For me, glaze can be among the most beautiful things in the world. A pot is a format for the glaze. My glazes derive from Ancient Chinese Monochromes and their beauty can be highlighted with similar design elements. My intention is to celebrate and enlarge upon what they did.
I grew up thinking I would be an artist and an art teacher. I graduated from the Design School at California Institute of the Arts in 1972 in Valencia, CA (B. F. A.) with a concentration in ceramics and with a master’s degree (M. A.) in ceramics at New Mexico Highlands University the following year. My master’s project was on high-temperature copper red glaze.
In about 1970 I met David Morris, a potter nearing the end of a brilliant, albeit obscure, career who was working near San Rafael, CA and I was captivated by his glazes. I found out that to make glazes of such beauty I would have to do my own research and this set my life’s trajectory. I was close to another SF bay area potter, Bettina Jordan, and she helped me a lot.
When I traveled in Europe I made a point to visit the Percival David collection of ancient Chinese ceramics and some other great museums where I could see Song dynasty pieces up close. I spent several days in the library at the Percival David.
After I finished school I went to work for a medium-sized ceramics production shop, Robert Weiss Company, as a full-time potter at the wheel, for piece rate, which was small. I took from this an appreciation of production with a historical perspective and (in these parts) an unusual professional experience. The company had 3 - 100 cu. ft. kilns of which at least 2 were fired every day. I threw over 100 lbs. of clay per day for about 2 years. During this time I also threw for Tony Evans of Evans Designs for his production of stoneware and raku. I examined the slip-casting operation that Robert Weiss used for part of his production, as well as the ram-press. I became familiar with the stoneware tile factory next door, McIntyre Tile, and befriended two of the ceramic engineers, still my friends 40 years later.
In order to make a better living I started working as as welder, and then spent the rest of my earning career as a structural steel fabricator, welder and small business owner. I worked mostly on parts for buildings but I also welded a lot of pipe in muddy ditches. During this period I maintained my interest in ceramics and occasionally worked with it; meantime the desire to make beautiful glazes churned inside me. I retired from steel work in 2011 and reopened my studio. I have worked full-time on ceramic art since then.
My motivation has always been to make beautiful things, with equal focus on technical challenges, form and aesthetic value. I still don’t have all the glazes with the qualities I can imagine, so since reopening my studio I have found ways to speed up the research and testing. In doing so, both my celadon and copper reds have recently risen to the qualities I have always wanted but only occasionally achieved. I am applying the same methods to other types of glaze that interest me.
In the past several years I have reconnected with my former employer, Robert Weiss, and we have helped each other in our related but very different ceramic work. Robert has helped me add monitoring devices to my kiln, which has been crucial to bringing my glazes up to the qualities I now produce. I have worked on the compositions of some of Robert's crystalline glazes to improve their beauty and variety. This has been a nice two-way collaboration. Go to www.weissltd.com to see his work.
Photographs on these pages are by Lenny Siegel, Robert Weiss and Michael Rosen