MY CLAY STORY
by JOY KRAUTHAMMER
Joy's Artist Statement
Illustrated ARTS story:
Because I love clay, in the summers of 1983 and 1984, I spent a couple weeks each as a ceramics student at ISOMATA, Idyllwild School of Music and the Arts, in Idyllwild, CA. My five year old daughter, Aviva, accompanied me.
Amazing and thrilling to me is that after 15 years, I was able to transcend and transform my way of potting. From the beginning days, I could always make perfect structured pots, from a centered place of being, and alter them as I pleased; the forgiving clay pushed past boundaries, and then my hands would return the moist malleable clay to a place of controlled balance. I was never interested in designing on paper what I wanted to create, but let the clay freely express itself being guided by my hands, freedom and intuition. I stretched the clay as I stretched my mind with the impulse to reshape and distort my forms from their original refined bodies.
At ISOMATA, for the Anagama-style wood firing, members of our muddy group with big axes, split smaller and smaller, the wood from chopped huge trees. As a team, we then stoked the hot in our faces, fiery windy kiln 24/7 for three nights and two days.
Paul Chaleff, my Anagama teacher, said, "It is the richness and quietness that give strength to these pots, ... showing the character of the clay, and not the flair of form."
My pottery is shown, illustrating Chaleff's "Ceramics Monthly" 1985 Anagama article. To this day, my Anagamas are some of my favorite treasured pots, and I am in awe of their unique attributes, and the process we potters endured.
Salt firing was also amazing as I had never experienced it before, nor even seen the rare Salt ware. Again I used no glazes (at times a splash of cobalt stain), and yet the fired pieces became glazed naturally from the addition of salt thrown into the kiln, built outdoors on the mountain terrain.
At other times, I had made pots with intention to portray humor, social, religious ritual and cultural aspects of my personal life, as well as beautiful artistic ceramic serving utensils with definitive purpose and form. Here in the forest, my soul stirred with the beauty of nature and desire to create flowing vessels filled with spirit.
Something that impressed me most at ISOMATA, was seeing in the next room, the American Indians potters led by renowned Lucy Lewis and daughters, honoring the earth, and personally connecting with the clay. They would make a perfect 'hand-coiled' pot from a little plum-sized mound of valuable clay they had dug up on their New Mexico reservation and brought with them-- unlike the 25 pound round metal containers of processed refined clay that I would purchase, and nonchalantly use, even a full can at one time, when creating 'production-ware' or sitting stools. The Indians allowed my daughter and I to fire our hand-made clay ocarinas in their out-doors, aromatic cow-dung pit-firing. My daughter's little hollow round, sweetly tuned instrument fit her hands perfectly.
When I potted, especially outside, I loved hearing music waft through the mountain trees. From the ISOMATA music students and teachers, there were performances offered every night. I remember hearing one evening, playing by a fine violinist and cellist, Endre Balogh. Recently, we both played at a Los Angeles synagogue. I was the percussionist, and in awe that I could hear Endre again, twenty-six years later and only inches away. (As a child I had played violin.)
My young daughter, Aviva, played at the on-site children's day camp, meeting me for meals, and slept nights in my cabin. One day, at meal time on the outdoor patio, we shared our food with a visiting craftsman. I was thrilled that Aviva met the man who crafted Endre's musical instruments. Aviva, not yet six years old, would crawl under the wooden slated raised patio and find loose change. She always wandered off to talk to the adults at the other wooden tables. Today, and always while growing up, Aviva was able to speak to strangers since that meal time experience at Idyllwild. Several years later, Aviva was able to assist me in the ceramics classes that I was teaching for the City of LA at the Arts School that I created for children.
My earliest ceramics history began 1968 at Queens College (QC) where I joyously discovered clay and the spiritual gift given to me. (Beshert / meant to be that I couldn't get the academic class I needed.) One of my closest LA friends today, Suzanne Roth, I met in that first NY ceramics class, over forty years ago. I am grateful to both my ceramics teachers.
James Crumrine, obm (1925-1993) (also from Greenwich House Pottery), was the first potter I had even seen, and I saw love and magic coming through his fingers in my QC class. Immediately, I was hooked with my heart and hands to clay. My hands caressed the clay, and pieces easily emerged as I guided the moist earth. Mr. Crumrine took us students to the Metropolitan Museum of Art where we toured through the gallery of Greek vases. In class, I would try to replicate in clay, the classics.
My other QC ceramics teacher, Jolyon Hofsted, obm (1942-2004), was director of the Brooklyn Museum School of Art. The next year I accepted the full-time Max Beckmann scholarship for graduate ceramics work at the Brooklyn Museum School of Art, and learned from many amazing professional potters. I still see their art in museums. Joly brought in master potters for us to learn from, and we took field trips to their studios, such as to Toshiko Takaezu in N. J. She was "poetic". There was the master who taught us production pottery. I liked using the 25 pound, round metal tins of red Brooklyn clay. The pots I have from that era are small salt and pepper shakers with clay worms living on them, even in their swimming pool. The class furniture I made was too large to transport.
I recall the funniest pieces that teacher, Joly, would create. He made wine goblets without a stem so that you could not put them down at a party, and lose them in a sea of other's goblets. At a Brooklyn Museum show, he had light bulbs that that could light up ceramic 'body' parts, placed on the floor. Thank you, Joly, for giving me an opportunity that otherwise I would not have had.
While making stained glass art (and weaving) at the Museum, I figured out how to combine my stained glass designs with my strange clay creations, and with this innovation exhibited and won awards for them. I sold my art at flea markets. I taught ceramics to adults at the Cooper Square Art School in Manhattan's East Side; clay and crafts to kids at camps and Jewish Centers; and taught ceramics at a mental hospital, while as a Columbia University, Occupational Therapist trainee (which I regret that I didn't pursue).
Because my European future in-laws had no respect for a "khippie artist", I detoured from my pottery passion for a few years and became a NY medical social worker, and moved to California to be married. I continued my pottery and my weaving (and sewing) in the land where from afar, I had soulfully admired California potters.
Along with other ceramicists, I used the college studios at Long Beach, CSUN, Pierce, and Glendale, being inspired by sensational professional potters. I continued to exhibit my art in shows. I joined the American Ceramics Society (ACS) and loved being a member; still friends with artists whom I had first met at Idyllwild in 1983. A favorite outing was traveling with Patrick Crabb and 63 potters to New Mexico to visit Indians on their sacred lands, and doing a simple beach pit firing. Every year ACS went to Japan to explore the ancient art, and it was Pesach with family, so I could not go.
Around the time of ISOMATA, I became ARTS editor of the LA Jewish Calendar Magazine, writing for the next decade a monthly column, "Chai Lights".
I created and directed ARTS programs in the San Fernando Valley in the 1980's and served on Boards of Directors: San Fernando Arts Council, etc. I produced concerts, performances and theatre, and directed a consortium of adult community educational programs. I opened a community art gallery. After my MBA (because my husband, z'l, was ill), I turned down a job running the University of Judaism's Platt Gallery, offered to me by Rabbi Max Vorspan, z'l.
Wherever my daughter was a student, I would offer occasional clay workshops to the children.
Photos by Joy Krauthammer ©
A couple years after ISOMATA in 1986, I began MBA school, a non-profit program. My University of Judaism MBA (now AJU) 316 page hard-bound thesis was on "STRATEGIC PLAN - To Preserve and Energize the ARTS In Los Angeles Into the
21st Century." (I had specialized in Long Term Care administration.)
Luckily, I was able to get to my thesis because the Northridge earthquake struck my town, and my thesis was in the computer a long time before I could get it out. I lost much of my ceramics; they shattered.
I'm proud to say that I was told by the school's beloved president, Rabbi Max Vorspan, that my thesis was one of the University's top best three theses in its history. (Even though they tried to delete my chapter on SPIRITUALITY and the work place, and the ARTS was not what we studied.) It was not long before all three of my hard-bound copies I'd given to the University were missing.
At the beginning of my MBA student days, I had a vision to open an ARTS school for the City of LA because there were none in the San Fernando Valley, thus children were neglected. I made a proposal to LA's City Hall and they said to me, "Find a location". I did, and the ARTS school opened. They needed a ceramics teacher and I WAS IT with waiting lines of children to take classes. I was thrilled to give the opportunity to the kids; My dream fulfilled. I taught clay techniques, demonstrated projects, and 'let' the kids create whatever they wanted as I had done in the mid-sixties, teaching art/crafts at NY Jewish community centers while a teenager. (It's in my genes.)
At the same time, that I began my MBA work, I decided that my pottery took up so much space and I had none left for new creations. I thought being a musician would be more ethereal, with NO space needed, so I became a DRUMMER. Oy vey, now I have a large drum collection for my performing. (My clarinet, violin and piano had not been touched in years.) Why couldn't I have become a flutist?
I started learning drum kit the day I began my MBA classes because I knew I needed to use both sides (right and left) of my brain. (Along with a pile of text books, I also began black and white darkroom classes the same week.)
For the last two decades I have served as a performing percussionist and Sound Healer for many spiritual gatherings.
and KindredSpirits and OpenToWonder sites.
I am an artist, an educator offering kabbalistic workshops, a publisher, poet, PR consultant, photographer, spiritual guide, etc. I am a Gemini.
Lately I've been creating and writing and adding art to my 30 so far in 2010 (now 80 in 2012) personal websites (found on blogspot.com under MY PROFILE). So, I guess now I am a poet, story-teller and illustrator.
Please view my posts of my art journey in Joy's Artist Statement.
You can see my monthly Calendar of spiritual events, JOYous CHAI LIGHTS at
Yesterday I went to LACMA, LA's art museum, and felt my heart melt (just as did my glazes melt into the clay bodies), as I gazed upon the Japanese ceramics on exhibit. I am a potter at heart. When I die (at 120), I'll return to the earth, from where came, my clay.
This is part of MY STORY as CLAY artist and ISOMATA alumnus, written for Idyllwild Arts School at their request. I hope "My Clay Story" is helpful for Idyllwild's Brain Trust Alumnus archives. At least this 'paper' on the art form that I love, won't go missing from the school's shelves.
BlesSings for peace/shalom, harmony, creativity, expansion, wholeness, health and joy,
"Serve G*d With Joy"
I find it interesting that my hands have served me (and the Holy One) best in clay, drumming (hands on heads), sound healing, gardening (with my hands in the earth), pressing a camera shutter button, and with compassion, touching hands of others. And my fingers are incessantly on the computer keys, creating my more than 50 web sites filled with my writings and art. I am grateful.