Amy Irish, Hillsborough, North Carolina

Ceramics Monthly: What techniques do you use to make the imagery in your work and why? How do you decide when it is appropriate to try and then use a new technique? 

Amy Irish: I take a painterly approach to surfaces, beginning with a rich, red earthenware clay as my canvas. Then, I create colorful underpaintings loaded with motion and movement. Thousands of hand-cut paper pieces litter the worktable as I assemble and apply illustrations reminiscent of the colorful, collage-style scenes I enjoyed in my favorite childhood picture books. In this process, various slip layers start to form over paper resist, using techniques such as brushing, stamping, sgraffito, and slip trailing. Later, oxide washes and glaze are used to enhance the slip layers before a final firing. Every making cycle includes experiments and new techniques that add more complexity so that I can further push the materials. My aim is to create vibrant surfaces full of depth, texture, and imagery that evoke the senses; that is where my inspiration is found. My making space is joyful and my hope is to share that with others.

1 Dahlias in the Rain Tumbler, 6 in. (15 cm) in height, red earthenware, underglaze, slip, paper resist, fired to cone 1, 2021.

CM: What strategies have you developed to handle challenges you face, including setbacks in the studio, or difficulties along the path to becoming an artist?

AI: Whether it be online forums or a local pottery studio, clay loves community—and community is the solution to the challenges I face. The kinship, sharing, and support of my clay community is an important part of my success as an artist. It is invaluable to have a network of people to discuss technical issues and ideas with.

As a process-oriented maker, much of my excitement comes from creating new materials in the studio. It’s known that potters develop a thick skin working in a medium that often fails us after we have invested a lot of time. It is frustrating when new glazes or slips don’t work out at first. I’ve grown to appreciate this process as I develop a deeper understanding of the materials. In turn, I am able to use them more successfully.

2 Bouquet Pitcher, 8 in. (20 cm) in height, red earthenware, underglaze, slip, paper resist, terra sigillata, soda-ash wash, fired to cone 1, 2021.

Technical setbacks in the studio are easier for me to overcome. There are usually set solutions to fix technical issues. The path to becoming an artist is a much more vulnerable one. Exposing my art to an audience has been one of my biggest challenges so far. Self deprecation is something I am guilty of. I believe that a dose of modesty is a good thing; however, I recognize that there is a healthy balance. While I strive to better my craft, growing myself to be an artist has truly opened the doors to creating fulfilling connections with others.

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