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Form and Fear: New Work by Julia Baugh,

Resident Artist – Ceramics

October 17, 2017 – Januray 28, 2018

Organized by the Arkansas Arts Center

Form and Fear is rooted in my anxiety at making unfamiliar forms. Thinking about making a new kind of pot manifests itself as procrastination, indecision and a creative freeze. Being a maker is about conquering this fear. It’s about wading through failed attempts and the demoralizing feelings of not being good enough at something that I love and want to devote my life to pursuing. This journey of making is about soldiering through all those things and still finding joy in the work.

In the past, I avoided the pitcher, the teapot and large platters. I shunned the pitcher because of the spout, the teapot because of its many parts, and the large platter because of its size. I faced my fears by confronting my anxieties and focused on improving a vase shape that I was comfortable with. Through this exploration my work became looser, more gestural and more alive.

Repeating the vase shape was a struggle, and the feeling of lightness and upward energy in the form eluded me. Frustration and defeat were constant companions in my creative process, but I kept making. I knew the form I wanted to create would emerge if I continued generating work. In researching forms that other ceramic artists created, I found Simon Levin’s work. His functional ware has buoyancy, ease and simple yet practiced details that unify his pieces. They were just the shape and spirit I was hoping to emulate.

Tom Jaszczak’s low-fire soda work, with its layers of slip, red clay body peeking through and spots of bright color, inspired me to work with grogged red earthenware. Atmospheric soda firing gave a glittery sheen to the naked clay body. Saturated underglaze and terra sigillata palettes were painted in stamped details in the beginning stages, but the raw clay had such a glistening sheen that I chose to use the bright colors as small accents only, if at all. I also wanted the form of the ware to be the focal point rather than the surface. In the beginning I used a commercial clear glaze to line my pitchers. The color of the glaze pre-firing was a light, opaque aqua. I loved that color and how it contrasted with the orange terra cotta exterior, so I created a glaze that did just that.

As I continued creating and gaining more confidence in my throwing I decided to play. I began putting my teapots together very wet, right off the wheel like Linda Christianson does with her work, making it have a relaxed and comfortable feel. This led me to manipulate forms on the wheel and add heavily grogged and sawdust-laden slip to my chargers. Lines of my work became softer and my forms had more movement as I pushed out areas on my pitchers, teapots and especially large platters.

I never felt like a potter. I never thought that I would be able to create well-made pots that actually worked. Simple forms are not simple. Pots that function well and exhibit good craftsmanship are hard to create. It takes a lot of effort to look effortless. That effortlessness is obtained through repetition, research, production and facing fears. Continuing to persevere – even with misgivings and worries into this maker’s journey – increased my knowledge, confidence, skill and my desire to be a good potter. I still see a lot of that hesitation in my finished pieces, but this process has been an adventure and I feel excited to make more pots.

Julia Baugh

Resident Artist – Ceramics
Arkansas Arts Center Museum School

Featured Work from the Exhibition

Julia Baugh

Untitled, 2017
soda fired red earthenware, 8 1/4 x 7 x 5 inches, image courtesy of the artist

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