I came into ceramics early - way back in the early 1970s. Remember those basement ceramic studios? My parents had one in the little pink house where I grew up. It was here that I had my first experience with ceramics. My dad would spend Friday nights and Sunday afternoons in the garage, pouring slip (liquid clay) into plaster molds, and fitting them together with giant size rubber bands. Opening up the molds revealed greenware statuary that my sister and I would cart into the house.
My mother would hold classes in the basement for the ladies of the town. A parade of Venus de Milos, Christmas trees, and assorted gnomes/elves would result. In our heyday, my mom was the kiln master of three electric kilns and dad presided over 500 different molds.
I am now a middle school social studies teacher with a passion for world cultures. I have spent hours and hours teaching about people, reading about people, and even standing in front of the greatest art and antiquities made by people.
I am drawn to simple objects made of clay, especially ancient functional ware: water jugs from Cyprus, grain containers from Mesoamerica, rounded bottom amphora from the seas around Mesopotamia. Basic, everyday necessities. Utilitarian, simply adorned. And yet monumental, since they moved human evolution forward.
Feeling the pull of the ancients, I answered the call of the clay. I enrolled in a pottery class at an amazing local arts center, Goggleworks Center for the Arts. And I was smitten.
The wheel-throwing process that I utilize now is entirely different from the early processes of my childhood. But the material, with its earthy smell and its silky feel, took me right back home.
I continue to hone my skills and take classes. Most recently, I completed a two week immersive class at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Maine taught by the rock star potters Naomi Dalglish and Michael Hunt of Bandana Pottery.
As a potter, I work to coax the elements to work with me - form the earthen clay, dry using air, lubricate with water, and fire my work to its final vitrified state. I learn something new each time I work with clay.
The resulting coffee mugs, jugs, bottles are different from those that are factory made and mass produced. No two of my pieces are the same. I have guided them through a process that in its essence is simple, yet is quite complex. They have a force, a vibration, that is left there by human hands - the hands of a passionate potter.
The legacy continues. Each piece is an invitation. Hold it in your hands - a collaboration is made.
copyright 2017 Melissa Harris