Category Archives: Updates

Artist Statement, April 2007

Looking back and moving forward.

Clay is one of the oldest materials used by humans, and its place in the lives of humans has changed and evolved as we have. It’s had a central place in a community as vessels that store water and grains. Today we most often see clay in the form of toilets, sinks, heater elements, and our molded dishes. With modern manufacturing we have personal spaces which we can easily fill to overflowing with things, so that few people can really say they lack any quantity of items. We store water in disposable plastic bottles, we store our food in layers of boxes and plastic bags, and once we’ve used these up we store the garbage in more layers of plastic until they can be taken away in the metal boxes on wheels. Things just flow through our hands, from factory to landfill, each item indisguishable from the next and inevitably forgotten once sealed in the earth.

So the place that clay has in our world today is much different than it’s been before. Clay is still plentiful, but it’s never been disposable. And clay as art still has the intention and purpose behind it that long ago would have been present in every vessel. It can be something to stop our busy lives for a few moments in the morning to meditate over our morning coffee out of our favorite mug. It can be a vase that with or without flowers, we can stop to think about how it is one of the few objects in our lives that are hand made and individual.

Each and every piece that I make is one of a kind. I often make pieces in a series, but because they are hand crafted and fired in a soda kiln no two pieces are identical. I’m drawn to the pieces with a depth that you can explore, with subtle nuances in the texture and patterns in the glaze. A piece where you can always look a little closer and see something new. You aren’t going to see that in a mass produced plate from Target, or a ceramic mug from Ikea. Our lives are busy and we often don’t allow ourselves to slow down and take a moment to reflect. I see clay/pottery/ceramics as a way to feel a connection with another person, and an excuse to slow down for a moment.

Clay is a material that has a long and rich tradition. I try to reference that history, but in the context of our contemporary world. This is why I love the process of soda firing, also a contemporary adaptation of an older process.

In the 14th century potters began using a technique called salt firing. By adding salt into a kiln, the pieces would be glazed without having to individually apply glaze to each piece. This was great for the very utilitarian pieces like sewer pipes and whiskey jugs. But by the 1970’s there were problems with the technique – black smoke comes from the chimneys, and it wasn’t very friendly to the environment or your neighbors. So another technique was developed, using soda ash and baking soda. The kiln is gas fired and this soda mixture is added to the kiln near the end of the firing (around 2200°F); the soda vaporizes and is carried on the flame throughout the kiln. The soda reacts with the pieces, changing their color and texture. The variations you see on the pieces come from the variations in the kiln – how close a piece is to the burner, how much room there is for the flame to flow across the piece, even the temperature outside or the humidity can effect the outcome. Even after firing soda kilns hundreds of times there are still surprises to be found in how the pieces react. The pieces that I have created for this exhibition are tributes to the unpredictable and unique effects of this process.

Emily Murphy

New Soda Fired Work by Emily Murphy

Here is a virtual tour of the exhibition that I’m currently having at Haus in Chicago through May 6. It is a body of work that I have been working on for months, and had in my head for the last year or so. It is really excited to have the group of work finished and exhibited together. Click on any of the images to see them larger. I hope you enjoy your visit to the gallery…


This is the front of the gallery with my large bottle forms on display in the window. 

Here are some images of the installation of the show.

I have a series of squared platters that I really see as canvases. The surfaces are a combination of layered slips, sprayed glazes and the soda kiln.

 

I have taken the idea of my surfaces being canvases one step further. I have made a series of wall pieces. These are forms that I have been playing with for a while, but this is the first time that I have exhibited them.

And here are some mugs that echo the grid of squares above…

Chicago artist Amy Lemaire designed floral arrangements in my low oval vases. These are pieces that stand alone as sculptural forms, but come to life with greens, branches and flowers in them. This is just a selection of the pieces. I took these photos on a white piece of paper so you could see them a little bit better.


 

The show will be up until May 6, 2007 if you’d like to see it in person. There is going to be a “Wine Walk” in the Andersonville neighborhood (where Haus is located) on May 6th. We’re going to take this opportunity to have a closing party. If you’d like to participate in the Wine Walk, you can purchase a special wine glass for $20 and you can wander the neighborhood and taste 40 different kinds of wine. For information on this event, visit In Fine Spirit’s website.

The previous post is my artist’s statement for this show.

The future of this blog about ceramics…

I know that I have been a little neglectful of this blog lately. I really enjoy writing and keeping it up to date- but it’s been a busy year. When I ask myself : should I make pots today, or write a blog post today? Usually the clay wins out, as it should. Making pots as well as working on a website can be solitary tasks. Sometimes it can feel like no one else is out there.
About a month ago I went to NCECA and got to meet many people in person that I have met through this blog and through my pots. It was a nice reminder that the words and pots are being received on the other end.
I am going to be doing do reorganization of this site so the archives are easier to get to. I also have a lengthy list of topics that I am going to be tackling, and I’d like your input on it.
Some of the topics that I’m going to be writing about:

-a tour of ceramics in Chicago
-pottery/ clay tool reviews
-guest bloggers
-online pottery videos

If you have anything that you’d like me to blog about, just shoot me an email. Or if you come across a link that you think would be interesting to me, let me know.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Sodafired.com Update

As you probably know, I have these two websites- the one that you’re reading, potteryblog.com, and my main one for my ceramic pots, sodafired.com. My hope is that visitors of both go back and forth between the two without necessarily realizing that they have technically gone to a different site. They each serve their own purpose, but those purposes overlap one another.

I just started a sort of “mini-blog” on sodafired.com. I will use it as a way to share studio announcements and that sort of information. It’s little news box on the front page of my site.

Tonight the first entry is posted. Just go *here* to read it. I will update it several times a month- or as often as necessary. In the almost 6 years that I have maintained a website of my pottery, I have tried to figure out a good way to fulfill these objectives:
1. Notify people of sales, shows and new work.
2. Make it obvious that the website is really up-to-date and, in general, make it obvious that the site is paid attention to.
3. Showcase some of my new pieces without having some really obnoxious flashing “NEW” sign.
4. Give people a reason to come back to visit the site, and hopefully to come visit me in my studio.
5. And very important: something that is easy for me to update. If it’s not, then it won’t be very up-to-date! Lots of good intentions, but not enough time.

I think that this format fulfill the above objectives. Hope you enjoy it.
Thanks for reading.

500 Cups, Lark Books


500 Cups, cover, Lark Books

This February, Lark Books has released it’s newest book is the “500” series. I am lucky enough to have two images in it.

page 110


page 351

My Lillstreet soda firing partner in crime, Gary Jackson,
also has an image in the book.

page 265

This series of books from Lark is beautifully done.
Inspirational for the potter and visually gratifying for the collector.
I also enjoy (and own) other book’s from this series:

If you’d like to purchase the book
directly through Amazon…

Pottery Blog Mailing List and RSS feed

There are two main ways that you can subscribe to this blog.

If you’re using a blog reader such as Google Reader, you can subscribe to the RSS or Atom feed.

or if you’d rather…

I’ve set up a mailing list so you can get an email anytime I make a posting to this blog. To subscribe to this mailing list, just fill out the box below with your email address and click “subscribe.”

Please make sure when you’re subscription type that you choose:
Email – send each message as it arrives.
If you do not choose this, all images and links will be stripped in the email.

Thanks for reading and subscribing!

Google Groups
Subscribe to Pottery Blog
Email:
Visit this group

Artist Statement

I recently wrote a new Artist Statement…
______________________________

I grew up in a small town in New Hampshire, surrounded by handmade things. Every Christmas my mom would go to the fabric store and buy all the different color corduroy that they had in stock to sew pants for us. The quilts on our beds and the curtains on the windows were made by her as well. Although my sister and I played with Barbies, the clothes were purchased at craft fairs, and my dad made beds for them that my mom finished off with hand sewn mattresses, pillows and quilts. My father is a painter. I’ve always been surrounded by his work, and observed him while he was inspired by the natural beauty of the New England landscape.

Things in our family were often handmade out of necessity. My mom baked all of our bread, in part, because it was less expensive. But it was also because she loved the process of making it. Growing up in an environment where so many things were made by hand that could have been more easily purchased, I learned to consider and appreciate the story behind a piece. The value comes from the care and thoughtfulness put in by the maker.

Coming from New Hampshire, it’s easy to recognize the beauty of the environment. Six years ago I moved to Chicago, where the beauty of the environment is not as apparent. Beauty is still there, but it’s in the more intimate aspects of life, not in majestic landscapes. I discovered that my inspiration came from the things that I encountered everyday; no longer a forest or a mountain, but those moments amid the busyness of the city where people slow down and appreciate their surroundings. I am honored when my pots can be a part of those moments in people’s lives. Perhaps they will become as familiar to you as the patterns of the cracks in the ceiling above your bed.

Making pots is quiet and personal, an experience I want to be reflected in the pots themselves. But I also am a potter in a community of potters, working alongside both students and peers. Being a potter in a community, it is now hard to imagine myself as a solitary potter. Everyday I share resources, experience, and perspective with my fellow artists. As part of a large community I’ve been given many opportunities to teach students with diverse talents and backgrounds. Teaching has let me experiment with new ideas and perspectives, challenging myself at the same time as I challenge my students.

Being a potter is a very balanced profession. As a potter I am a designer, a maker, a business owner, a laborer a chemist, and a physicist. I love throwing, trimming, pulling handles, firing, I love to decorate, to sketch out ideas in the clay. I am lucky that given all the aspects of my profession, I love and enjoy them each, and I love the product of my craft and its place in the world and in people’s lives.

Studio Sale

This Friday December 3, from 5pm – 10pm is the opening night gala at my studio, Lillstreet Gallery, and all 26 artist studios at Lillstreet Studios in Chicago. We’re located at 4401 N. Ravenswood Ave., in Chicago, IL. Come on up to my studio on the second floor (205 west).

My studio will be open during regular business hours throughout the first 3 weeks of December. Feel free to call or email ahead to make an appointment. Or just stop by… I’ll be there.

I have lots of new work, like…

and…

and of course you can always find…

I will be taking credit cards, as well as checks and cash. Gift boxes are available.

If you can’t make it to my studio, you can find work for sale on my website.
Or you can also find my work this season at:

Hope to see you soon…keep warm!