Planter Installation for Cookfox Architects, New York NY

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My time working with clay in Japan renewed my appreciation of the unpretentious rawness that exists in flawed form - a fundamental understanding that is wrapped up so perfectly in the Japanese concept of Wabi Sabi. Each of these unique pieces for Cookfox Architects are born out of this mentality. Each one is evidence of a collaboration between nature and conscious intention. To have them continue on as vessels for the living, homes for something that will grow and flower in partnership with the human hand, seems somehow right and fitting. 

In their finished form, the planters are both sculptural and utilitarian - a balance I try to find in all my work. The complex, refined surface sometimes breaks, revealing the simple underpinnings of the dark stoneware beneath. From afar, they appear to be organically rectangular planters, but up close the nuances of the glaze and the textured surface encourage tactile examination. Though they are clearly of the same body, each planter is its own entity. Each is slightly different from the one before it and the one after it in true Wabi Sabi form. As much as this esthetic is intended, this notion of precious imperfection is not something to be strived for but something so inherent in this medium that it is the defining force that unites all potters in its acceptance.

 

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CLAY: The construction of each piece began with clay dug in Sheffield, Massachusetts from a family owned mine that has been mining and refining clay since the 1940s. In the North East, this mine most closely parallels the ancient mines of Shigaraki or Iga in Japan and has a beautiful story of it’s own humble beginnings as a then-farming family who started to experiment with the clay found on their land which proved to be of excellent quality. Their custom mixed dark brown stoneware was the foundation for each planter, the base rolled out in slabs and the walls coiled upwards. Coiling is a meditative practice, rolling out each coil, joining it to the base, and smoothing the layers into a fluid, textured wall.

GLAZE: I first poured on a opaque glossy white glaze by Bernard Leach, a British potter credited to being the father of English pottery. Once dried, I painted on two layers of a creamy matte Ruth Duckworth glaze, that wasn’t opaque enough on it’s own, but added such beautiful dimension and and warmth to each piece. Duckworth was as much a sculptor as she was a potter, and I’ve long admired her lively, hand built forms and large scale that is daring within this medium. The glazes layered onto each other created a surface that fluctuates between smooth marble and textured, porous limestone. As they were to be forms for plants to grow from, the idea of them resembling stone - something pulled from the earth - resonated with me.