Early American pottery, old time English and French country wares, and the great pots of ancient Korea and China inspire my work. I love simplicity of form, the unexpected kiss marks of the flames in the kiln, and the notion of functionality.
Much of my adult life was spent working as a bookseller, managing the trade books at the UConn Co-op, organizing readings and the myriad things a bookseller does. All the while though, and even before I sold books, I made pots. My first pottery was The Stone House Pottery located on an old blueberry farm in Bolton, Connecticut during the seventies and into the eighties. Here, I built a catenary arch kiln from salvaged hard bricks and fired with homemade pipe burners. There were many challenges – the kiln took three days to fire – but this was also a time when there were numerous local craft fairs. All things hand made, especially pottery, were popular. It was during this time that I began to single fire my pots to save on fuel, a practice I continue to this day.
It was also during these years that I began to write about ceramics, including a booklet for Garden Way, a piece on tile-making for Mother Earth News, a piece on early Connecticut pottery for Ceramics Monthly, another for CM on flower pots, with a few short stories and essays on other topics thrown in.
In the mid-eighties, we – my three children (now grown with homes of their own) and the photographer Joseph Szalay – moved to Ashford. Here, I established Willow Tree Pottery, named for the weeping willow tree we planted in the old hay field in front of the house. I built a crossdraft kiln, followed by the downdraft kiln I fire today. My studio, with whitewashed walls, is in our walkout basement and looks out onto the gardens. The kiln shed is just a few steps from the studio door. I have thrown on the same kickwheel, a Lockerbie, all these years.
After writing the book, Connecticut: Driving Through History, published by Covered Bridge Press, I became involved in putting together the catalog for what was to be MC Richard’s retrospective exhibit at the Worcester Center for Crafts but became her memorial exhibit. I wrote the biographical essay and edited the catalog, Imagine Inventing Yellow: the Life and Work of MC Richards.This was followed by a catalog for the Mikhail Zakin exhibit that I edited.
Berkley, Penguin USA published my book Clay The History and Evolution of Humankind’s Relationship with Earth’s Most Primal Element. Books have been part of my life as long as I can remember. Clay came into my life when I was a young woman. I took classes first with Lois Eldridge in her Glastonbury studio, and then with Betsy Tanzer at Wesleyan Potters, but am largely self-taught. Most of my days involve clay or books or both. In addition there are the gardens, family and friends, things to do with my granddaughters, and alas, politics.
My hope is that the pleasure I feel when sitting at the wheel, the wet clay spinning in my hands, the excitement of firing, comes to you through my pots.