Cloudcroft, New Mexico
I have been creating ceramic forms and glazes for the past 15 years. Prior to this, I was a pottery collector and “appreciator” for many years. A 25-year career as teacher and school administrator provided sufficient stress to encourage me to take my first pottery class and since that time I have developed a deep connection with this medium.
Since retirement a few years ago, it has been my great fortune to work daily with this craft and see it evolve into a cohesive approach that includes both functional and decorative work. The approach I use reflects my attraction to surface treatments that are unique and unpredictable. Horsehair pottery certainly embodies these qualities. The forms I use are usually classical or alterations of classical shapes. My understanding is that horsehair pottery was first made as the result of an accident by an Acoma Pueblo potter as she bent over to remove a hot piece of pottery from the kiln. Her hair fell against it and burned, leaving a carbon trail on the clay surface. The resulting pattern was intriguing enough to lead to further experimentation with other materials such as feathers, pine needles, and horsehair.
I currently use the following process in making horsehair pottery: pots are removed from the kiln and 1025 degrees Fahrenheit. Horsetail hair, feathers, and sugar are applied leaving carbon trails in a unique, random manner. Each piece is then sprayed with an iron solution to give it its “rust red” color and waxed to a satin sheen.
The process holds a great deal of fascination for me: the results are immediate, unpredictable and endlessly variable. Although I can never repeat a pattern that I like, I am constantly surprised by the beauty that can come out of this randomness.
Horsehair pottery compliments a wide range of décor. Because of the porous clay used (to withstand the thermal shock of being removed from a hot kiln), they should be used with dry arrangements only. Like other artwork, horsehair pieces should not be kept in direct sunlight and are best cleaned by gently brushing.