I'm a black male with nothing to lose. Though some might say this would impede my progress, it has given me the unique liberty to pursue my dreams. With one semester left in college, I notice my peers working on behalf of reputation whether it be familial or otherwise. I was raised by a single mother who simply wanted me to be successful under a definition that I control. This attitude has landed me in my friend’s RV 2,000 miles away from home to pursue my passion. 11 months and about 13 phone calls later, I was lucky enough to get taken under the tutelage of Josh Herman Ceramics in Sand Diego, CA. This experience has afforded me the greatest gift of all, putting my identity into my work. In the past, I’ve run from my color being a prefix to my profession. Little did I know it deepened the product of my labor. Langston Hughes said, “… It’s the duty of the younger Negro artist, if he accepts any duties at all from outsiders, to change through the force of his art that old whispering, “I want to be white,” hidden in the aspirations of his people.” Each new day presents a new context to explore my black identity. A new melody from a hip-hop sample, a black psychology course that illuminates the pain my people continue to endure, another victim(s) lost to the plethora of systems intended to imprison my people mentally, physically, financially, and religiously. That said, when I find myself at the wheel with time to throw for my soul, I often have no end goal. Without many studies of form in my early ceramics journey, I found my teachers informing me the pottery forms I’d create were like Moroccan and Nigerian styles. Unconsciously, my hands moved to the groove of my ancestors. Not to be misunderstood, there is a place for intention in art. As I’m still exploring how my identity insights my artistic endeavors, I press forward with the understanding my identity will always influence my artistry, consciously or not.
I’m a novice in the ceramics business, but I am no stranger to clay. Within the past 7 years of working in the medium, the past several months have facilitated the most transformation in my creativity, technical application, and knowledge. There is a communal dilemma to innovate a medium where practically everything has been done before. Despite its challenge, this invigorates my exploration of color, motion, organic forms, faces/people, and urban environments. I’ve had the pleasure of working under 4 different ceramicists who all prioritized different elements of clay. My first teacher, Judy Bartella, taught having patience with clay. Amedeo Salamoni, my second, focused on larger scaled work and motion. Susan Dewsnapp, my college professor, was harsh, but she highlighted technique and ‘tight’ throwing styles. Josh Herman, my most recent, learned under Paul Soldner in college. His teachings mirrored that of Soldner, in that, he wasn’t as ‘hands-on.’ He let me explore the medium for as wide as it truly was. His focal point was making as much work as possible. Practicing one form or focusing on a certain style would help establish a pendulum. Throw extremely loose, then throw extremely tight. Experience, then pinpoint exactly what you like, hate, and intrigues you about each form. Through that, you’ll learn your style in time.
 I’m not afraid to say I don’t have a style just yet. I’m still searching for what my ceramics will convey but having explored that pendulum I’ve begun to formulate my own glazes. I’m intending to formulate variable base glazes where I can alter the recipe and formulate my own infinite, precise color pallet. In doing so, I’ll move forward with greater creative control over the medium. As my solo exhibition at Good Faith Gallery in San Diego, CA, is fast approaching, I hope to construct Jean Basquiat’s face from completely functional ceramic pieces.
Upon my return to Bates, I quietly notice how students are chasing glass ceilings. The ceiling for a consultant is a CEO. Relative to ceramics, the only glass ceiling is having full expression mirrored in the work. My love for ceramics stemmed from perception. It’s a subtlety that can be learned but is quite difficult to teach. My mother was a photographer, so I received my initial footing in a medium where individual moments were highlighted. The overwhelming focus was to capture the unseen, but often, those moments dwell in atypical predicaments, places, and positions. Similarly, my second footing was interior design, or more specifically, watching HGTV at my dad’s house during middle school. It was the only thing he’d watch, but I never minded learning color pallet, the value in space, and most importantly, the skill of assembly. The consecutive years after, I saw myself throwing Ikea instruction manuals away, and constructing dressers like large puzzles. I began to understand, it wasn’t a coincidence I managed to have the best room on campus despite financial limitations. With interior design and photography in hand, I knew how to construct around a focal point, in seemingly the two- and three-dimensional realms. My love for space in time manifested itself best when I touched the wheel. It was the process of multiple, staggered steps that drew me in, but the final image that prolonged my stay. It was the unpredictable elements of the kiln that manifested Christmas after every fire. Riddled through the baseline of ceramics was science and earth, passions I once thought would be my only life.
I never expected art, let alone, ceramics to be my true love, but reflecting on my background, I’m surprised I was gifted this knowledge so early on. Unfortunately, some people never find their “thing” in life. They grow old with regret of, “what if, or, I should have.” I’m beyond lucky to head forth with the understanding I’ll dedicate the rest of my life to this. Nothing else compares. ​​​​​​​

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