Although my first medium is painting, I decided to complete my education and learn sculpture. This is how I registered for my first class in handbuilding and began my journey in ceramics. Although I learned many things, I also developed as a painter. I encourage all painters learn how to paint ceramics. The different stages of color application and the observation to detail characteristic to ceramics broaden my horizons in painting. The surprise element implied by the firing transformation develops an open mind, since there is no absolute control in the process. My professor Linda Swanson cited someone ( I am sorry I forgot the name) who said that "Ceramics is the marriage of painting and sculpture" and it is a nice way to see it.
Why choose pottery?
Pottery is one of the oldest arts on earth. An artist tries to understand life through art and pottery has a lot to teach. It teaches patience, perseveance, humility, passion, wisdom,... The lessons take a very long time as it takes a very long time to make an object from start to finish, and it also takes many objects to learn the process. Nevertheless, the process is captivating and the time doesn't always seem so long.
The Ceramic Experience
Water is maybe the principle actor in the ceramic process, but plays its role behind the scene. Water is what allows the clay to be maleable. Water is also what gives memory to the clay (See the documentary Water). As water evaporates, the object shrinks. Water is also a major actor in glazes and slips. The firing step completly eliminates water from the object, and we obtain ceramics, one of the most durable and hardest material ever made, that lasts forever. Even if it breakes, it can be mended back again, good as new, although this is an art in itself ( See the documentary "The Unknown Master of Restoration").
At the green stage, clay is maleable and one can form an object of any shape. As one touches and works the clay, the sense of touch becomes predominant which is not the case in many art forms. This experience and its novelty become addictive. When one works the clay, the entire body is involved and strengthens.
The painting of ceramics is a lesson in itself as one paints blindly because all the painting substances will go through a chemical transformation during the firing step. Not only the colors of application do not look like the finishing colors, but they also change place and mingle. The firing process is the one that decides the final look. First, a painter has to accept the shocking experience and his loss of control over the painting. Second, the painter will start appreciating the gift of surprise. Eventually they will get to know each other, but there are so many color combinations, textures, luminosities that this cooperation is a longlife partnership.
Water, earth, fire and air. Air dries the clay. Clay becomes leather hard through drying. The leather hard stage gives structure and allows one to add height such as in the coil technique. It allows one to use tools and trim a pot. Drying is a complex stage. It depends on the temperature and humidity in the air which have an impact on the drying time. Depending on the size of the object and the complexity of its shape a potter has to be careful to slowly dry the piece, otherwise it will crack or break. The drying process is long and tedious and requires a lot of awarness and care. Air is also present in the firing process. Regardless of the type of firing, oxygen has a major play.