Liz Quackenbush Workshop
Ornament and Abstraction - 2006
Liz will share three days at MudFire in a hands-on workshop focused on the ornamentation and creation of handbuilt vessels. Her research into European and Islamic decorative traditions in clay have deeply influenced her work. This influence will add an important historical component to the workshop experience through slides and discussion.
The conceptual emphasis will be on ornamentation as a means to make the world more complex and beautiful. Participants will learn to create vessels that begin to develop an abstract visual language based on metaphor and symbolism. We will work with low fire clay and glazes, exploring handbuilding and brushwork glaze techniques. Please bring an inquisitive mind, an eager set of hands, and a small amount of "glaze-ready" bisque ware made in low fire clay.
10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Liz Quackenbush Artist Statement
Many years ago, when I was initially searching for my own artistic voice as a ceramic sculptor, I recognized kindred spirits in ceramic traditions that found inspiration in their immediate environment. Twenty years have passed since I first became aware of the ceramic Cretan "octopus "pots decorated with the image of the Mediterranean octopus they were used to trap on the sea floor, the Peruvian fertility jugs sculpted in the form of copulating frogs, and the Chinese Han Dynasty stacked house pieces which include figures leaning from the windows spilling dirty water off upper balconies. I remembered the time when I realized what all of these folk pots had in common. The beauty found in everyday life inspired them.
From this moment of enlightenment, I found permission to draw directly from the small wonders in my own life. The toads found underneath rocks by my seven-year-old son have inspired my butter dishes. Banana slugs, which surrounded my picnic blanket in the Redwood forest, have turned into serving dishes.
Years passed and as my knowledge of clay traditions grew, I became inspired by naïve ceramics made during the 13th through the 17th centuries in Iran, Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, and England. For example, the bumpy surface beneath the gold luster on my pieces hearkens back to the hammered metal dinnerware forms mimicked in the 13th century Iranian earthenware. The blue and white painted decoration on my pots is reminiscent of Staffordshire painted ware made in the late 18th century and early 19th century England. The copper green hatched worked pattern that I used was first used by 8th century Spanish Moors.
After years of looking outward to other traditions for inspirations, I have started responding directly to my own life and environment. Spending time each summer living in the green hills of Vermont and at the Jersey shore has had an effect on my work. Seeking to seduce the user with the dynamic natural charm of earthenware, my work romanticizes the creepy-crawly beauty of the great outdoors. The patterns of animal and reptile skins inspire my surface decoration decisions. The forms of these creatures give birth to my pottery forms.
My goal in creating ceramic work is to bridge the divide between elegant china and down to earth pottery. I deliberately leave clay surfaces irregular so that they look handled and handlable. I want my pottery to invite use, while also subverting contemporary "run of the mill" preconceptions of what is, can and should be. As I seek to develop my own "garden of earthly delights" motif, I draw inspiration from the tradition of personal intimation in ceramic form and decoration that has been handed down, quite literally, through the ages.