Recently I attended a workshop with amazing ceramic artist Judy Motzkin in Wellfleet, MA. We brought unglazed pieces and pit-fired them, a process that uses natural materials like seaweed and salt marsh hay to create the designs on the work. The pieces are put into a pit, then a bonfire is created on top of the pit, and as the fire burns the natural materials are absorbed into the surface of the pottery. Though not my usual style of finishing work, I am always pleasantly surprised by the random markings created by earth and flame. Below are a few of the pieces I got from the workshop; a turtle, a jar with a hermit crab resting on top, and a knobbed whelk shell.
I felt very emotional as I unwrapped each piece after the firing, because the process is very hands-on and based in ancient tradition, but also because of the personal significance of some of the pieces I created. The turtle is a gift for my son William, and we have it in our garden so he can pat it each time he walks by. We have been spending more time together outside as the weather gets warmer, and our gardens have become such a staple in our lives. We plant, nurture and grow flowers and vegetables, then we enjoy the fruits of our labor together, a process that closely mimics how we care for our family as a whole. The shell is a continuation of the growing collection I add to each year in memory of my grandfather, who used to collect whelk shells on Cape Cod. The firing process reminded me of a life cycle; we die and are interred in the ground, and from that same earth, plants grow that we used to wrap around our pottery. From the ashes of the fire new life springs forth in the form of artwork. Overall a very powerful and rewarding experience.