I’m what’s known as a “mudder” among my fellow potters. I like to tinker with glaze ingredients as the “chemists” do, searching for the perfect formula. And at a raku session, I can get as giddy as any “pyro” around the fire. But what really keeps me coming back to pottery is getting my hands in the mud and exploring what the clay can do.
Most of my work is wheel-thrown, sometimes with hand-built elements. I like to alter the symmetry created by the wheel by manipulating the form in different ways. Sometimes I stretch out pots from the inside to create surprising new surfaces. I also use many small tools—wooden spoons, old bread knives, cheese cutters, twisty wires—to paddle, dart, indent, slice, serrate, and facet my pieces.
I’m inspired by textures, shapes, and lines that I see in the natural and industrial world, and I bring these ideas into my studio. When I am glazing pots, I often layer the textured surfaces with clay engobes, metallic oxides, and glazes. I participate in raku firings once or twice a year; however, I fire most of my pieces to 1240 C in my 12-cubic-foot electric kiln. I re-fire some pots a few times to get the result I want.
I made my first pot in a beginner’s class in 1975, igniting a lifelong passion for pottery. In 1980 I was greatly influenced by a month-long workshop with Wayne Ngan, which left me with a deep and lasting appreciation for the traditions of Chinese and Japanese pottery. Much of my development over the past 30 years has been self-directed through avid reading of pottery books and magazines and liberal experimentation in my studio.
For me, the real joy of the craft comes not from producing the “perfect” pot but from true engagement in the act of creating the work.
~ Michael GilesRead More »