CRAFT & PROCESS
The relationship one forms with place and material is an intimate and essential part of craft. Up until very recently, all human craft was completely informed by local relationships. Potters learned from each other and their local clays how to make pottery. The same is true for crafts of wood, fiber, metal, stone and others. One of the most profound losses most people have sustained through the industrialization, colonization and globalization of the modern world is a severing of the direct relationships with the places that sustain us. Our food, clothes, building materials, forms of transportation and almost every physical object we encounter has traveled a long way, through many strangers’ hands to reach us.
It has been a great gift to work with this clay in the place where she was formed and under the tutelage of a potter who kept alive a craft passed down a long line of people sustained in every way by these lands.
The clay is hand-dug in the warmer month and then cleaned and processed to remove stones and organic matter like sticks and leaves.
The process for building a vessel begins with making a pinch-pot or a flat tortilla of clay large enough to extend out of the puki. Puki is the Tewa name for the form one uses to support the base of a pot, such as a plate, bowl, basket, or broken pot.
The walls are composed of coils that are first adhered with one’s fingers and then compressed and shaped using tools. I use plastic and metal ribs primarily, but have also used tools made from wood, gourds and shells.
Once the pot has undergone an initial drying, the inside is made wet with water or slurry and scraped to remove high points and fill in divots. The pot is allowed to fully dry again and then the outside is waterscraped. After the pot has dried once more, it will be sanded with sandstone, and if I’ve made a lid to accompany it, it will undergo a series of fitting to ensure a good seal. The pots are further refined with fine sandpaper to prepare their surfaces for the finishing work of polishing.
This style of pottery doesn’t use any glazes, and instead the pots are polished with a micaceous clay slip and burnished with an agate. The compaction of the surface and the alignment of the mica flakes decreases the porousness of the earthenware and enhances the brilliant lustre. My vessels are kiln-fired and then pit-fired with wood and bark. The dramatic fire clouds from the pit firing mark each vessel uniquely with traces of coal-black, deep gray, silver, gold and bronze.