Long ago I fell in love with the responsive nature and infinite possibilities of clay. Malleable, liquid, solid, smooth, grainy, wet, dry, glossy, matte, worthless, useful, of the earth, through the fire, the metaphoric implications are endless not to mention the tactile pleasure of handling clay at any and every stage through which it passes.
Clay is a lump on the ground, it is a masterwork in the Louvre. Most of us clay makers fall somewhere in that humble and equally miraculous in-between. To create a simple object of clean and attractive design that serves the most basic function of carrying fluid to our lips, containing our daily bread, serving ourselves, serving others, what an honor to think there are people out there that so intimately interact with pieces made by our hands.
My studio is filled with tools for all manner of creation in sculpture, pottery, painting, sewing, printing, and many other means of fabrication. As a high school student my parents gave me a t-shirt with blurry lettering that said “stay focused.” I continue to require extra discipline in the focus department, but with the distractions and experimentation comes the pieces you see here. I practice my craft with functional ceramics and brushwork drawings, develop and eek out ideas with sketches and paintings, and develop and construct my ideas from whatever materials are most fitting.
About the cowgirls
Living in Taos, New Mexico, you can’t avoid being captivated by some spirit of the southwest. Taos is a small remote town with little industry, but a unique draw to those who fall in love with the land, or the lifestyle, or the people. It takes a strong person to survive and much more thrive here. Comrades struggle with lowering wages for work they are uniquely and highly educated for, and fight against relatively high costs of living. Folks literally herd cattle and work the land. If you aren’t a second home owner here you are a second job owner, or a third, just to keep ahead of the bills. The cowgirls are my humble tribute to the women I have come to know here, but also those everywhere showing grit, beating the odds, making their way, and finding the strength within. She could be you or someone you admire. Playful images of independence, resilience, and sometimes a little lawlessness, these sculptures embrace women as uniquely their own, lovely, strong, and even dangerous if you don’t play your cards right.
WOOD FIRE PROCESS
The wood fired cowgirls are individually hand built from high-fire clays then given 1-2 weeks to dry before the first firing. The clay must be completely dry to ensure that no moisture retained within reaches boiling point as the kilns climb to 1800 degrees in the first firing. Any moisture would cause a blow out in the structure damaging not only the original piece but the pieces around it as well.
Each cowgirl is first bisque fired; a lower temperature pre-firing where the clay goes through a chemical transformation making it less fragile for transportation and also preparing it to receive glaze. In the case of these cowgirls no glaze has been added to augment the surfaces. The finish is a result of the natural deposits of wood ash built up and melting during the course of the wood firing creating a natural and unpredictable surface.
The bisque sculptures are loaded into the Anagama, a Japanese-style wood fire kiln, and slowly brought up to temperature over the course of several days. The artists take shifts stoking the kiln with up to 14 cords of wood 24hrs/day until ideal temperature, approximately 2300 degrees, is met. In this time the ash that moves through the kiln builds up on the sculptures and begins to melt resulting in the final surface of the finished sculptures.
Once temperature is met all openings are sealed and the kiln is allowed to cool for 1-2 weeks before taking down the brick door and unloading the finished wares.