participate in six-week-long workshops with both Shoji Hamada and Michael Cardew; and to work alongside Jane Heald in our wonderful PotShop in Venice, California.

After earning a Master of Fine Arts degree in 1967, I went to Mexico to work for an art center in La Paz, Baja California. I married Bev Wickstrom in 1969 and took up a teaching post at Ohio University with George Kokis. During 1970-73 I was teaching at Anderson Ranch in Snowmass, Colorado with Brad Reed. Bev and I returned to Eugene in 1974, where she began working for the University; while I divided my time between developing kiln designs and work in my studio there.

Back in 1969 some students from my pottery class and I were visiting the art history prof at his home and studio, when I noticed a box on a side table. I asked what was in it and he said, 'You can open it......if you do it over the carpet'. Inside the beautiful box was a brocaded cloth bag, & inside the bag was a teabowl with a lumpy white & orange glaze. At first I thought it might be rough, but once I got it into my hands I was seduced by its comforting texture and light weight. The pits inside the bowl held tiny pockets of bright green from its use as a teabowl. I asked what it was and he said, 'Shino........four hundred years old.' Well, I put it back in the bag and the box, but never out of my mind, chasing it ever since! 

About the Exhibit

A Connection in Clay - In Pursuit of Craft is an invitational show of American potters displaying how skills are transferred through lessons taught from master to student.  This partnership in pursuit of craft has been ongoing from the time where firing of ceramics was the high technology, traveling through the industrial revolution and into today’s art and craft movements.  

We invited emerging artists and their mentor. Also current masters (who named their mentors and influences) together with artists they are influencing in the next generation of studio potters.  The show displays the story of this ongoing dialog between potters and their relationship in craft.

The current studio pottery in America movement owes a great deal to Bernard Leach (1887-1979), Shoji Hamada (1894-1978) and Soestsu Yanagi (1889-1961).  As Michael Webb in his book, Introduction to Bernard Leach, Hamada & Their Circle stated, “The meeting of Bernard Leach and Shoji Hamada in 1919 … started ripples which are still widening today and which may be considered one of the crucial events in twentieth century ceramic history.”  Leach, an Englishman, and Hamada, a like-minded Japanese potter friend, discovered pottery in Japan early in the twentieth century and devoted their lives to utilitarian pottery as an art form.  

Our show illustrates the diverse product from this connection in clay of Hamada and Leach and the interconnections of the potters in this exhibit. For example, Jeff Oestreich was encouraged by Warren MacKenzie to apprentice with Leach at St. Ives, which Jeff did starting 1968 and Jeff is one of the current pillars of the American mingei philosophy of utilitarian beauty today.  Another is Hank Murrow who in the sixties studied with Shoji Hamada for a shorter period of time; the Eastern influence is present in his work. 

Not everyone could have personally studied or apprenticed with Hamada or Leach, but the strength of the tradition, and the passing of knowledge and skills continues. We can see it in the connections between Chris Gustin and Seth Rainville, between Matthew Hyleck and Camilla Ascher and Missy Steele at Baltimore Clayworks (one of the important national centers for ceramics in the US), between Dale Huffman and Justin Rothshank and Missy Steele, between Matt Kelleher and Kenyon Hansen, and between Gail Kendall and Joseph Pintz. Many other connections take place; between Chris Gustin, one of the original founders of the Watershed Center in Maine, and Elizabeth Kendall the current president of the board of Watershed Center.  Even this exhibit can form connections in clay between you and the potters.

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