1. Soy bottle, 5½ in. (14 cm) in height, salt-fired stoneware, 1980s. Photo: Peter Lee.
Most artists’ work changes throughout their careers. The reasons vary (for example: time spent away from the studio, a need for a challenge, an interest in exploring or learning something new, a studio/home move, or a shift in physical capabilities), but the way each artist negotiates these decisions about their work is fascinating and instructive.
For the artists included in this year’s Regeneration focus, there are both visual and conceptual threads that run from one body of work to the next. We have included artists who work in series, make gradual, incremental changes, and those who have changed everything from their building techniques to their firing temperature and glaze palette.
Mark Pharis has made several shifts in his work throughout his career (see the mini timeline (left), and a comprehensive timeline in the article starting on page 34). He started out making wheel-thrown salt-fired vessels in the 1970s, then switched to handbuilding in the 1980s. In the early 1990s, when he moved to a new studio and home, he transitioned to electric-fired earthenware. Despite firing in a neutral atmosphere, he continued to create pieces with varied, layered surfaces. In the late 1990s, he started using computer-aided design (CAD) programs, and more recently incorporated RAM pressing as one of his forming techniques.
Catherine Vanier started out her career in clay making earthenware with decorative, painted surfaces. When she opened her own studio in the 1990s, despite being known for her previous work, she switched to stoneware temperatures because she started to feel that the lower firing temperature was producing harsh surfaces where the clay and glaze were not integrated enough. Her training and love of gestural painting carried through to this new body of work.
Several of the artists have made a combination of sudden and subtle shifts in their work. Donna Polseno found that her interest in creating depth on the surfaces of her figures carried through to the way she developed glazes for her pottery. Her investigations into the possibilities started with a process involving wax resist patterns and various glazes used over a high-fire shino glaze in the 1980s. In the early 2000s she revisited the idea, but altered it to using resist and layering calcium matte glazes. Beth Cavener creates her figurative sculptures in series where the overarching theme (like the four humors or Japanese folklore) links all of the pieces within the series, and also sets them apart from the previous work. Mathew McConnell’s newest work continues his interest in bringing together disparate images from art history and pop culture and his skills in working with clay in various techniques, but he pares down the surfaces to a monochrome black, as he asks us to think about the way context is key to our perceptions. In contrast, Andréa Keys Connell’s newest work moves away from the monochromatic surfaces from previous series, introducing the use of stains, underglazes, glazes, and oil paints to define different areas of her figures.
3–4 Our very own Holly Goring is the lucky owner of these pieces. She brought them in to share with us, and Forrest Sincoff Gard snapped the photos so we could share them with you, too.
The theme of this issue led me to look at images of my own past work, and to think about why I made this or that change, and, what, if any visual or conceptual constants are threaded throughout. I would encourage everyone to take a look back at their previous work, note the similarities and differences, and think about them while building something new.