No matter who you are or what you do, there’s a good chance that you have a favorite mug, or dish, or bowl. We form intimate relationships with everyday utilitarian objects. There is a sense of recognition, grounding, and even comfort in their use. I am fascinated with how the simple temporal object, such as a mug, transforms to become indispensable and beloved. It’s a hallmark of our humanity.
Pottery gives evidence of our daily life and culture. Throughout history, the importance of pottery to people is clear. Its presence or absence helps explain historical and modern population patterns, trade activity, technical sophistication, and collective knowledge. The use of pottery for cooking allowed for the growth of our brains as we unleashed nutrients that were trapped in raw food. Through pottery, people are understood, nourished, and caffeinated. Communities came together and people evolved. Our story is both written and told.
My work is utilitarian and functional, truly meant to be used. I identify with the Mingei aesthetic, the idea that the ordinary and necessary objects of our lives can and should be - must be - both functional and beautiful. As is true with all art forms, pottery displays the marks made by the maker - those left behind by the potter’s fingers and tools, as well as those specific to the materials themselves. I leave behind many marks as i center, open, pull, and shape objects on the pottery wheel.
Unique to pottery though is the incidental mark of the user. The simple coffee cup comes to life when filled with aromatic coffee. Bowls are empty vessels whose relevance comes from the food a hungry person arranges within. I’m interested in participating in this natural and unintentional collaboration.
Much of the clay I choose is naturally gritty; portions are left unglazed and naked. In this way, the user literally touches the earth. I use slip decoratively for the fluidity and uncertainty that allow me to embrace imperfection, and drives me to consider the point at which imperfection becomes defect. Many of the glazes I choose are muted and earthy, but others can also sing rather loudly. I love to create simple, clean and somewhat loose objects with negative spaces, meant to be filled. The current themes I consider are the ramshackle cottages with their greying cedar of the beaches of my childhood. The storm fencing that winds a path down the wintry beach. The rustic cabin in the woods across my street. Each of these even contain the echo of a people.
Pottery binds us together in fellowship and history. It unites us to each other and to the earth. My work is an invitation and an opportunity to continue to tell our story. I seek to collaborate and connect.
copyright 2017 Melissa Harris