Crafting a common language through art
As a woodfire potter, Brenda Scott sends her work on quite the journey through her art studio and kiln. Now, one of the Spiral Gallery artist's pieces will travel all the way to Japan.
Through a partnership between the Oregon Potters Association and the Japanese-based Hokkaido Pottery Society, a bowl Scott created will be one of several pieces from Oregon potters included in a show celebrating the Hokkaido Pottery Society's 50th anniversary. When the Oregon Potters Association put out a call to its members for art to be included in the show, they received 148 submissions. They whittled this number down to 30 pieces — including one created by Scott.
The show, titled "Rooted in Clay" will be featured at the Sapporo Museum of Contemporary Art in Japan from June 22 through July 16. During that time, Scott and her husband will travel to Sapporo — sister city of Portland — to see the show.
"I'm pinching myself," Scott said. "I can't believe I got into this show. It still doesn't feel possible."
Scott's piece, titled "Keeper," is a bowl that features a pair of decorative hands.
"We keep things in bowls, and we keep things in our hands," she said, discussing the title. "Our hands are also really important for keeping things safe and keeping the world around us safe, or ourselves safe. There's so many things about hands. They can also be very giving. And you eat from bowls, or you gather in bowls. (Both bowls and hands are) very nurturing."
Scott had the idea for "Keeper" several years ago while attending an art workshop. During a creative exercise, she selected an image from a magazine of someone pulling an item out of a bowl. She then created a miniature version of that image in clay.
"I really liked it, and I kept going back to that little piece, and so I wanted to do it really large," Scott said, noting that she worked on the larger version for several years.
The type of clay Scott used for the project was developed by Japanese-American artist Akio Takamori, which Scott thinks is fitting considering the piece's destination.
Reflecting on the "Rooted in Clay" show, Scott noted that she appreciates that creativity can connect different cultures.
"We're speaking the same language through art," she said. "We can all appreciate a piece of art no matter what language we speak because it's visual instead of an audible sense. You're hitting another sense instead of just communicating verbally. We're communicating with our eyes and emotions."
As an artist who creates handmade items, Scott identifies with the Japanese's appreciation of handcrafted art.
"Using handmade items every day is so deep in their culture, and they don't mind if something is frayed or broken," she said. "They think that actually creates more of story if they have a cup that has a chip in it, or it's cracked and they fix it. Now it has history."
Scott, who took painting lessons growing up, began working with pottery in her mid-20s. Though she didn't want to work in the medium at first, "as soon as I sat down at the (pottery) wheel. . .I fell in love with it. It instantly filled all my creative needs."
Though Scott enjoys working with pottery, she noted that "There are times when I think 'What was I thinking?"
"It's a really long process," she continued. "Especially because I'm a woodfire potter, which makes me, I think, even crazier, because it's a really laborious process."
When Scott prepares to fire the kiln in her backyard with pieces she created in her studio, it usually takes around six hours to fully load it. When the furnace for baking the pottery is full, she blocks the entryway with bricks and fires it up with fallen tree branches.
The kiln is fired for 20 hours and reaches a high temperature of 2,300 degrees. Last time Scott and her husband fired the kiln, they began the process at 3 a.m. and finished at 9 p.m.
She noted that it's important to be mindful of the fire's temperament.
"You don't want to rush it by raising the temperature too quickly," she said. "You're throwing wood in the fire box, then stepping away because it's really hot. You listen to the fire because it will get really loud for awhile and then it will quiet down. As you get to the end (the fire) gets hungrier."
Scott noted that the kiln's heat patterns and ash from the flames often will decorate the pieces.
"It's not just the decorations I put on it. The kiln is also my partner," she told the Estacada News in a previous interview.
Though the process is often laborious, Scott said she can't imagine not being a potter.
"I can't see myself not making stuff in clay. I have to create with my hands," she said.
Students create poles for peace
The Oregon Potters Association will also send eight peace poles to the Hokkaido Pottery Society's "Rooted in Clay" show. Students in grades 3-12 worked with artists to create poles with the themes "peace" and "living in the Pacific Northwest," which will first be displayed from April 27-29 at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland. From there, eight of the 50 poles will be selected for the "Rooted in Clay" show in Japan.
Scott worked with a group of six exchange students to make some of the peace poles.
"They really had fun, and I had a really good time with them," she said. "All of the pieces are in my kiln right now."