Statement by Donna Hetrick
I am primarily a hand builder with a strong interest in surface, texture and form. I love to drop out a slab, watch the clay stretch and pick up texture from my work surface, or to pinch a pot and stretch it larger and larger into an archetypal vessel or container. My thrown forms are typically altered by pinching or paddling, cutting and joining.
I want my pieces to communicate the incredible versatility of clay, its plasticity and its strength. Each piece is a record of all that has happened to it, where I have touched it with my fingers or other objects or tools, a reminder that once the clay was soft. Then the pieces are committed to the fire. I want the fire to make its mark, meld the glaze, add a flash of color. Firing connects me to the essence of pottery, to potters throughout the world and human history, all of whom have relied upon fire to finish their work.
Even though Y2K has passed, I am leaving this up because it speaks to some good issues.
A potter’s thoughts on the Millennium and where handmade pottery fits into the technological age.
by Donna Hetrick of Fireborn Studios
As we turn to face the new century I am compelled to remember what a constant force pottery has been through the ages. Many millennia have passed since we became humans and the process of digging and shaping clay became an integral part of life on this planet. Making pottery was, even in its earliest stages, a creative process that yielded vessels for sustaining life and spirituality. Handmade pottery was used in the most utilitarian sense, as well-made containers for storing food and water were vital for survival. Ceremonial vessels were also an integral part of the spiritual center of every social structure. It is, of course, the shards from both utilitarian and ceremonial vessels that tell us stories of daily activities and spiritual practices, painting a vivid picture of ages gone by.
As I ponder the technological revolution that has invaded our culture and my own life in this millennium, I am unsettled by many things. Children learn to use computers before they learn to write. The need to create has disappeared as machines churn out the day-to-day utilitarian objects, like clothing and utensils, that we need to survive. We have lost an important spiritual connection to the things that we use in our daily lives. We use our hands less and less for making beautiful things. The time to relax and tap into our creative souls has been stolen from us. To many, the web of life appears to be made of impersonal power grids and circuit boards.
In the midst of this complicated, fast-paced life and the stress that threatens to consume us, I wonder, what is it that we need to survive and what happens if we lose our ability to touch, to craft, to revere? Will shards from our work be here for the next millennium? Will anyone be here to find those shards and discover our story?
I believe that in spite of technology, and indeed because of it, there is an even greater need for handmade pottery. I know this because as technology moves into more and more areas of my life, I find it increasingly necessary to “pinch” pots. Working with the clay is therapeutic; a great stress reliever. It slows me down and pulls me back. I am drawn into other realms. My left hand/right brain takes over at times when the critical form of the pot is developing. I stroke the clay and feel a oneness with the earth and past worlds. Burnishing delights my fingertips. I can touch the spirits of my Native American and African sisters who learned to shape pots by hand from their mothers and their grandmothers. I connect with potters through the ages who have learned to shape and smooth clay into the objects they needed for physical and spiritual survival. I become lost in the soothing process and time slips away. At the end of the process, I feel relaxed and rejuvenated.
Our adult pottery classes have allowed many people to step back from the stresses of this high tech world and find a bit of peace as they connect with the clay and perhaps a piece of their long-buried heritage. We find that even people who have never made a clay pot are drawn into the process and experience the joy of creating a beautiful and utilitarian work of art just as our ancestors must have done.
Take the time to take a pottery class!