The oldest known clay art, the Stone Age Venus of Dolní Vestonice, is a figure. Forming a human likeness infuses both the work and its creator with a magical recognition that’s hard to explain. All I know is that when I work this way it nearly always calls up in me the resonance I felt as a child when I played with my dolls. Whether working with the endless range of facial expressions or the expressive ways in which the body can move or repose, an augmented power of creation resides within.
Here’s a collection of larger than life-sized portrait busts. They were slowly hand-formed with large flattened coils or were sculpted solid and then hollowed out. Inspirations for them include live models, photos and imaginary flights of fantasy. Whether simply finished with stains or more thoroughly hand-decorated, most have elements of Archetypal and Classical forms of presentation and express an emphatic state of being.
Honoring a long tradition of the human face on a vessel, from ancient Egyptian works to English Tobys to the traditional Ugly Jugs of the American South, these pieces have so much fun with the possibilities. They are hand-formed and painted and all quite usable.
The ways a human figure can be represented in any medium, from stick to fully fleshed photo-realistic, are reflected in ceramic work as well. Some poses are better suited to less breakable materials (witness all the truncated stone and clay figurative works down through the ages), but there’s no denying the marvelousness of the human body, with or without a head or appendages, and with or without any hint of realism. And Figures aren’t always human, so let’s add in some animals and some flights of fantasy to round out.