What’s in a pot

I pulled her from the kiln yesterday. What a moment. 13.5 months in the making, 2 years of an idea peculating, and she has finally made it into existence–all to be shattered in a performance in a few months from now.

This makes me so happy.

I think a very helpful and formative part of an art degree is the time pressure you are under to produce ideas, refine your craft, and generate finished work. It hones in your skill, helps you build stamina for deadlines and pressures, and forces you to sharpen your vision into a singular focus. But I think these same qualities can be unhelpful, and at times I think I have to un-learn these habits and learn it’s ok to slow down enough for an idea to surface.

I would never have produced this pot in a university.

I learned how to make it, how to mix glazes, and I was exposed to some of the traditions, ideas and methods of pottery making. But the amount of time it took this pot to surface in my psyche and practice would not have met any deadline within a course, or perhaps even a degree.

Let me walk you through what is in the creation of this pot…


I am born on a small apple farm in Georgia… just kidding. I won’t go all the way back 😉


November, midway through a semester of art classes I realize I do not want to be an art teacher. I want to be an artist. I scramble to sign up for the remainder of my foundation year and choose the only available materials class that works for my schedule: ceramics with Grace Nickle.

I dislike ceramics. I had early life exposure to it and have pegged it in my mind as a bit tacky, mostly functional mugs and chunky figurines. Maybe some porcelain paintings of portraits and flowers. Boring. But I sign up for the class thinking at least its an easy A.


My mind is blown. Grace Nickel introduces me to a world of clay that I had no idea existed and my art life will never be the same. I build my first narrative vessel about moving 35 times in my life.


Through the encouragement of the Clay Club and funding from SOFASA I am able to attend NCECA in Pittsburg. My mind is further expanded with the potential for clay. That summer I am given an Undergraduate Research Award and spend my summer mentored by Grace Nickel. Part of this award includes a studio all to myself and access to the entire clay barn. I develop my material and ideas about chaos and produce a work that I consider my first actual work of art.


NCECA is in Minneapolis and I can’t not go. I take in Djinnaya Stroud’s presentation on Daisy Makeig-Jones’ Fairyland line. There are many amazing things from this lecture I still think about and will probably make it into future blogs, but relevant to this post was her summary “takeaways.” Specifically her encouragement to “draw from your own visual landscape” (23:49) I begin asking myself what my own visual landscape looks like.


I graduate during the upheaval of a pandemic and slowly decompress after the intense stress of a degree. I begin hand building a vessel to practice my clay skills.

It takes months.

I also begin to work out a symbolic “knot” I use as a metaphor for chaos. Applying this to the vessel with slip and sgraffito, I land on what feels like my “visual landscape” that I have been pondering for a year.

As I am working on this pot I am awarded a position in the Rural Artist’s Mentorship Program with mentor Brenna George.


Akiko Hirai

I stumble into a “moon jar” by Akiko Hirai on Instagram. I fall in love with the way she does the surface of these jars. I plunge myself into researching her practice. In doing so I learn about the Japanese aesthetics of Wabi Sabi. I feel like my own aesthetic leanings have come home.

I find a glaze recipe attributed to Akiko and replicate it. The first fire of the vessel with Akiko’s glaze is less than ideal. I re-glaze the vessel and fire again.

Yesterday I pulled what I feel like is my first vessel from the kiln. It’s been a long journey to get to this moment and I have a long adventurous road ahead.

Anyway, I just wanted to share a little history of what all went into this particular pot.


By alexandraross

I am a contemporary artist in rural Manitoba.

One reply on “What’s in a pot”

WOW, what an incredible work of art! Thank you for sharing the accompanying story. Knowing all that has gone into the pot’s creation makes it that much more exciting to behold. The moment of destruction is sure to be a powerful climax.


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