Tuesday, May 1, 2012

where it came from

"Bobby, I like your work. I wondered if you would ever discuss your decorating style and where it came from. Joe"

 My work and where it came from.... As most makers know, this type of question is a loaded one... dealing with years of personal history, experiences, involvement with all types of people, and places they've seen (among many other variables and.."things"). Creation is a complicated practice..but as many people have said in many different ways,.... "if you don't know where you've come from, how can you really know where you're going?".      

Reflection about one's work is essential to the continuation of good, thoughtful, meaningful, and competent work. So where does my work and style of decoration come from? My work, as it is, is a culmination of 14 years of clay involvement. I was a sophomore in highschool, 1998, when I never wanted to be anywhere other then the clay studio (I would skip regular classes to be in the studio). Looking back I think of words like: Foundation, Basics, Base, Practice. These are adjectives that I continue to try and build upon. My work started even earlier then highschool. My father has been an extremely self-motivated, work-a-holic since I can remember and only in the last 5 years has he slowed down. As a retired Pastor, he's since become a Counselor for recovering Alcoholics and Drug addicts. He is full of years of worldly and spiritual experience..and has a natural, easy going way to how life can be. He owned a printing business that he operated from the kitchen/dining room (a 9 foot long lithographic printing press) from when I was about 10 years old. A work-ethic that could compare to the culminated, so called, "Catholic Guilt"...... look like a Sunday Picnic. He worked and worked. Growing up I didn't know anything other and thought that all people were like this. What's so abnormal about my dad working through the night until 6 am? That's my base. Then take that experience into the clay world..where there are just as many opportunities to work yourself to death. After the base comes refinement. I've learned to "see". By seeing I mean that I've become aware of what I'm sensitive to, things that get me excited. I look for new things. I look at old things. The well of work and knowledge of past societies, artists..there all there to enjoy and learn from.


 My style of pots and decoration comes from a few different sources. I know what I like. I take parts of those things and mish/mash them into something of my own. I'm not concerned with making something "brand new". But at the same time I'm not trying to re-make historical pots or art work. Many of my influences include wood-cut prints from the early 1900s from America like Lynd Ward and German artists like Kathe Kollowitz. Also there are influences from the indigenous Pottery of the American South-west like the Hopi, Mimbre, and Mata Ortiz movements. The American Art scene from 1940s on, like Rothko, Pollock, Smithson and DeKooning. Ancient Chinese, Japanese, and Korean pottery. Ming dyansty blue and white. Tamba ware from Japan. Caligraphy and ink paintings from each of the three Asian countries. The Leach and Cardew influence. Also contemporary work from clay artists such as DeWeese, Shaner, Neely, Clennell, Murphy, McDade, Krupka.. Potters that I believe bring to the table what is required of a thoughtful, amazing clay artist: experience (moving mountains of clay through their hands), wisdom, sensitivity, and conviction.


 Another part of my life that greatly influences my work is being outdoors and experiencing nature... I'm an avid fisherman and have enjoyed fishing since I was a small child. If I can't get outside for a long period of time, I become depressed..and if I'm depressed, my work is affected. When I make, I don't sit and think..Oh this is from that, or whatever..but because of those influences, I become a type of filter to it all, and from my hands and ideas, comes something uniquely my own...

So, Joe, I hope that response was good enough for you.  It's a great question...and I'm glad to be able to sit, think and write about it. 


  1. Wow!
    That was great! I feel inadequate to respond!
    I hope that you share this with your family and people who may not be in touch with your blog!
    (By the way, my son and I love to fish as well.)
    I am appreciative of your taking the time out to reflect. All well said.


  2. glad to do it, joe. thanks for the question.

    1. One more question. There was a picture (the next to last one) you posted of what looked to me like a stack of artifactual bowls of some sort. Is there a story there?

  3. yeup there sure is. i'll write up something about that in a few days ok? they're called, Saggars. thse were used a long long time ago to protect the pots from wood ash during the very long firings... These are Chinese. Saggars have been used all around the world thoughout history, and still used today.

  4. I am familiar with saggars. I always think of them as enclosed forms that you put another piece in. The ones in the picture looked more like bowls...