Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Out Of The Fire ~ Melanie Knox

A good friend was on vacation last month and while traveling around Northern California bought a piece of pottery. Upon his return he told me about it so I decided to look the artist up. Melanie Knox of Knox Studio Ceramics is that artist. Melanie specializes in wood fired pottery and draws inspiration from the Japanese Ceramic tradition.
Why clay? When I was in 10th grade Art class we had to do alot of drawing. I was not that good at it (I was pretty bad actually) and my teacher suggested I try making something out of clay. I remember I made a small sculpture of a female figure. Right there on the wooden floor of my school room, I fell in love with clay.
What gets you in the mood, what inspires you? What gets me in the mood and what inspires me are two different things... Getting up in the morning and walking the 50 feet to my studio in my pajamas (or not..I am surrounded by forest) is priceless. As far as forms go,I am inspired by shapes of containers, especially old metal containers; buckets. oil cans, wheel barrows as well as pot bellied stoves. I also enjoy looking at tanks, submarines and big ships. My favorite pottery that I never get sick of looking at is ancient Japanese Shino and Oribe wares.
Do you listen to music when you work? When I remember to turn on the stereo, yes. Usually when I throw. Definitely not when I am making glazes as I need to pay attention. I like to listen to Prince when I am stacking wood.
As a novice what was it that first caught your attention about wood firing? Ha! This answer is kind of like the "Why Clay" question. At Art school the gas and electric kilns were in constant use. It seemed like we had to wait forever for a kiln to become available and when it did we had to share the shelf space with other students. There were two wood kilns, an Anagama Kiln and a Bourry Box Kiln that were rarely used;even the wood was there! My friend and I thought, "what the heck?". We were so excited about the results, the flashing on the clay, the depth of the glazes...I used only those wood kilns the next 2 years of Art school. Another love story.
I have yet to experience a wood firing but it seems, from what I have heard to be a very social thing, do you feel the camaraderie of the firing process affects the outcome? This question makes me think of booze! My experience of too much camaraderie is drunk people tossing in wood and knocking down kiln shelves. Not so great. However much I enjoy champagne, I tend to not drink while firing. My favorite number of helpers is 3. Having a bunch of people at the opening is really great, especially with first time students. I like to watch people experience the oohs and ahhhhs as the door is being unbricked.
Do you go into the studio with something all planned out, or do you simply pick up some clay and let it happen, let the universe take over as it were? I have an idea for the day, like I am going to make bowls or something but that's about as far as it goes. If the forms just don't seem to be happening, I'll make something else. Occasionally I will make a coil pot or smack some slabs on the floor to get into a meditative mode.
Who is your favorite artist and why? I think Takeshi Yasuda is fabulous. Yasuda is a Japanese potter who has been living in the UK since the 1970's. The softness of his pots represent the plastic nature of the clay. Yasuda is also a great example of a potter getting beautiful results with Oxidized and synthetic ash glazes.
What’s your favorite cuss word? Believe it or not, I am trying not to cuss so much, my friend recently said to me, "You are so pretty, the swearing just isn't". So, I try to refrain from the "F" now.
What is your favorite pleasure? Looking for things I can melt into a glaze, watching Little House on the Prairie and dancing at nightclubs (where I live, this takes place in my living room)
What would you say to someone just getting started in ceramics who asks you for advice? Don't give up, you will learn to center that lump. Be consistent. Take risks. Spend time with positive people. If you have found clay, consider yourself extremely blessed.

Thank you Melanie, and I do consider myself blessed!

1 comment:

amleth said...

what an awesome artist she is. the pottery is as unique as she. yours in pan, amleth