Friday, January 27, 2012

15 Weeks and Counting

Well, I just squeaked in - with two days to go - this week's story is ready!  

In 1992 the Oregon Potters Association starting taking on new projects. The OPA launched a project making mural tiles with homeless teenagers in Portland. We also began publishing a well-received annual map to potters holiday studio sales in Oregon. By the end of the year, membership had soared to almost 300 people.

I didn't have much information about Best of Show winner of 1992, Ellen Fager, and it took a considerable amount of time to track her down.  Ellen is no longer a member of the OPA and as I learned, does not reside in the Pacific NW any longer.  Ellen graciously agreed to write her thoughts and I held the presses, anxious to learn more about her and what inspired her work.

Best of Show 1992
Ellen Fager
"I was already making the fish teapots when Ed Thompson and I came to Portland in 1987.  I had always been drawn to ceramic traditions (pre-Columbian Western Mexican, Iron-Age Iranian) in which function and representation are bound together in perpetual negotiation.  After flirting with a variety of creatures, I found in these fish a rich, varied, contemporary (read:saleable) form with which to continue the discussion.  A fish effigy that did not pour or store something would have been of no interest to me; at the same time, I would not have been satisfied with a teapot that was simply a "fish".  This pot is one very particular species among the unglamorous little bottom-fishes living off the northern Pacific coast; anyone with a good guidebook should be able to identify him.  Always a wheel-worker, I built these fishes from thrown sections, and that was important to me, too:  underneath all the extravagant elaboration, there remained a core utilitarian craft.

The year after my fish won Best of Show, Ed and I moved back to San Diego.  Ed went on to considerable renown in the local clay community, but, after a couple more years of struggle, I dropped out.  I had taken the fishes as far as I could go with them, and, with two small children to tend to, I had neither the time nor the focus to develop something new.  As the kids grew, I got involved with other things, and, though old potter-friends would prod me sometimes, I felt no inclination towards the work I used to do.  It is only in the past year, since Ed's death, that I have returned to the studio, and found clay, after all this time, still ready to resume the conversation where I last left off.  Once again, I am throwing, paddling, cutting and pasting, although it is now geometry, rather than the natural world, that is in dialog with use.  Clay is the most wonderful material:  it waits for you; it is humble and expendable; there is no end to the things you can do with it, up to that point where it quietly, steadfastly, asserts its limitations; it accepts the mark of your hand, and in that mark you see yourself and the path you have travelled. 

What could be better than that?"

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