I grew up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It is the area that attracted the Amish to settle and establish a farm-based community due to the rich soil. Each winter I watched the earth lie dormant for months. In the springtime it was awakened for a new season of growth by teams of mule-led plows turning under the winter-crusted soil. Flocks of birds followed on the heels of the teams, feeding on the abundance of grubs and insects revealed by the plow blades. Watching this each spring and the growth that followed I became tied to the earth.
It only seemed natural that I found myself working in clay as I grew older. I work in clay because of the connection it gives me to the earth. I am attracted to the connections my finished work makes with other people. Making strong functional pieces that become a part of people's lives is an underlying motivation in my work. The potential shift in consciousness of the user is something that I find incredibly compelling. In our age, machines have replaced many of the handmade objects, which previously added richness to our lives, with objects devoid of meaning. When someone uses one of my pots, I feel a shift can occur because something of who I am comes out in every pot, and I believe many people want to connect with that. I am hopeful that my pieces impart some measure of additional significance to the daily rituals of eating, drinking, and using handmade objects.
Forms and images from the natural world draw me in each day as I walk around. I strive to see better each day so I can allow these things to seep into my work. Patterns on orchid flowers growing in my greenhouse are translated to the surfaces of my cups. Newly emerging bamboo shoots influence the swollen, patterned, geometric forms I make. I work in clay because it continually asks questions of me and how I live my life.
What does it mean to be an American Potter in the 21st century?
How can I effect change in someone with my work?
How can I weave my life and my pots together so they begin to speak about who I am?
Each day questions like these keep me investigating my ties to the earth and to humanity.
I first touched clay when I was in high school in Lancaster, PA. The potter's wheel allowed me to work with my hands in an incredibly direct way, and I liked the idea that my handmade pot could become a part of someone else's life. For two years, my high school art teacher, Dick Ressel, challenged me with questions and projects. Because of his influence, I ended up pursuing BFA in ceramics at Penn State University under Chuck Aydlett, David Dontigny and Chris Staley. I received my MFA from San Diego State University where I studied under Richard Burkett and Joanne Hayakawa.
All of my instructors worked with clay in vastly different ways. They asked questions about what I wanted to make, why I wanted to make it, how I wanted to make it, and how I wanted people to interact with my work. The diversity of the questioning profoundly shaped my thinking and influences me to this day. My work has been exhibited in Japan, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and in galleries and museums across the United States. I have been working in clay for more than 30 years and I continue to find it deeply rewarding.
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