The memory of observing my eleventh-grade ceramic art teacher working on the potter’s wheel is an image imbedded forever in my mind. At that moment, I was hooked! The sensual characteristics of porcelain clay, the plasticity, fluidity, strength, and fragile qualities challenge decisions and outcomes in my work. This amazing medium, takes form in my heart, head and hands. It’s been a love affair for over fifty years!
To expand my ideas for the forms created, it is the clay that dictates my direction. Usually the initial shape is quite simple, round, vertical, and smooth. Subliminally these images direct my fingers to move the soft, pliable clay; shifting, altering, and establishing the form and embellishing the surface. Porcelain clay is defined by its pristine white color acting as a blank canvas prepared for an array of surface embellishment. For me, the ultimate challenge as a potter working in porcelain, is to seek the potential to reveal the elusive quality of translucency.
Each form honors the ideal elements of proportion, use of space, and illumination of pattern, and translucency.
Many of my pieces are wheel thrown, using a variety of different porcelain clay bodies. Hand built, altered slab vessels, and slip-poured plaster molds challenge me to explore alternative methods of construction styles. Many forms are predominantly functional and some designs evolve into decoratively sculptural forms. For me, there is a real struggle to escape the demands of function, allowing the forms to develop sculpturally. Recently my interest in the technique of Neriage, and Nikrome colored clay patterned forms has sparked a new approach to my style. Each form honors the ideal elements of proportion, use of space, and illumination of pattern, and translucency. Unwavering goals of quality craftsmanship standards define my work.
I have dedicated over thirty years to teaching art and in particular ceramics in the Maryland public school system. To expand my breadth of knowledge I have taken advantage of opportunities to enjoy “time outs." Completing a Master’s Degree in Ceramics, attending a diverse variety of workshops, and traveling extensively to Italy, Japan, and Latin America to study ceramics contribute to my skill as both artist and teacher. I completed my teaching career as an adjunct professor in the ceramics program at Hood College in Frederick, Maryland. This was the stepping stone opportunity that motivated me to explore my personal work.
As a charter member of The Potters’ Guild of Frederick, a local community of Maryland ceramic artists, I found an opportunity to sell my work, organize many community service activities and fund raisers, and raise awareness of the public to the ceramic arts. Currently, I work out of my small ceramic studio in a converted horse barn adjacent to my home. In the recent past, I have exhibited and sold my pottery as a member of the Countryside Artisans Studio and Gallery Tour. This group of local artists/craftsman are nestled in the Agricultural Reserve area of Sugarloaf Mountain, one of the most beautiful vistas in mid-Maryland. I am a member of the Hyattstown Mill Arts Project, a community of local artists. Each of these alliances offer support, encouragement, growth, and cooperative spirit. I am grateful for the life-long friendships that have been forged.
My studio is a converted portion of an eight horse stable barn. For thirty years the aisle of the barn stored our tractor, garden gear, kayaks, and canoes. In 2015 this area transformed into “Pastels and Porcelain Gallery.” The working studio space houses two pottery wheels, an electric kiln, sink, tools, and of course my dreams and memories. I enjoy exploring, practicing methods and processes learned from workshops and classes. There is great pleasure in contemplating ideas in clay and exploring designs and creative techniques. Honestly though, one of the most treasured moments I believe is when I take a glance over at my Black Lab, Bear, chilling on his bed at my feet while I’m working. It doesn’t get any better than this!
Copyright © Michael Cohen Holdahl