I’d like to invite you all to visit my first studio, located in the woods at the foot of Mt. Hood, outside Hood River, Oregon. It’s time for my annual Blossom Festival Sale, in conjunction with the Hood River County Blossom Festival. I typically use this sale to “clean out the closet,” and make room for my fresh work. Seconds and one-off pieces will be priced very reasonably.
My first studio was a carport at my parents’ home, with a little wall heater and no plumbing. I had a ball out there, even in winter, when it took a few hours for that little heater to bring the space up to 55 degrees. The dogs would come and go, and on warm days, I’d leave the door open to watch the hummingbirds.
In the beginning, I didn’t have a kiln, so my dad and I built one from a 55-gallon drum and ceramic fiber insulation. Basically, it was a raku kiln, only good for short, low-fire firings, but I tried bisque and even cone 6 glaze firings in that thing. Everything I knew about firing came from readings, but I truly learn from experience; needless to say those bisque and cone 6 firings didn’t go that well. But they laid the foundation upon which I’ve been building my firing knowledge. It will a lifetime of learning.
After a few months throwing in solitude, I began to crave community. I also felt as though I was floundering a bit; my pots showed no direction, other than perhaps an attempt at mastery of throwing techniques. While I could throw a nice lid or make a very light mug, I didn’t yet know why. As a beginner, most potters are compelled to make because of the tactile quality of clay and the visceral experience. It was in that little carport studio that I realized the visceral experience was no longer enough.
And so I ventured out of my studio into the big world of wood- and soda-firing, discovered Shoji Hamada and Bernard Leach and the generation of potters they inspired. One became my mentor, and years later I finally found my voice. I can almost name the day…it was fall of 2009, in my home studio on a farm outside Portland. The journey to that spot was difficult, preceded by the most difficult period of creative depression I’d ever experienced. And yet the epiphany was so simple: make the pots that make you happy. Pure and simple, with no buts or exemptions. That honesty and truth is what led me to the pieces you see in the gallery here today. And those pieces have unlocked an energy that can’t be held back. Now I get frustrated when I don’t have time to put my ideas into clay. But I know the pots will get made. And one will lead to another, although not all will be good ideas. As long as I remain true to the promise I made to myself, to always and only make pots that make me happy, the good ideas will get through.