Dallas Wooten, Hackettstown, New Jersey

Ceramics Monthly: What techniques do you use to make your work and why?

Dallas Wooten: Most of my work is made on the wheel, although some slab and handbuilding/Surforming techniques are used. Since I water etch the surfaces of my pieces, I carefully consider design and, specifically, seams. Water etching can be generalized as a reductive decorative technique achieved by applying a resist to the surface and washing away the unprotected areas, usually with a sponge. Just like any other technique, there are nuances to the process, such as the types of sponges, resists, timing, and application. These subtleties are one of the many reasons I find myself drawn to the technique, and why I generally leave my surfaces unglazed. 

1 Pink and white etched jar, 14 in. (36 cm) in height, wheel-thrown and water-etched colored porcelain, glaze, fired to cone 10 in reduction.

I like to leave hints of the pot’s history and how it was made. By utilizing the water-etching method, I curate and abstract the surface information and process marks into historically-based status imagery and patterns. I hope to recontextualize this information often associated with production, sloppiness, and even class into a realm of appreciation and curiosity. I find this history and the process of making objects beautiful. In each pot, there is a sense of atmospheric mark-making that, I hope, draws the user in and encourages them to find something new with each use.

CM: What is the most challenging aspect of working in clay? 

DW: Unfortunately, I don’t have to look far to find some form of challenge within my work. At times, I find it helps me to stay actively engaged with the work. On the other hand, it can be a hindrance. 

2 Yellow and white etched lidded pitcher, 13 in. (33 cm) in height, wheel-thrown and water-etched colored porcelain, glaze, fired to cone 10 in reduction, luster.

As mentioned in the techniques section, seams can be very troublesome. Since the work is raw and unglazed, the seams between components attached to one another when leather hard can be tricky to hide. Typically, these attachments are compressed and covered on the surface. Porcelain can sometimes echo these seams later on. The water-etching method, however, erodes through the surface of the seam and reveals it more than normal, and can even cause slumping on larger forms. 

Aside from this, warping remains a constant consideration, and through the lens of practicality and career building, cost and quality of materials also exist as challenging factors.

Learn more at www.dallaswootenceramics.com.