My favorite medium is clay. I feel like I am still becoming an artist. With clay, my hands seem to do the work and my mind follows along. It wasn’t originally a conscious decision to try to be an artist. I realized art was something I did in order to keep sane amidst the stressors of everyday life, so I figured the most practical (and personally satisfying) thing to do would be to make it a vocational goal.
I created the bottle this past May while experimenting with different forms and firing techniques. I was inspired by a photo of a ring jug I glanced at while flipping through a book of Early American pottery.
Ring jugs were popular in the early 19th century, often used by farmers to carry water on their shoulders into the fields for the day. Traditional ring jugs would be nearly twice the size of my piece and were often decorated with elegant animals in cobalt blue stain.
My ring jug has the black and white crackle design from a naked Raku firing. A Raku firing is a Japanese form of low-firing pots that often involves removing the pot—bright red from the heat—and placing it into a container with combustible materials to create a reduction environment, producing cracking among other things.
Once my form was leather-hard I varnished the surface with Terra Sigillata, a special slip that creates a very smooth surface. After the bisque firing, I coated the pot with another slip formula that was designed to crack during the Raku firing. With the help of Eric Kauffman, local potter and art teacher at Bethany High School, I fired the pot briefly in a ramshackle kiln before setting it into a trashcan full of paper. Once the paper lit, I smothered the trashcan, creating the reduction atmosphere within. Once the paper fuel had been used and the pot had cooled I was able to slowly chip away the leftover slip, leaving the black and white crackle design across the surface.
The process to make this piece was as rewarding as the finished product. The rich history of the ceramic techniques used, the excitement of the flames and burning pots combined with the aesthetic result was simply satisfying.
Gerig is a first-year art major with a writing minor.