Luisa Baldinger

A maker of containers all of my life in clay, I am intrigued by the idea of the vessel as a metaphor for peace, plenty, a sense of well-being and security, fullness.  But also emptiness, hollowness, hole-ness, expectation.

At this point, my vessels are simply sculptural forms, vehicles for the exploration of color, surface, movement in three directions. Inspiration comes from rocks and root pieces found in the back arroyos, tide-tumbled fragments of coral on a beach, plant parts, geologic elements.  I continue to explore the idea of volume, negative/positive space, and complex surface, and work to have these elements orchestrate into a satisfying three-dimensional “vessel” idea.

I imagine that these pots might have been unearthed in an archeological dig somewhere, relics from an ancient culture, giving rise to questions about that culture: who were the folks who made these pots?  What were their beliefs? What ancient contents did these vessels hold?

A Word About How I Make My Pieces.

Initially a piece will begin with a slab of clay, rolled out and then formed into a cylinder, bowl, basin or platter.

In some, air is trapped in the cylinder making a “balloon” which helps the piece take shape as it is rolled, paddled, pushed, flattened or gently nudged into its final form. Through a pinprick air can be blown into the “balloon” to expand it or let out to deflate it.  Sometimes the surface is left without marks, other times complexity is added by pressing into the clay scraps of fabric, string, seed pods, bits of dried clay, textured rocks, a forest hike or culled on walks in the arroyo.

When the piece is dry and before the first “bisque” firing, it is covered with two or three coats of a thin terra sigillata slip, then polished lightly.  Stains and colored engobes are worked into the surface, followed by a second bisque firing.   The final firing is in an “aluminum foil saggar”, involving placing the piece in several sheets of crinkled aluminum foil along with a variety of combustible materials, such as peanut shells, pistachio shells, weeds, banana skins, pine needles, tea bags, sawdust, excelsior, Spanish moss, etc., along with a handful of salt and copper carbonate.  Thin copper wire and copper “scrubbies” (chore girls) wrapped around the piece create black lines and patterns.  The aluminum foil is wrapped loosely around the pot, holding the combustibles close to the piece.  The “mummy” is then placed into a kiln and fired to about 1400 o F. during which the “terra sig” picks up the fumes from the combustibles and chemicals in the aluminum foil saggar.

After cooling, the aluminum foil, which has turned into an ash, is brushed off of the piece and the result is all of the tell-tale “fuming” that the combustibles and chemicals leave on the work.  Whatever control I think I’ve had up to this moment is given up to the more-often-than-not unexpected, unpredictable, surprising, sometimes disastrous, but mostly happy-making qualities lent by the fire.


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