Sandra Schock Houtman
544 NW 13th St.
Corvallis, OR 97330
For 35 years I have been a primarily functional potter. When I moved to Oregon in 2005, I left my customer base in Maine and New England. This was financially distressing but artistically invigorating. Slowly I began to appreciate the lack of orders for casserole dishes, bowls and mugs, and the time I had to begin an exploration into Raku firing at the Benton Center in Corvallis with instructor Leslie Green.
After grounding myself in the process of Raku, I gradually moved in two different directions simultaneously. My Deepseascapes come from a visual fascination with the sea and the amazing creatures and plants that are found deep, down and in the dark. I do not try to replicate actual creatures but am more interested in basing my work on the forms and in going from there to create a feeling of the deep.
When I begin a piece I have a very general idea or direction. However, once I start to work, the clay almost tells me what to do. It’s as if the piece is waiting to emerge from the clay. As I start a new piece there is always a feeling of “stepping off into space” until the form starts to take shape. At that point it helps to let go and follow the clay.
Carvings based on Egyptian hieroglyphics is the other direction I’ve moved in using the Raku firing process. The Art Deco movement has always appealed to me. In looking closely at Art Deco work I realized that many designs use Egyptian motifs. I decided to see how I could incorporate some of these ideas into my own work.
In terms of planning and executing, these Egyptian-style tiles are almost the complete opposite of the Deepseascapes. Except for the surprises that happen in the Raku firing, these pieces are very tight and controlled. The Deepseascapes evolve as I create them, and I slide into an almost meditative state while working on them.
I am quite happy going back and forth between the two approaches and always have 5-10 pieces in progress at one time.