Growing up in the Catawba River Valley of western North Carolina we had in the house a few jugs and crocks, ash glazed survivors from the past which were made by my forebears. These were hardy, robust, functional objects that possessed an immediate congress with the past while maintaining their usefulness in the present. These were the fruits of the primitive, self-reliant industry of generations previous and they bore in me an early notion of making objects for a living.
In Japan, much later, I myself began making pots. Studying in Tokoname, my teachers taught me not only about the local ceramic traditions of Shigaraki and Oribe ware, but also about the shared quality of the work made by the contemporary studio potters of North Carolina as well as their folk potter antecedents. These were surprisingly unique bonds between very distinct cultures and time periods. Yet these cultures share a fundamental appreciation through daily use and a common devotion to handmade ceramics. Each never losing the honored tradition of locally made pottery. I began then to understand the power of the shared aesthetic language of ceramics. Crossing both epochs and cultural boundaries ceramics communicate some very essential ideas about being human. This was an explosive revelation for me and it fueled my desire to become a ceramic artist.
I left Japan for England to work at Winchcombe Pottery. Here was another important ceramic tradition which never quite lost out to the mass produced pots of the industrial revolution. Thanks to the efforts here of Michael Cardew and his first pupil Ray Finch, that delicate thread was maintained. Working at Winchcombe gave me a good look at the healthy, unselfconscious fecundity of a production workshop that maintained the high standards of strong traditional forms. It was here, while developing my eye for form that I learned to hold myself up to those same rigorous standards.
I continued my studies on the job as an assistant to Dan Finnegan in Virginia and later as an apprentice to Michael Hunt and Naomi Dalglish at Bandana Pottery in western North Carolina. Working side by side with these makers, slowly and naturally, I became more attuned with the most basic processes of making. My own practice slowed down. I began to use a slow, foot-powered treadle wheel and to dig and process by hand local clay, feldspars and wood ash. In essence, I began to make work the very same way my forefathers had made their work.
Thus, the quiet beauty of the essential materials of the pot, the slow and mindful method of making and the haunting echo of the cultural past we share have become the anchor of my current studio practice. Ultimately, the seemingly disparate ceramic traditions of North Carolina primitivism, Japan, and medieval England have crystallized into my own contemporary work. It is with these roots that I feel that I am now free to explore more bold, inventive forms and to produce my own modern design.
Successful art has a firm foundation in the work that came before it. Working within a tradition is not necessarily a formula for maintaining, but can be a disciplined path in which to continue the consequential thread of craft and to make things new. Building on and blending the seemingly disparate ceramic traditions of our world and varying these themes into new translations and experimentations allows my work to progress. It is my hope that this referential work will remind us that these functional forms are necessary and that through interaction this work will have a humanizing effect; it will slow us down and remind us of the significance of the timeless daily rituals which make us human.