The Potter, Becky Garrity
One happy thing about clay is that it is impressionable, like many of us. Becky endeavors to have something about the final piece remember that it was malleable before the fire changed it. You’ll notice finger ridges and incised designs. Not only do these accents remind us that pottery is made from the soft earth, but they disrupt the surfaces in a way that is inviting to touch.
The “lively people” series reminds us that togetherness enhances health and happiness. In support of each individual vision for a better world, we need to reach out to each other. In fact, a better world can only be attained when we rely on each other. As Becky draws the figures, the direction and variety of lines create a movement and life of their own. She is continually surprised by the subtle variations that suggest different cultures, ages, races and occupations. A life of action and interaction emerges from the surface of the vessel reflecting the joy we feel when we are appreciated and encouraged by those around us!
Becky Garrity makes functional stoneware that is meant for everyday use. It is durable and versatile. She starts with moist clay and makes everything with her own hands. The glazes are mixed from raw materials using recipes shared by potters with years of collective experience. Her work is fired to Cone 7 in an electric kiln. Opening the kiln is always suspenseful and exciting!
“I seem to have a long-standing relationship with clay and am compelled by it in some way, for some reason. Perhaps it is because it is of the earth and/or because it is ancient. Clay connects us with all who have come before us and with all who will come after. Even after a form is created and fired, it still lives on. I am drawn to the wheel and to repeating forms that serve a function, largely related to food. Handcrafted lamps and vases add another dimension to everyday enjoyment.
“Clay is ancient, clay is forgiving. Until it meets with the heat, clay can be formed and reformed. This allows flexibility and creativity. Mistakes, missteps are good, although potentially frustrating. Mistakes teach us the limits of our materials and can turn us to a new direction, a new shape or decorative treatment. Most of my form changes seem to come slowly from repeating a form so much that it evolves into something new. The watering can, for example, has evolved into a tall and slim version of its original self. I’ve shortened the spout, lowered the handle, and slimmed the form. Still central is the function.
“Most of my forms have grown larger, as my ability and experience with clay allows me to work with more ease. I seem to work in 5’s or 7’s which is a carryover from my experience in Japan where sets are in odd numbers, often 5. Maybe I want to be prepared for the unexpected guest at the table! I often make 5 large serving bowls or 5 pitchers at a time. Then I have to move on to another form.
“I appreciate the cycle of pottery. It is mostly about process.
“The forming phase is my happiest. It is the most creative part of pottery. Growing from a lump of clay to a vessel. I often think of this as the ‘dessert’ or sweet part of the process even though it comes early! I feel most unified with clay at this phase, sitting at the wheel, envisioning a form and then making it. Most relaxing for me is throwing small forms off of the hump (a large mass of centered clay from which many things are formed). As it was one of the first methods I learned, returning to it feels safe and comfortable. I often start a new cycle with throwing small forms off of the hump as warm up to more challenging projects. It is fresh, satisfying and nonjudgmental.
“This is what my Japanese teacher spoke of as ‘in the hand.’ When training in Japan, a potter ‘grows up’ from making toothpick holders to tea cups to tea bowls to tea pots, etc. My teacher, Kinjo Maeko, would say if you have trouble at one level, go back to what is ‘in your hand.’ Throwing mugs off of the hump is ‘in the hand’ for me. I can daydream and simply let my hands do the work.
“All steps of the process have their interest, but truly I am compelled by the moist clay flowing up out of the wheel into a useful, aesthetically pleasing form.”