Sarah Whitlock, staff

Meet The Potter:

Years in clay? I started taking lessons 26 years ago from a potter in my neighborhood who had a studio in her basement and taught groups of kids after school. I loved it!

Why Clay? I choose clay because of its versatility. Simply put, it can do what I ask of it. I marvel at the ability of clay to change its color, its surface, its texture at a touch. It can mimic the softness of a pillow or the coldness of steel. It is the elegance of a tea cup and the earthiness of a mud puddle. The challenge is to convince it to do what I want when I want.

Where did you learn clay? After my first teacher moved, I had private lessons with a number of teachers until I was 12 and joined… the teen class at The Potters Shop! Jodine Kuhlman was my teacher from age 12 until college where I majored in Studio Art. Since Smith College doesn’t have a Ceramics program specifically, I focused on sculpture where clay was the primary medium.

Favorite part of clay? That it never gets old. It is an endless well from which to draw. Functional, sculptural, temperature ranges, firing methods, surface decoration, clay body or glaze formulation to name a few… you could legitimately spend a career exploring a tiny corner of just one of those facets. Or, if you tire easily (like me), you could mix and match. And there is always a technical challenge, which I love.

Least favorite part of clay? The grunt work, mostly. Cleaning, recycling clay… it’s all time spent to make the creative part possible.

What do you do when you aren’t in the studio? Uhh… take my work home with me? Wait- is this the part where I say I like bubble baths and long walks on the beach?

What has clay taught you? To keep pushing myself.

Your goal as a potter, both for yourself and for your work? To keep learning. To learn as much as I can. And, hopefully, to apply that knowledge to make interesting work.

Favorite styles or techniques? Altering thrown work, image transfer, and I’m a sucker for a wood-fired pot.

Favorite potters and why? I’ll never be able to list them all, so just a few… I admire Beth Cavener Stichter because she makes thought-provoking, dark work that is also beautiful and realistically executed- frankly, I’m jealous. Of course, Paul Soldner for his freedom and willingness to experiment. Richard Notkin for his social and political commentary on top of his technical prowess. I love Jennifer Lee’s work because of her measured restraint and command of clay as a raw surface. Rebekah Bogard’s unexpected contradictions in sculpture, Ruth Borgenicht’s meticulous construction, Seth Payne’s functional organic forms, Karen Karnes’s deceptive simplicity… and everyone else I can’t think of right now.

Favorite clay quote? Just about everything that comes out of Karen Karnes mouth in her DVD “Don’t know, We’ll See.”