Working Thoughts

The stoneware “carriers” and porcelain “tablets” are objects representing an ongoing dialogue I have had with a few simple ideas revolving around order/symmetry, containment/community, and history/weight.

As society puts an increased premium on speed and efficiency, I feel more compelled to offer a slow and sometimes awkward experience, both in the reading and real use of a pot. Perhaps this is a common and dated response for anyone involved with the production of a handmade object and the inherent inefficiencies involved with the various processes (at least mine). Because of the
gravitational pull toward “fast,” I find myself drawn to making the “slow’ object.” This thinking is not rooted in a disinterest or distrust of technology, rather it is a straightforward way for me to extend a conversation with a user/viewer, potentially providing a platform for a meaningful encounter.

For several years now I have been involved with a relatively simple object reflecting a simple idea: that is, to make a container that allows for the transport of several cups (or sometimes bowls or cordials). To “carry” is my effort to construct an experience that brings a pot close to one’s center, while encouraging an awareness of weight, proportion, and scale. The number of cups implies community; the act of carrying is a gesture of giving. It is my desire that the awkwardness of lifting a cup as it “scrapes” a wall will provide a subtle catalyst for seeing and feeling a new relationship with something as familiar and ordinary as a cup, as well as to serve as a bond for those gathered. The absence of cups intimates presence, and I enjoy that inferred reference.

The generation of this idea evolved from three specific instances, all of which still resonate from over a decade ago. Seeing Richard Serra’s Torqued Ellipses and Spirals at a sparse and new Gagosian Gallery in Chelsea gave me a greater appreciation and feel for gravity, and led me to rethink previously held notions of containment. Coming across a simple cylindrical “carrier” at a flea market in Western Massachusetts, resembling an open wooden hatbox with a thin metal handle spanning the volume, struck me as a beautifully sparse and sturdy object that spoke to an obvious use, as well as a history of use. And lastly, walking the grounds of Mont Alban, Oaxaca, Mexico, I became aware of the quiet power of an expansive, flat plane intersecting a defined, articulated barrier. Within their own respective languages, the sculptures, carrier, and ruins expressed a sense of clarity and elegance that I found both attractive and profound. Though I am always concerned that this series and interest will be perceived as falling strictly into a design construct similar to the familiar “how to wrap five eggs,” because it is based in problem solving, it is my hope that these works possess a glimmer of the aforementioned qualities of a simple, direct object suggesting restraint, accessibility and studied elegance.

The string series “tablets”, are yet another means for me to advance a more measured experience. Like the stone tablet, the first recorded writing in history, my tablets hope to serve as a tangible reminder of the importance and weight of history, particularly in light of the ethereal nature of present-day information retrieval systems. In a personal way, these tablets are markers for my political awakening, in1968. Often referred to as the “year that changed the world,” 1968 has been the subject of lengthy dissertations across all media. For me, it was the year that first illuminated the tragedies of the world outside of the comfort of a small family room in Toledo, Ohio. The portraits of individuals depicted on each tablet are at the forefront of my memory: Robert Kennedy, Walter Cronkite, Richard Nixon, Mayor Daley, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Martin Luther King. Initially these “portraits” begin with a traditional drawing made of string, which becomes abstracted and unintelligible after the final firing. I find the translation between known and unknown, between actual events and memory to be provocative territory for another connection to history.