Playing around with clay

I often wonder if artists who work with clay possess a greater tendency to embrace happy accidents than those working with other media. I’ve nothing to back up this timid assertion other than my own cursory observations, but a spot in yesterday’s Japan Times on artist Kosho Ito brought it to mind again.

The article points out that not all ceramic artists are eager to push the limits of their materials, but Ito certainly does:

    For potters in Japan who work through the winter months, keeping their studios warm so that their clay doesn’t freeze is a little-known challenge of the trade. Once frozen, the composition of clay changes and it becomes essentially useless for shaping. Ito found this property fascinating, and did what any curious artist might do; he started sticking large clay blocks in the freezer and then fired them to high temperatures. The resulting earthen chunks with cracked, fissured surfaces make for superb organic eye candy and form the gritty building blocks of the colossal installation, “Fired Frozen Clay Dancing.”

It seems to me something about the firing process inherent in crafting ceramics results in artisans eager to play around outside of expectations. We put all kinds of things in kilns with our wares just to see what happens, see what kind of interesting and beautiful finishes arrive.

Kosho Ito

Kosho Ito sitting among some of his frozen chunks of clay

About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at

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