Personal

Changing Place and Changing Work

The bodies of work that were in my portfolio for graduate school are starkly different. The first body of work is made up of pinch pots using local clay from near St. Augustine, is rather small in scale, and is pit fired. This work is heavily influenced by the Native American pottery that I grew up finding on our beaches. It is rough, simple in construction and composition, and occasionally incised with simple line patterns. The second body of work is a stark contrast; it is thrown and altered commercial clay and glaze fired to ^6 in oxidation. This comprises the fishing lure vases for those familiar with my work. Definitely objective in nature, much time is taken texturing the body with scales etc. in order that the piece will resoundingly say ‘fish’. Interestingly enough I still receive the “I like it!... What is it supposed to be?” question… This I will address later.

            Presently I am seeking to break away from both of these bodies of work not because I no longer find them engaging, which I certainly do! I simply am trying to take the fullest advantage of the opportunities afforded me by the facilities here at FHSU. Among all of the formative techniques in ceramics, throwing comes easiest to me (largely due to the training I received during my apprenticeship) and throwing and altering I find wildly entertaining. Pursuant of this I am looking forward to utilizing atmospheric firings to take full advantage of all of the active curvature in this new body of work. As I am still in the development stage I have not even bisqued any of this work and new ideas are still precipitating out of the creative mists. Simply put: The tumblers I have made so far will more than likely serve as glorified test tiles since I have never fired the FHSU kilns or used their class glazes. I am OK with this, ^10 reduction is reasonably predictable; it is the Fast Fire wood kiln I am excited to experiment with. A Fast Fire is cryptically enough a ‘fast fire’ and incredibly efficient. Again, hearken to the previous post about enviro-economics and wisdom of resource use. Presently it is not operational though I have sweat and blood [but no tears] to spare and look forward to investing heavily in the restoration and testing efforts.

 

More will follow, naturally, and I must thank you for your time.

-Herrick Smith

How Does One Begin A Blog

How does one begin a blog? I suppose it is significantly less of a momentous occasion than say, the beginning of graduate school (which happens to coincide with the beginning of this stream of consciousness). By way of introduction I graduated from the University of North Florida with a degree in economics, worked as a blacksmith during and after college, apprenticed at Spinning Earth Pottery for 8 months, and now attend Fort Hays State University pursuing an MFA in ceramics. Kansas is indeed a stark change from my native Florida. After 22 years of breathing the rich tangy air of the coast the dryness and ‘agricultural perfumes’ surrounding Hays is currently the most noticeable difference. That and the temperature; after seeing triple digits twice in my life on the Florida coast it was above 100 degrees the first four  days I lived in Kansas. It is truly an entirely different climate. I expect it to heavily influence my art as well. Please find below my artist statement:

“Raised on the north east Florida coast, I grew up walking over pot sherds left by the Timucua potters of centuries past. The natural beauty of the estuarine and hammock environments has deeply impacted the forms I make and the patterns and textures I apply to them. Especially interesting to me are the delicate processes involved in the lives of micro flora and the many shapes allowing for the flourishing of these hardy little plants. Capturing elegant beauty in simplistic composition is what I strive for in my work. Recognizing the ever-present hardships in life I seek to create easily accessible work, both visually and conceptually as a respite from life’s trials. By trade I am a black smith and this also impacts my work through the methods involved and the rhythms of the fire. I seek to share work exhibiting the sense of self with respect to a sense of place and the rare beauty seen by a walker on the paths lacing my native coast.”

 

This being one of my chief desires with respect to graduate school: To learn to create work that offers a place of rest amid the storms of this life. And in Kansas they have tornados! One of the classes that has influenced my aesthetic above all others was a course in environmental ethics taught by Dr. Bryan Bannon at UNF. Deep Ecology, A Land Ethic, Environmental Feminism, these were all ideas that I had loosely held for a long time however it was not until that class that I received terms for those groupings of philosophies. There were in fact names for the frameworks through which I viewed my surroundings and I was afforded a coalescing of ideas with new directionality. It was an invigorating experience. --- All of this while studying economics--- It may seem that these experiences would result in conflicting emotions etc. however it did not. An assimilation of good economic thought and good environmental philosophy should result in good enviro-economic policy. And I promise this relates to clay. Our art is in its very nature a horribly destructive practice. Strip mining of materials for clay bodies and glazes, partaking in the OPEC support system, not to mention the inefficient burn that is “that-nice-rich-reduction”. Here is where the conflict might arise since the pottery community seems to attract the ultra-eco-friendly crowd as well. There are two ways to avoid the critique of hypocrisy: One might A) Ignore it and make believe bliss through ignorance, or B) Recognize this truth of the art and seek to be as respectful of the materials as possible. The more I learn about alternative firing methods the more I am interested in fueling kilns with biomass. I have participated in cow manure pit fires (again, “agricultural perfume”), a five day, five cord anagama firing, and even a kiln fired with hay. These met with mixed results (the hay kiln especially needs more research) however people like Justin Lambert are spearheading innovations in kiln design practices and he in particular has arrived at stunning results.

More will follow, naturally, and I must thank you for your time.

-Herrick Smith