Linda began the workshop by having us work with a dry, powdered clay body and water. The point of the exercise was not to make anything but simply to look at the materials that we as ceramic artist use on a daily basis in a new and different manner. What happens to the dry material as small amounts of water are added to it? What happens when lots of water is added? What happens when dry material is placed on top of the wet mud? I will admit that I found myself making some usable clay and rolling a coil or two, but I found the interaction of the clay and water to be fascinating. The way that little balls of mud would form when small drops of water were put on the powder, the way that the mud would crackle as it dried, the way dry material would absorb water from the mud below it when it was added to the pile. It was also interesting to watch the reactions of the other attendees to the material. Some really enjoyed making wet, sloppy mud and playing like children. Others felt compelled to make something like a pinch pot or a sculpture.
After this warm up activity, Linda tasked us with creating an installation outside. It was so nice to be able to spend a day and a half outside enjoying the fall sunshine while creating something. Being a mold person, I chose to quickly make a bunch of plaster sprig molds that would allow for the rapid creation of clay leaves. My partner and I then arranged these leaves to cascade down a wall in the outdoor kiln yard. It was really great to see how people used the raw clay to create a temporary installation. I think the impermanence of this activity freed people up to be very creative.
Of the entire workshop, I think I most enjoyed hearing Linda talk about her work, both as an artist and as an instructor. What I find the most inspiring about her work is how she embraces the spirit of experimentation in her work. She showed us some images of beautiful, large scale glaze experiments that she had made and then framed and hung. These pieces encouraged the viewer to examine the interaction of different colors of glass within a glaze and the way the glaze had crackled and crazed during the firing. She also showed us some images of installations that involved bags of water or saline suspended above a large plane of powdered clay. This liquid would then slowly drip onto the clay, creating geologic looking formations in the clay that were reminiscent of the dry, cracked clay that one would find at the side of the road, reminding the viewer of the origins of the materials that we as potters use.
Perhaps the most important thing that I think I've taken with me from this workshop is the idea of embracing a sense of experimentation in my work. It is so easy to get wrapped up in the end goal of producing a work of art that I can forget to be curious about the materials and processes that I am using. Really, experimentation and curiosity is what drew me to clay in the first place, but perhaps I have forgotten that.