I began working with clay in the 3rd grade.
At the time I was blessed to live in a major city in a school district with a variety of resources and programs. Teachers encouraged exploration in the arts and sciences. My parents too encouraged this through access to books and magazines through many libraries in the city and through my father’s own collections and subscriptions. Also, concerned about offering my siblings and I experiences of culture and the sciences, my parents took us to numerous galleries and museums in the city.
It was through school and through my parents—and through my own curiosity—that I developed a love of the arts and sciences, and found connections between them. I also discovered the ability of art to communicate the deeper truths of science and religion.
Because of my particular interest in the sciences, I came to enjoy ceramics art the most. In ceramics, art and science overlap in unique ways—the clay interacting with the glaze and with the process of firing.
I began playing with circular structures, one built on top of the other, and my ceramics pieces began to take on a life of their own. I found that building rather than throwing on a wheel allowed more art and less fabrication.This was the beginning of the coral-like structures that would form later on.
I found as I would build, that I needed to let go of my understanding of the piece, and the piece would flourish. My hands creating seemingly apart from my person. The art would just happen. It would take on its own direction, and it would not be until after the art was complete that I would really begin to understand my conversation with it.
This can sometimes be problematic though. I have a tendency to overwork my pieces. A high school ceramics teacher, at an opportune time, took some of my pieces and made them “disappear.” She fired them before I had a chance to overdo the work. Since I allow pieces to come to their own conclusion, it becomes difficult to know when the work is complete and ready for firing.
As my work continued, even when pieces would be broken for one reason or another, I began to consider even the brokenness as a part of the evolution, the process, of the piece, and I would allow that to develop and enter into the conversation with it.
My favorite method for ceramics is raku (carbon deposition), and wood fire. I came to love these in high school and even in college. My college years were cut short however, and after marrying my wife, I did not make the effort to create. I did have the opportunity to sell some of my work, but it was not until recently that I began to build again.
My wife and I had been given, by the pastor who married us, a large block of clay with which we were to build an art piece or pieces related to marriage. On the year of our tenth anniversary I finally began to work that clay. Rehydrating it, and beginning to build again.
My wife has been very supportive of my work, and I hope I can relax and let the creative process work itself out, so that I can begin to grow again as an artist.
-Noah J. Smucker