One of the perks of working at the Folk Art Center is having the opportunity to meet and learn from a variety of artists as they demonstrate. Last week we had the pleasure of getting to know new member Zan Barnes. She may be a new member of the Southern Highland Craft Guild but she is certainly not new to the world of fine crafts. You can learn more about Zan from her artist statement below and be sure to visit her at the July edition of the Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands.
Zan Barnes Maker Statement
I grew up in the mountains of North Carolina in my father’s pottery studio. I was lucky to be immersed in a thriving community of craftsmen who worked in a wide variety of materials and techniques. My father made every dish I ate off of growing up, his best friend made the stained glass window in our living room and the lamp over our dining room table. Another friend made our bathroom sink, and we collected onion skins for another who specialized in natural dyeing. We personally knew the artist of each and every piece on our walls. This rich community of craftsmen greatly shaped how I have come to approach my own work.
Pottery is very much about the physical interaction with the ceramic object, the balance of a piece in the hand, subtle texture over the surface and how the hand will find and experience these areas in a very direct way. Through my graduate studies I have transitioned into solely soda fired surfaces as I am fascinated by the vapor surface and the lack of complete control I have over the finished surface. This innate mark making that the kiln creates has led me to a very organic collaboration with the kiln itself. I focus on clean forms with edges that provide a blank canvas for my stamping and for the vapor to flash across and interact with. I am interested in how the regimented linear geometric patterns and the repetition of my stamps contrast with and accentuate the curves of the thrown form as well as the organic shapes left by the caress of the soda vapor. My stamped patterns are built from a single small triangular element. My goal in the repetition of this single element is for the individual stamp to disappear into the larger rhythms of the pattern. Each element is individually stamped so that the pattern can stretch and articulate around the curves of any form. Though the stamping itself is the dominant decorative element, I am also delighted by the negative space created by offsetting the patterning so it locks together and creates a dynamic parallel of the pattern in the negative space between rows. My stamps are hand carved from clay and bisque fired so I can rapidly carve new variations and experiment with how the scale and motif affect the overall design of the vessel. These areas of stamping are delineated and framed by a linear element on one side and a solid black saddle on the other. The linear marking on the surface is loosely mirror imaged on the opposite facing side of the pot creating a distinct left and right side to each piece. Due to the rather deep impressions I create with the physical act of stamping the inside surface of the vessel bears an echo of the patterning on the exterior. The glaze palate I now use accentuates and breaks across these markings on the interior. I use a solely matt glaze palate as the introduction of soda creates glossy areas and beautiful fading between the two surface qualities. I favor a cool color palate ad a contrast to the warm earthy surface that the flashing slip surface provides so there is always a distinct transition between the glazed and unglazed surfaces.
A mug sitting on a clean white pedestal is a dead thing to me. Pottery was never the untouched piece on the top shelf of the china cabinet; it was the much loved mug that you dig for every morning because the coffee just tastes better out of that specific one. I strive for my work to have that same immediacy of being handled or interacted with every day of the owner’s life. My greatest wish is for each piece to invite the viewer to pick it up, touch it, feel it, see how it fits in the hand, converse with it on the most intimate level, skin to skin.